Under river, outside time: The Woolwich Foot Tunnel Anomaly

When the Woolwich foot tunnel closed for repairs in 2011, it should have been a routine job. The pathway had been providing pedestrians with a quick route beneath the Thames since 1912. A century on, a few minor improvements were necessary. Contractors were hired to plug holes, improve access and bring communications capabilities into the 21st Century: swapping leaky tiles for a leaky feeder.

But Woolwich residents will recall that the refurb of this much loved and much used walkway did not go according to plan. When it finally re-opened it was 8 months behind schedule, having been closed for more than a year and a half. What the average Woolwich dweller doesn’t know, however, are the unusual circumstances behind this delay.

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Part of the works were to update the lifts  sourcelicence

Mention the 18 month time frame to someone who worked on the Woolwich Tunnel job and you may be met with a mysterious smile. A year and a half may have seemed a long time to those who relied on the tunnel for their daily commute. But for those who were down there beneath the river, that time-frame has a different meaning. When one contractor tells me he aged 3 years on the Woolwich job, it is not a metaphor. For, deep down beneath river and clay, hidden from those above ground, something was occurring. That something was a time anomaly.

A time anomaly, from the perspective of someone who experiences it, involves a clearly defined part of landscape or architecture, in which time ‘stops’. Years of study into such phenomena has proved largely fruitless in terms of explanations. And even less so when it comes to predicting when and where they might arise. There is some anecdotal evidence that temporary spaces, or spaces temporarily under a different use, lend themselves to time anomalies, and the Woolwich event would appear to support this.

But they are notoriously hard to define – not having experienced one, PoL isn’t about to try. The best thing we can do is listen to those that have experienced them. The following testimony is from one of the contractors on the Woolwich foot tunnel job (he wishes to remain anonymous). His words are presented uninterrupted, with as little editing as possible.

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Woolwich from the river, pre foot tunnel times  source | public domain

“I was one of the first ones to experience it. We were working from both ends, as it were, and had tents on both sides of the river. It was pretty basic, if you wanted something from the other side, you just had to walk it through the tunnel. Anyway the foreman’s on the other side and he radios to ask me across. So I walk through the tunnel – the ‘long walk’, we called it, funnily enough – and it’s slightly spooky because no one else is down there, they’re all working on the lift shafts, and I get up the other side, find the foreman, and his eyes nearly pop out of his head. Says he only radioed like a minute ago and how did I get there so quick? Wouldn’t take my word for it I’d walked. Reckoned I had a buggy down there or something, that it was some kind of prank.

But I stand my ground and he starts to see I’m not lying. Anyway he forgets what he called me there for. He gives me this big red plastic box, tells me to walk back over and hold it up for him when I get to the other side. So I head back down, the lonely walk back, thinking shouldn’t we be getting on with some work. When I get to the top I wave the red box in the air and radio the foreman. ‘You just left me!’ he’s saying, ‘No more than a minute ago’. That’s when I start to feel a bit weird.

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Entrance to the tunnel seen from the river  source | licence

My initial feelings was I was pretty freaked out by it all. But once everyone else had experienced it, it was amazing how quickly it seemed normal. It became like a joke. It was a laugh, you know, a source of giggles. Someone said we’d invented the teleporter and were all going to be rich. The foreman stopped trusting watches and phones when we were down there, and took to using egg-timers. A few of the young agency lads tried to claim extra on their time sheets. That was the thing, though: time froze when you were down there. If you were down there for the full working day, fixing the tiling, you’d basically finish work, come back up and it would still be morning. Which was great at first – I don’t live in London so I did a lot of sightseeing, Cutty Sark, The Royal Palaces – but then we all realised how knackered we were.

It never really occurred to any of us to tell anyone about it at the time. It was like, who would believe you? You didn’t even believe it yourself. Plus it was such a wheeze. I think there was a feeling that as soon as head office was on to it the whole thing would be over. No more fun.

