Local lore hangs heavy at Shenks Ferry. Stories vary, but most center around the ghost of a young woman wearing white. In one version, a murderer brutally ends her life there in the tunnel, and now her spirit remains forever trapped in the dark, foreboding space. Some believe it was her husband that killed her.
Others assert that it was actually the woman’s beloved who met a tragic end in the tunnel—perhaps murdered himself— and her spirit has lurked in the tunnel for decades, mourning the spot of his death.
However, the most popular version of the story is that a heartbroken bride hung herself at the tunnel’s entrance after being left at the altar.
The True Story
However, according to Jack Niess, a retired Conrail locomotive engineer, this is what really happened. In 1974, a woman of about 18 was struck and killed by an eastbound freight train directly above the underpass on the A&S Branch.
She was apparently clad in just a white sheet and Indian moccasin boots. No one could explain her odd attire, nor did she carry identification. Eventually, it was determined by Penn Central and State Police that she had wandered off from a mental institution in Maryland several days before.
Whether this had been a suicide or accidental death, no one could verify because the engineer and brakeman of the freight train never saw her. The accident was reported by the train conductor, who just happened to be standing on the rear platform of the caboose as they passed.
After that, the ghost rumors abounded, and crews on the Port Road started reporting a strange entity dancing about on the tracks in front of them clad in something white. Crews called her the “White Angel.”
Summoning the Apparition
To invoke the apparition, park your vehicle after dark—the closer to midnight, the better—in the center of the tunnel. Turn off your car and headlights. Put your keys on the vehicle’s roof and walk around it three times. Get back in and wait.
If done correctly, the ghost of a woman wearing a white dress appears. Sometimes she’s hanging from the tunnel’s arched entrance.
Some tell of a strong sulfur smell that lingers in the air as they circle their car three times and difficulty breathing before the ghostly lass appears, none too happy to have visitors.
Still, others say that if you place a bottle of water on the roof of your vehicle after parking in the middle of the darkened tunnel, the tortured spirit will, according to local lure, grab the bottle and throw it off the roof.
It’s even been said that you may later find handprints on the outside of your car’s windows that match no one in the vehicle.
Other things you may experience while attempting to summon the ghost in white:
- The car won’t start.
- All the men in your party pass out.
- Headlights of a car will chase you out.
- Lights that disappears in the woods as you approach it.
Speaking of things that happen while summoning the ghost, here are four Haunted Lancaster submissions from readers who have visited Shenks Ferry.
Start the Car!
Now I spent this whole summer doing ghost adventures. I went to dozens of places with my friends in the middle of the night and haven’t seen a thing. When I went to Gettysburg, my party split up, and three people saw an apparition of a woman. Sadly, I wasn’t there to see it. Nevertheless, I was a bit skeptical about the whole supernatural thing
It was a Saturday night, and seven of us were sitting around watching a scary movie. Almost no one thought it was actually frightening, and I was in the mood to have a chance at some live action.
I suggested that we all squeeze into my friend’s minivan and take a trip down to Shenks Ferry. I’ve been there a dozen times, and nothing ever happened. I’ve even left my friends and explored on my own.
The driver said she had experienced the headlight chase thing, but I didn’t believe her.
We got to the tunnel and sat there for a moment. After a minute, my cousin, who has less fear than good sense, hops out. I try to join him, but two people grab my arm, stopping me. I pushed my way through and got out of the van. Others followed. Only the driver and her friend were left in the van.
We walked around for a bit, then everyone headed back to the minivan. The car was off with its headlights out (as directed to do). My friend jumped on the vehicle, and the girl in the back screamed and nearly peed her pants. Having a good laugh, we all got back in. That’s when it happened.
The driver tried starting the car, but the battery was dead. The car never had problems with its battery before (or since). That’s when the hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up.
“Okay, Kristy, enough messing around. Start the car.” My cousin said.
She kept trying, but nothing happened. Half of the group was flipping out. The headlights were flickering as the driver attempted to start the car. My cousin reached upfront and tried the key. The van started, and we were able to leave.
Although the story isn’t that dramatic, it made this skeptic begin to believe.
Horses Don’t Like the Tunnel
Karen, an avid horse rider, shared this story.
My horses definitely don’t like that tunnel. They are always looking around as if something is there. I have ridden them through other tunnels, but they don’t do that anywhere else.
The Van Will Never Be the Same
Kaelyn has this to say. I read your article, and I had an experience similar to what you said would happen almost six years ago. My mom, cousins, and a few friends got in the minivan and went down to the tunnel. We turned the lights off for 30 seconds and then back on. Nothing happened.
Everyone got out of the car, just messing around, laughing, and having a good time. When we got back in, it wouldn’t start!
The van never ever EVER had a problem with the battery. Everyone was freaking out and screaming. Finally, after a minute or so, the engine turned over. But at the same moment as the van started these headlights suddenly appeared behind us.
We BOOKED it out of the tunnel!
I, for one, thought my mom’s van was going to be messed up from flying up that bumpy road. Everyone was screaming as we were being chased out. When we got to the main road, we saw the headlights stop and then just turned off.
It was so freaky and scary.
We heard rumors of all the guys not feeling well and passing out, but we didn’t experience that. We did, however, experience everything else. Reading your article brought back so much I got scared just thinking about it!
More Haunted Lancaster
If you have a ghost story you want to share as part of Haunted Lancaster, comment below or email me.
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You can own beautiful reproduction maps of Conestoga Township, home to Shenks Ferry and the haunted tunnel.
1875 map of Conestoga Township, Lancaster County, PA$27.99 – $29.99
1864 Map of Conestoga Township, Lancaster County, PA$24.99 – $25.99
1899 Map of Conestoga Township, Lancaster County, PA$29.99 – $34.99
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