As 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 Eastside 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 an 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.
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. 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.
~ Strange New England
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