The Ghost of Henry Dixon: The Haunt of The Big Tunnel


I didn’t start exploring the paranormal for popularity. My endgame has never been to become famous. I created my online presence simply as a means of recording what I’ve observed and experienced throughout the 12 years I’ve been actively pursuing strangeness. Nor when I started my PARAHOLICS blog six years ago did I think that I’d have this much, probably too much, to say. But every word, every pic, every video has truly been for me. My path. My journey. All my time and effort culminate into entries in my paranormal diary that I’ve given everyone a key to.

I try real hard not to get too silly or too woo-woo with where I stand concerning paranormal phenomena. As a matter of fact, I try real hard to not stand at all. I’ve grown to reject what I’ve been told and be more open to accept what I’ve experienced. And I try not to discount other people’s experiences or viewpoints. There are a lot of wild stories, theories and abilities that folks claim. I’m not one to dismiss them, but as a skeptical believer, I’m not so wide open that I accept all of what people present as evidence of the paranormal — to me it is more likely evidence of people’s perspectives in relation to their contact with it.

Which is why this particular scenario involving Henry Dixon is so difficult for me personally. It’s been an evolving mystery for the past 3 years that has swirled around me and presented itself at the most unexpected times. Even though I try to be open, after all my years of involvement with the paranormal, I can’t say I truly believe in ghosts as defined in the classic sense. But I do believe in unexplainable experiences. I believe there’s something that resides in the liminal space beyond our perception of reality that we just can’t put our fingers on. I think we’re so limited in our understanding of it and the workings of the universe that our language is limited. We wrestle with terms trying to make ghosts, spirits, energies, psi, mediums, demons, EMF, ITC, EVP and a bunch of shit tech-talk fit into a puzzle that none of us are close to solving. I’m guilty of this too — trying and testing what’s credible, what’s valid and what might prove an interaction. And that’s okay. There seems to be potential with the entire spectrum of methodology and beliefs concerning the paranormal because the phenomena we’re trying to discover can interact with any of this on its own terms. So regardless of whether a psychic approach, an ITC device, a high-tech astral anal probe or a stupid SLS camera — whatever it may be, strange possibilities are there.

Personally, part of my struggle to reconcile the supernatural has stemmed from my difficulty in quantifying my personal journey into the unknown in juxtaposition with theology, specifically Christianity. If anything, the faith of my childhood has unraveled due to the confounding mysteries the paranormal has opened to me. There is not one scenario you can bloviate at me that gives me warm fuzzy feelings concerning paranormal phenomena, God and universal order as defined within the constraints of the Christian Bible. I’m not going to parse it out fully, but for people who put faith in their sins being fully paid for by death, there’s not an argument you can make in regard to a ghost, or lost souls, eternal love, forgiveness and grace, free will or confusion that makes sense in lieu of an all-knowing and benevolent creator. Nor does there exist any Christian precedent for our need to facilitate spirit rescue or deliverance. For those of you who are truly Christian scholars, you probably already acknowledge that the Bible doesn’t even teach that there’s even immortality of the human soul or that there’s even a literal Hell. Those details alone should complicate shit for most Christian-based ghost hunters — and that’s okay. But from my personal spiritual growth, these are things that I’ve run up against trying to reconcile the supernatural filtered through the lens of Christian faith — and it helped to let them go. There wasn’t a framework (in Christianity) I could construct that did not leave me angry at God. I’ve had to recognize that it’s futile trying to make pieces fit into a puzzle that constantly changes its shape, especially since the paranormal puzzle won’t even give you a clue as to what the final picture is.

This isn’t an attack on Christianity. This isn’t an atheist rant — far from it. This is just to give you my starting point of where I was before the swift waters of the unknown swept out my legs of understanding concerning faith in the Bible, God and anecdotes of the afterlife — and why the impact of my relationship with Henry Dixon sent me reeling even more.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that on May 27, 2017, a stop into the Big Tunnel in Tunnelton, Indiana, would have such a huge impact on me. The Big Tunnel is Indiana’s longest train tunnel and was the site of a murder back in 1908. That’s when a 27-year-old watchman named Henry Dixon was believed murdered after he unselfishly stopped the assault of two women in the tunnel by a gang of men who later came back and killed him as an act of retribution. Henry left behind his pregnant wife, Mary, and two young sons.

