residents tromp about their business on the East side of Providence,
something evil lurks below. A dark chasm in the bowels of
college hill is the home of many frightening tales. A winter
home for transients, a frat house for college parties and a church for
satanic masses, the abandoned trolley tunnel serves up a heaping dish
of excitement for all those who venture inside.
The tunnel was built in 1908 as a means for easy access to Union
Station in downtown Providence. The tunnel is an impressive 22
feet high, 31 feet wide and
about a mile long. At its deepest point it is 110 feet below
Prospect St. Originally the tunnel contained 2 tracks used by an
electric commuter trolley for the first part of the last century.
The trolley ran passenger to and from Warren, Bristol, and Fall River.
After 1940 the tunnel seems to only have been used by freights of the
Providence & Worcester RR. In 1981 they raised the Seekonk Bridge
one last time and put an end to its use. Now the tunnel remains
as an attraction for the curious and mischievous New Englander.
Since its demise the tunnel has been a magnet
for trouble. For Several Years RISD students used the tunnel for
a annual party. However May 2nd of 1993, the party got
so out of hand that the police were called in to break it up. As
officers attempted to squelch these rowdy students, they were
bombarded by a shower of rocks and bottles.
according to an article in the Providence Journal, "Seven
officers were hurt, including five with serious head and facial
injuries". The street version of the story claims that
these delinquent went as far as flipping over a
police car. It was also reported that satanic rituals had been
taking place at these parties. Following these events the tunnel
was sealed shut. Other tales tell of how some of the buildings
at Brown University have settled a bit due to the tunnel's lining
collapsing. I haven't found any sources to confirm these claims.
The West side of the tunnel was fairly easy to find. It remains
hidden in the back of
a parking lot behind a building on South Main Street. I chose to
approach it from Benefit Street since I was told it was in close
proximity to the armory. Though I was aware of its size, I was
still stunned by its true magnitude. The entrance was now seal
by a wall of corrugated steel. A small door locked and welded
shut adorns its center. There were small holes one could peek
into but nothing could be seen.
I now headed onto the East end via Waterman Ave. As I paused at the
Thayer Street light I stared at the intersection ahead. This was
the approximate center point of the tunnel. I gazed at the
pavement trying to imagine what waited for me below. As dark and
creepy images formed in my head, A honk from the car behind me
snapped me back to reality and I was on my way.
I had previously lived on Gano street. One day out of curiosity,
I explored the boggy shores of the Seekonk River. The most
interesting thing I found was the raised bridge and tracks heading
westward but never venture far enough to find the tunnel. Being
summertime, the thickets and throne crown bushes inhibited my
enthusiasm. With my previous experience in mind, I had taken the
time to formulate a plan of attack. Using Satellite maps of the
area, I found that the tunnel was easily accessible from Gano Street.
Though well prepared, I still suffered a smack in the head by a
low-lying branch. I shrugged it off as a badge of courage.
The East end looked much like the west end. What differed the
most is the setting it
was situated within. Instead of a clean empty lot, the landscape was a
swampy roadside gully littered with the rusty shells of a car and
miscellaneous trash. The car is upside-down. Could this be
the alleged police car?? I doubt it but who knows? Also, the
walls of the East end were covered with a variety of impressive
Graffiti art. Just as on the West end, the wall of steel
covering the mouth of the tunnel had a small door. As I
approached the colossal gateway to get a closer look, a pool of ankle
deep water and muck greeted me. Scanning the area I found no
easy way to get to the door. The challenge now set in front of
me made my goal even more attractive. Though the tracks were
above the water line, they wouldn’t be easy to reach. I
attempted to scramble across some logs, debris and an air conditioner
shell some other explorer had laid out but as I drew closer the
makeshift bridge began to sink. I made my way back to shore and
decided to try the rail. Using a long stick and wary stepping, I
rail. Though I was only inches off the ground, the mire below
made me feel as precarious as a tropes artist. Soon I successful
arrived at the door. My hard work paid off. Anything that
previously secured the door had been removed. Peering into the
void I could see nothing. I stepped in a bit more to let my eyes
adjust but to my chagrin I still saw nothing. Even with the aid
of a flashlight all I could only see within a few feet of my current
position. The immense size of the tunnel consumed what little
light was allowed in. Struggling to see more, shapes would
fade in and out in the distance. Most likely caused by the thin
veil of mist. I could hear rumbles and thuds echoing In the distance.
There is an eternal rainstorm trapped inside the tunnel. A slow
drizzle from the moisture dripping from condensation and cracks
in the ceiling. Previous guests of this murky void had
positioned metal barrel so that plummeting droplets would strike the
surface. How frightening it must be for those who explore the tunnel.
A constant and quiet trickle interrupted randomly by a loud drumming
reverberated by the bore. It would be difficult to tell exactly
where it was coming from. With the lack of visibility and misty
apparition darting around even the bravest of adventurers would feel
uneasy. Today wouldn't be my day to see if it would live up to
my expectations. Not just for lack of light, but also for the
fact that the tunnel was filled with a 6-12 inches water.
Another site in New England has been logged. This won’t be my
last visit though. In the warmer days of summer I plan on returning to
the tunnel to explore the interior. With boots, better lighting and a
partner for safety, I’ll return to see what surprises are
hidden deep inside of the belly of college hill!
is a small color aerial map, large hi-res satellite map and a
large topo-map plotting the path of the tunnel.
Small Map 84kb