When it comes to glowworms, many people first think of the Waitomo Glow-Worm Caves in New Zealand. However, just across the narrow strip of ocean separating the two, one can find even more glowworms. Australia is home to tunnel systems that have since been shut down and abandoned, which have, consequently, become home to thousands of glowworms.
These small bioluminescent bugs emit enough light to cause the tunnels to glow with a slightly eerie, albeit incredible, luminance. It's a fascinating sight for those who know where to find them, although they do take some work to reach.
Additionally, it's believed that the tunnel itself is haunted. Since its closing in the early 20th century, visitors who traverse its dark paths for the glowworms often get more than they bargained for.
Glow-Worms In The Metropolitan Tunnel In Helensburgh
From the outside, this tunnel doesn't appear to be much more than a very creepy old train route. However, when it begins getting dark, it's easy enough to notice the blue glow that's emitted from inside. The tunnel is such a popular tourist attraction that's it's officially known as the Helensburgh Glowworm Tunnel, although at the time of writing it's currently closed due to flooding.
*The tunnel will be reopened at a TBD date in the future.
The tunnel itself was constructed in 1880 as the 4th line on the Illawarra Line. The route was to go between the Helensburgh Tunnel 1st to the Metropolitan Colliery, hence the nickname of the 'Metropolitan Tunnel.' Despite its seemingly remote nature due to intense overgrowth surrounding the tunnel, it's located fairly close to town. During a seasonal drought or dry season, the station and tracks can just barely be seen through the trees from the Helensburgh Station.
In regard to the glowworm population, this occurred after the tunnel was restored. With one end sealed, glowworms took shelter in the moist, damp tunnel, which proved to be the perfect environment for the species, known as Fungus Gnats. Additionally, the cave-like nature of the tunnel draws in prey such as mosquitos and other small insects, which are perfect for the diet of a glowworm.
- Note: While the cave is currently closed due to flooding, it has also been closed temporarily in order to allow the glowworm population to recover. Visitors who use flashlights and flash photography have contributed to the decline of the glowworm population within the tunnel.
Is The Metropolitan Tunnel Of Helensburgh Haunted?
It's easy enough to believe this simply based on the appearance of the tunnel. Its history doesn't help much to allay suspicions about the tunnel being haunted, either. The tunnel began construction in 1880 and was officially opened in 1889, featuring two main sections: the Helensburgh Tunnel that ran for roughly 88 yards, and the Metropolitan Tunnel, which ran for 682 yards. The latter is the tunnel that still exists today as the Helensburgh Glow-Worm Tunnel.
By 1915, the train and tunnel were no longer necessary as an easier, more efficient route was constructed. The train tunnel was turned into a coal mining operation, and the southern end of the tunnel was plugged in order to control the water that would occasionally flood it. This reservoir was put to use from 1928 on, and, eventually, the train and the tunnel were forgotten - until 1995.
With much of the original train station now covered in muck, debris, and overgrowth, the Metropolitan Colliery made the decision to remove what they could. The tunnel was turned into a historical landmark, and visitors can now see the original tracks along with the original Helensburgh Station sign, which was restored and installed in the gully.
Local Superstitions & Legends About The Helensburgh Tunnel
According to local legend, the tunnel itself is very haunted. Therefore, it's an attraction for those interested in witnessing its glow-worm population but also for those interested in the paranormal. Many visitors have reported strange or eerie feelings that make their hair stand on edge when visiting the tunnels, which make sense considering the stories that surround it.
One such story is about a man named Robert Halis, who lost his life in the tunnel in 1895. Halis was a miner making his way through the tunnel on foot when a train came through and struck him. According to the local newspaper, Halis had stayed late at work and needed to pass through one of the tunnels in order to get out, which is when the incident occurred. Those who have visited claim that one of the things they've heard are the footsteps of a man seemingly trying to outrun something - some presume it is the train itself.