by Christopher Laursen
A historic Canadian railway tunnel, in disuse
since the 1930s, suddenly becomes an
Internet-driven, ghost hunting sensation.
What was it that sparked such intense
interest around this site?
interview | historical research
John Savoie on the Making of
the Blue Ghost Tunnel
February 2, 2013
Paranormal investigator and author
John Savoie was among those
caught up in the fascination over this
rail tunnel. The tunnel is located
near the Welland Canal which was
constructed in the late nineteenth
century. The canal slices across the
Niagara Peninsula in Ontario
between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.
To understand the making of the
legend around the tunnel in context
of its history and paranormal studies,
John has written The Blue Ghost
Tunnel: Making of a Legend,
available here as a printed book and
right here on Extraordinarium for
free as an e-book (16 MB file size,
At least since the 1950s, the
abandoned tunnel has had a
reputation among the community,
especially among its young people
who ventured to it at night as a party
spot, but its spooky atmosphere
remained a fairly obscure part of
local lore. Until 1999. In that year a
young man only known by the name
Russ sparked mass interest in the
tunnel, telling tales on his website about encountering misty apparitions,
banging noises, green slime, and sexual harrassment from a demonic
entity. He referred to it as the "Blue Ghost Tunnel," and from his
dramatic accounts (which Russ attempted to sell to publishers and to
Hollywood), interest among paranormal enthusiasts became viral,
spawning a televised investigation by ghost hunters on the Canadian
television series Creepy Canada and countless night vigils documented
In his book, Savoie also looks at the history of the tunnel, the
construction of the Welland Canal, the land on which the tunnel was
built, and how historical events were distorted to fuel the urban legend of
the haunted tunnel. Interspersed are John's own experiences at the
tunnel that suggest that despite the hype, there are things that are
extraordinary about this tunnel. Featuring historic photographs, maps,
and artful photography by Kevin Valencourt, the book is a valuable
contribution to studies on folklore, urban legends, and paranormal
John has a blog related to paranormal investigation, Out of the Dark:
The Ghost Hunting Chronicles. He is also the author of Shadows of
Niagara: Investigating Canada's Most Haunted Region, available
through lulu.com and iTunes. He currently lives in Bragg Creek,
Alberta, where he investigates the paranormal in Alberta, British
Columbia, and the western United States.
I spoke to John as he prepared the release of the book.
Christopher: How did you personally
become part of what was happening at
the Blue Ghost Tunnel (BGT)? What
did you originally think of the place?
John: I became aware of the tunnel
through conversations with friends
about suggested haunted locations
that were accessible in Niagara and I
became fascinated by the stories of
the tunnel, the suggested consecrated
cemetery and the remoteness of the
My first impression of the tunnel was
one of awe. The dark, large-mouth of
the tunnel was oppressive, even
during the dusk hours. Inside the cold,
damp atmosphere brought imagination
into play. My relationship with the
tunnel started off with fascination and
fear, and later turned into belief, and
then some ten years later turned to skepticism. What the tunnel had
allowed me to do was to change my perception of ghosts and hauntings
and to examine a totally different angle of why places are haunted.
Christopher: Individual people experienced the tunnel in very different
ways. In what ways did these experiences bring people together or
John: The tunnel has produced a great deal of experiences for many
individuals and paranormal groups and these experiences vary to such
a degree that this single location has caused a great deal of tension and
misunderstanding amongst ghost hunters, researchers and others
interested in the paranormal. It is one of the most highly contested
“haunted” locations I have ever come across. No where else can one
expect threats of violence based on your belief of the occurrences and
history of the location.
Christopher: What I found particularly fascinating in the book is that
originally it seemed that one person who we only know as Russ had
spawned the intense attention around the Blue Ghost Tunnel in 1999.
But you later found out that the tales around the tunnel went back quite
a bit further. How did these earlier experiences emerge as you were
assembling details, and in what ways did they impact the direction of
John: I knew that Russ had not stumbled upon the tunnel, as he
maintained online and through conversations with others. His story
simply did not add up and it was evident he was trying to be the
discoverer of the tunnel, as this would add to his story later on.
As I assembled the history of the tunnel and conversed with others who
had visited the tunnel I learned that the stories about a haunting went
back as early as the 1950s. However, these tales did not weave their
way into the fabric of the legend that we know today. They were simply
stories passed on between children and teens.
I tried hard to find evidence of the essence of the hauntings and
followed a few leads that did not pan out. Without news clippings, police
reports, historical documents and death records, I was lead to believe
that these earlier stories were not based on fact. I included all the stories
in the book because, they are now part of the urban legend.
Christopher: I really enjoy how you intersperse the development of an
urban legend with the actual history of the place. There are many
different tales of fatal accidents and deaths around the construction of
the Welland Canal and the tunnel itself. How did these historical facts
become part of the legend of the Blue Ghost Tunnel, and how,
especially, did they become convulted in the process?
John: A lot of paranormal researchers and groups attribute a haunting
to the death of an individual or groups of individuals. The BGT,
historically, has had no such deaths or even injuries reported inside its
walls or within a reasonable distance to the tunnel. With the assumption
that a ghost is that of a dead
person, they attributed any
death near or related to The
Welland Canal as a possible
explanation of the
experiences at the BGT.
However, with this rationale
we could expect the ghosts
of individuals to travel miles
to new locations to haunt.
Like the 'telephone game,'
the history of the tunnel and
the surrounding area
became so indescribably
tangled that anyone
conducting research online
will find the facts twisted and
quite simply fictitious. When
one corrects these individuals in a respectable manner, they often
defend their own research and history as they do their multiple orb
Christopher: From what you've come across, are ghostly tales common
around mega-scale construction projects in which people have lost their
lives, or is there something about the place itself that inspires such
experiences or legends?
John: There are many tales about ghostly happenings at construction
projects, especially with ones with historic deaths. There are tales from
historic hotels and bridges about ghostly employees that have remained
after death. The BGT proper, has never had a work related death. The
canals around the tunnel have had their fair share of injury and death,
but how do we go about attributing a haunting to the tunnel from a death
that happened tens of kilometres away? There are more deaths on the
roadways near the tunnel than anywhere on the canal lands. Do we
attribute these deaths to the hauntings of the tunnel?
Christopher: Are there other allegedly haunted sites that you know
about that evidently also spiralled from a single person's experience or
an initial experience that resulted in the creation of urban legends?
John: I believe that if Russ did not exploit the tunnel that it would have
remained as an insignificant rumoured haunted location. I know of a few
suggested haunted locations that have sprung up as a result of one
individual's persistent and often glamourized experiences with the
paranormal, but these often are a result of monetary gain. They often
operate tours of the said haunted location, or open retail shops within a
historic building that suddenly becomes possessed by ghostly activity.
These same individuals will claim a site “Not Haunted” if they feel there
is no monetary or promotional advantage to their business.
Christopher: If you were standing at the mouth of the Blue Ghost
Tunnel right now and you could post a metal sign of no more than twelve
words, what would it say, and what colour would the letters be?
John: "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."
– ALBERT EINSTEIN
The letters would be yellow - AND I BET YOU WERE THINKING BLUE.
Christopher: At this point in time, would people leave your sign alone,
or do you think someone would defile it?
John: I would have no doubt that the sign would be defiled within days
of its placement and the meaning of the words lost to the individuals
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