Tunnel Town

Via James LaFond:

I do electrical work for a living and I’ve been working in old Baltimore lately and most of the buildings in Baltimore are connected by tunnels. So about a few months ago I was working on a building on East redwood st putting lights in the tunnels. Well on day on my lunch brake I decide to walk around them, so im walking for about 20 minutes when I thought I heard my Foreman call me down one of the halls, i assume he went to look around as well, so I start to walk down the hall and it started to get deeper and colder, i think about turning around because I don’t want to get lost when I hear it again so I a little deeper. Eventually I hit a room about the size of baseball court with probably 20′ high ceilings, the ground is all sticky and every step I take sounds like I’m undoing a heavy velcro strap, there are skulls from small animals everywhere in there that shape in a big triangle that points to a very large dog-like skeleton. At this point I’m freezing and really scared, i start to smell a harsh burning smell and hear what sounded like a big dog running on concrete, i can hear it get louder and closer, louder and closer. I start running like I have never ran in my life, finally after what felt like an hour of running at full Sprint I run into a stair case with a big heavy metal door at the end of it, I here the noises now like they are right around the corner. So with all my might and adrenaline fueled strength I rip the door open and slam it behind me and then hear and feel a hard “thud” against the door. I turn around to see im standing under the docks by the four Seasons and the Marriott hotel. I call my boss and tell him I got lost in the tunnels and need to get picked up. Since the day I refuse to go in the tunnels under Baltimore or go in to sub basements in Baltimore.

This is a Reddit post from a couple of years ago.

I wanted to learn more about Baltimore’s tunnels and I came upon this, about a mining disaster in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. (I don’t know why the tunnel is named “Baltimore No. 2”)

The Weekly Courier June 12, 1919:

Wilkes-Barre, Pa., June 5 — Eighty-three men lost their lives this morning as a result of an explosion blasting powder in a car attached to a train load of miners being transported to their work in Baltimore No. 2 mine of the Delaware Hudson Coal company, while at least 31 were injured, according to a list given out by the company officials at noon. 

More than 100 mineworkers were riding to their work, crowded into what is known as a trip of mine cars drawn by a motor. The rear car carried 12 kegs of black powder used for blasting loose the coal in the chambers. The mine is modern and equipped electrically. The trolley wire snapped when the train had gone about 200 feet from the entrance. The wire sputtered and sizzled and the sparks emitted touched off the powder. 

This news account is remarkable for its literary quality, compared to the sort of report you would expect to read today:

The terrified men on the cars instantly were aware of the danger that confronted them, but they stood powerless to avert it.

There was a roar and in an instant every man and boy on the train was either dead or dying. Terribly mangled bodies were found everywhere by the rescue crews which instantly rushed into the mine. Fire fighters working frantically succeeded in an incredibly short time in subduing the flames which followed the blast. 

The “mainstream media”, broadly defined, today would never engage in the sort of explicitness above and below:

 Flames caused the greater loss of life. Many of the bodies were burned to a crisp. Other men who were burned and were trying to reach safety died of suffocation. When rescuers reached the tunnel there were dead and dying scattered everywhere. The injured were rapidly removed and sent to hospitals as quick as ambulances could be provided and the dead were brought out and placed in tiers on the green.

“The.dead were brought out and placed in tiers on the green.” sounds like Hemingway.

The historical marker and current accounts say the disaster led to laws against transporting men alongside explosives, but according to the Courier’s account they were already in place:

Carelessness and violation of the mine laws of the state caused the great loss of life. One of the most drastic provisions of the anthracite mine code is the section forbidding the transportation of men on a car or train which carries explosives. Yet the train of little cars conveying its freight of miners had attached to its rear a dozen kegs of powder. Investigation will disclose whether the men or the company is responsible for the violation of the law.

Some of the first bodies brought from the tunnel were burning when they reached the surface. Clothes had been burned away and the flesh was roasting form the intense heat. Water was poured on these to put out the fire. It was such sights as this that made brave hearts turn sick.

Company employees state that there is a “pull” of 186,000 cubic feet of air per minute in the tunnel and that the air pulled in the flames from the powder directly over the men. Alongside of the tunnel there is a creek and after the flash of the flames some men who were walking along the side of the cars dropped into the water and saved their lives. Several employees state that it was not the force of the explosion that killed the men. Flames and the lack of air caused all the fatalities. All admit that the accident was the result of the violation of the law but they state that miners are accustomed to these violations.

I was kind of hoping to find the subterranean Baltimore imagined by Poe.

Tunnels are probably trending, as those with wealth and exposure consider Bernie on one side and “white supremacists” on the other, such as this wealthy stock trader:

A wealthy stock trader is being charged in the death of a young man who was helping him dig secret tunnels under his Maryland home.

Daniel Beckwitt awaits trial on charges of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter in the death of 21-year-old Askia Khafra (ASK-ee-uh KA-fruh).

Phonetic pronunciations of vibrant new names is something you wouldn’t get in the old days, I’ll allow that.

The young man was helping Beckwitt dig the tunnels under his Bethesda, Maryland, home when a fire broke out last September.

Prosecutors say Beckwitt recklessly endangered Khafra’s life. Beckwitt’s lawyer says Khafra’s death was a tragic accident, not a crime.

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