People started experimenting. Some of the guys camped out in there to see how long they could. 3 days and nights it was, and they still came back at the same moment they’d left. That freaked the site manager out though. He was having a nightmare with the timetables as it was. Biggest problem was making sure that if anyone from head office came down it wouldn’t look like he was sending people home ten minutes after they logged on – although that’s exactly what he was doing. Anyway he soon put a stop to all the mucking about.

Not before I had my one very strange moment, though.

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The stairs  source | licence

One thing we couldn’t get our head round was how the two, sort of, time-places a guy was in seemed to be happening at the same time, as it were. Like I see you emerge across the river in no time at all, but there’s also a ‘you’ who reckons he’s spending four hours in the tunnel.

So Petar, this Bulgarian lad, thought of a little experiment. One morning before anyone else is down the tunnel, he ties a long rope round his waist, and hands the other end to some of the guys. Then he sets off down the tunnel, see. And I’m to follow him down as far as the bottom of the stairs, and then stop and watch him walk down the tunnel. ‘Don’t put your foot off the stairs, don’t step in the tunnel’, he told me. And I didn’t.

So I’m watching him, and he’s got something in his pocket, a secret signal for when he’s across the river, when he gets to the surface. When the others see he’s surfaced, they’re supposed to shout down at me and pull on the rope. Anyway, I’m kneeling down and craning my head down so I can watch Petar walk around the curve, [the tunnel bends in an inverted bow underground – PoL] and he laughs and waves at me for a minute, then gets bored, keeps walking. And he’s just about to round the curve, out of sight – it hasn’t been long, just a minute or so, around the same time it’d took us to walk down the steps – and I feel the rope around me tighten. Then I hear the lads up top. ‘He’s across. Waving a red flag’. The thing is, Petar hears it too.

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This image shows how the tunnel bends out of sight  source | licence

And he stops. Turns round. And he’s looking at me. His hand slowly reaches into his big jacket pocket, and he pulls out the edge of this large red flag. For a moment I grin. I reckon they’re all having me on. But it’s the look on his face, that’s what still haunts me. Nobody’s that good an actor. His face – and he’s a big man, mind you, fearless. Our Petar was a big character, always at the centre of things, always with this big smile. Never saw him take anything too serious in all our days til then, but – I don’t know how to describe it, it was – fear. Just plain fear on his face. And he’s looking right at me and I know what he’s thinking. I know what he’s trying to figure out – do I keep going, or do I come back? He takes one step towards me, then stops. I don’t know how long we looked at each other like that, neither of us talking. Then in the end he turns round again, and carries on, out of sight.

Well, I’m up those stairs like a shot and when I get up top there he is, across the river, unmistakeable even from that distance, red flag in one hand, another guy’s arm around his shoulders.

Anyway I didn’t like that. That freaked me out, that did. Petar didn’t talk about it much. Nobody spoke much about any of it after that. The jokes kind of came to an end and we just got on with the job. Tried to ignore it.”

The tunnel was re-opened in early 2012. No time-discrepancies have been reported since that date.


  • Candidate: The Woolwich Anomaly
  • Type:  Time-Anomaly
  • Status: Inactive

Source and licence for featured image

 

Author: portalsoflondon

Working towards a catalogue of London's inter-dimensional gateways.

49 thoughts on “Under river, outside time: The Woolwich Foot Tunnel Anomaly”

  1. IF the story isn’t a complete fabrication, I suspect some clever pranksters. Two people stationed near either end of the tunnel could have been twins, or at least looked similar and dressed alike. The rope trick could be pulled off (heh) the same way.

      1. I was 16 years of age when and i must have gone through the foot tunnel about 20 times that was 58 years ago,it always took longer to get to the north side than it did to come back,Why, i dont know

  2. The story is most likely a fabrication. If a whole days work was done is just a couple of minutes, then it doesn’t make sense that the entire project took 8 months longer than scheduled. Wkipedia states that “During the works, the tunnel closed on Monday to Friday daytimes”. That means that people were able to use the tunnel on weekends and at night, and no anomalies were reported. The reason why they ran behind schedule was that after five months “structural weaknesses discovered in the stairways and tunnel itself”.

