The Spook Of Misery Hill
Category: ON THE PACIFIC COAST
Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land
Tom Bowers, who mined on Misery Hill, near Pike City, California, never
had a partner, and he never took kindly to the rough crowd about the
place. One day he was missing. They traced his steps through the snow
from his cabin to the brink of a great slope where he had been
prospecting, but there they vanished, for a landslide had blotted them
out. His body was exhumed far below and decently buried, yet it was said
that it was so often seen walking about the mouth of his old shaft that
other men avoided the spot.
Thriftless Jim Brandon, in a spasm of industry, began work on the
abandoned mine, and for a while he made it pay, for he got money and
squared accounts with his creditors; but after a time it appeared that
somebody else was working on the claim, for every morning he found that
the sluice had been tampered with and the water turned on. He searched
for the trespasser in vain, and told the boys that if they called that
joking it had grown tiresome.
One night he loaded his rifle, and, from a convenient nook, he watched
for the intruder. The tamaracks crooned in the wind, the Yuba mumbled in
the canon, the Sierras lay in a line of white against the stars. As he
crept along to a point of better vantage he came to a tree with something
tacked on it--something that shone in the dark like a match. In its own
light he read, Notice! I, Thomas Bowers, claim this ground for placer
mining. Raising his hand to tear off the paper, he was amazed to feel a
thrill pass through it, and his arm fell palsied at his side. But the
notice was gone.
Now came the sound of water flowing, and, as he angrily caught his gun
and turned toward the sluice, the letters shone again in phosphorescence
on the tree. There was the sound of a pick in the gravel now, and,
crawling stealthily towards the sluice, he saw, at work there, Tom
Bowers--dead, lank, his head and face covered with white hair, his eyes
glowing from black sockets. Half unconsciously Jim brought his rifle to
his shoulder and fired. A yell followed the report, then the dead man
came running at him like the wind, with pick and shovel in either hand.
Away went Brandon, and the spectre followed, up hill, in and out of
woods, over ditches, through scrub, on toward Pike City. The miners were
celebrating a new find with liberal potations and a dance in the saloon
when, high above the crash of boots, the shouted jokes, the laughter, and
the clink of glasses, came a sound of falling, a scream-then silence.
They hurried into the road. There lay Brandon's rifle, and a pick and
shovel with T. B. cut in the handles. Jim returned no more, and the
sluice is running every night on Misery Hill.
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