The Gold-Mine Phantasm

18 Oct

The haunting apparition appeared when the Argo Tunnel’s construction began in 1893.

Idaho Springs lay 35 miles west of Denver and was near some of the richest veins of gold ever found anywhere.

With a multiple number of mines close to each other, the plan was to dig a deep, long tunnel for the purposes of water drainage, ventilation, and the transportation of gold ore to the Argo Gold Mill. The latter was the largest such facility in the world at the time.

Three underground diggers near the entrance to the tunnel saw the terrifying sight near the end of their work shift.

It seemed to glow a pale, ghostly yellow, unlike any variety or shade of gold.

The phantasm seemed to be moving forward toward them, as if it were some sort of living being. But it was too weird and unworldly to be anything that the workers had ever seen before or were familiar with.

They had no word for it and were hazy in their description of it to others. Co-workers found their tales about what they saw laughable, nearly absurd. It was nothing more than an illusory hallucination shared by three perhaps drunken comrades.

Those who claimed to have experienced it never forgot the phantasm in the haunted Argo Tunnel.

It took seventeen years for the tunnel to be extended four and a half miles, to Central City. By 1902, there were over 300 separate mine shafts dug for the sake of hard rock lodes of precious gold.

The Argo Tunnel transported ore and served to drain mines if they became flooded. It was situated under Virginia Canyon, Gilpin Gulch, Russell Gulch, Quartz Hill, Nevadaville, and Central City itself.

By 1910, when the tunneling was completed, this area had the richest concentration of gold extraction in the entire world.

That was the year another sighting of the yellow phantasm occurred. It was near the point called Glory Hill in the middle of the long, deep tunnel. Only a pair of mine workers were witnesses to this appearance of the strange, heart-chilling wraith. They did not stay in place to keep looking at the cloudy form, but turned around and retreated as quickly as they could do so in safety. Neither of them looked back for a second view of what they were to recall the rest of their lives.

Again, it was difficult for the eye-witnesses to find anyone willing to accept what they claimed to have happened to them.

A humorous legend began around miners who encountered an unexplainable presence, a pale yellow specter that defied their sense of reality.

Axel Crane came to Colorado from Montana in 1921, seeking work in what he considered his profession, mining. Hearing of openings in Idaho Springs, he went there and was immediately hired at the mine with the name Quartz Hill. The work was hard and demanding, but he was soon receiving comparatively good pay.

Axel, a muscular giant with blond hair and blue eyes, became the foreman of a shift team within a few months. He was a popular boss, recognized by his men as a superior leader.

His second-in-command assistant was a skinny, shorter young man named Jim Roscoe. The two of them shared a flat in Idaho Springs, spending most of their free time together. There was close friendship and trust between the two miners.

It was in the early fall of 1921 that the pair were advancing together through a portion of the tunnel half way between Center City Scaton Mountain that Jim happened to catch sight of something unexpected.

“Look down the side shaft to the left,” he suddenly told his companion. “That area has not been worked for a lot of years, but I can see a glowing light down there at the end.”

Both miners stopped, but neither could make out what it was causing the unusual illumination in what was supposed to be an empty, abandoned shaft.

“We have time,” said Axel to Jim. “Let’s walk in there a little and find out what is going on.”

The two stepped forward into the narrower channel, carefully advancing at a slow, very careful pace. Both of them were watchful of the contours of the shaft floor.

The light ahead of them did not move or change in intensity.

They both seemed to lose track of how far they were entering, how deeply they were penetrating a potentially dangerous area.

The light before them, increasingly taking on a yellowish coloration, seemed to have a hypnotic fascination for their two minds.

The further they progressed into the shaft, the clearer grew the yellow in what now appeared to resemble a cloud or mist of some kind.

But both of them knew that there is no fog or cloud underground in the gold mines of Colorado.

All of a sudden, the two simultaneously stopped.

The shining yellow mass was now coming in their direction. Both men became conscious of this approach toward them.

They stood as if turned into rock.

What was it that threatened to engulf both of them in seconds?

As if in some form of zombie trance, Axel and Jim found their way back to the main tunnel channel and then returned home to their flat.

Neither of them spoke a single word to the other.

What was there to say? Not an iota of comprehension of what had happened to them existed in either of the two minds.

How can a person verbalize such an illogical, unreal experience?

Neither miner tried. Both of them went silently to bed, saying nothing about the event to the other.

