As spookical and seasonally appropriate as it would be if Richmond’s Hollywood Cemetery had its own vampire, this one goes into the “Nah” files.
Even though The Richmond Vampire myth was debunked long ago, W.W. Pool’s mausoleum remains linked to one of Virginia’s most intriguing stories of the supposed supernatural.
As with many urban legends The Richmond Vampire’s roots sprouted following a real-life tragedy: the Church Hill railroad tunnel collapse on October 2, 1925.
A steam engine and ten flatcars, along with an unknown number of workers were forever entombed in the remains of what was already nicknamed “The Tunnel of Death.” In the pandemonium caused by the collapse hundreds of workers scurried away from the falling debris in all directions.
“Witnesses” reported a flayed and bloody figure bolt into Pool’s mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery but there was no trace of the mysterious creature in the vault or elsewhere on the grounds.
One popular notion is that The Richmond Vampire was actually fireman Benjamin Mosby who scrambled away from the wreckage with severe scalding and teeth so mangled that they resembled fangs.
Mosby died within hours at Grace Hospital with no evidence that he was ever at Hollywood Cemetery that afternoon.
It’s possible that someone noticed Mosby in the chaos and deduced that he was a vampire based on the condition of his skin and jagged teeth.
How the account evolved to Mosby disappearing into the Pool crypt is a mystery. Some versions of the tale claim that he was heading for the James River, delirious from his injuries.
During my research I read that long ago the phrase “Headed for Hollywood” in Richmond meant that one was going to die, as it was the name of the bone orchard. It’s a stretch to think that somehow this phrase led to an eyewitness account of a vampire sneaking into a cemetery, but you never know.
Pool was an accountant whose wife Alice died in 1913, which is why that year is inscribed underneath the lamb atop the mausoleum.
Mr. Pool died at age 75 in 1922 from pneumonia, three years before the tunnel tragedy. The only slightly eerie incicent surrounding his death was that his good friend Samuel Owens died on the exact same day.
Even though The Richmond Vampire hit a dead end the Church Hill tunnel collapse boasts what might be a more haunting legacy.
In addition to Benjamin Mosby’s horrific demise there were at least three other deaths as a result of the collapse. When engineer Tom Mason’s body was discovered nine days later he remained upright in his chair pinned by a lever and dirt that had fallen into the cab.
There was no formal attempt to regroup everyone who was on the scene that day and some believe that other people were also buried alive, forever sealed in the tunnel with Locomotive #231.