In every small town, there is a place that local history — true or not — has turned into a place of mystery. There’s always that one spot — a long-abandoned building, an old graveyard, a clearing in the woods — that’s rumored to be haunted and where people go to either discover the truth for themselves or just be scared out of their wits.
In Niagara Falls, Ontario, that place is the Screaming Tunnel, located in the northwest corner of the city, off Warner Road. For decades, the tunnel has been the place where local teens prove their bravery and where ghost hunters visiting the Niagara Falls region attempt to see some paranormal activity live and in-person.
From Practicality to Paranormal
The Screaming Tunnel is often believed to be an abandoned railroad tunnel, but the 125-foot long tunnel was actually constructed to allow for drainage under what is now Canadian National Railways. The tunnel was constructed so that water could safely drain from the surrounding farmlands without washing out the train tracks and so that farmers, equipment and animals could pass safely under the tracks instead of over them and risk being hit by an oncoming train.
Today, though, there aren’t many local farmers leading cows and sheep through the tunnel, and most of the visitors come equipped with wooden matches, hoping to experience the phenomenon that gives the tunnel its name.
According to local lore, in order to experience hear the screams that give the tunnel its name, you must walk halfway into the tunnel at night, without any lanterns, flashlights or other illumination. Once you’re in the middle of the tunnel, the legend says, you must light a single wooden match. When the flames go out, you’ll hear the sounds of a girl screaming from somewhere in the tunnel.
The identity of the screaming girl is unclear, as there are several versions of the story. In one version, the screams are those of a young girl who escaped a nearby farmhouse that had caught fire; her clothing was on fire and she ran into the tunnel to try to extinguish the flames, but died in the process. In another version, the girl is the daughter of a couple in the throes of a contentious divorce, and the father burned her in the tunnel to avoid losing custody. In the third, and arguably most disturbing version, the screams are those of a young girl who was attacked and killed in the tunnel and then burned to hide the evidence.
Regardless of local lore, there have never been any confirmed incidents of such crimes inside the tunnel, nor any identification of whom the screams could actually belong to. Nonetheless, the Screaming Tunnel continues to draw visitors from both the local area and ghost-obsessed tourists from around the world who want to try to hear the screams for themselves. Of course, the fact that scenes from the Stephen King film “The Dead Zone” were filmed here doesn’t hurt its popularity with tourists at all.
So what do you think? Will you brave The Screaming Tunnel on your next visit to Niagara Falls? If you do, make sure you don’t forget to bring a single wooden match — and maybe your running shoes.
Screaming Tunnel image by Russell Sturmey from Flickr Creative Commons