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Mining Legends: Lost Treasures & Superstitions

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Mining history is rich with myths from over the years. Some have to do with superstitions, while others have to do with lost treasures deep within the caves. Learn about some mining legends that will either keep you away from the caves or draw you in.


In the 1800s, Cornish miners claimed to come across little dwarf-like creatures in the mines, which they called Tommyknockers. Some believe the knockers were the ghosts of Jews, who were enslaved by Romans to work in the mines. Others thought the Tommyknockers were the spirits of the those who died in the mines and were stuck in purgatory. Despite these tales, Tommyknockers were apparently friendly and would warn miners of cave-ins. Sometimes they would even lead them to a rich lode. However, they could be vengeful; whistling, for example, was a sign of disrespect towards the creature and could lead to bad luck.

Red-Haired Women

Mines are historically known to be a dangerous place, so luck plays a big role. Like whistling at a Tommyknocker, miners considered a woman in or near a mine to be bad luck. This mining legend started because women typically only came to the mine when tragedy struck. Specifically, miners believed a red-haired woman to be even worse luck because they considered them omens of death.

The Lost Bighorn Mountain Cabin

There is a legend of a cabin, nestled in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, that is the site of an abandoned gold mine. Many have searched for this mine for more than a century, and apparently, those who did find it didn’t survive. The most popular story is about seven prospectors who discovered the gold mine in the 1860s. The prospectors built a cabin, so they could stay and mine the gold, but were allegedly attacked by Native Americans. Only two men escaped from the Natives and fled to Fort Reno in Johnson County with $7,000 worth of gold. Today, the alleged treasure in the Bighorn Mountains remains a mystery.

Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine

Another lost gold mine legend occurs near Apache Junction, Arizona. The lost gold mine was named after German immigrant Jacob Waltz, also known as “the Dutchman.” The legend goes that Waltz saved a Mexican gold miner who was in a knife fight. The Mexican gold miner went on to tell Waltz the exact location of a gold mine in return for saving his life.

Waltz found the secret treasure, but people in the town started to catch on. So, Waltz decided to tell his friend, Jacob Weiser, about the mine—the two created traps and took as much gold as possible. There were doubts of this secret mine, but when Waltz died, people are said to have found gold under his bed. Many have searched for the mine over the years and countless people have died in the process; however, the Lost Dutchman gold mine has yet to be found.