So here’s where the rubber meets the ethereal road. After I recorded what seemed to be an EVP in that tunnel saying the name of Henry Dixon, for the next three years in various locations, using various devices, I kept getting it. And not only did I get his name, but there were also messages of frustration and ire directed my way. Slowly, mainly because I’m slow, I guess, it appears that Henry saw me as someone who might be able to help him in his plight. You see, it’s a two-fold issue. None of us, except for our theories, truly know the predicament of these entities outside of our speculations or from whatever Ghost Academy we flunked or what a spirit medium friend has filled our heads with. Was Henry really with me, attached to me, or merely just tethered to my ITC contact field and could see when I was “online,” so to speak? Even in this video I received contradictory information. I’ve never regarded myself as a paranormal fixer, someone getting in the ditches and getting my hands dirty as if my involvement would matter. I’ve always viewed myself as a detached observer, a wartime reporter coming back from the frontlines of the weird. I don’t subscribe to cleansings, crossovers, smudges, belly rubs or ghost gang bangs. But the incessant messages of frustration directed at me seemed to indicate that I appeared to be thought of as someone who could help. And they ultimately felt ignored and were pissed when I didn’t or don’t. Damn. So in an attempt to acquire insight into the situation, I started imploring Henry for more information when he would come through in a session — really trying to ask if he had any clue as to what assistance I could facilitate. I even returned to the Big Tunnel once to see if that might drop him off.

Which, theologically speaking, it makes no sense to me that the soul of a father and husband would be stuck in darkness for over 100 years at the scene of his murder. It makes no sense that if we’re a loving God’s children that there would be a system in place that allows for additional suffering even after our death. It makes no sense that if you were a “confused” soul after a tragedy that you’d still be left in that state with unanswered cries for help. It makes no sense that you’d have the option not to “move into the light” because of “unsettled business” or fear of Judgement Day retribution but then become seemingly stuck. It’s irrational to think that a creator would have a process like this in place and give the living responsibility to help out trapped souls without leaving explicit instructions. Why would it be our job in the first place? God, viewed solely through the lens of the Bible, reminds me of poor parenting that needed Child Protective Services to step in. Do these concepts make you feel uncomfortable? Good. That means you probably have a conscience and are a big picture thinker and will keep questioning and pressing for more insight regarding what you’re told to believe. Some people never recognize that ghost hunting quickly devolves into a faith-based hobby — even if they wave the banner of science from inside their Para-church … but I digress.

As you’ll see in the video, the response of “put me with her” I interpreted as Henry possibly feeling separated from his wife. Is that the help he needed from me? Assuming that ghost box responses are real (See? I can be a good sport) I took that as a clue and visited the graves of Henry and Mary near the Dixon Chapel in Fort Ritner, Indiana. But did I accomplish anything? Did I help Henry? Only time will tell.

Proctor Cemetery
Dixon Chapel

How do I reconcile any of this? Here’s what I think:

• God or not, no religion on earth gives us a clear roadmap to the afterlife. Regardless of your beliefs, someone’s experience is gonna poke a hole through it that you can either ignore in the name of faith (which is fine) or use as a jumping-off point to question and explore. It’s up to you, but don’t judge others as they make their own way.

• Are ghosts real? Did I rescue a ghost? Better yet, did any of this experience with Henry Dixon even happen? After all, all I can truly present for it are some odd audio snippets and my thoughts of it being a possibility — but it’s unprovable. What is true is that when I stepped into the cemetery, I was instinctively drawn straight to Henry Dixon’s marker (which was improbable as there seemed to be countless Dixons interred there) with an overwhelming sense of grief and a tingling sensation shooting through my body the closer I got. It was undeniable — and an unforgettable, unprovable but very true personal experience. It’s hard to say if I really helped a spirit. I suppose if I never hear from Henry again, that might make me feel a sense of accomplishment. I only have speculation and rationalization based on karmic conjecture on why ghosts might exist. Why the presence of Henry could’ve been stuck in that tunnel, unable to leave? Why he recognized me, a very obstinate paranormal researcher as someone who could/would/should help him out? Fascinating loose ends.

• But ultimately I’m grateful for Henry, whether his spirit was real or just the product of the paranormal Trickster that seems to orchestrate so many of our perceptions — because it pushed me to dig deep within myself and face uncomfortable realizations regarding the way I was raised that I don’t like to wrestle with. But grappling with existential concepts should be at the heart of all our explorations. Who knows, being open about it may lead to potentially helping someone else out — whether I can see him or not.

Thank you to Eunice Regina Specter for your mad research skills!

Henry Dixon was a Pythian!!!! W.T.F.

— Evel Ogilville

Henry Dixon


Historic Timeline

“Dixon was a quiet harmless sort of fellow who had not been accustomed to having trouble with anyone.”

Twenty-seven-year-old night watchman found dead at the Big Tunnel in Tunnelton, Indiana, in 1908. Dixon’s body was discovered by the day watchman lying along track at mouth of the tunnel with wound to back/left side of head that looked as if “made by a blow.” His lantern was found upright beside the track, still burning. Mystery surrounded circumstances of death, and whether he or body struck by train, but commonly held belief he was murdered, likely as retaliation.

• “Knowing the train was about due there is some mystery as to how he got (sic) hit. It is not impossible that he may have fainted or limply fallen on the track, unable to get out of the way of the approaching train in time.”

• Day watchman James Fields found lifeless body and believed had been dead longer than half-hour or before the passage of the recent train.

