The Belchen Tunnel is a motorway tunnel in Switzerland, and forms part of the A2 motorway from Basel to Chiasso. It links Eptingen in the canton of Basel-Country with Hägendorf in the Canton of Solothurn. The tunnel was opened in 1966, and is 3,180 metres (10,430 ft) long.
The tunnel was completely renovated in 2003.
The “white woman”
In January 1981 a modern myth circulated, dealing with a “white woman” (weisse Frau) of the Bölchentunnel. Shaped as an old white-clothed hitchhiking woman, a ghost (though not initially recognized as such) appears out of nowhere in front of the drivers and sometimes even speaks to them.
The first known Belchen ghost was actually male. The first written reports of the phenomenon, dated June 1980, involve a male hitchhiker who was picked up but eventually vanished from the vehicle, despite the driver’s high speed.
Towards the end of 1980, the “white woman” began appearing in or near the tunnel. On January 6, 1981, the tabloid Blick wrote about the sightings, followed by other media also adopting the story. Basel Police received many phone calls, dozens of which had to be logged.
The Bölchengespenst, or “Bölchen ghost”, became a popular subject for 1981’s Shrove Tuesday carnival. Even the musicians of the Oberbaselbieter Ländlerkapelle discussed the legend. Reports of the ghost then dwindled, until the 1983 edition of the book Baselbieter Sagen reported further sightings of the white woman. Two female jurists picked up an inconspicuously dressed, clumsy, pale, middle-aged woman in Eptingen. When they later asked her if she was feeling better, she answered:
No, unfortunately not. I am not well at all. Something really awful is going to happen, something very dreadful!
When they looked at the back seat, the woman had disappeared.
Such visitations don’t only happen inside or around tunnels. A re-edited edition of the Baselbieter Sagen mentions similar cases at other Basel places: “the Heidegg castle’s lady,” “the maiden on the goat,” and “the grey woman in Zunzgen.” In Läufelfingen, the woman wears a green loden coat. In the Canton of Bern, a girl in a short leather jacket appears. In the area of Basel, as with the case in Tenniken, a man wearing black is seen. The man prophesied an earthquake and a hard winter before disappearing. The mysterious hitchhikers can even disappear if the car has only front doors and no back doors.
A 1981 article in the magazine Schweizer Volkskunde describes analogous visitations. According to it, such “modern ghosts of the road” were seen in other Swiss Cantons and tunnels, such as the Luzernerland area and in Toggenburg.