The Spook Of Misery Hill

: 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

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.