The Tunnels

by Lori Dwyer on July 26, 2012 · 11 comments

Many, many moons ago, when I first started this blog, I posted about being entirely sucked in by a ghost photo taken in the Picton Tunnels… which turned out to be made with an iPhone app. Nathan, the bloke in this photo with his arm around the un–ghost was, from what I remember, a friend of a friend of a friend.

Fast forward to now, this blog is a bit bigger than it was. Google Image search ‘Picton Tunnels’ and Nathan comes up on the third page.

And, bless him, being the damn good sport he is, he left me this comment a week or so ago…

Haha dude that’s me in the photo. I made this photo I’m
Nathan, yeah your right I did use the iPhone app haha but it was good fun while it lasted. Don’t worry I give you permission too use my photo it’s all good. Im keen too know what the ghost your physic said about it? If you wanna can email me its
P.s my mate said he types in picton tunnels and said I was came up in google so that’s how I found this so random

And I’m happy to admit I did panic there for a moment, thinking he was going to sue me or something. He’s not. Three cheers for Nathan. And his mate, the iGhost.


I haven’t been to the Mushroom Tunnels, or the Redbank Tunnel– depending on who listen to, both are local names for the Picton Tunnel– since I last went with my husband. As a very brief history, Picton Tunnel used to be part of the rail line in this area, over a hundred years ago, when steam trains ran through here frequently. It was put out of use when the train line was diverted and extended up into the hills behind it. Since then, it’s rumored to have been used as an top secret ammunition storage area in the Second World War. And, more mundanely, the owner in the seventies sealed it up and used it’s dank darkness to grow mushrooms.

It was the main attraction of the Picton Ghost Tours, which have been closed down thanks to the Council getting its nose out of joint about just about everything, including traffic lights (none) and Maccas (only if it doesn’t look like one, please). The Tunnel is currently open to visitors weekday mornings. It closes at two pm to prevent the local school kids using it as hide out to smoke pot after school (and I know this from first hand experience… I went to high school here, too).

The Council probably actually has reasonable right to be concerned– it’s a sandstone train tunnel, hundreds of years old, and apparently official reports say the structure is unsafe and unsound. It’s set back from the road about a kilometer, not marked on tourist maps; although there is a sign there now where there hasn’t been for years, more announcing the Tunnel’s closing times than the existence of a historically and archeologically significant landmark.

The house next door to the driveway into the Tunnel is known as the Rectory, and rumor has it that the owner’s objections played a large role in sounding the death knell of the Ghost Tours. But, really… who would want fifty people taking photos of their house every Friday and Saturday night? Especially when it was encouraged by the tour guides (“Fortunately, it’s not illegal to take photos of the outside of Amy property on NSW”). Last time I was here, I took photos for the sake of it, flash on, just to spite the owners of this house. Now, in the After, maybe, or maybe because I’m just a bit more of a grown up, I have more respect for their privacy.

The Tunnels, they say, are haunted by a whole lot of ghosts, spanning years, including a pedophile who used to bring his victims here; and an entity that is apparently more spirt than ghost, but nasty– male, large, strong, a black light sucking force that screams soundlessly in the faces of those who enter the darkness of the Tunnel.

And then there’s Emily. People speak of her as being young, a child or teenager, but records say she was older, maybe fifty. She was taking a short cut through the still-active train tunnel from her own house in Picton to her brother’s property in Thirlmere when she was hit by a steam train, and pieces of her dragged for up to a kilometer, right into what was then the center of town.

They say Emily’s ghost is playful and cheeky and energetic, that she enjoys having visitors to her Tunnel and showing herself off. I will, tentatively, believe that. If I have ever seen a ghost, an apparition, then I think it was her that I saw, years ago, on a ghost tour here with my husband. A sparkling, green phosphoresce in the shape of woman’s torso that flickered and darted across a black, dark space that had just enough light to give it depth. If it was a trick of my eyes, then it was playing the same trick on others; because we watched it, whispered of it, as it seemed to come twenty feet further up the tunnel… then we almost felt it giggle as zoomed fifty foot back in the direction it had come.

No doubt there are a thousand logical explanations for that, and while I’ve always been a cynic, it was a different ‘me’ that saw that, and I can’t argue the truth of it. But I do know that, while that cheeky, youthful spirit seemed to play with her tourist visitors, there is a much darker feeling in that Tunnel, something that creeps icy fingers up the back of your neck, makes it ten degrees colder not just in the Tunnel but around it,
and makes the wind rush through the place in a way that’s feels unnatural… a tunnel set in the lulls of a valley surely shouldn’t conduct that much velocity.

The hideaway hole, half way up the Tunnel.

And they say that as apparently happy as the spirt of Emily may be now, there is no logical reason for her to have been taken by that train in the first place… a woman who had walked through that tunnel a hundred times before, who knew the train timetable off by heart.

A woman who knew exactly where the hidie-hole in the tunnel was, the indent in the sandstone where you could press yourself flat as the choking scream of a steam, train roared past, flinging burning ashes into your eyelids and coal dust into your mouth…

She knew where it was. It was just that, on that particular day, she chose not to use it.


