Originally Published October 28, 2010
Mining in Colorado is one of the most dangerous and least thankful tasks most men could have undertaken. The work was hard, the payout rare, and the risks from flooding, gas pockets, collapses, and injuries from tool misuse were high. One of most commonly reported mining ghost is the ghost of a man who has died due to accident, and appears at times of danger to save the lives of other men.
At the Bates Mine in Black Hawk, on August 8th, 1885, the ghosts of Sebastian Zang and William Vine – men who had died at the mine on an earlier date – were seen holding up the roof and wall timbers when an accidental blast happened in the mine. Zang and Vine were there to help their living companions escape.
At Mammoth Mine, the ghost of Stephen Pierce who was murdered in October of 1877 often was seen guarding the entrance to the mine and on several occasions was credited with saving the lives of his fellow miners.
Other ghosts are less friendly, but serve as a warning nonetheless. The ghost of a miner in the Star Mine near Leadville continually reenacted his suffocation. This continued until the mine was closed. But in a way, this could also be seen as a warning, keeping the miners aware of the air condition around them.
The ghost of Jack North is credited with saving the life of his successor, Bill Marline. North had been in charge of looking after the rollers and ropes at an incline mine, and one day, while resetting a roller, North was killed by the descending skip. One day as Marline was headed to put a new roller in place, he felt a cold had on his shoulder, and turned to find the ghost of North pointing up the hill, directly at the skip, almost upon him. Marline jumped out of the way and went to report it to the mine captain. Returning to his job after sharing his story, Marline found the new roller already in place. Not only did North save a man’s life, he finished doing his old job one more time.
Not all mining ghosts are human. Take, for example, the story of Mad Jack and his fusty old mule. Mad Jack, also known as Jack Strong, was a often a guide for men looking to find their fortunes (He even guided the Irishmen in the tale of the demons in the mountains) Jack was never considered altogether there, having come to Colorado in 1849 and stayed in the mining areas, often working his own claim in Brownsville, near Silver Plume. Jack accidentally killed himself and his mule, and was buried properly by his friends, but both he and mule just were not ready to rest. His mule was often heard giving its odd distinctive bray near Jack’s old claim, and other prospectors claimed to have heard his pick against the rocks. Some were even chased away by an angry ghostly Jack, still planning to keep his claim to himself.