The Blue Hole

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Two Rivers


When you are growing up, you believe stories told you, but don't really know why, but then as you get older realize some of these stories may sometimes be true, like this Indiana folkloric story of
the Blue Hole.

Submitted: February 01, 2018

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Submitted: February 01, 2018

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Some call it the gateway to hell.  Some say if you ever fall into this azure pool of water you’ll never return, ever.  It is bottomless, others would say.  But, as kids, we feared nothing as much as the Blue Hole.

I was probably seven or eight and I was begging my older sister, Carolyn, to take us swimming.  Finally, in exasperation, she said, “I’ll take you swimming in the Blue Hole.”

“What’s that?” I asked. 

“The Blue Hole is so deep it swallowed up an entire train, the locomotive, all the cars, and the caboose, no one survived because it is bottomless and it sucks you down forever.”

I can’t remember if we went swimming that day or not, but from that day on, I thought the Blue Hole was somewhere around my hometown, Elkhart, Indiana.  When I was older, my friends wanted to go swimming in the Christiana Creek and told them the story of the Blue Hole.  They were mesmerized, but we all still went swimming.  However, my nephew, Tom, came to visit me one summer and went swimming with us.  He jumped in and was floundering in the water about to drown.  I yelled to my friends.  “He’s caught in the Blue Hole!”

A fisherman on shore saw my nephew’s plight and threw his line over to him and told him to hang on.  He pulled my nephew to shore hand over hand.  The middle-aged man was mad and told my nephew to learn to swim.  I said, “He was caught in the Blue Hole.” 

He laughed and said, “The Blue Hole is in Southern Indiana!”  He gathered up his things and left, and we all stood looking at each other.  “Wow, there really is a Blue Hole, for real!”  Thereafter whenever we wanted to describe to each other how deep something was, we’d say, “Deeper than the Blue Hole!”

The true story is about as fascinating as the folklore built up around it.  It seems on April 27, 1913, the town of Washington, Indiana, was threatened to be cut off by high water rising from the White River running just west of the little town.  The Baltimore and Ohio and Southwestern Railroad came up with a heroic plan to send 15,000 sandbags and 100 men to shore up the roadbed but failed.  Twenty-six men were on the train crossing over the trestle when the trestle gave way, the locomotive went down pulling the next few cars with it.  The men riding on the cowcatcher, locomotive engineer, and fireman all died instantly, as did two others.  Twenty other men scramble for their lives.  Just then the trestle over the White River gave way and the men were stranded.  Finally, wading water shoulder high, they made their way up to the highest point in the area called Tom’s Hill, an old mill, and nearby farmhouse to seek refuge for the night until they could be rescued the next day. 

The Blue Hole is officially called the Blue Hole Pond created by the flood of 1875 and is a deep, sour pool of water a mile and quarter west of Washington, Indiana.  Ironically, the locomotive was recovered by divers a mere six months after the tragic accident.  But, on their first attempt, the chains broke and they had to start all over in their endeavors.  The whole cost of recovery of the locomotive in today’s money was nearly a quarter million dollars. 

The legend of the entire train going into the Blue Hole is from an engraving of on one of the wooden grave markers in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Washington, Indiana, depicting the whole train going in on that infamous day of the tragedy.  The story goes, a hobo came into the cemetery in the early evenings and carved the elaborate carving of Engine 401 and its entire train going into the deeps.


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