Tinoco Tunnel – San José de Maipo, Chile - Atlas Obscura

About an hour’s drive from Santiago is the small Chilean town of San José del Maipo, where, if you venture about a mile and a half outside the village, you’ll find to a dark, disused train tunnel that’s become something of a pilgrimage for locals. 

The abandoned Tunel del Tinoco tunnels through the mountains along Camino Al Volcán, a remnant from the region’s railways days. Trains ran through the tunnel between 1914 and 1980. Now, it is completely dark, with a strange smell and a chilling past.

No one knows how, but on a July day in 1998, a young man named Guillermo (Willy) Antonio Rojas Reyes died inside the tunnel. Some believe he killed himself after suffering a broken heart. Now, at both the entrance and exit to the tunnel, makeshift shrines have formed to young Willy. Visitors leave gifts of all kinds and whisper wishes and favors into the tunnel, believing his spirit will grant them. 

Specifically, you’ll see many blue pinwheels left at the tunnel. One stone, framed by a mosaic, has an inscription that may explain why. It reads: “For us, Willy speaks through the pinwheels. Please do not shut them up. His parents.”

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January 12, 2018

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