Sunday, July 20, 2014

Was The Titan The Titanic?

"Unsinkable-indestructible, she carried as few boats as would satisfy the laws"
Sounds very similar to a ship we have all heard about, the Titanic. However this was not describing the Titanic. This was actually describing a the Titan, a fictional ocean liner from a Novella, published in 1898.
Morgan Robertson

The Wreck of the Titan, Or Futility, authored by Morgan Robertson, follows the life of a disgraced, dismissed US Navy officer, who works as a deckhand aboard the , the Titan. Aside from the main plot of the story, the book received quite a bit of attention fourteen years after its publication due to the similarities it shared with the doomed ocean liner, the Titanic.
Here are the similarities, you decide if Morgan Robertson predicted Titanic's fate fourteen years prior to its sinking, or if it was just one big coincidence.
-First and foremost, the names:
  •           Titan, which means "A person or thing of enormous size, strength, power, influence, etc."
  •           Titanic, which means "titan. of enormous size, strength, power, etc.;gigantic"
-The Titan was the largest craft of its day, spanning 800 feet.
 The Titanic was the largest craft of its day, spanning 882 1/2 feet.
-Both the Titan and the Titanic only supplied enough lifeboats as required, the Titan with 24 and the Titanic with 20, this would supply seats for less than half of a ship with the capacity of 3000 people.

-Both ships were triple screw vessels, meaning they each had 3 propellers.

-The Titan struck an iceberg on an April night
 The Titanic also struck an iceberg on April 14th, 1912

-Both ships were deemed unsinkable, they both sank.

-The Titan had approx. 2500 people onboard
 The Titanic had approx. 2200 people onboard (not exactly the same, but close.

-The speed of the Titan at the time of impact with the iceberg was 25 knots
 The speed of the Titanic at the time of impact with the iceberg was 22.5 knots

Of course there are differences between the two, however the basics of the story are quite coincidental. Robertson actually republished Futility in 1912 after the titanic disaster, perhaps with the intent to cash in on the wreck, however all of the similarities detailed here are based off of the 1898 edition.

Was it fate, or just a coincidence? If anything it is very interesting none the less.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rise of Towns and the Black Death

