A HAUNTED MINE.
Some years ago the Editor of this paper received, as: a gratuity for service performed, some shares in a Nevada mine, which was declared to promise rich results to those who would bear the brunt of the preliminary expenses. Besides these latter demands, an ugly report prevailed that the mine was “haunted,” and a tale of violence and wrong was attached to this report which induced the Editor to relinquish whatever flattering prospects might accrue in the distant future from the possession of shares in the aforesaid investment.
Within the last few months an esteemed and reliable correspondent has called the Editor’s attention to an article in The Golden Gate, California, which singularly reduplicates the experiences which, in years gone by, induced more than one shareholder to withdraw from the mine that seemed to be spellbound by the avenging spirit of one who had perished in its gloomy confines. We are able to vouch personally for the veracity, not only of the former disturbances occurring in the mine, but also for the good faith of the narrator of the following incidents :—
For some years past there have been observed by the miners working in the old upper levels of the Yellow Jacket Mine, Gold Hill, Nev., various phenomena apparently of a supernatural character. Recently these unaccountable disturbances have been renewed in a startling manner. Few miners like to own to having been frightened by anything of a ghostly nature. The majority prefer quietly leaving a mine to acknowledging themselves frightened by unnatural sights and sounds. For this reason little has heretofore been made public in regard to the doings of the spooks and goblins in the old upper workings of the Jacket.
On Thursday night, November 10th, W. P. Bennett, who is employed in that mine, had an experience so startling that it gave him a fit of sickness from which he has not fully recovered at this writing.
Mr. Bennett is well known to many persons in San Francisco, as well as in this part of Nevada, and in many of the mountain towns of California. He was, for a number of years, in the employ of Wells, Fargo & Co., and in the old staging days had charge, as Superintendent, of all their horses and coaches, and was much of the time travelling to and fro over their routes. He is a very truthful man, a Pacific Coast pioneer, and says that never until last week did he see or hear anything that he could not account for. He is now employed in the Yellow Jacket Mine as powder man. He has charge of and distributes to the miners the powder they require in blasting. He has been at work in the mine over four years.
He knew of men leaving the mine on account of things they had heard or seen, but paid very little attention to the mysterious talk about them which he occasionally heard among the miners, further than to say that he would very much like to see or hear some of the things they spoke of. But now he wants no more of it. He says he has “got his dose,” and will never get over it till his life is ended.
Last Thursday night he spoke to Pete Langan, the foreman, of some shovels he had seen up on the 1,000 level, and said he would go up and get them. He went up to the old deserted level, and ascended to the first floor above the track floor. He went out across this floor to a station; and, taking up two shovels, returned with them to descend to the track floor. He was carrying a lantern, and when he had got on the ladder that led to the track floor, and was moving down with his lantern below the hole in the floor, but his head still through it, he was startled at hearing heavy footsteps coming tramping over the planks directly toward him. He began to descend the ladder as rapidly as possible, and while he did so heard the steps immediately over his head at the hole he had just left. He pushed on down the ladder a short distance till he reached an ore chute that leads down from the floor on which the footsteps were heard. Halting at the chute he looked up it, but saw nothing. He knew that no men were working on the level, but he mustered courage to call out:
“Who’s there? Anybody up there?” Instantly he heard begin above, on the floor, from the hole through which he had just descended, a heavy tramping as of two men coming forward toward the ladder-way. As he stood on the ladder he held his lantern in his left hand, and under the same arm the two shovels, tightly pressed against his side.
Suddenly, from behind, the shovels were violently thrust forward and sent flying a distance of twelve feet, when they struck against the wall and went down the ladder-way, landing at a point distant nearly thirty feet from where they started.
“Up to this time,” said Mr. Bennett, “I was not frightened, but when I felt the thrust from behind, and saw the shovels flying ahead of me, I felt, through my whole system; a chilling shock. For a moment I was almost paralyzed; then the tramping on the floor above still continuing, I descended the ladder as swiftly as possible.
