A Tale as Black as our New Tunnel 13 Cascadian Dark Ale

We released our Cascadian Dark Ale just over a week ago, one we’re calling Tunnel 13.  We wanted to give you all a little insight into how we came to the name the beer, so we’ve dragged back out our resident History Major, Nick Blakeslee. 

Oh, wow.  It’s great to be back.  Nothing says, “You’ve made the right decision” like being able to use your College Degree to write about beer.  Let me tell you, it’s pretty cool.  Anyway, I’m here to tell you all a little bit of history.  Wait!  Don’t leave.  I promise I wont be that boring history professor who wears nothing but mustard colored button ups and khakis.  My voice is much less monotone and I’d never wear socks with sandals.   Also, we’re talking about beer.  Not the Treaty of Versailles.  Specifically, we’re going to talk about our newest beer: our Tunnel 13 Cascadian Dark Ale

You are wondering a couple of things: 1.  What is significance of Tunnel 13? and 2. How can Nick read my thoughts?  For the latter: I really don’t know.  And the former?  Well, that’s a bit of a story.  So take a seat, grab a beer and drink in our beer’s dark history…

Told you it looked spooky.

Other than the fact that it bears the unluckiest number in English culture, Tunnel 13 started as a seemingly normal tunnel.  It runs through southern Oregon, cutting through a portion of the Siskiyou pass.  Those that are familiar with southern Oregon’s past, might know it’s story.  Namely, it’s haunted.

Whoa, I know, I know, that’s a big claim, certainly for a brewery to make.  Our tagline is “Welcome to the Block” not “Common Block: Beers, Ghosts, etc.”  But guess what, Google says it’s haunted, and who is going to argue with that?  After all, Tunnel 13 is home to one of the last great train robberies in America.  You heard me, a train robbery. 

Let’s rewind the clock, and take us all back to another time, when alcohol was illegal and America had just given women the right to vote: The 1920’s.  The year was 1922, and some brothers were looking to make their family rich.  They’re names were Roy and Ray D’Autremont.  They decided they were going to rob a train of its gold, and they knew of one that ran right through their backyard: the Siskiyou Station.

The train in question was from Southern Pacific, and carried the nickname The Gold Special.  Clearly, someone looking to protect their assets sucked at naming their trains.  The Balsawood Special or Paperscraps, Dead Pens, etc. would have probably done a better job at averting prying eyes.  Rumor had it, the train carried half a million in gold bars and an inordinate amount of cash as well.  Making the hit worth the risk.

Tunnel 13 marks the end of a steep incline that runs through the Siskiyou Mountain range.  The tunnel itself stretches just over 3,100 feet.  Additionally, it’s the beginning of a steep decline, one where the engineer of the train was required to stop in order to test the brakes.  This marked the perfect spot for the D’Autremont brothers to jump on the train and steal their fortune.

So they set the date, and eventually recruited their brother, Hugh, as well (clearly not fitting into the rhyming scheme of Roy and Ray).  They stole some dynamite from a construction site in northern Oregon.

On October 11th, 1923, they set their trap.  At the height of the summit, while the engine stopped for a brake test, Roy and Hugh D’Autremont hopped on the train, while Ray waited at the end of the tunnel with the dynamite.  Roy and Hugh held the engineer, a man named Sidney Bates, at gun point and ordered him to stop the train at the southern end of the tunnel.

With the train stopped, the Brothers would be able to begin their work getting the Mail Car open, which was believed to carry the half-million in gold, cash, and probably some love letters as well.

There was a hiccup, however, when the Mail Clerk in the car, Elvyn Daugherty, refused to open up.  The car was secured, and it would take something big to get it open.  Like, dynamite for example.  The brothers slapped on the explosives and ran.

Unfortunately, at the time there were no YouTube Walk-Through’s or “Dynamite for Dummies” books, so the brothers packed too much dynamite on the door to the mail car.  When the fuse fired, the dynamite obliterated not only the entire contents of the mail car—including poor Elvyn—but damaged the railcar as well.  So when they ordered Engineer Bates, and Marvin Seng to decouple the mail car and move the engine forward, they found the train to be too damaged to move.

Not exactly Ocean’s 11 caliber of execution.

The mail car that was obliterated by the dynamite blast.

Their plans were ruined, the gold, if it had even been there at all, was nowhere to be found.  And all they had were a series of witnesses to their crimes.  In the ensuing chaos, the robbery claimed the lives of three more, Sydney Bates the engineer, Marvin Seng a fireman, and Charles Orin Johnson the brakeman.  Bringing the final body count to four.

$4,800 reward for each man. That’s the modern day equivalent of almost $70,000

The robbery chilled southern Oregonians – a crime this brutal was not common in sleepy southern Oregon.  It received nationwide news and a massive manhunt took place.  It wasn’t until 1927, when Hugh D’Aturemont was found in the Philippines shortly after enlisting in the Military (no good deed goes unpunished).  Less than year later, both Roy and Ray were reported and arrested in Ohio, marking the end of a half-decade long manhunt.  Hugh was paroled in 1958, but died less than a year later of cancer.  His brother, Ray, served time until 1961, at which time he was released after repenting his crimes.  He was on record saying, “For the rest of my life I will struggle with the question of whatever possessed us to do such a thing?”  He settled down as a janitor at University of Oregon in Eugene and went on to write a book.  Apparently, he picked up painting Oregon landscapes as a means to reflect.

And finally, Roy D’Autremont was diagnosed with schizophrenia while incarcerated, and later underwent a frontal lobotomy.  Spooky.

The case is historically important not only because of the nature of the crime, but also the use of forensic evidence as well.  Edward Oscar Heinrich, dubbed “The Edison of Crime Detection”, used ground breaking techniques to tag the men with the crime.  Including forensic analysis of handwriting, curing an old receipt to read a postal code, and the chemical testing of grease found on the killer’s trousers to indict the murderer while proving the innocence of another man.  He did some amazing things, but really, he deserves his own post.

Since then, Tunnel 13 has never been the same.  Locals stayed away from it for decades and in 2003 the tunnel burned to the ground mysteriously. Officials thought it could have been transients or trespassers, but we know what it was: ghosts.

Today, Tunnel 13 is open for business, but that hasn’t stopped Ashland locals and travelers alike from coming to the tunnel to investigate its haunted properties for themselves.  Some say if you shut off the lights to your flashlight, you can see the apparition of Sydney Bates, patrolling the south end of the Tunnel where he lost his life.  Others suggest that the howling wind sounds less like gusts and more like the ghastly moans of Elvyn’s disembodied soul.

And if you sit in the darkness long enough, they say you can hear the crazed laughter of the lobotomized Roy D’Autremont.

Whatever the truth may be, the place is creepy as heck, but cool as well.   Making it worthy of our Tunnel 13 Cascadian Dark Ale.