During the Middle Ages, Western Europeans had two large incidents happen, one over a long period of time and the other over a rather short period of time. These two incidents were the rise of towns and the Black Death, also known as the plague. Both were very significant but I will prove why the Black Death had a larger impact over the rise of town yet at the same time prove why the rise of towns was important. In no way, though, can one successfully dispose of the fact that the rise of towns and the plague were, at least, indirectly connected.
            The rise of towns began to establish around the year one thousand. Individual trades such as black smiths arise and this allowed for one person to focus on one thing rather than an individual focusing on everything in order to live. People began to barter and not every one had to farm anymore. The triangular trade route became very important in Italy. They would trade to the Middle East and North Africa for spices, pain killers and gold. This allowed for expansion and because of this, towns began to appear and populations increased. A product produced in one country could make it to another therefore sending a piece of ones country to another.
            Very importantly, in helping build towns, new ideas began to unravel. Citizens of towns began markets and fairs. Markets existed for one townsperson to help another. They were held about once a week and they allowed for citizens to barter for food items that they did not have. Fairs were very similar to markets in that citizens bartered for numerous items with each other. The idea of holding fairs at least once a year became very popular, especially with the local lords and leaders. In order to hold a fair though one must obtain a charter.
            A charter was somewhat like a contract. In the contents of a charter it could be specified wheather one could be charged for a use of a stall (booth) or how much one could be charged for starting trouble during the event. One very important issue that could not be changed though was the fact that when a fair was happening, no toll could be charged over any bridge entering into that town. By not charging a toll, this encouraged outsiders to come and join in the festivities of the event, leading the town to make more money.
            For example, Very popular was the Ipswich town Charter in the year twelve hundred. This went through a list of orders that must be listened to in order to have a fair in Ipswich. Citizens were made to pay a farm which was a fixed sum of money, in place of a tax. This insured political independence and economic privileges.[1] The Ipswich town charter also allowed its towns people to not have to pay taxes for its booths when fairs and markets took place.[2] This gave incentive to the towns people of Ipswich. By not making their citizens pay for booths it allowed more people and products to come forth which meant more people, more sales and more money for the town.   These were breakthrough ideas because it brought the town in money in a way that seemed fair and every townsperson seemed to get a little something out of it.
            This idea of bartering and trading was very important, not necessarily for the best though. In the year thirteen forty seven and epidemic that effected Western for years to come struck. The plague could ultimately be contributed to one major reason and that would be trading from country to country and town to town.
             Around the year thirteen hundred unexpected tragedies began to take place, which ultimately affected the ability to hold these fairs and markets. The weather began to change for the worse. Temperatures became very cold and the ability to grow crops became very hard. “Meat began to run out and eggs began to disappear”.[3] The people of Europe became so desperate to grow crops that they eventually began to grow crops on rocky ground and marshy land. “The land was so oppressed with want that when the king came to St. Albans on the feast of St. Laurence it was scarcely possible to find bread on sale to sustain his immediate household…”.[4] For the King to have hardly any food at all was a sign of what was about to come. All kinds of food became so scarce that people began to eat what they could find. Horse meat became precious and fat dogs would be stolen as they were found. Claims that people were eating their own and even stealing other children became abundant.[5] All of this seemed  to be a build up to one of the worst known catastrophes ever, The Plague.
            The plague formed as a bacteria in the stomach of fleas. Fleas attached themselves to rats and the rats fed off of the grain on trade ships. This bacteria was inevitably destructive. It affected the entire Mediterranean and in most cities, forty to fifty percent of the citizens would die from the Bubonic and Pneumonic plague. An estimated twenty four million people died between the years thirteen forty seven and thirteen fifty.
            The Plague was a malicious disease. The earliest symptoms of it were the appearance of “certain swellings in the groin or the armpit, some of which were egg-shaped whilst others were roughly the size of the common apple”.[6] Anytime an infected person would come in contact with an unaffected person it would “Rush upon these (the unaffected) with the speed of a fire racing through dry or oily substances that happened to be placed within reach”.[7]  Jean de Venette’s compared the plague to another war during the Middle Ages.[8] Not only was the plague taking lives and taking over the Mediterranean before any one realized there was a killing disease, but it led people to rise up against one another. It was said, at first, that the pestilence was caused by infection in the air and waters supposedly placed in these areas by the Jews.[9] People also began to blame God, saying that their towns were so corrupt that God was punishing their burgesses due to the lack of their obedience.[10] At times, large quantities of the sick were pushed out of cities and forbidden to enter.[11] This in itself had a huge impact on society.
  This made a much larger impact on society more so than the rise of towns due to the fact that after losing that many people it seems as though in some ways you have to start over. It also cost lives by causing “internal wars”, the Christians killing Jews. Between having a miniature ice age and being taken over by the plague for a few years, society took almost two hundred and fifty years to reach its previous population.
There is no doubt that the rise of towns and the plague both played a large part in European society. Without the rise of towns there still would have been trading, but to a much lesser extent. A plague could have still possibly broken out, but again, to a much lesser extent. All in all the rise of town was a good thing. It allowed for expansion and allowed for new ideas during the middle ages. It impacted Western society for the better. More importantly though the plague impacted Western society in the worst way ever. It set Europe up for a long struggle and led people to rise up against one another. It took two hundred and fifty years for society to grown again to a normal working society where trading and bartering was evident again. It seems as though the rise of towns had to take place again, to a lesser extent. This is why the plague had a bigger impact on the Western Europeans than the rise of towns.     

[1] “Ipswich Town Charter” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 56.
[2] Mueller, 56.
[3] Johannes de Trokelow “The Famine of 1315” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 58.
[4] Mueller, 58.
[5] Mueller, 58.
[6] Giovanni Boccaccio “The Decameron” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 59.
[7] Mueller, 59.
[8] Jean de Venette “The Plague’s Effects on France” in Robert J. Mueller, ed., The History 1100 extended Syllabus (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 2008), 62.
[9] Mueller, 62.
[10] Mueller, 62.
[11] Mueller, 59.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Geographically Speaking

There are several aspects and ideas that make and define a culture. Some of those ideas consist of organized religion, how citizens interact with each other, and how the society should be governed. But one factor can be easily overlooked and forgotten about and that is the geographical location of a city, province, state, region, etc. Evidence will be brought out through documents about the importance of geography in the ancient western civilizations. The civilizations that will be focused on: The Mesopotamians, Egyptions, Hebrews, and Greeks.

