Creature Feature: The Centaur of the Chickasaw Mine


Earlier in the October Creature Feature series, we read about how an aristocratic couple nearly got trampled by a herd of noble Greek centaurs. Today’s centaur, found down a mine in Pennsylvania, is not only in rather rough physical shape, he can drive an engine, carries a dinner pail, and has a prankish sense of humor.  A working-class centaur, perhaps.


Has Body of Horse and Uses Motor, Says Worker

Kittanning, Pa., March 9. Scoffs and jeers have failed to shake the belief of 300 miners employed in the Chickasaw mine here that it was a genuine wraith that went from room to room in the workings last Friday, and in a sepulchral voice commanded them to drop their tools and go.

The celerity with which the order was obeyed marked a record for dispatch. Terrified workmen poured in droves from the mine entrance.

According to the men the upper half of the ghostly visitor’s body was like that of an emaciated man, while the lower half resembled the hind quarters of a horse. In one hand it carried what apparently was a dinner pail from which streamed lurid gleams of light.

John Martel, driver of the mine motor, was at his place on the machine when, he says, the ghastly thing, coming seemingly from nowhere, pointed a skinny finger and uttered the one word, “Go.”

Martel could not go for a moment. He was too scared. As soon as he got control of his legs he gave a shriek and dashed along the track toward the mine opening. Once he looked back. The motor, driven by the spectre was following, he says. When Martel reached daylight the motor was close behind and empty. He declares he heard a blood-curdling laugh. The miners refused to go to work the next day. What they will do tomorrow has not been decided.

Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 10 March 1913: p. 1

The story made the pages Fuel Magazine: The Coal Operators National Weekly of 26 March, 1913 as something of a comical squib. I have not been able to find out if the miners actually went on strike, or if this was a ploy to walk off the job. Although the centaur was seen as an omen of disaster, I have not been able to trace any tragic explosions, fires or cave-ins at the Chickasaw, unlike so many Pennsylvania mines.

While the notion of a centaur driving an engine is a diverting one, why would a mine guardian spirit take the form of an emaciated centaur instead of the more standard dwarfish figure of the Kobold? Miners were certainly used to seeing mules down in the workings, but this is such an odd image. One wonders what the inspiration was, if it was simply a misapprehension or hallucination. Was Martel the sole witness? None of the other 300 who supposedly saw the “wraith” move from room to room are cited in any versions of this story.

Any follow-ups? “GO!” to chriswoodyard8 AT

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 Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her new blog at The Victorian Book of the Dead.

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