Mystery Tidbits Episode 8-Pesky Tommyknockers
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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 True-Ghost-Story.com 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!