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Apr-09-2013 23:33printcomments

Is the Yellow Jacket Mine in Nevada Haunted?

37 men burned to death here in an 1869 mining fire.

Yellow Jacket Mine in Gold Hill, Nevada
Photos by Tim King Salem-News.com

(GOLD HILL, NV) - It is hard to imagine that 144 years ago, families and friends of miners were standing in the dark outside the Yellow Jacket Mine, involuntarily witnessing one of the worst mining disasters in the state's history.

They probably were struggling with the realization that they were never going to see anyone emerge from that mineshaft, where a methane fire broke out, one so intense that it would burn for several days.

The massive headframe still towers over the closed down shaft that continues to command a lot of attention for something that hasn't moved or functioned since 1869. The towering structure paints a grim picture of a well documented, tragic event.

Locals say the event changed the tempo and feeling of the people in this region, who realized suddenly and fully how vulnerable the mining occupation can be. There had been accidents and no shortage of related deaths, but never this many men.

The old miner's changing shack that is now converted to two hotel rooms.

My brothers Ken and Rick and my nephew Nory and I, spent the weekend at the Gold Hill Hotel, adjacent to the old Yellow Jacket Mine, in Gold Hill, Nevada, which is a couple of miles from Virginia City, the town made famous in name by the long-running TV series, 'Bonanza'.

Our room was not in the old hotel, which is reportedly haunted, and has been featured on 'ghost hunter' TV programs. Instead, we were in the former miner's changing cabin, which was probably the last building those ill-fated 37 men entered before descending to what would be their deaths.

It was a little bit spooky at night outside of our building by the mine, but it seemed fairly calm, and surely those chills were from the endless winds that never seem to stop blowing at the 6,000 foot level where these mining towns are located.

It felt solemn. That is the best description I can offer.

The pain and suffering that people shared over this unprecedented, nightmarish scenario, has been taken to the graves by the witnesses, but still something lingers, and it seems so possible when you examine the 1869 framework and machinery that looks so sturdy and intact.

Research of this fatal accident that happened 07 April 1869, indicates that the mine fire broke out because of an unattended lantern. The fire grew out of control quickly and afforded no opportunities for evacuation, rescue, or even recovery of the men's bodies.

The Yellow Jacket Mine was one of the area's most successful, until a fire swept through on 07 April 1869, killing 37 working miners.

The Crown Point Restaurant has friendly staff and great food

Behind the Yellow Jacket is another mine headframe, it is more collapsed and weathered looking. This might have been the entrance for the Crown Point Mine, which was badly damaged when the Yellow Jacket Mine burned. The hotel restaurant, which is outstanding by the way in both service and food quality, is named after the Crown Point Mine.

Every direction you face in this part of Nevada allows another incredible vantage point. The mountains give these old haunts a different feeling than ghost towns in other locations I have visited in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah.

Here you know you are in a place where a lot of people lived and died. Many had great hopes of striking it rich, and a handful did. Many left their mark in some way and the cemeteries and historic accounts published in a variety of books tell so many stories. There were gunfighters, soldiers, prostitutes, and plenty of miners. The wind blows steadily here, the 6,000 altitude keeps a crisp chill in the air and I can only imagine that the majority of the early residents were tough and committed.

There are other colorful characters like Mark Twain who lived in the area, writing articles that would come to define so many things. There were at least 100 Black residents in Virginia City back in the 1800's, and photos and art depict the Chinese community.

Virginia City has a number of cemeteries that are worth seeing.

Wagon looks ancient, it is located outside of the Gold Hill Hotel.

The spirit of all of these rugged people does seem to live on. The folks at the Gold Hill Hotel have a few stories to back up that notion of people living on.

One of the hotel rooms is known for different fragrances associated with a person who died there, in another room those who play poker may inadvertently lure a gambling partner they didn't invite. Yet another room is known for having some type of entity that specifically likes to move sets of keys.

