Skip to main content

Haunted Coal Mines of Pennsylvania

A tunnel at the haunted Jeddo mine

It's impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, just how many people have lost their lives in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, but the figure must be astronomical. Mining, as everyone knows, is a dangerous job-- essential a daily staredown with the Grim Reaper. Considering that coal has been mined in the Keystone State for over two centuries, it should be no surprise that there have been numerous documented reports of ghost sightings deep in the bowels of the earth. Here are some of the most interesting hauntings:

1. Neshannock

Mining in Neshannock

In the 19th century, over 24 mine shafts could be found in Neshannock Township in Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania. In the fall of 1898 it was reported that a ghost miner had been haunting the mines. The ghost would enter the mine with his pick and his lamp every night, work busily, and then emerge from the shaft each dawn-- before vanishing into thin air. Miners theorized that it was the spirit of Elijah Bowaker, a worker who disappeared inside the mines years earlier and was never seen again. It was believed that he was murdered.

To this day there are many people who believe Summitview Drive in Neshannock Township is haunted. Situated atop long-abandoned mines that were first built in the early 1800s stands Coal Town Hill. A popular local legend tells of youngsters who were playing near the mine entrance one evening in the 19th century when they heard blood-curdling screams coming from the mines. Could these children have heard the anguished cries of Elijah Bowaker being murdered?

2. Bellevue Shaft, Scranton

During the late 19th century, the mines of the Wyoming Coal Fields experienced an average of five fatalities each month. Records for 1872 show 67 fatalities. In 1875 there were 62 fatalities. Records for 1877 show 40 fatalites, and in 1879 there were 59 fatalities.

Death did not discriminate by age; records show that the youngest victims to die in the mines and breakers were 10-year-olds Evan Jones (killed on November 1, 1879 at the Capouse Shaft), John Murray (1/6/1872, Tompkins Colliery) and Joseph Narey (1/16/1872, G.L. Mine). At the other end of the spectrum were Hugh Harmick, 69 (8/29/1872, Grassy Island Breaker) and Noah Morgan, 72 (Christmas Eve, 1875, Mt. Pleasant Colliery).

In 1872, the Scranton Republican reported a haunting in the Bellevue Shaft. According to the miners, the ghost appeared to be six feet in height and made of a white, vapory substance. The newspaper reported:
Pistols have been fired at him and, although many shots have passed through him, yet he seems invulverable to pistol balls. He has frightened the mules, driven men from their chambers, threatened individual persons, and produced a general consternation among the workmen.

3. Taylor Mine, Taylor

Taylor Mine

In November of 1906, miners refused to enter a portion of the Taylor mine owned by the Delaware and Hudson Company, fearful of a ghost described as a "hollow-eyed, white robed, luminiferous form of a man bearing a light that had no flicker". Several miners attempted to approach the ghost, but it was said to disappear whenever they got too close.

Eager to get to the bottom of the mystery, a number of miners stationed themselves around the perimeter of the allegedly haunted chamber. The ghost soon appeared, floated around the ring of miners, and then vanished. According to the Scranton Republican, the doubtful ones, now convinced, fled from the mine in terror.

4. Black Diamond Colliery, Luzerne

It took a lot of grit, courage and fearlessness to be a coal miner in the anthracite fields of Luzerne County. So when a miner ends up being confined to his bed from shock after seeing a ghost, there's a good chance that the apparition in question was pretty darn scary.

And that's exactly what happened to a miner named Anthony Stenski on October 1, 1912. Stenski, who worked at the Black Diamond Colliery, was found unconscious on the floor of a chamber. He later claimed that he had seen a ghost whose fingertips glowed with fire. The flaming phantom scared so many workers that the mine was actually shut down for a day because nobody wanted to see the same apparition that Stenski had seen.

5. Chicasaw Mine, Kittanning

From the March 10, 1913, edition of the Pittsburgh Daily Post:

6. No. 4 Jeddo Mine, Hazleton
From the August 18, 1915 edition of the New Castle News:

Popular posts from this blog

Mount Carmel's Mysterious Suicide Cell

Tucked away at the head of North Oak Street in Mount Carmel is a quaint shop housed in a tiny historic brick building. The Shop at Oak & Avenue is a must-see destination for visitors, offering an impressive variety of gifts and handmade jewelry. It is a gem in an otherwise drab coal town whose glory days faded away with the demise of the steam locomotive and the trolley.

While this quaint small town gift shop gives off a pleasant appearance, the history of the building-- one of the oldest in the borough-- is tinged with horror and death. For this tiny building, erected in the 1880s, served as Mount Carmel's first city hall and jail, and this jail had a rather dark distinction of being the site of the cursed and mysterious "suicide cell".

History records six suicides taking place in the basement cell, along with scores of other attempted suicides. For a reason that has defied explanation, this tiny jail in this tiny town seems to bring out the darkest demons lurking wi…

Natalie, Pennsylvania: A Murderer's Paradise

When a miner named Michael Wanzie was murdered in June of 1905, it was evident that something wasn't quite right in the tiny village of Natalie. Although the scenic mountain village had a population of less than two hundred, the slaying of Michael Wanzie was the fourth murder committed in the village in less than a decade.

By 1924 the population had nearly doubled, thanks to a building "boom" that saw the construction of 40 new homes during the preceding year by builders employed by the Colonial Collieries Company, owners of the Natalie Colliery. Twenty of these homes, many of which still stand today, were built by the Evert Construction Company of Kulpmont. In 1923 there were 56 homes in the village, housing 375 residents. By April of 1924 that number would swell to just under 400 residents and 93 homes.

Although the building boom lent a measure of respectability to the village, Natalie was still imbued with a notorious reputation as being one of the most lawless places …

The True Story of Shamokin's Famous "Mystery Head"

Hardly a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a Pennsylvania Oddities reader asking me to write about the Shamokin "mystery head"-- yes, the very same human head, complete with curly hair and mustache, that was put on display in the window of the Farrow Funeral Home (presumably to show off the establishment's embalming abilities) and later displayed at a local mining museum. The head belonged to an unidentified murder victim whose headless body was found in the woods near the Hickory Ridge colliery in 1904, and the head has been a source of local pride and urban legend ever since.

I've resisted the urge to write about the "mystery head" for a few reasons. Having grown up in the area, I heard about it so many times that the story has worn thin. Secondly, the erroneous local legends and false claims are probably a lot more entertaining than the actual truth about the "mystery head". These local legends run the gamut from plausible to …