W.W. Pool, the Vampire of Richmond
We all know New Orleans is fraught with vampires. But the Big Easy isn’t the only town in the southeastern US that holds tales of blood-sucking supernatural beings. The smaller town of Richmond, Virginia also has a vampiric legend all its own, as our guest on Episode 22 explained.
The Tunnel of Death
On October 2, 1925, workers for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad were in the process of trying to widen the Church Hill Tunnel, a long-unused railway tunnel that had been closed a decade prior. The tunnel already carried the moniker of “The Tunnel of Death”—the passageway had been constructed through soft, quicksand-like soil that liked to eat workers and dislodge building foundations much like the living sand in McDowell’s The Elementals.
But alas, for some reason on that fateful day, the C&O sent nearly hundreds of workers and a steam engine into the tunnel of doom in hopes of getting it ready for recommission.
You know where this is going, right? The tunnel collapsed. Most of the men made it out alive. A few, however, were not so lucky. Tom Mason, the engineer, was pinned inside the cab of the train; rescuers recovered his body nine days later. Benjamin Mosby, the train’s fireman, was shoveling coal when the tunnel collapsed. The boiler exploded, severely burning Mosby. He made it out of the tunnel alive—barely—by crawling under the train. But he died shortly thereafter from his injuries.
The Richmond Vampire
Here’s where the legend begins. Witnesses claimed to see a man hovering over an injured worker outside of the tunnel. At first, onlookers thought the man was a doctor come to help the survivors. But, legend tells that the man began drinking the blood of the victim. When others tried to stop the mysterious man, he darted off and disappeared into the crypt of William Wortham Pool’s grave in Hollywood Cemetery. And thus, the lore of the Richmond Vampire was born.
W.W. Pool was a bookkeeper who died in 1922—three years before the tunnel collapse. His crypt in Hollywood Cemetery has suffered so much vandalism by would-be vampire seekers that his body and his wife’s body have been moved. The crypt remains, and it’s pretty creepy looking. The crypt is inscribed with the date 1913, which is the year Mrs. Pool died.
So, was W.W. Pool a vampire who snuck out of his tomb to feed on the blood of the injured? Perhaps, but more commonly it’s believed that Mosby, burned, mangled, and disoriented, resembled a vampire as he stumbled out of the tunnel. Perhaps he wandered toward Pool’s crypt in his delirium before being taken away to the hospital where he eventually died.
But New Orleans has vampires, right?
And what of New Orleans’ vampires? GenXers like myself are well aware of the stories of Lestat and Louis navigating the centuries in this Spanish-moss dripping town, and younger generations grew up with Sookie and her entourage hanging in nearby small-town Louisiana. But New Orleans does have a bit of history that helps justify the its vampiric undertones. Look up the “casket girls” to learn about the legend of the mysterious flock of women who arrived in New Orleans with some very unusual luggage.
Until next time, have a spooky day!