Due to the lack of evidence, the primitive peoples (hunter-gatherer societies) of the world can not contribute much information to the cause of history. But we do know, even though they may not have known it at their time of existence, they used geography. In order for them to hunt game for food they had to have an idea of where the vegitation grew because, like humans, animals had to eat to survive as well. Having the knowledge of where vegitaition grows, was a geographical skill for them. It helped them to survive. These hunter-gatherer societies never stayed in one place for to long due to the fact that they had to follow that game animals. Around 7000 b.c, these hunter gatherer societies and their nomadic ways began to diminish which led to the beginning of the Neolithic period(7000-3000 b.c).[1]

We begin by taking a look at the Mesopotamian societies. Around 3000 b.c. the Summarians established several cities in the southernmost part of Mesopotamia, which became known as Sumer.[2] By settling here they had the neccesities which were needed to live. They had the rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, which gave them the ability to do many tasks. One of these the tasks was irrigation.

Irrigation was used by the Mesopotamians, Egyptions, Hebrews, and Greeks and was one of the most important developments of the western civilizations. It demanded organized group effort which also demanded a need for a strong central authority to direct it.[3] They diverted water from the rivers in order to create waterways and “mini river systems” so they could get water to their crops. The ability to irrigate led the Mesopotamians to become an agricultural society. Becoming an agricultural society meant that they had a more reliable food supply. Having a more reliable food supply meant healthier people. Healthier people meant a population increase. Increase in population meant job specialization and job specialization meant new crafts and cultural skills.[4] These new crafts that were arising included basket weaving, pottery making, and masonry. The new cultural skills included language, religion, governing, law making, and warfare.[5]

With the coming of Agricultural societies, you get new and innovative ideas and skills, as mentioned above. With the skill of language, you get writing schools. This is where the Sumerian form of writing known as cuneiform comes in to play. This writing consisted of drawings known as pictographs.[6]

With governing, law making, and warfare you develop ideas to try and protect your cities and civilizations. for example, the code of Hammurabi. The code of Hammurabi was hailed as the first law code in Western History and It consisted of severe punishments for criminal offenses.[7]

With religion you get polytheistic beliefs. A Polytheistic religion means that the religion believes in more than one god. This is the way most civilizations of the west worshipped.

More is to be said about Egypt and it’s polytheistic views. Much like The Mesopotamians, they had gods that controlled most everything such as the sun, the river, and the lands surrounding. Ra was the sun god. He was the almighty. To make sense of why he was, it was because it was so hot and sunny in Egypt, that would be the simple answer to why Ra was the most powerful god. Maat watched over maat maat meant truth, order, and righteousness and Maat was basically in charge of making sure everything in Egypt went smoothly. If anything earthy or geographically went wrong in Egypt the people began to worry that Maat had been destroyed or that something was very wrong, which eventually led to the fall of the Old Kingdom, when the had a few dry years.

Just like the Mesopotamians, the Egyptions used the Nile river for irrigation purposes. The difference between the Nile River and the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is the flow rate of the rivers. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers had very strong currents. They were very dangerous rivers, you could only float downstream on them, and they were unpredictable. Unlike the Nile, which was very predictable and flowed at a much slower rate than the Tigris and Euphrates. The Niles predictability also allowed them to plan for the time of the year when it flooded. This helped the Egyptions very much so. It gave them a chance to do work that needed to be done before the floods, work that was done during the floods, and work that had to be done after the floods, which is also known as the time of inundation, time of emergence, and time of harvest.

For a period of time, it was nearly impossible for Egyptions to travel outside of there country. To the west, desert, to the south, desert, to the east, the red sea, and the Egyptions wearen’t the most sea fairing peoples, and to the north, the Nile Deltal. The Nile Delta was a large, swampy area in northern Egypt infested with crocidiles. Trade was rare and so was the ability to fight wars with outside countries. It was not until the middle kingdom when The Egyptions gained the ability to start moving northward and encountered the Babylonians and the Hittites. When this occurred, each culture contributed something to each others culture, one being religion and the sharing of gods.