Each of the pair hoped that on the morrow, after a sound night of sleep, there would be some degree of clarity for them.

But what if that hope was a forlorn one?

When Axel awoke the next morning, one idea was solidly engraved into his memory. It was a commanding thought that he at once realized he could not forget or escape. The words were going to obsess him.

“You must obey me, for I shall visit you whenever you are asleep.”

Over and over, those few words rang and echoed through his consciousness.

Axel rose out of his bed and stepped into the room occupied by Jim. The latter was awake, sitting up in bed, leaning on his pillow.

“I had a terrible dream at the end of my sleep,” said the assistant foreman in a hoarse, dry voice. “It was something from the mine shaft, that yellow ghost, that was speaking. I think it was that what woke me up just a little while ago.”

“What did it tell you, Jim?” trembled Axel.

“I have to obey whatever it says to me. This was like an order that I can’t refuse to do. It was threatening, really scary.” His body seemed to be shaking as if covered with ice.

“The very same dream came to me,” slowly announced the foreman.

The two men stared at each other for a number of seconds. Then, they got dressed and walked to a nearby lunch-room for their breakfast.

Nothing more was said by either of them to the other about the yellow phantasma that had invaded their lives. They went to work in the Quartz Hill Mine and were fully engaged in the hard labor of excavating ore that contained an unknown amount of pure gold.

Axel had a sense that Jim was indirectly avoiding conversation with him all during their long, ten-hour workday.

Jim himself experienced the exact same intuition of being ignored.

Only after returning home to their apartment did the pair acknowledge their own strange mutual isolation.

“We must not close ourselves off from each other,” stated Axel all of a sudden, as they sat down to eat what he had just prepared for the two of them on their small kitchen stove.

Jim, sitting at the small dinner table, looked up in utter surprise.

“We ought to face the yellow thing together, I think. It mustn’t separate me and you, Axel. That would be bad for both of us. What do you think?” He gazed up at his friend with a look of desperation.

“You are right, completely right,” firmly said the other. “We have to face this yellow phantom together, perfectly united.” He gave Jim a sad but confident smile.

Home from work, the two miners were both bone-tired and on the border of falling asleep. Without either stating the truth, they shared a silent desire to escape from thoughts of the phantasm that had entered their lives and thoughts.

For both of them, the night was one of deep, uninterrupted slumber, until the end when both began to return to consciousness.

A message from the yellow cloud seemed to enter them simultaneously.

“You must act together to stop any further digging anywhere along the tunnel. No more rock must be taken from the ground. You must destroy the many shafts that cause me damage and harm.”

Jim appeared at the opening to the room where Axel lay in bed, his eyes open.

“I got a troubling message from the ghost in the shaft that you and I saw,” he notified his comrade.

“So did I,” announced Axel. “The phantom down below wants you and me to destroy the tunnel and the shafts. That is madness. How could we accomplish such an evil crime? Why would we ever wish to do so?”

The face of Jim Roscoe reddened with emotion. “But it was an order that we carry that out. The ghost spoke to me as if I had no choice in the matter, that it had to be done, whether I agreed or not.

“Can we ourselves decide what course we are going to take on this?”

Furrowing his brow, Axel looked away toward the single window in the room. “We have to think about what is possible for us,” he thoughtfully said. “Then, we have to make a serious decision.”

Another day of work followed. The pair made their way home without speaking a word about the problem that faced them.

“I’m awfully tired and want to go to bed at once,” Axel told Jim as soon as they had returned to their flat. “We can talk about things tomorrow in the morning.”

Jim appeared happy that his friend had decided their schedule, himself going to his room and quickly falling asleep.

Early the next morning, after an unusually long period of sleep, both of them were recipients of the same dream communication.

“Do not delay doing what is now your duty. You must put a halt to the harm done to my kind by the digging of shafts and tunnels.”

Axel and Jim came together in their kitchen, awakening at the same time.

“Did you get what the ghost sent this morning?” inquired Jim of his companion.

“The command was exactly the same: we are to put and end to all the mining that is going on around this region. That is to become our obligatory assignment. Nothing else will do, says the yellow thing.”

Jim made a grimace of fear and desperation. “What are we to do now?”

“What can we do? What possible choices are left to us? Never before in my life have I ever faced such a dilemma. I don’t know what alternative we might have to obediently carrying out what the phantom wants us to.

