The belief that mines are haunted is an ancient and universal
one, probably arising from the many eerie sounds and echoes
that are heard in them and the perpetual gloom, which
stimulates belief in apparitions. Sometimes the haunting specters
are gigantic creatures with frightful fiery eyes. Such was the
German Bergmönch, a terrible figure in the garb of a monk,
who could, however, appear in ordinary human shape to those
towards whom he was well-disposed.
Frequently weird knockings were heard in mines. In Germany
these were attributed to the Kobolds, small black beings of
a malicious disposition. White hares or rabbits were also seen
at times. The continual dangers attending work underground
have been productive of many supernatural warnings, which
generally take the form of mysterious voices.
In the midland counties of England, the Seven Whistlers
were well known, and miners paid solemn attention to their
warnings. A light blue flame settling on a full coaltub was called
Bluecap, and his work was to move the coaltub toward the
trolleyway. Bluecap did not give his services for nothing. Every
two weeks his wages were left in a corner of the mine and were
duly appropriated. A more mischievous elf was Cutty
Soames, who would cut the soams or traces yoking an assistant
putter to the tub.
Basilisks, fearsome monsters whose terrible eyes would
strike the miner dead, were another source of dread to the
worker underground. These, as well as other mysterious foes
who dealt fatal blows, may be traced to the dreaded, but by no
means ghostly, fire-damp or perhaps to underground lizards.
Mines of precious metals were believed to be even more jealously
guarded by supernatural beings. Gnomes, the creatures
of the earth element, were the special guardians of subterraEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology 5th Ed. Mines, Haunted
nean treasure, and they were anxious to defend their province.
Mines containing precious stones were equally well looked
after. The Indians of Peru declared that evil spirits haunted the
emerald mines, while a mine in the neighborhood of Los Esmeraldos
was said to be guarded by a frightful dragon. It has
also been believed that the poisonous fumes and gases that
often destroy the lives of miners were baleful influences radiated
by evil spirits.
Other stories of haunted mines are linked to legends of secret
underground temples of occultists. (See subterranean
crypts and temples)