I drive my car as close in to the Tunnel as I can– I want photos, but I don’t really want to be here. This place is creepy, eerie. It makes that sixth sense that tells you you’re in danger prick up in a bizarre way… it’s not physical danger, but there is something here that your senses are alarmed by anyway.

And it’s cold. Despite the sunshine, even walking up toward here it is freezing. It’s damp– the ground is mud, and moss and lichen growing on every available foothold. There are herbs that I could use growing everywhere but I pick none of them… They don’t feel as though they would heal anything, juts spread the dank darkness of this place into skin and onto their souls.


The wind rushes out of the tunnel in an Arctic blast again, and I’ll admit I am scared. I don’t spook easily. I enjoy old buildings, abandoned places… I like the feeling of lives that have been lived, carved out with their memories left like burnt out light filaments, leaving a stain of energy of somewhere geographical. Even when somewhere doesn’t feel pleasant, it still doesn’t scare me.

But this Tunnel does. I venture half way in, quickly, breathing fast, palms sweating despite the chill, and with every rush of wind I scold myself for expecting to turn and see the lights of a misty, half-formed train looming at me from just feet away. I snap photos quickly, wanting to adjust the shutter speed but reluctant to pause long enough to do so.

I enter the Tunnel under the assumption that of course I will walk the entire way through… That’s what I do. I explore. Ten feet in and I have to force myself to go halfway to take some photos of the hideaway. I attempt to steel myself, look towards the small oval of light that is the far reach of the structure and apparently opens up onto a paddock behind it (possibly stocked with much–needed variegated thistles), and consider being brave enough simply hold my breath, think happy thoughts and run the gauntlet to it’s end.

Genuine goosebumps. Place is creepy.

Then another thought strikes me– if I do that, I’d have to come back. And that alone is enough to unnerve me. I leave the Tunnel quickly, brave enough to turn my back on it’s darkness as I’m walking out… but I take photos with my camera behind my back and don’t look at them until days later, not sure I want to see what’s there.

There’s nothing, of course. Just childish fear and superstition. I’m not sure why it spooked me so badly- call it nerves or hormones or psychosis or whatever- but it did. Tim the Yowie Man– a paranormal investigator with impressive credentials, despite his stupid name- declares Picton as the most haunted place in Australia… and the Tunnel would be at the epicenter of that. (Although, really, being unable to find evidence of that, it may just be more ghost hunt propaganda.)

I don’t even know if I believe in ghosts, really… the scientific cynic in me argues both for and against them. But haunted or not, the Tunnels are dark in way that’s not even melancholy like the Maltings… the Tunnel is just black.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Cassandra King August 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm

I grew up in Picton but I never had the guts to go explore the tunnels. Too many scary stories for me!


Miss Pink July 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I am yet to do a ghost tour of the area. Silly huh? I've always really really wanted to but I've never had anyone that's been interested. Maybe I will ask BFF, she probably would.
I haven't even been to Picton Tunnels. Not properly. When I was dating an ex I made him drive us up there once, but the gates were closed so we couldn't go :(


Sharon @ Funken Wagnel July 27, 2012 at 10:46 am

This looks really creepy! I do believe in ghosts and have seen quite a few over the years.


SJ July 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Hi Lori,

Thanks. Picton/Thirlmere is home to me (in WA these days)so I loved the reminder about the tunnel, I always meant to explore it but never did. We use to walk up hill near Jarvisfield to look in the Antil family vault, scary at night but just sad during the day. I always hoped that Picton really was haunted but never did 'see' anything :).
Thanks again,


Sophie July 26, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Oh that's creepy…

I wonder what happened to her… :(


Melissa July 26, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Haunted or not I'm glad you trusted your gut and got out of there :)


Claire July 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Spooky. Proper spooky.


Karen July 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm

LOL…Love the goosebump pic! LOL
These tunnels look like the ultimate DARE!
Even as a skeptic I wouldn't go inside. lol


Fiona July 26, 2012 at 10:46 am

I wish there were still trains going through all the tunnels


Kelly @ HT and T July 26, 2012 at 9:13 am

I've been to the Picton tunnels several times, not on a tour, just as a curious spectator at night. The uneasiness that consumed me from the moment we turned onto the driveway had me certain there's all kinds of spirits in there. And the way the hair on the back of my neck stood up I also had a feeling there was someone rather sinister lurking. One night, we were there in my uncle's car, a late model Ford. We kept it running (you know, in case we needed to get away hastily!) and we were walking around… When we went back to the car, all of the doors were locked. The car had remote central locking, the keys were in the ignition, the 4 of us were standing next to it thinking WTF? There were a few minutes of panic, we were about to smash a window knowing that it would mean we'd never be able to take the car out again. Then we checked all 4 doors one last time, and one of the back ones was unlocked. Just one, that was previously locked, in a car with remote central locking. Now, while it is possible that this was some kind of technical fault, the dreamer in me likes to believe that it was supernatural tom-foolery at its best!


iSophie July 26, 2012 at 8:54 am

I had chills just reading this! I am the biggest sook around, I would have been packing it.

I did a ghost tour of Port Arthur 12/13 years ago, scared me half to death!


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