Thursday, June 5, 2008

Some THING in the mine killed the miners...

Like you I’ve been in quite a few situations where I have felt pretty creeped out.

I was once in a valley deep in the West African Savanna where the locals sacrificed animals to a fertility god that lived in a tiny lake. The place was almost entirely covered in blood and you could hear the pitiful wailing of the animals as they cut their throats with crude knives made out of scrap metal. That was very surreal and definitely creepy.

Then there was the time when I was in college and my best friend who was the security chief took me on a tour of the secret rooms of our campus library. You see it was a converted mansion that was used by the leader of a quasi Hindu cult in the 1920’s and 30’s. There were all kinds of secret passages, rooms filled with cult fetishes that missionaries had brought back from all over the world and a strange little room with a hidden window through which the cult leader would watch his guest as they slept without the slightest inclination on their part. It was long rumored to be haunted and we experienced our share of odd noises, fetishes flying off shelves without any cause and lights turning on and off for no reason. It was very creepy indeed.

In the early 90s I went to a large Star Trek Convention in New York City. Now I’ve been a fan of Trek since the program first aired in the 60’s, but man there were times at this convention when it was just as creepy as being in a room you were sure was filled with specters that wished you ill will. It wasn’t the costumes or the rabid geekdom that effervesced throughout the gallery that was creepy. Most of those attending were great people even though some might deem them a tad eccentric. No, it was the small percentage of fans there who you could tell were absolute nuts. You could just see it in their eyes, an aloofness that showed they were...elsewhere. Strangely it seemed a lot of them were seated at vendor’s booths.

But of all the things that gives me the creeps the feeling that something unseen is stalking you is to me the most disturbing. It’s the feeling I had as a child while swimming in the Ocean after having just seen Jaws. I had the same feeling a few years later walking through the Allegheny woods late at night after seeing The Legend of Boggy Creek, I was sure Bigfoot was hunting me through the dark woods. And while in Africa I guarded our Land Rover from thieves during the night while we traveled to a remote village. As I lay on the roof of the Rover with a short bush sword as my only defense, something walked the dark streets of the village. There was no electricity for hundreds of miles and it was a new moon. But I could hear the breathing of the creature and could make out the dark shape that moved up and down the dirt road that passed for the main street of the village. At one point it came very close to our vehicle and I could no longer see where it was. The fright that overcame me at that moment was almost overwhelming, I wanted to jump up and run for the door of the nearby hut where my companions lay sleeping but the only movement I made was to sturdy my grip on the blade in my hand. And then the creature just…disappeared. I never saw it again even though the frightful encounter guaranteed that I would not catch a wink of shut eye for the entire night. I made mention of this mysterious creature to my fellow Missionaries who had spent decades in the field and had traveled to this remote village often. They had no clue as to what it was. I thought it had the vague shape of a lion, but my friends assured me that there had been no lions in the area for almost a century. What was it? I have no idea but I’ll never forget the feeling I had that night. The feeling of being stalked by something large and unknown was an all consuming ominously creepy feeling.

It is this fear of an unseen thing that could jump out at you from seemingly nowhere that really freaks me out. And a few years ago I came across an old story on the Web that gave me the creeps in this very way. It can be found on many sites on the Internet, here is a version from The National UFO Database:

PENNSYLVANIA, DIXONVILLE - Mine inspector Glenn E. Berger reported in 1944 to his superiors that the Dixonville mine disaster which "killed" 15 men was not the result of a cave-in, but rather an attack by underground creatures capable of manipulating the earth [partial cave-ins], whose domain the miners had apparently penetrated. Most of the dead miners were not injured by falling rocks but showed signs of large claw marks, others were missing, and one survivor spoke of seeing a vicious humanoid creature that was 'not of this world' within an ancient passage that the miners had broke into. The creature somehow created a "cave-in", blocking himself and another inspector [who closed his eyes when he felt the creatures 'hot breath' on his neck] from the main passage until another rescue party began to dig through the collapse, scaring the "creature" away. source: Article by Stoney Brakefield in NEWS EXTRA, July 14, 1974