The exception to the polytheistic belief was the Hebrews. The Hebrews began as a polytheistic religion but later became monotheistic, calling their god Jehovah or Yaweh. The problem that was seen with having only one god was the idea of good vs. bad. Up until this point it was believed that there were good gods and that there were bad gods. The answer was that if you have done something bad, you must be punished for it, even if the single god is a good god.

The Hebrews entered Palestine as tribes. At first, good farmland, pastureland, and water spots were held in common by the tribe. The Hebrews began as a nomadic people but eventually settled down and became an agricultural society. Land that was owned was handed down within families, generally from father to son.[8]

A commonailty between the Hebrews and the Greeks would be that they each came up with an idea that has lasted up until the present day. The Hebrews came up with the idea of a monotheistic religion. The jewish religion is still active today and so is a break off from Judaism, Christianity. The Greeks came up with the idea of Democracy, which is very commonly used today, especially in the United States of America.

Geographically the Greeks were very small, yet they give all of the western civilization the idea that there is a universe out there and that there is more than meets the eye. The Greeks were sea fairing people, due to their surroundings, the Mediteranian and Agean sea, it was only natural for them to find an interest in manuvering around these bodies of water. They navigated by using the sea and the islands surrounding them. There were so many islands in the Agean sea that one could always see land, which meant you could always get to where you were going just by keeping your eyes pealed. The Greeks also had very mountainess lands for surroundings as well. These mountains were very rocky. It was hard to have large populations of people in early Greece due to the fact that it was hard to grow grain the rocky, mountainous terrain.

A few things that did grow well in the rocky soil were grape vines and olive trees. With grapes you could produce whine and with olive trees you could produce olives and olive oil. These two products had many purposes. They were an excellent trade product. Athletes would rub olive oil all over their bodies to retain heat. They used olive oil for lamps as well as cooking.

Due to the fact that the greeks could not grown many things, the ability to sail and trade these products became very important because they were able to obtain those items which they could not grow themselves.

We are able to know much more about Greek culture more so than other cultures because they were egocentric. They enjoyed writing the history of themselves down because they felt as thought they were important enough and that their culture was above the rest.

Not every civilization was an egocentric one, but most every civilization did leave some documentation behind for the world to look at in amazement. It is very interesting how a geographical area can influence and shape a civilizations culture and how it can be a guide to, in some way, dictate the future for a civilization.

[1] John P. McKay, Bennett D. Hill, John Buckler, Clare Crowston & Merry Weisner-Hanks, A History of Western Society, Volume A: From Antiquity to 1500, 9th ed. (Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2008), 7
[2] McKay et al, 11
[3] McKay et al, 10
[4] Robert Mueller, in class lecture, August 26th, 2008
[5] Robert Mueller, in class letcure, August 26th, 2008
[6] McKay et al, 11
[7] “The Code of Hammurabi,” in Mark A. Kishlansky, ed., Sources of the West: Readings in Western Civilization-Volume: From the Beginning to 1715, 7th ed. (New York: Pearson/Longman, 2008), 20
[8] McKay et al, 43

