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The phantom miner of Crawford Bay

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

Nathan Wilkinson @nathancomics

The following ghost story set at a local mine appeared in the Nelson Tribune of March 2, 1901 and was reprinted soon after in the Rossland Industrial World and Vancouver Daily World. But to my knowledge it has never appeared anywhere else since.

The newspaper played it totally straight. It wasn’t an April 1st prank or something in a Halloween edition. The Tribune didn’t explicitly say who told them the story, but suggests it was J.H. Park.

The Silver Hill mine, where the story takes place, was up Crawford Creek on the east shore of Kootenay Lake and operated by the London Consolidated Gold Fields Exploration Co. An aerial tram had recently been installed by Byron Riblet.


And the men who saw it

Last Wednesday night as a miner employed at the Silver Hill mine at Crawford Bay was returning to work after his midnight meal he encountered a strange man sitting near one of the crosscuts leading from No. 1 tunnel to No. 2.

He noticed the figure at some distance ahead of him, but as he approached the figure arose from its half stooping posture, and shading a candle he held in his hand, started up the crosscut and disappeared. The figure was taller than any of the men working on the shift, and the observer asked shift boss A.J. Rainville who the new man was.

Rainville said no new men had been put on, and the miner then related the incident. Rainville walked up the crosscut some 100 feet, and the strange man appeared as before, half sitting with his back against the side of the drift. Rainville advanced but as before the figure disappeared. it wore a wide-brim hat and was dressed in a complete suit of overalls. Rainville called, but got no answer.

By this time, J.H. Park entered the drift to put up a timber, and together he and Rainville followed the direction taken by the apparition, as they now concluded it was. They soon came upon it, and Park advanced a step nearer when it suddenly turned and again disappeared. At this the boys decided to return to the bunk house for reinforcements, although Park says he was no coward but had stood bravely by Coxey's side in his triumphal march from California to Washington. [1]

The men who made up the reinforcements were Frank Phillips, W.J. Baverstock, Stanley McLellan and the head chef, Mike Clark. They proceeded single file into the tunnel, with Clark in the rear and opposite the crosscut, as before, but the spook was seen in his usual position. The party stopped at some little distance back and held a consultation. They decided to send part of the crowd around to the other end of the crosscut so as to intercept all travel that way. Phillips and Baverstock were detailed to that duty.

When all were ready the first party advanced steadily and when near the ghost it arose and glided into the crosscut. The men followed on until they met the men stationed at the other end. No one had passed, so they stated, but nothing was to be seen in the crosscut, and the searchers were no wiser than before. However, Phillips requested a fellow miner to keep him company for the rest of the shift, as also did John Sink, the blacksmith. All agree as to the appearance of the spook except Phillips and Baverstock, who claim the stranger carried no candle.

Intense excitement now prevails among the men on the night shift and some more are expected down the hill.

I could find no follow-ups.

The mine closed in 1904 but was worked again in 1917, 1925, 1937, 1949-50, and 1952, all seemingly free of any further supernatural activity. Kent Exploration acquired the property around 2009. It’s unclear if the seller was required to disclose the presence of a ghost.

[1] That's a reference to Jacob Coxey, who in 1894 “led Coxey’s Army, a group of unemployed men who marched to Washington, DC to present a ‘Petition in Boots’ demanding that the United States Congress allocate funds to create jobs for the unemployed.” Thanks, Wikipedia.

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