Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Haunted Winter Quarters Mine

Winter Quarters Mine
May 1, 1900, was a bright sunny day Scofield, Utah. This town had been established in 1875 after rich deposits of coal were found in the area.

At 10:28 a.m., the residents of the town heard a deafening explosion. A stray spark had ignited coal dust deep within the mine.

Wives and daughters rushed to the Winter Quarters mine #4 to find only 104 men still alive—seven of them severely injured.

Father and Son killed in
Another a hundred and ninety-nine men were killed, one hundred in the initial explosion and ninety-nine were killed by poisonous gases that leaked into the #1 mine.

This was the worst coal mining accident in American history, a hundred and five women were left widowed, and two hundred and seventy children were left without their fathers.

Rubble at the mouth of mine after the explosion.
Men from all over came to help with the rescue efforts. Many of the bodies found were burned beyond recognition or mutilated to the point where they could not be properly identified.

Graveside service after the disaster.
When these bodies were buried in the northwest quadrant of the local cemetery—many were buried under the wrong names.

This mine remained in operation for twenty-eight more years. After this disaster, the Pleasant Valley Mine Company that owned the Winter Quarters mine was plagued with problems.

These troubles all stemmed from the fact, the miners after the 1900 explosion firmly believed the mine and the nearby cemetery was haunted.

This belief was well documented in the newspapers of the time.

Within the first year after this disaster, forty to fifty miners stated that they had seen a ghost in the mine. In this same year, 1901, all the miners at Winter Quarters went out on strike—their reason was the mine was haunted.

The Pleasant Valley Mine Company scrambled to do damage control—they were worried they would not be able to find men willing to work in the mine—so they cited “safety conditions” as the reason for this strike.

But the numerous newspaper reports at the time belied their reason.

In 1901, various articles in the Anaconda Standard, The Salt Lake Herald, Fort Wayne Daily News and the Utah Advocate all mentioned the strange activity these men had seen and heard.

The local miners also felt the nearby cemetery was haunted. They refused to go into this graveyard after dark because strange blue lights had been seen around the mine disaster victim’s headstones.

Scofield Cemetery
But what they saw and heard deep within the mine was more disturbing. Most of this activity was experienced where the deceased had been found.

It occurred everyday oddly between the hours of 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Even before the strike, many of the men had refused to enter Winter Quarters during these two hours.

They heard cries and moans without source, and many saw the apparition of a miner believed to be a Scotsman by the name of Sandy McGovern, whose body was the last to be recovered.

His head blown off in the explosion was never found. So his ghost when seen was headless.

One miner was said to become hysterical after he heard a voice state, “Go back, go back.” He rushed out of the mine and had to be sedated. He refused to return to work after this.

McGovern’s ghost was seen in various shafts. Miners reported looking over their shoulders only to see Sandy’s headless body standing close behind them.

Drivers that led the mule driven coal cars out of the mine reported seeing this headless figure sitting next to them—it would only disappear as they reached the sunlight or entrance to the shaft.

Here is a sample of a newspaper article that appeared in the Utah Advocate in January of 1901.

“Several of them (miners) heard strange and unusual noises, and those favored with a keener vision than their fellow workmen have actually seen a headless man walking about the mine and according to their statements have accosted the ghost and addressed it or he.

At other times the headless man would get aboard the coal cars to which mules and horses are worked and ride with the driver to the mouth of the tunnel when he would mysteriously vanish and again reappear in the mine. Many supposedly intelligent men have claimed this, and some forty have thrown up their jobs in consequence.

These same people and others have seen mysterious lights in the graveyard on the side of the hill where many victims of the explosion of May are buried . . .

Tombstones, where the light appeared, have been blanketed but the light remains clear to the vision of those who watch from town. The ghost of the mine is known among the workmen as ‘Sandy McGovern.’”

Excerpt from Ghost Stories of the Rocky Mountains by Barbara Smith

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