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Life On The Plains

The Native American Plains cultures have always been extremely important to the subject of American History. Their Values and way of life were extremely interesting and proved beneficial to the Europeans, Spanish, and French Settlers who came to the North American Plains. In this blog, and through the usage of George Catlin’s historical letters, will be examined the unique lifestyle which the natives of the plains possessed and how that unique lifestyle changed in the 19th century.
            First and foremost it is important to note who George Catlin was and what he did. George Catlin was an artist and one who seemed to have a very high anthropological interest for the plains cultures in North America. He wrote “letters and notes on the manners, customs, and conditions of North American Indians”[1]
            To begin, it is important to discuss the Plains Indians from their genesis. The Plains culture had emerged by the mid 16th century. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, The Spanish had fled down to the Rio Grande abandoning some seven thousand horses. Naturally, seeing that this could benefit them, the Natives used the horses and it was not long before they were distributed North and onto the plains.
            The acquisition of the horse for the natives undoubtedly changed the lifestyles of the natives forever. It allowed them to stop being nomads. Before the horse arrived, tribes would travel with the food whereas once the horse was obtained, tribes were able to stay in one location, make their camp home and use the horse to travel long distances in order to hunt game. On top of being able to go longer distances, when they did make a kill, with the use of their horse, they were able to pack their game back to their homes. As a pedestrian society, a hunter could travel five miles a day whereas an equestrian society hunter could travel up to twenty five to forty miles per day.[2]
                        The above covered the basics of the origin and lifestyle of the Plains Culture, however, George Catlin was able to get to know them much more intimately than the average white man at the time. Much like every culture the Native Americans are unique, especially the Plains Indians. The manner in which they worked and lived is so fascinating from the largest of concepts to the smallest, one being the concept of government. It is interesting to see how the government of a native culture can come to be and to see how it is run. For example; the Crow Indians seem to show their “manhood” and control by the length of their hair, for whatever reasons the hair is so important are the natives own. Perhaps it was ceremonial, to please their gods, or to show importance. In any case, it shows power. According to Catlin, when he was amongst the crows, their chief was “Long-Hair”. “He received his name as well as his office from the circumstances of having the longest hair of any man in the nation”[3]. To people today, choosing a leader based upon the length of their hair is trivial and foolish. Perhaps though, the natives thought of he who had the longest hair was reincarnated and was a spirit on Earth, therefore had to be respected accordingly.
            While along the lines of respect, Catlin, it seemed, noticed that the Plains Indians were respected for the luxurious lives that they possessed and how they went about providing that life for themselves. In order to maintain that lifestyle they needed help in keeping things in order, which is one reason why the natives believed in plural marriage, polygamy. Polygamy reigned among one of the more important subjects in the lives of many on the plains. As Catlin states “it is no uncommon thing to find a chief with six, eight, or ten, and some with twelve or fourteen wives in his lodge”[4]. It seems as though native women were much undermined in their lives. Of course every person in a tribe had a role, but the women’s role was at the bottom of the barrel. Catlin again says “it becomes a matter of necessity for a chief (who must be liberal, keep open doors, and entertain, for the support of his popularity) to have in his wigwam a sufficient number of hand maids of menials to perform the numerous duties and drudgeries of so large and expensive an establishment”[5]. In other words, women were basically slaves. Having many wives meant that much work could get done. This led to a luxurious life which proved beneficial to a man because it showed power of an individual and gained him much respect.
            To explain somewhat further on the women of the plains, Catlin writes in some detail about how their lives went. Catlin wrote “the girls of this tribe, like those of most of these North-Western tribes, marry at the age of twelve or fourteen, and some at the age of eleven years; and their beauty, from this fact, as well as from the slavish life they lead, soon after marriage vanishes”[6]. This was Catlin referring to girls of the Mandan tribe. Lifespan was much shorter back then, this was normal for the plains Indians, no one questioned it and it was their simple way of life.
            As we have distinguished how the different the roles of men and women are in the plains culture, it is important to expound on some different aspects of their culture. Although there were many different tribes throughout the plains, most all of them shared a sacred ritual, which was known as the Sundance. (It is important to note that the Sundance ritual varied in style according to each tribe but all shared the basic ideas and principals). Because the Sundance was such a large event, tribes had to account for the many people who would be attending; therefore they arranged to do the ceremony when the bison herds began to congregate.[7] In a nutshell, the Sundance was a ceremony of sacrifice. Those who danced in the Sundance vowed to fast and abstain form sexual relations. “Ordinarily, a person would invoke help from his or her spirit protector; in a very serious crisis, especially the dangerous illness of a loved one, aid might be sought from Thunder, voice of the Almighty; in extreme desperation, one would pray directly to Almighty Power, which is most blindingly manifested in the Sun”[8]. Clearly the Sundance was for protection and healing among many other hardships according to each individual. It is a ceremony that is practiced still to this day, although it has changed to stay in accordance with present laws.
            Change is inevitable. As the world progresses and judges what is right and what is wrong, those who are opposed to change somehow get stuck conforming to the “ways of the world”. As the world aged, new settlers made their way west, over the plains. Among those new settlers were those who built trading posts and United States military. At the same time, eastern Indian nations were removed to live on set aside Indian Territory. Perhaps the most controversial topic of the time was that of “Manifest Destiny”. Manifest Destiny was the idea that the United States was chosen to push civilization westward, eventually pushing the natives of the continent to the pacific. Manifest Destiny sparked many conflicts, including the many, now famous, Indian battles.[9]
            Many other tragedies occurred during the 19th century. Because of the increase of people moving west, more people were hunting and struggling for survival. The amount of Bison that the plains produced was now diminishing, therefore leaving little for the Indians to hunt. This was the primary source for the Indians food and shelter. As mentioned above, native tribes were displaced to small reservations where, if they were to wander from them, they would be considered hostile and killed.
            The 19th century was not kind to the Native Americans. This is when they lost much of their freedoms that they considered to be sacred. Before the 19th century, it is safe to say that the Plains Indians lived a somewhat simple life. Although simple, it had meaning. George Catlin understood their lifestyle and wanted to document it for what it was and not to sugarcoat their way of life. The lives of these Plains cultures will forever be remembered and when tales are retold, the stories capture the imaginations of all.  

