Arch Street Tunnel, Skull Speeder

Arch street is known as a quiet drive to and from Keene for those wishing to avoid Route 9. Going to Keene you pass Stonewall Farm, and then pass under the old railroad bridge, through an arch tunnel. It’s a bit tricky, you have to slow down as there really isn’t room for 2 cars to be in the tunnel like opening at the same time. Still, it’s a popular short cut to get to the high school or west side of town.

It is not popular with everyone, as many people have reported they avoid driving there. The reasons given seem to be all concerned with safety. Certainly ,in winter, the slope of the street near route 9 is a reason for concern. It becomes slick quickly in a snow or ice storm and is best avoided then.

The concerns reported though all center around the railroad bridge tunnel. People seem to feel there have been a lot of “deaths” there, and that there is something that makes them feel very uncomfortable about driving there, even in the daytime. I drive this road often, and found most people are very careful when approaching the tunnel, and slow down carefully. It does appear to be an area you would want to be very careful, but certainly not someplace to avoid.

My own odd experience with this road happened when I was pulled over for speeding. My family jokes that I was born driving like a “grandmother”. My fear of speed was learned at a young age when I was told what a speeding ticket would do to my insurance. I was informed by my family that if I got a speeding ticket, I would have to pay for all my car insurance. Since I knew I could not afford that I began my life long habit of driving slightly under the speed limit at all times. This annoys people, so I even have learned to pull over every now and again to allow people to pass me. It’s a habit I can’t break.

Only for some reason I did break the habit one day while driving by stonewall farm. I even zipped through the tunnel, without even stopping to check for traffic. The Keene Police were even confused, “you didn’t even slow down!” was the first comment from the officer that pulled me over. I blamed it on day dreaming, I was obviously not drunk and ,while confused, apologized. The officer let me off with a verbal warning. He joked people just seem to like to speed up on the road for no reason. Still, he did say “You have to be careful here, I don’t know what it is, but people drive different here.’

At the time I didn’t think much of it, other than being shaken up for being pulled over. The main worry was my simply blasting through the tunnel, as that was an error in driving judgment I would not expect even the newest 16 year old with a learners permit to make.

As stories began to come in about the bridge and the road, and I found the police officer was correct, people do drive differently on this road.  There are over 50 stories detailing mysteries concerning speeding and also skull like features on both drivers and ghostly apparitions near the tunnel.

The stories almost all include a reference to be feeling ”uncomfortable” or ‘finding myself speeding’. One story that stood out took place in the 1950’s. This was from an older woman, that walks with a cane and felt like so many people, it was time to share her ghost story.

Helen was a teenager and she jokes that she never liked Mike until he got a car. Mike lived next door to her in Keene, and she never had time for him. “His parents had money, I thought he was spoiled. When we graduated high school, he went to college and I had to get a job.’ Still, when Mike’s parents bought him a brand new Chevy for a Christmas present his freshman year of college, Helen jokes she suddenly found Mike “Very interesting!”

Mike wanted to show off his new car, and Helen finally agreed to a date with him. “I know our parents didn’t like it, which made it even more exciting!” They went out a few times during his school break, and even wrote to each other while he was at college. Finally summer came, and Mike was back.

“It was really all about the car” Helen shared. “I felt like a million bucks driving around with Mike, my parents didn’t have a car nearly as new or nice. No one I knew did. He was just a kid, and he had this incredible car. Mike was nice, but he really was just a spoiled kid. Still, we were having fun upsetting our parents and just driving around.”

Mike did get his share of speeding tickets, but Helen insists she made him slow down a bit when she was driving with him. “I wanted to be seen, not in a drag race. So when I was in the car, he kept things under control.” Except the one night he didn’t.

Helen explained that night they were returning from a party in Brattleboro Vermont. It was around midnight and Mike turned off onto arch street and instead of slowing down, he went faster. Helen told Mike, even before the end of the slope near Rt.9 “Mike too fast, slow down now!”. She says she was mad, not frightened.

Mike didn’t slow down, he went faster. Helen became even more angry “I thought he was just showing off, trying to scare me.” She says she hit him on the arm and he turned and smiled at her. It was then, she says she saw he wasn’t Mike anymore. The face lit up from the dashboard lights was that of a skull. “He was a grinning skull, it just looked at me. Then the car went even faster.”

Helen wasn’t wearing a seat belt “We just didn’t do that, it isn’t like things are today!” She looked up and saw the RR bridge tunnel ahead. She was desperate, so she opened her door, and rolled out into what she hoped was the soft side of the road. She broke her leg in several places, and is left with a limp today from the surgeries she needed to fix the breaks.

Mike hit the bridge, he lived Helen assures me, but his hospital stay was much longer than hers. She said the passenger side of the car, what she calls the “Suicide seat, that’s what we called it as more people die in that seat than any other in a car!”, was crushed. “I would have been dead if I hadn’t jumped”.

Helen refuses to drive the road. “If I have to get to Stonewall Farm, I won’t go through the tunnel. I’ll drive around. But I won’t go near that tunnel!”

There were other stories about skulls and demons associated with this stretch of road. Helen’s was the most dramatic. Still, is it just an open area where it’s easy to daydream and forget to watch your speed, or are there other forces trying to control drivers that decide to take the scenic route?

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