It is hard to imagine that any building housing guests continuously since 1859 would not be a place where strange things occur. One can only imagine all of the events that took place here over the years.

I would like to think that the 37 men who died in the methane fire that consumed the Yellow Jacket Mine are at peace, not roaming the grounds of the Gold Hill Hotel.

I did feel some sort of energy one night at the mine, perhaps a presence, but then who knows what possibilities exist to explain such a thing, including my own mind?

Still, a heaviness was in the air and it wasn't overtly negative, more of just a reminder that something very extreme took place there that left a lingering feeling in the air.

The 1859 Gold Hill Hotel is a rustic, accommodating, comfortable place to stay, with a distinct, 19th Century charm. It is the oldest in Nevada.

Ken, Nory and Rick King with the infamous cowboy Prius

There were many humorous moments on our weekend trip to Nevada, but the real Coup de grâce came when the four of us, all with cowboy hats, pulled up to a restaurant that specialized in ribs, in Carson City.

We walked into the place early Saturday afternoon and immediately heard one of the cooks call out, "Wow, that's the biggest number of cowboys I ever saw get out of a Prius!"

Everyone in the place busted up, it was as one of my brothers said, a real ice breaker. We were pathetically looking like lost actors from the set of City Slickers. Of course we knew how ridiculous we were to be playing the cowboy in a hybrid role in the first place, and it was a really fun experience.

Our weekend was symbolic of the trips our father took with us as we were growing up, Ken and Rick had a few years before I came along to take in those memorable family experiences, but I had my share and they are all vivid and bring a sense of happiness.

We lost our parents a few years ago, but their traditions live on in my brothers and I and Nory and the rest of the family.

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View Tim's articles published on Salem-News.com chronologically

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Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

You can write to Tim at this address: tim@salem-news.com.

Visit Tim's Facebook page (facebook.com/TimKing.Reporter)

With almost 25 years of experience on the west coast and worldwide as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor, Tim King is Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. His background includes covering the war in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and reporting from the Iraq war in 2008. Tim is a former U.S. Marine who follows stories of Marines and Marine Veterans; he's covered British Royal Marines and in Iraq, Tim embedded with the same unit he served with in the 1980's.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing from traditional mainstream news agencies like The Associated Press and Electronic Media Association; he also holds awards from the National Coalition of Motorcyclists, the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs; and was presented with a 'Good Neighbor Award' for his reporting, by the The Red Cross.

Tim King reporting from the war in Iraq

Tim's years as a Human Rights reporter have taken on many dimensions; he has rallied for a long list of cultures and populations and continues to every day, with a strong and direct concentration on the 2009 Genocide of Tamil Hindus and Christians in Sri Lanka. As a result of his long list of reports exposing war crimes against Tamil people, Tim was invited to be the keynote speaker at the FeTNA (Federation of Tamil Sangams of North America) Conference in Baltimore, in July 2012. This is the largest annual gathering of North American Tamils; Tim addressed more than 3000 people and was presented with a traditional Sri Lanka ‘blessed garland’ and a shawl as per the tradition and custom of Tamil Nadu

In a personal capacity, Tim has written 2,026 articles as of March 2012 for Salem-News.com since the new format designed by Matt Lintz was launched in December, 2005. Serving readers with news from all over the globe, Tim's life is literally encircled by the endless news flow published by Salem-News.com, where more than 100 writers contribute stories from 23+ countries and regions.

Tim specializes in writing about political and military developments worldwide; and maintains that the label 'terrorist' is ill placed in many cases; specifically with the LTTE Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, where it was used as an excuse to slaughter people by the tens of thousands; and in Gaza, where a trapped population lives at the mercy of Israel's destructive military war crime grinder. At the center of all of this, Tim pays extremely close attention to the safety and welfare of journalists worldwide.

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Toni Samanie April 10, 2013 2:20 am (Pacific time)

Awesome stuff! Made me smile, Tim!

Thanks Toni!

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