[1] George Catlin, Letter No. 8 Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, And Conditions of North American Indians, (First Published in London in 1844) Appendix 1, 2.
[2] John Barton, Plains Culture Lecture.
[3] Catlin, 3.
[4] George Catlin, Letter No. 14, Mandan Village, Upper Missouri, Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians, (First Published in London in 1844) Appendix 1, 9.
[5] Catlin, 9.
[6] Catlin, 11.
[7] Kehoe, Alice B., North American Indians A Comprehensive Account(New Jersey: Nancy Roberts,2006) 293.
[8] Kehoe, 294.
[9] Kehoe, 298.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Haunted Bullock Hotel

The small town of Deadwood, South Dakota is an interesting one to say the least, serving residents who have now become popular because of HBO’s television series “Deadwood” such as Seth Bullock, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok and Al Swearengen, who “enticed women from the states with the lure of respectable employment. After they arrived, they were stranded, scared, and helpless, and many did not speak English. The alternative was the street-and for a woman in all-male, lawless Deadwood, that meant no alternative at all” (Ames, 16). Though it’s colorful and interesting history still jumps out at us almost 140 years later, it almost seems sometimes that the people who lived at Deadwood in the 1870’s still reside in the town today.
                Hauntings seem to occur anywhere and everywhere, and Deadwood is not to be excluded. One hotspot for hauntings is that of the Bullock Hotel. One witness wrote about the Hotel that “My wife & I spent several nights in the Bullock Hotel. It was our first get-a-way weekend after our youngest daughter was bored. We looked forward to a good nights sleep. However, the next morning we awoke & asked eachother how we slept. We were both woken several times during the night by babies crying & children running through the halls. On the way out of the elevators, we were asked by the clerk how we were & we complained about the noise. She looked @ us dumfoundedly and informed us that there was noone on our floor that night & none of the guests had children with them. Walking through the halls is spooky enough. There seems like some sort of weight on your chest & the hair stands up on the back of my neck and arms!” (
                Seth Bullock, whom the hotel is named for, passed away from cancer in the hotel, in room 211. Since his death in 1919, guests and employees of the hotel have claimed to have seen his apparition. According to witnesses who have seen him, they claim that when staffers are being lazy at the hotel, his presence becomes known even more. It has also been said that his spirit even helped a little boy find his way back to his room. (
If it is indeed Bullocks spirit, he is responsible for many other acts from beyond. Again, when employees are not doing the work they are supposed to be doing, plates and glasses shake and fly across the restaurant. Staff members often hear a disembodied male voice and witness barstools moving in Seth’s cellar by unseen forces. A broken clock in room 305 is known to chime at random times when maids are cleaning it and cleaning carts have moved by themselves. One maid was even sprayed by a shower that turned on by itself while she was cleaning it.
There have been many documented hauntings which have occured at the Bullock Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota and they still continue to happen. Perhaps Seth, even in the afterlife, is still a stickler for a well run business, as he was in life. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pesky TommyKnockers

I remember some years ago when i was in the fifth grade traveling with my class to Park City, Utah. At the time their was a popular silver mine which was available for tours (last i had heard it was shut down due to flooding). As we entered the visitor center we were told that we would be getting on an elevator in the mine and heading deep into its shafts. As we exited the elevator, our tour guide began showing us through some of the tunnels and gave us some brief history on the mine. For our own entertainment, the guide began to tell us of those elusive little people known as Tommy Knockers. Of course, when you are in fifth grade you are still impressionable and want to say you don't believe in something like that to others, yet question it in your own mind if they really exist or not. Needless to say, the interest in Tommy Knockers has always been there for me.

