While reading stories about Crook Tunnel in old Cochise Country Arizona newspapers, I immediately wrote the location on my “bucket list” of places I wanted to explore. The news story accounts of disasters, deaths, and possible murders led me to believe the place might be haunted—or carry over energies from its past history.
The EP & SW Railroad Line (El Paso & South Western) built the spur around 1902 to connect Bisbee with the Douglas smelter. Crook Tunnel was built during that same period of time. In June 1905, there was a rock slide in Crook Tunnel that barely missed hitting a passenger train bound for Benson, Arizona. A large amount of rock and earth slid down onto the track blocking the passage of trains. The slide occurred at the east end of the tunnel where a good portion of the roof of the tunnel had been removed.
As soon as the trouble was reported a force of men went out to the scene of the slide. It required several hours to remove the rock and dirt from the track so that trains could pass once more. The tunnel seemed to give the officials a lot of trouble during the rainy seasons.
In June 1912, another grizzly tale of Crook Tunnel surfaced in the old newspapers. An old man named Henry A Marks was killed by being run over by a train in the tunnel on a Saturday night. Mark’s lived on a ranch three miles below the tunnel. He had come to Bisbee Saturday morning, and left on the afternoon train for his home. He got off the train at Crook Tunnel about 6:30pm and that was the last time he was seen alive. It was said his battered body was found later that evening. The finding of blood on the cowcatcher was the clue that led to finding his remains. Both arms and legs were broken, and the body had the appearance of being rolled along the ties in front of the cow catcher. One arm was almost severed.
Witnesses testified that the old man was drunk when he left Bisbee. It was presumed that when Marks got off the train at the tunnel Saturday evening, he lay down beside or on the track. He was then struck by a light engine that was being brought to Bisbee to be cleaned. The constable went to the tunnel and had a look at the scene of the accident, but learned nothing that would throw any positive light on how the accident occurred. The verdict of the coroner’s jury was in accordance with the facts given. The engine which was believed to have run over the old man passed Crook Tunnel between 8:30 and 9:30pm. Marks was well known in Bisbee. He was later buried in Bisbee’s Evergreen Cemetery.
The dirt road leading to Crook Tunnel put us parallel to the border fence that separates Mexico from the United States. Turning north, we traveled about a quarter of a mile on a small dirt road which literally drove us over the top of the tunnel. We were puzzled that we had lost sight of the railroad bed. It had suddenly vanished from our view. We decided to back track our route and retrace our steps. Off to the east we saw the bed winding through a small gorge and realized we had been driving on top of the tunnel the entire time.
We hopped out of the truck to take a look. Mark headed down the north end of the ravine and Kenton took the south end. I stayed at the top snapping pictures from that angle. The tunnel reminded me of the old Saturday matinee westerns where outlaws waited in ambush atop the train tunnel and leapt upon the train as it emerge through the darkened passage way. I could almost visualize the team of getaway horses waiting down the track. The tunnel’s entrance and ceiling was stained from the black soot of bygone engines racing to their destinations. Mark and Kenton estimated the tunnel to be about 100 to 150 feet long.
While walking along the top of the ravine, Kenton spotted a “ghost’ from the tunnel’s past. He noticed a rock with carved printing on it. On closer inspection we discovered the work of a young lineman who had once labored in the area setting up the utility poles along the rail lines. The carving on the rock read “A Johnson—1941—Englewood, So Dak.” We were in awe knowing Mr. Johnson sat in that very spot and left this imprint in the deserts of Arizona for someone to discover and read 70 years later. A storm was brewing in the sky and we knew it was time to end our adventure.
From Phoenix take l 10 east—take exit 303 and continue to Bisbee on HWY 80. Crook Tunnel is located on the border patrol road between Paul’s Spur and Bisbee.
Photos by Debe Branning and Mark Christoph
For more information: www.mvdghostchasers.com
Debe Branning email@example.com