Imagine the sheer terror if this story were true. There are Humanoid like things under the Mountains of Western Pennsylvania that are both intelligent and malevolent. I have been an avid reader of all things unexplained all my life and I had never heard this tale before. It seemed to be authentic since it sites Newspaper, author and date of publication. I followed up on every site that hit on my Google search and the basics of the story remained the same, along with the sited source. But in searching nearby newspaper archives online I couldn’t find a thing about it. Not only was there not any real newspaper article that mentioned the amazing claims made by Inspector Berger after the horrible death of his coworkers, there was no evidence of the disaster itself even before the amazing revelation of it’s actual cause. Within all the Googled internet articles the mine itself was not named but it was supposedly located in the town of Dixonville which is in Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Upon further research I found that the only documented mine in Dixonville was the Randolph Mine #2 which was situated off the Pennsylvania Railroad very close to the town. It had started operation in 1913 and was active at the time of this supposed disaster. Perhaps this was where the incident occurred?

Having found no really good leads on this story from the Web, I resorted to good old fashioned leg work. As we all know mining disasters devastate the local community and it is very uncommon for the accident to be forgotten. If this incident really happened, then surely there must be some tangible record of the event. Since Dixonville is a very small town and has neither newspaper nor library I started out my investigation at the nearest major town which is Indiana, Pa. I called the Indiana County Library and inquired if anyone there had ever heard of the incident and was transferred to the reference librarian. The young lady that took the question was very puzzled, she personally had never heard of the Dixonville mine disaster of 1944. But she had heard of the Sample Run Mine disaster that occurred nearby in August of 1926. There had been an explosion deep in the mine at Sample Run and four of the miners had been brought to the Dixonville hospital. There had been 57 men in the mine the day of the accident and 44 of them had perished. But since she had never heard of any accident occurring at Dixonville itself she decided to do some investigating on her own and told me she would call me back later in the afternoon.

In the meantime I also contacted the local Indiana newspaper the Indiana Gazette. I talked to Mr. Daley the newspaper’s editor. At first I just inquired about the disaster in general, afraid that informing him about the bizarre elements of the case might end our conversation abruptly. But as we talked I gradually let the fantastic story out little by little. It peaked his interest but there was a major problem, he had never heard of any paper in the area called the News Extra. Just to be sure he checked with some of the older employees of the newsroom and they too had never heard of neither the paper nor the accident. In fact the name Stoney Brakefield didn’t ring any bells with anyone in the office either. But the editor was intrigued with the story and promised to explore all avenues available to him to see if any of the tale could be validated.

Within a few hours I received calls from both the Research Librarian and Mr. Daley from the Indiana Gazette. Neither of them could find any evidence whatsoever to corroborate the validity of any aspect of the story. There was no documentation to be found from any of the local papers or news reports of an accident in a mine at Dixonville or any other local mine in 1944. No local or regional papers of the area ever went by the name News Extra. And as for the name of the reporter who broke this fantastic story Stoney Brakefield? The only record of him appears to be in the various Internet articles connected to this story.

I call shenanigans.

It’s a total fabrication. It seems to have begun surfacing paranormal and UFO web sites around 1998, and like so many unverified stories it made the rounds from site to site until it was taken as a reputable story by some. It probably seemed to have a hint of authenticity because of the inclusion of the names of what appeared to be a real newspaper and reporter. Just like so many of the fantastic stories from the more tabloid 19th century newspapers, there is no verifiable facts to back up the amazing story of the C.H.U.D. that attacked the miners at Dixonville in 1944.

Too bad. It’s a great story, even if it is a tad campy. It would be phenomenal if there were actually Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers within the coal rich mountains of Western Pennsylvania. Of course I myself would never go spelunking again.

Until next time,

Pastor Swope


BoyintheMachine said...

Well, the story seems to be based on the folklore about 'Kobolds' or 'Tommy Knockers', and 'Gnomes', all said to be underground-dwelling entities. The Kobolds and Tommy Knockers were fairy like spirits that lived in mines and could be either helpful or harmful to miners. Sometimes they warned miners of unforeseen dangers by their strange tappings, hence the name 'Tommy Knockers'. Other times they caused cave-ins. The Gnomes of folklore were said to be able to swim through the earth much like a fish swims through water.