Wikipedia defines the Tommy Knocker as "About two feet tall and grizzled, but not misshapen, they live beneath the ground. Here they wear tiny versions of standard miner's garb and commit random mischief, such as stealing miner's unattended tools and food".

Lance Foster from the Paranormal Montana blog writes an account of an incident at the Charter Oak Mine in Montana: "During one of my initial visits, mining historian Mary Horstman was with me. We were looking around and was up by the compressor shed when we started hearing some sounds from inside the adit, the same one they speak of in the story as still being left open but protected by iron bars. We came closer and heard the distinct sounds of tap tap tapping, as of a steel hammer against rock. I looked at Mary, and she said, "Tommyknocker--" And she would know, because she came from a mining family herself. We listened to the sounds some more. They were not the sound of rock shifting, nor water dripping, but of tool against rock. We crept a little closer, and the sounds stopped. We had that feeling of awe, fear and joy you get when you encounter the unknown".

I can vaguely recall one thing from the tour in Park City that our guide told us about the Tommy Knockers, and that was that when you hear them knock the walls with their hammers, do no knock back. And if you hear the knock getting louder, that is you indication to get out of them mine, unless you want to join them of course.

Tim Willoughby recounts a good explanation of the Tommy Knockers in an April 18th, 2010 article of The Aspen Times titled Beware of Tommyknockers : “Don't go anywhere near the mines!” my parents said when I was in grade school. That admonishment carried little authority and less credibility because my mining father had taken me into mines. Many mine tunnel entrances were open then, and even a few shafts invited inspection. I rarely ventured beyond where a flashlight was needed, and my parents' stories of what might befall me should I venture too far underground protected me from serious danger.

When I was older and more likely to take risks, even just as a form of rebellion, my mother resorted to the parenting technique of my grandparents: stories of Tommyknockers.

Tommyknockers, like the Irish equivalent Leprechauns, are wee people who shared the underground with superstitious Cornish miners. Miners hear eerie sounds working underground. Sounds made by the earth moving along fault lines, miners in distant tunnels setting off dynamite charges, and whirring machinery echoing off tunnel walls — all could be attributed to Tommyknockers. Sounds of dripping water, braying mules and creaking mine cars were compounded by total darkness.

Cornish miners believed that benevolent Tommyknockers beckoned them toward finding fortunes. They believed that Tommyknockers warned them of impending disasters, especially cave-ins. Tommyknockers were the diminutive creatures knocking on tunnel walls, signaling immediate danger.

On the negative side, if you actually saw a Tommyknocker, you were going to die. This unfortunate characteristic has never been proven wrong; no one has ever seen one and lived to tell the tale. Trickster Tommyknocker tales were told both in jest and in seriousness; tools disappeared, items fell down shafts when dropped by deranged wee folk, they extinguished lamps and candles and left miners hopeless in the dark, and committed other malevolent folklore.

Tommyknocker stories traded among miners entertained listeners who believed every detail and perpetuated the mythology for generations. During my mother's generation, parents told their children Tommyknocker stories, most likely fabricated extemporaneously, that staunched any curiosity for entering mines. A Cornish miner's fondness for sharing the underground with short-stature helpers was replaced with negative “Hansel and Gretel” mythology. The possibility of Tommyknocker encounters prevented impressionable children from venturing far from their yards.