    1. Thank you for this. The first question has come up a number of times – if the contractors were ‘frozen’ in time, why did the job over-run? We should remember two things. First, that those running the job on the ground seem to have had no desire to let their bosses discover the anomaly. Second, that the construction workers were only human. So: For every day that passed in ‘base’ London, no person carried out more than a day’s work within the temporal pause. They weren’t sent back down there again and again to do successive 8 hour shifts, heedless of health. This is why the contractor interviewed speaks of all the free days he had for sight-seeing, but also of how tired he was. If he worked for 8 hours a day in the pause, then he was living 36 hours for every 24. Given what living like this for months must do to one’s faculties, we can well imagine how productivity may be affected. Throw-in all the fooling around they seemed to engage in at the beginning of the job, and we’re not surprised it over-ran. Of course, the official reasons referenced in the above comment can also be a factor, but we have found that the story of London’s dimensional discrepancies is often found by reading between such lines.

      The second point – regarding the tunnel being opened to the public outside working hours – raises fascinating aspects pertaining to the nature of time anomalies. Our contractor speaks of colleagues camping out in the tunnel for three days and nights, then returning above ground at the same moment they had left. The assumption is that they didn’t meet anyone while they were down there. So ‘where’ or ‘when’ do those nights exist? Is it conceivable that the geographical space of the tunnel can inhabit ‘overlapping’ temporal space? Might the camping contractors and oblivious evening walkers in some way be sharing the same space, at the same ‘time’ – in such a way that they would not see, hear or feel each other in their respective ‘realities’?

      This also raises interesting questions about how a time anomaly is accessed – somehow, the contractors created a breach which they were then able to re-enter. A breach which weekend strollers had no way of accessing (and no reason to consider was there at all).

      For us, these questions don’t discredit our contractor’s testimony. If anything they pull focus to the need for more research into these deceptively complex phenomena.

      1. What is it about England. I am an American but grew up in England from the ages of 8-18. All the books that I loved including the classics by CS Lewis ie. Narnia tales, The Wierd Stone of Brisingame & Moon of Gomrath by Alan Garner, At the Back of the North Wind by MacDonald and on and on all deal with the idea of different time dimensions and people traveling into different places eras and then coming back as if no time had passed.
        Then there are the crop circles that happen pretty exclusively in England though they do happen elsewhere. And what about the Tors in the south of England and how they were all built along the earth’s meridians not to mention their strange powers. It would seem that England is very magical island…

  3. To use a technical term, this is complete made-up bollocks. What was happening or not happening could have been easily proved or disproved by starting the stopwatch function simultaneously on phones at either end, then the person walking through the tunnel keeping watching the stopwatch as he walks through, and the guy at the far end continuously watching HIS stopwatch till the bloke walking through appeared at his end.

  4. Probably the 1912 tunnel was set up with the assistance of the Ministry of Magic, so the dockyard workers would “lose no time” in walking across. (A little bribe in the right place – what is a dockyard for but to make galleons?) But since the Harry Potter books wer published, the International
    Statute of Magical Secrecy has been breached, and the Ministry is cracking down on violations. During the Muggles’ 2011 renovation of the tunnel, the Ministry removed the time-distorti feature.

  5. You will finc this in many Tube tunnels, and note the Holburn station. Dimensional effects… its due to another source using a Tesla field, for want of a better term. Its in the phsysics.. it can alter what we perceive as time and space

  6. Welp, i’m never entering the Woolwich Tunnel. Who knows what happens when you go in there? The real you could go in, and an alternate could come out!

    1. I have used the Woolwich foot tunnel for 76-years, always takes 10/12-minutes to walk through by my watch, so this is a load of testicles considering the thousands of people who used it every day for work.
      BUT, at Gallions Reach, which is on the way to Becton from North Woolwich (Near The old Tate & Lyle Sports Ground), is the pilot tunnel for the Woolwich Foot Tunnel (if you can still gain access), which exits at the Royal Arsenal on the South Side of Woolwich, this is is a different kettle of fish, very very much smaller, no lighting, no noise, no people, hallucinations, sparks, blue flames from nowhere, very very weird frightening place!