“We either do as ordered, or completely refuse to act at all. We go the whole way, or else remain unmoving. The one or the other. There is nothing but those two choices for us. Nothing else.”

The two victims of the yellow presence underground began to get ready for the coming day in extraction of ore.

Axel and Jim worked another day and slept another night, awaiting a fresh commanding communication in the form of the same dream for both of them. This time the alarm that they woke up with was magnified many times over because of the new message received from the phantasm.

“Do not disobey what I tell you to do, because the penalty will be severe for both of you.”

The two miners shared their emotions and apprehensions the next morning as they drank coffee in the kitchen of their apartment.

“What can we do with such a dire threat hanging over our heads?” Jim asked his fellow miner. His face reflected his inner dread of what might be in store for them.

“We may have to take a risky course full of danger,” said Axel in a slow, heavy voice. “If we tried to oppose or fight against this cloudy phantom, the outcome would be impossible to predict. Perhaps it is just a vapor or gas, with no solid substance to it at all. Who can tell?

“It might have unnatural powers that we human beings have no knowledge at all of.

“I don’t think it would be wise for us to try to fight or overcome this strange phantasm. Wouldn’t it be smarter for us to go back down into the empty shaft and try to reason with it? Try to talk and persuade the thing to leave us alone?

“It wants us to do something beyond our human powers. Besides that, the ghost down there is ordering to commit evil, criminal acts. It wants us to destroy what more than a generation of miners have accomplished in digging all these mines.”

“You think we should go down and tell the yellow phantom what we feel and think about all of this?”

Axel nodded yes. “We should do it as soon as we possibly can. When you are I are finished with our next work shift, we will go back to where we first saw and heard this supernatural monster that inhabits a mine.”

The pair carried out their miners’ duties with customary diligence and industry, both supervising others of their work team and digging ore that held the potential of grains of gold.

But both their minds were fixed on what lay ahead for them: confronting the unnatural yellow gas or vapor being.

The outcome of such a meeting was undefined and unpredictable for both Jim and Axel. Each of them realized how greatly he would be dependent on the thoughts and decisions of the other one.

When their hours of labor had finished, neither took the elevator platform up to ground level with the crew members. Instead, they stayed underground, stepping along the Argo Tunnel to reach the abandoned mine shaft where the yellow phantom had appeared in front of their eyes only a few days before.

What is going to happen when we face that unnatural thing? both men asked themselves over and over.

A fog-like fear enveloped their emotions and thoughts.

They reached the familiar shaft and entered it, the lights on their safety helmets illuminating their way forward. As they advanced, their steps grew slower and their eyes searched for what they had once before seen there.

Both miners stopped simultaneously the second they spotted yellow light ahead of them. There was a common understanding that they shared not to move too dangerously near the shining phantasm.

By prior agreement, they realized that it would be Axel who spoke for the duo.

“My friend and I shall not do you bidding,” announced the foreman in a voice he meant to be strong, yet contained an audible note of terror in it.

“You dare disobey my command?” was what both humans sensed in their brains as the reply from the yellow luminescence.

Axel and Jim both felt a quaking sensation. It took them a couple of seconds to realize that the shaking was not an imaginary sensation limited to their minds. It was the mine shaft they were in that was in strange, unusual motion.

Axel and Jim looked at each other and instantly reached tacit harmony.

The whole shaft was about to collapse with them as victims.

They began to run back the way they had entered.

Neither looked back to see whether the supernatural existence was still present.

The immediate aim was a safe escape from the disaster that was in progress on all sides of them.

Neither of them had ever been in a mine collapse, but they recognized what the odds of survival were.

Certain death hung over them, with only little chance of getting out in one piece before final destruction of everything and everyone inside the shaft.

Axel was panting heavily when he got to the Argo Tunnel and came to a halt.

Where is my comrade Jim? he asked as he looked back at the scene of fallen rock and ore. What has happened to him? Is he dead or did he survive the anger of the yellow presence?

Covered in sweat with a throbbing heart, he headed for a platform able to raise him to ground level.

He was conscious of the fact that he would never again see Jim Roscoe, whom the ghost had taken in vengeance for the disobedience of the two who refused to fulfill its commands.

Axel had already decided to quit his job as a foreman and leave these mines forever.

I will never work in Colorado ever again, he said to himself as he rode up to the land’s surface.

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