If you are hiking with children and come across an old mine tunnel entrance, listen for the Tommyknockers. You are bound to hear suggestions of their presence. Even if you do not hear them, tell a few Tommyknocker stories, ones about the playful short people who watch out for those who venture underground. Let's trade in Steven King's frightful Tommyknockers for those of Cornish folklore, unless you need to dissuade a daring 8-year-old boy from crawling into the mountain

To conclude, a tale from concerning Walter Schwartz: "Walter knows the story of the ghost of Yuba Jack. He was a prospector and fell in love with the town's proprietor or also known as the madam. The madam ran the local bordello at Washington. The madam and Yuba Jack had a falling out and now Yuba Jack haunts the Yuba House looking for his long lost lover Cat House Kelly. So it appears that the Yuba House is not only haunted by Chili Jack, but also a ghost named Yuba Jack. Walter lives in a haunted house and things have been moved from one room to another and one time he found his kitchen in shambles by an unseen force. Walter's great grandfather was George Grizzle and legend has it that George was shot off a stagecoach while headed for Graniteville. Walter is a bit of a historian himself, he knows about how the Wells Fargo Stagecoach stopped here before heading over to Susanville. Walter tells about an old Chinese man ghost that waves at passerby's. He tells me about the Tommyknockers. During crispy Summer nights, people have heard clinging at the rocks near the creek. They hear a continuous ching, ching, ching. These are the Tommyknockers, ghostly miners that haunt the creek area. The largest gold nugget, 5lb, the size of a baseball was discovered in Washington. He also tells me how George Kohler, built the dry goods store next to his home and would sell everything from dynamite to dry beans. From all indications, the whole town of Washington is haunted and it appears the creek is haunted by the Tommyknockers and the ghostly children that play there."

Beware of the little guys, and keep an eye on your children, you never know when they may appear!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Protectors from Beyond! (Part 2)

The protectors from beyond seem to appear quite often within the High Uintah Mountains in Utah. Another instance involves two men named Bill Bleazard and Hap Stevenson. Stevenson was a superstitious man to begin with and was frightened by the thought of being in the mountains after dark, therefore he and Bleazard always made it back to their camp before the sun went down. Farm Creek was the area in which they were treasure hunting on this particular day and were following an old Indian and Spanish trail. They split up and were walking several hundred feet apart from each other. As the night grew close, Bleazard yelled to Stevenson to make him aware that it was getting close to the time that they should start heading back to camp. Stevenson answered back to Bleazard by saying “If we get too close to that gold, the spirits will get us”. Ironically, these words were the last that Stevenson would ever say. Bleazard called back to him, but he did not answer. When Bleazard reached Stevenson, he had found that Stevenson had a heart attack. (1)
Could Stevenson have gotten so close to the treasure that the “protectors” stopped him from actually finding it?
Perhaps this story can be supported with some evidence from a white man who was working with some Ute Indians. The unnamed source was in a service of government position and became acquainted with several high ranking Ute Tribe members. On this particular day, the white man and his two Native American companions were in the Rock Creek area, near where an old Spanish mine was said to be located. He proceeded to ask if either of the two Indians knew where the mine was located. They did not answer and the white man immediately noticed a change in his two companions demeanor. When he asked again one of the Indians said “You are my friend. I don’t want you to die. If you get too close to those mines the spirits will get you. You will get sick and die.” (2)
To conclude, a man by the name McKenzie, who was a construction worker on the Upper Stillwater Dam in Rock Creek, enjoyed prospecting in the area on his off hours. One day, in an area known as Miners Gulch, while digging around, McKenzie found a grave site, which contained four skeletons. From his best guess, he assumed that there were two white men and two Indians buried there. He told an Indian co-worker about what he had found and he referred him to an old Indian woman. She warned him that if he continued to disturb the site that it would not mean good things for his life, and that it could be put it in jeopardy. She told him there was a spirit that guarded the graves, a spirit that he should steer clear of. She also mentioned that there was a mine nearby. He traveled those trails often and, though no one was there besides McKenzie, he also felt as if he was being watched. McKenzie saw something there one day that scared him so bad that he quit his job and never returned to the area, though it was never revealed what it was that he saw. He told his Indian friend that he was getting out of the area while he was still alive. (3)
1.) Faded Footprints: The Lost Rhoades Mines and Other Hidden Treasures of the Uintahs by George A. Thompson, 93.
2.) Thompson, 118.
3.) Thompson, 118-119.