The Ilchester Tunnel is located near the historic town of Ellicott City, Maryland. This old B&O Railroad tunnel also has a little known urban legend attached to it: The Legend of The Blink Man.
Legend has it that an old homeless blind man was hit and killed by an oncoming train in the early 1900s and now his spirit haunts the tunnel. Supposedly, if you stand on the tracks at 11PM and stare into the tunnel for entire hour without blinking, The Blink Man will appear. And every time you blink after he first appears to you, his ghost will get closer and closer until his eyelashes brush against your face. The constant flickering of his eyelashes on your skin – these constant butterfly kisses – are said to send you into madness, driving you to rip out your own eyes in a fit of blind rage.
The legend is relatively unknown by most of the younger residents but those who still whisper about it sometimes call The Blink Man by his various nicknames: Mr. Blink, Peeping Tom, and even Ilchester The Molester. Today the tunnel is covered by spray paint graffiti and the symbol for The Blink Man can be found all over the rusty structure: a circle with a single diagonal line crossed through it. If you leave the mark anywhere in town, the older locals are quick to remove it.
For safety reasons, the tunnel is off limits but that doesn’t stop the truly curious from trespassing. Police will tell you to stay away because of the obvious danger of being struck by passing trains but believers will tell you to stay away from the tunnel to sever the spread of the curse.
As a former Ellicott City citizen, I have been to the tunnel at night. I don’t know why but as a teenager I did, indeed; agree to conjure The Blink Man on a drunken dare. But I couldn’t summon him – I could never keep myself from blinking for the full hour. But that’s probably for the best. I’ve honestly never met anyone who has ever claimed to have successfully invoked The Blink Man. But then again, according to the legend; no one who has ever successfully invoked The Blink Man has survived the encounter.
This is the only paranormal case in Maryland that has alleged fatalities attached to the urban legend – probably because those stupid enough to stand on a set of railroad tracks at night for an entire hour are likely to get crushed by an oncoming freight train – but the deaths involved are enough to give the folklore some legitimacy.
And the town’s seemingly active attempt to silence the urban legend also gives the story more credibility. Besides the police and the older locals keeping the tunnel under wraps, the local authors of several folklore books and tourist literature frequently omit the story completely. Even an interview with the authors of the book, Weird Maryland, substantiates the cover-up conspiracy theory: “…[W]e left it out for several reasons…[and] mostly because the whole thing of being out there [at the Ilchester Tunnel] on those tracks at night is just unsafe…” Superstitions aside, the deliberate omission is also the stuff of legends.
It’s been said that seeing is believing – and according to this legend – the only thing keeping us from seeing The Blink Man is ourselves. Check the tunnel out if you want – it’s surprisingly not hard to find.