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Malinta tunnel: war and ghosts in the Philippines

4 min read

We are off the coast of the Philippines. Corregidor Island was a strategic place to hold during WWII, in fact the island was seen as the key to Manila, sitting just within its bay. As a result it was fought over by both the US and Japanese military, who both managed to secure the island at differing times. Being a place that was so brutally ravaged by war, Corregidor Island saw mass amounts of bloodshed and death, and it is thought to be one of the most haunted places in the Philippines. Malinta Tunnel is just one of the places on this island that boasts some ghost stories for enthusiasts and ghostbusters, but not only.

Malinta Tunnel was built over a ten year period from 1922, and it is essentially a massive tunnel bored through a mountainside with several smaller tunnel systems spanning throughout of its length. The main tunnel, running east to west, is 253 m long, 7.3 m wide and 5.5 m high. Branching off from this main corridor are 13 lateral tunnels on the north side and 11 lateral tunnels on the south side. During its existence, it was initially used as a bomb-proof storage and personnel bunker, then has been utilized as a military storage hub, bomb shelter, office and living space but was later equipped as a 1,000-bed hospital.

Due to the purpose of the tunnel itself and the fact it spent a great deal of time in the middle of a war zone, the area has seen a great number of death. Many died from war injuries within the tunnel though there was a far greater loss of life to come. Historically, as the United States fought to reclaim Corregidor Island, the Japanese faced imminent defeat.
The Battle of Corregidor, fought May 5–6, 1942, was the culmination of the Japanese campaign for the conquest of the Commonwealth of the Philippines during World War II. During the battle, the third lateral on the north side from the east entrance served as the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur and the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East). Japanese troops forced the surrender of the remaining American and Filipino forces on 6 May 1942 while under the command of Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainwright.
During the re-taking of the island by U.S. forces in 1945, Japanese soldiers had been trapped in the tunnel after the entrance was blocked as a result of gunfire from the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Converse (DD-509).
Instead of succumbing to surrender many Japanese soldiers committed suicide within the tunnel and It is said that around 3000 soldiers died there by purposely detonating explosives within during the night of 23 February 1945. This left many bodies entombed in the complicated tunnel systems and extensive damage to the structure itself. The collapsed laterals resulting from these explosions have never been excavated.

Generals Douglas MacArthur and Richard K.Sutherland at USAFFE Headquarters, Malinta Tunnel, 1 March 1942

And about ghost stories, many visitors close to Malinta Tunnel, expecially on Corregidor Island’s mountainside have reported experiencing unexplainable phenomena. Given the tunnel’s long and dark history, its supposed hauntings may come as no surprise, and in fact many people believe that energy left there from soldiers and hospital patients still remains, including spirits of Japanese, Filipino and US. There have been many reports of supposedly haunting, including dark shadow figures and even those dressed up as soldiers. Sometime locals have claimed to hear voices even if no one is around, voices that are screaming in terror as if they are trapped, leaving some to speculate these could be Japanese soldiers entombed in rubble for eternity.

Author’s notes: Malinta Tunnel can only be accessed by catching a ferry over to Corregidor Island from Manila. It opens up to the public every day for a light and sound show. Here, visual and audio effects tell the story of Corregidor Island and immerse visitors in what war was like on the island. Corregidor Website.

Images from web.

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