“When I got down among the men I asked for Pete Langan, and was told that he had been up on the surface during my trip to the 1,000 level. The men all saw that something had happened [to] me, and wanted to know whether I had seen or heard anything. I gave them no answer further than to say that I had been overtaken by a sudden fit of sickness. They were not satisfied, and that evening at supper-time I told them what had occurred up on the 1,000 level. Then I learned from them of strange things that had happened to others in the old upper levels.”
It appears that the 900 level is that on which supernatural manifestations are of most frequent occurrence. Three men have been killed on that level, and one man was buried under a big cave, and his body has not yet been recovered. At the time of the great fire in the Jacket, which broke out on the morning of April 7, 1869, forty-five men lost their lives. The bodies of three of these were never recovered, and it has always been thought that they were walled in when bulkheads were built to confine the fire to certain limits, as afterwards, when the fire had exhausted itself, some bits of bone were found in that section.
Quite a number of men have left the mine at different times on account of strange happenings on the 900 level.
The fact of these men giving up steady work at four dollars a day, shows that they were pretty thoroughly frightened. At times the men have been startled by cries and shrieks, as of some one being pressed to death under timbers, but most of them have been alarmed by footsteps, above and around them, such as were heard by Mr. Bennett,
The men who heard these sounds were not alone. Men working in crosscuts would hear footsteps out in the main drift, as of some one on patrol marching up and down along the foot-boards. At first, under the impression that it was the foreman promenading in the drift, some of the men went out to investigate, but could never see any one, the sound of the footsteps ceasing when they came into the drift, though it had been distinctly heard a moment before. With the return of the men to their work the sound of footsteps tramping and grinding along the sandy foot-boards of the track floor would again be heard, or perhaps the groanings and cries would begin.
About a month ago a miner named Bruce, who was at work on the 1,000 level, suddenly threw up his job. Being pressed for the reason, he at first said he was ill, but finally told a friend that he had seen a thing which he took to be a warning for him to leave the mine. He would not say what he had seen, but said it meant his death if he remained in the mine.
Fear of being laughed at prevents many from telling the cause of their fright. About two years ago, a miner who was at work on the 200 level, heard footsteps in the main drift, and told the man who was at work with him, in the face of a crosscut, that he would look out and see who was there. Taking a candle he went out, but in a few moments came rushing back with his hair on end, and trembling in every joint. He said that when he got out to the main drift, two shoes, with no person in them, came tramping along before him on the foot-walk. He was so badly frightened that he would not stir an inch from his partner during the remainder of the shift, and when it was ended, left the mine never to enter it again.
Mr. Bennett says that although he formerly went by himself through all parts of the mine without a thought of fear, no money would now hire him to again go alone into the old drifts and chambers of the 1,000 level. He says he has all his life laughed at the stories told of the pranks of spooks and the tricks of spiritualists, but the push he got when his shovels were sent flying, was a thing that he cannot get over.
As Mr. Bennett has always been known as one utterly fearless as regards supernatural things, his experience has had a great effect upon the men working in the mine. There are at present about twenty men at work on the 1,200 level. Formerly at change of shift, when these men reached the 1,100 level, they would make a rush for the shaft to get on the first cage going up; now, however, they move along en masse, and as they pass the opening leading up to the 1,000 level many sidelong glances are cast toward it, and there is some quick stepping among the next who bring up the rear.
In writing an account of these old haunted levels, it would not have been difficult to have invented some startling things, but I have preferred relating just what is reported by Mr. Bennett and the miners themselves. Without comment, or any attempt at explanation, I give the story of this supposed-to-be haunted mine, leaving all to draw their own conclusions. A. G.
The Two Worlds, 17 February 1888: p. 211
Mine spooks seem to be of two types: the ghosts of miners killed in accidents or disasters and kobolds, the elemental spirits who both warn and play pranks on the miners. There isn’t a hint of kobold in this surprisingly low-key, sober account of the Yellow Jacket Mine. Too often miners (who were often foreign immigrants) were accused of ignorance and superstition; stories of mine ghosts did not always treat them with respect or take their reports of supernatural activity seriously. I’ve written before about a headless miner of Scofield, Utah, site of a deadly mine explosion, as well as death omens, kobolds, and black spectres in the mines.
Other mine ghosts–particularly kobolds? chriswoodyard8 AT gmail.com
Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.