Mining Folklore

Mining doesn’t have the “strike it rich” opportunities these days, but the folklore and legends are still a part of stories.  Many of the tales in America were brought over from Cornish and German miners who came to America to work in the silver, coal, and gold mines around the country.

So let’s do some exploring!


Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine is a supposedly rich gold mine either in the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona, or somewhere in Mexico. The legend goes that an immigrant named Jacob Waltz found the mine and then took his secret to the grave. There are many variations of this story, including that the mine is cursed, killing anyone who goes looking for it. The Superstition Mountains come with their own string of disappearances and deaths of people looking for the hidden gold.


Red-Haired Women Symbols of good luck and bad luck were extremely important for miners. In a time where science was not yet understood, superstitions were incredibly heightened. In the coal region in the central Appalachian Mountains, passing a red-haired woman on the way to the mine was considered a very bad omen, bringing death. The logic for this is unknown, but the bad luck of red-headed people was also common in nautical superstitions (sorry, red heads!).


Tommyknockers Some of you might recognize the word from Stephen King, but it’s not quite the same thing in mining terms. Tommyknockers go back to Cornwall, where miners thought goblins lived inside the mine. They often knocked on the walls to either warn the miner of impending death or finding gold. When the Cornish miners came to America to mine, they brought their superstition with them. In America, the Tommyknockers were less goblins and more the spirits of dead miners. Traditionally, miners left behind bits of food for the Tommyknockers to bring a bountiful find.


So there you have it! You can check out the Haunted Library for my short story on the Tommyknockers, or head over to YARN.


  • kirabutler
    April 1, 2014

    Ooooh Tommyknockers! I never knew where that name came from. VERY interesting.

    Have you seen the canary in a coffin image that’s been floating around on Pinterest? Apparently some miners gave it a respectable burial for doing its service when the oxygen ran out.

Leave a Reply

Previous Post
Bad Writing as Inspiration: Happy Birthday to Me!
Next Post
American Horror Story- Horror on TV