      By the way, if still present at the entrances on both sides of the Woolwich Foot Tunnel, read the Bye-Laws on the notices, particularly about driving cattle through and carrying dynamite through the tunnel haha.

      Contact me if you need any more information at “corado.mercedes@hotmail.com”

  7. Don Juan (trough Carlos Castaneda) says the world is only a description, what we think is solid and real is only a humanity shared view of the world, the flowing river above generated enough power (kind of subtle electro magnetism https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY1eyLEo8_A) to distrupt this description bending time for a few people, if there were more people it wouldn’t work because the energy would have to be increased.

  8. Well, there is a similar anomaly in the BER (Berlin Brandenburg airport) construction site. The airport was opened 2012, but outside the time wrap bubble, the airport is still under construction and will probably never be finished. There are also space anomalies around at BER. They say escalators don’t reach the floor ever.

    Strange world, isn’t it?

  9. I’ve just finished reading all the way through this article, and the comments.
    Oh, wait a minute – I haven’t started yet……

  10. According to my research the Earth is actually a Time Machine, this comes from the both experience and science research. It is well known that folk claim to have accidentally time travelled in Liverpool, Great Yarmouth, and other places in France and Holland also the Bermuda triangle. That fact is the earth has a time field which is closed 99% of the time and opens due to rare events. One of those events could be due to a passing comet as the Time field is connected to the earths magnetic field which as you know moves around all the time due to the solar wind. Anyway, very interesting blog. Will help me no end in my research. Thank you.

  11. When the guy IN the tunnel was told they now see him on the other side, he should have just turned around and came back – causing a paradox. Or, Skyped with the other guys, or just video recorded his walk, and compared it to his doppelganger’s version. Is the time anomaly experienced the same in both directions? If this is all true, could it be walking under the river / flowing water causing this anomaly? Did anybody see a DeLorean down there? Maybe a tardus-blue UK police box? Maybe a phone booth with a broken antennae, with two stoners inside?

  12. Real mysteries exist. We all like mysteries, but don’t waste your time on fake ones. It’s a drag when you’re not getting the right clues, because someone who wants a feeling of power, from mystifying people, has made some false clues up. It can delay attempts to solve real mysteries, and to try to understand the amazing world around us, if you have to spend some of your time checking out made-up clues.

    With this one, it’s not a problem, as it’s so obviously false. But there are other areas where the line between truth and fiction becomes blurred, and it slows us down. A lot of people have the wrong clues in front of them, and others take years getting the right clues together, before they can even make a proper start.

  13. PS. Of all the excuses for contractors not finishing the job on time, this is the worst… “Sorry it took longer than we planned for, we know you had a deadline, and we were trying to work to it. But there was a bit of a… well…. a bit of a time anomaly you see…. I can explain it in more detail if you come into the office…..”

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  15. There is really no problem with the workers camping for several nights in the tunnel: they stayed in there during the day in outside-time, when the anomaly was present, and still got out during that same day. The people walking through the tunnel at night and during the weekend were not affected, and the workers were not in the tunnel at those times.

    As for the working schedules, a solution would have been to let the workers work a day in the tunnel, then spend a night in there and get out the next morning, and have that day off. They would basically live 48 hours for every outside 24 hours, and therefore age a bit faster, but they would only work one normal period of 8 hours during that time and have proper time to rest. Of course, they’d still need find a way to to sneak away at 9:10 each morning without causing too much fuss.

    Work inspections by outside parties during the day would be weird. Maybe solve that with a kind of shift system.

  16. The author admits this is a fictional story:

    “It’s been interesting seeing how people react to it – and partly it’s because of the mix of influences in there. At first my main worry was that it would please nobody, because it’s a bit of psychogeography, it’s a little bit of ghost stories or horror but it’s not a straight-up genre thing, and it’s a little bit of history – but it’s certainly not real history. But it seems to have found an audience, and people bring their own things to it and pick out the elements that they like.”

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