• If Dixon had been struck by train was said he certainly never moved out of his tracks, as his clothing was not disarranged.

▪ “Someone gave engineer the proper signal that track was clear or else he have never taken his train through the underground passage.” 

▪ James Donnel/Donnells, engineer of train that passed through before Dixon’s body discovered, said when about 300 feet in the west end of the tunnel, “I saw the watchman standing in the center of the track, or a man I took to be the watchman. My engine did not strike him.” On the way to relieve Dixon, Fields also claimed to have seen a man enter the tunnel with a lantern. When he had not come out, he went inside to investigate and found Dixon.

▪ “It was commonly known that he was murdered and his body dragged into the tunnel for a passing train to obliterate evidence of the crime. The episode was discussed for months and everyone knew who murdered Dixon but it was impossible to legally prove.” (History of Lawrence County, Indiana)

• Murder theory substantiated by claim of two young women of Fort Ritner who about a week prior had started to pass through the tunnel after attending a lecture when they met a group of men who made remarks and insults that frightened them. They returned to watchman’s shanty and asked Dixon for a lantern, which he provided and also accompanied them through to their homes. Men said to have taken exception with his actions and later had words with him.

• “Dixon’s friends are now trying to connect this circumstance with his death.”

• “The fact that the body was found nearly 300 feet from where Dixon should have been supports the murder theory that he was killed while making his way to the point of duty.”

• Officer with B&O Railroad detective department contended Dixon was murdered and presented what he deemed sufficient evidence to warrant arrests of three railroad employees/laborers.

• “He protected two girls (McKinney, Horner) from the evil designs of these men.”

• “He must have been struck by a heavy club or stone and almost instantly killed.”

• Conversation recounted in which Dixon said after walking girls home he had hardly returned to shanty when he was approached by the three men in question who began cursing him for interfering with their plans. They offered him several bottles of beer, which he refused, and one man made the threat “that if he ever ran across Dixon in the tunnel one of them would never come out alive.”

• Official asserted murder was premeditated as watch and money still found in Dixon’s pockets, but the revolver he had taken to carrying since the incident with the group of men was not found.

• Interpreter for men in question said to have went to Dixon, giving him the revolver and warning him of threats and to be on the lookout. “The men were really dangerous … and he would only be protecting himself by shooting them.”

• “There seems to be abundant evidence that Dixon was expecting trouble … Where the state would probably fall short so far is … the fact that the only one who knew many of these things is dead.”

• Men said to have been under surveillance following coroner’s inquests and arrests were to have been made shortly.

• Large number of people attended funeral services.

• Railroad officials declined to make necessary affidavit charging suspected men with murder, satisfied that they knew who killed him but lacking necessary proof. Failure to convict could have resulted in damage suit.

• “While it is generally conceded that there is no longer any doubt that Henry Dixon was murdered, nothing is to be done toward arresting the men guilty of the crime until the grand jury convenes and returns an indictment.” Failure to convict could have resulted in damage suit.

• Surveillance of suspected men said to have continued. Grand jury convened. Case remains unsolved.

Dixon is buried in Proctor Cemetery (Dixon Chapel Cemetery) in Fort Ritner. Born in March 1881, he married Mary Collier in 1903. At the time of his death, Henry was survived by Mary (1908-1957) and sons Alva, 3, and Howard, 2. Daughter Sarah was born three months after his death.

Big Tunnel/Dixon legends

Ghost of watchman popularly associated ghost story, lent name and variations by true tragedy of Henry Dixon.

• Seen carrying lantern and his head or floating through at exactly midnight.

• Some say that he still haunts the tunnel, with his head in one hand and a lantern in the other.

• Legend says if person walks to middle (darkest point) of tunnel will either experience Dixon brushing past, or he will mistake the visitor for his killer and chase the person out the other side.

During remolding of tunnel, guards hired to prevent theft of building materials and stop vandals from strewing debris across tracks. Two men would meet in middle at designated times throughout the night, including Henry Dixon. One night on patrol he thwarted the attempted assault of a young girl by two men who had dragged her into the tunnel. A few nights later, Dixon failed to show up in the middle of the tunnel at the appointed time, so other guard searched and found him dead with his skull crushed so badly part of his brain was exposed. The news of his death was such a shock to his pregnant sister-in-law that she gave birth prematurely to a son – born with an exposed brain; the condition of his skull with a marked similarity to Dixon’s wound. Baby lived for several weeks and continually moaned “Oh, my God!” – as told by Phyllis Quackenbush Reed (Dixon was cousin of her mother’s), Indiana Folklore: A Reader

(Bedford Daily Mail, 7/24/1908, 7/30/1908; Indianapolis Star, 7/24/1908; Rushville Republican, 7/25/1908; The Tribune, 7/25/1908; Bedford Daily Democrat, 8/1/1908)

Knights of Pythias inscription on Dixon’s headstone

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