Interesting, Stephen King wrote a book called, 'Tommy Knockers', but it concerned a buried spaceship and not the actual entities of folklore.

Good blog! I also am a lover of the paranormal.

The Blogsquatcher said...

To further discredit the newspaper item, it doesn't seem to be written in a style characteristic of the 1940s.

I think you've got something good started here. I'm bookmarking your blog. Keep it up!

american fez said...

A great story well told. Although, for me, the creepiest sentence by far was "I went to a large Star Trek convention" ;-)

Anonymous said...

I too tried to veryfy this story about a year ago. Two days of following up on every tiniest hint of a lead.
(I must admit you went way further than I did. Kudos to you.)
I too sadly came to the assumption that it was a fabrication.

cc said...

Nice work!

Scipio said...

There is, however, a story associated with a mine in Westmoreland County, the Darr Mine. It was the scene of the deadliest explosion in Pennsylvania on December 19, 1907. That day also happened to be the Julian calendar feast for St. Nicholas. Between 100-300 coal miners survived that day because they were in church when the coal mine blew up. They were Greek (Byzantine) Catholic.

Read here:

I know it's true because I talked with descendants alive today because their relatives didn't go to work. You'd be surprised what actually DID happen around coal mines!

cryptidsrus said...

Hello, Pastor Swope...

Led here by a link from Nick Redfern's site. Interesting story!!!

Sorry the story was bogus!!!

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I'm bookmarking your page...

A few years ago there was another story similar to this one floating around, but I can't for the life of me relocate it.

Apparently this new story took place very recently. Some guys found a small cave entrance somewhere and went inside to explore. Inside they found another opening, but it was very small and they could not really fit through it. So they worked at carving it out in order to fit through. The problem was that the cave was made out of some very strong material and it was extremely difficult to expand the opening.

Their website chronicled their progress. Every time they'd leave to the cave to explore some more, they'd leave notice.

After some time, they carved out inner tunnel enough for one of the guys to get through. And here's where it gets creepy...

Supposedly the tunnel meandered until it came to another cavity deep inside the mountain/ground. But once inside, it became apparent that they were not alone. Something was in there with them, because giant boulders/rocks would move and reveal other openings/tunnels.

Supposedly those rocks were so large, it would be impossible for a human to move them. And yet, as one of the guys was inside exploring, and the other guy was outside waiting, they would "hear" when someone or something moved the rocks.

The last I heard, the guys high-tailed it out of there. I believe there was a final entry where they said they were going back one more time. And after that, somehow I lost the link and have never been able to find it again.

If you or anybody else knows anything about this, I would love to hear any follow-ups.

Is the story that they posted true? I don't know. I do know that they posted photos to accompany their blog. Photos of the cave entrance, photos of the smaller internal tunnel that they carved out to accomodate their entry, and photos of their progress.

They guys would not reveal the location of this place. I don't recall why.

It could all be fantastical storytelling on their part. Somebody having fun on the internet to see if they could get a story out. Who knows? But if it was bogus, then they seriously had waaaaay too much time on their hands, as the blog was very detailed and complete with photos. Somebody took an awful lot of time to create a fantasy.

I'm split 50/50 on the story to this date. I was waiting to see what the final outcome was. I believe one of the guys said he would never return to that place. But the other guy said he "had" to go back.

In either case, I just wanted to share this with you and other readers.

Thanks! And keep up the great work!


MLO said...

My mother had bought a very old Bible from an estate sale and there were a number of clippings from the late 19th and early 20th century. I remember reading a clip very similar to what you wrote about that was being used as a bookmark in the Bible. Unfortunately, I no longer have the clipping.

One thing to be aware of about newspaper writing of that particular era is that creativity was rewarded over factual reporting. This is why so many great novelists of that era were also newspaper men. (Think Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain.)

I also remember reading about a frog child being born. It was an odd collection of clippings that someone had kept.

Anonymous said...

I was led to this site after reading about something strange in a PEnnsylavania mine on another site. ( I did an independant search and found your site.
I live in PA and there are fantastic stories about mines and caves, but like you I am having a hard time tracking down any hard leads.
Have you tried researching the shamokin coal region? Many coal areas share names in common.