Halloween. The mere mention of the word conjures up an array of images, sounds, sights and frights that we all know — and only the truly weird amongst us really love.
Black cats. Witches. Ghosts. Skeletons. Monsters. Mad scientists. Haunted houses.
When it comes to the hauntings, it’s always fascinating to dig deeper into some stories involving ghosts, apparitions, spirits, specters and other spooky happenings. The creaky old Victorian house situated atop a desolate hill is certainly a staple of books, graphic novels and films. But did you know that there are actually an abundance of haunted tales involving…gold and gold mines?
Try not to avert your eyes…in horror!
Phoenix Gold Mine (Idaho Springs, Colorado)
Discovered in the 1870s, Colorado’s Phoenix Gold Mine was long ago abandoned by prospectors — but according to many, certain spirits and souls still reside in the spooky mine 30 miles west of Denver. Those who believe this include a crew from the TV show Ghost Adventures, who claim to have encountered a “tiny, malicious spirit” known as a Tommyknocker. They also cite the reason as the burial of two people inside the mine — one of whom was said to be a witch who practiced old-school “black magic”. Tommyknockers themselves are an interesting legend. Mine lore holds that these mysterious little men in miners’ gear would randomly appear and knock on walls that led either to a rich gold discovery…or a brutal death. In recent years, the Phoenix Gold Mine had been available for public tours, including the opportunity to pan for your own gold.
Reed Gold Mine (Midland, North Carolina)
As the site of the first documented gold discovery in the United States in 1799, Reed Gold Mine is an extremely historic and important site. That discovery sparked the “Gold Rush” that came to largely define and delineate a fast-growing country – with North Carolina leading the way until 1848, when the great rush to mine gold all across California kicked off. In recent years, modern-day prospectors and ghost hunters could not only visit, but also pan for gold at the historic mine. There’s definitely a great ghost story to be found here. It involves the wife of the neighbor of that first successful American prospector, Conrad Reed. Legend has it that not long after arguing with her husband, Eleanor Mills fell to her death inside the couple’s house. The scary story holds that Eugene Mills returned home to discover his wife dead at the foot of the stairs — yet still somehow…screaming. Terrified and desperate, he then hid her at the bottom of the mine shaft on Reed’s property. There are some who claim to still hear Eleanor Mills screaming today…from way down below in the long-abandoned mine.
Tonopah Historic Mining Park (Tonopah, Nevada)
Home to more than merely a haunted mine, the Nevada city of Tonopah (located midway between Las Vegas and Reno) bills itself as an entire “ghost town”. Once teeming with silver miners, Tonopah Historic Mining Park later came to draw brave and curious travelers looking to experience a good scare. Visitors who’ve stayed overnight at the historic, five-story Mizpah Hotel (built in 1907 and restored by new owners in 2011) have claimed seeing a ghost known as “The Lady in Red” — and her backstory is quite scary in and of itself. Believed to be the spirit of a Gold Rush-era lady of the evening, The Lady in Red was said to have been strangled by a jealous lover on the hotel’s top floor. No less an authority than The Wall Street Journal once wrote of her, “Her spirit is said to shake the chandeliers and leave pearls in rooms.” Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the remote high desert town of Tonopah is said to offer nighttime stargazing opportunities that are “among the best in the country.”
The Old U.S. Mint (New Orleans, Louisiana)
For eight decades, from 1838 through 1909, the Old U.S. Mint in charming, historical (and some say, deeply haunted) New Orleans churned out serious coinage — for both the United States Government and, for a while, the Confederacy. Today, the building houses the New Orleans Jazz Museum. No matter who calls this historic building home, they are said to always share it with an array of ghosts. In 2008, the crew from the SYFY Channel’s popular show Ghost Hunters even paid a visit to the building. At least one former museum employee has claimed that a pair of male ghosts and a duo of female ghosts all visited him on a regular basis during his eight-year employment at this historic, haunted house.
The Murphys Historic Hotel (Murphys, California)
Originally known as the Sperry and Perry House when it first opened in 1858, The Murphys Historic Hotel is said to be home to a rather active and “outspoken” ghost named Eleanor. Originally employed at the hotel as a chambermaid, Eleanor was said to have met and fallen in love with a local gold miner — who left to seek fame and fortune and provide a better life for his new bride…only to never return home. Eleanor kept working at the hotel for three more decades, and after she died, employees and guests alike began seeing and hearing some rather strange things — small objects flying through the air, door handles and locks suddenly wiggling, doors randomly opening and closing. The activity is said to be especially intense in the upstairs Mark Twain (more on him later) ballroom, particularly during hotel staff meetings. Some have even claimed to see Eleanor’s reflection in the hutch mirror in the Gold Room, where a portrait of her also hangs on the wall. Today, the hotel is a popular Halloween weekend spot. It’s easy to see why.
Sierra Nevada House (Coloma, California)
Located at the crossroads of California’s Coloma Valley (Highway 49 and Lotus Road), the historic Sierra Nevada House is nestled near a river, just a brisk stroll from the town of Coloma. Before it was almost completely destroyed in a 2015 fire, the hotel boasted nine rooms furnished in Gold Rush era themes and décor. It was also said to house several mysterious spirits. Over the years, hotel proprietors have shared several tales of an active, outgoing ghost representing a small child named Isabella, as well as the spirits of more than a dozen Chinese laborers who perished when a nearby gold mine collapsed on top of them. Maybe the costly blaze was some form of…spiritual retribution for past sins?
The Golden Arm (American Folklore)
For our final entry, we return again to Mr. Mark Twain. The famed satirist, philosopher and man-of-letters who was born Samuel Clemens is well-known for many things during his remarkable life, and one of them is his telling of an American folktale called “The Man with the Golden Arm” — or more simply, merely “The Golden Arm”. This chilling ghost story begins with the death of a man with an artificial limb that was made of pure gold. Not long after his demise, the man’s valuable golden arm is stolen – usually said to be swiped by either a loved one, family member, or desperate friend. This ghastly grave robbery then leads to a re-animation of the man with the golden arm, who rises up and stalks the terrified thief until he or she returns his missing limb.
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