Case: 008 Pocahontas Exhibition Mine

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Black Diamond Paranormal Society

“We are the light that cuts the darkness. Therefore, when you see… truth must be honored.”

Final Report and Analysis

Case 008

Pocahontas Exhibition Mine

March 28, 2009

Tazewell Virginia


Rodney Shortridge, Robyn Belcher, Aaron Shortridge, John Belcher, Mike Brown

& Special Guest Amy Flick


     On March 28, 2009 the BDPS team investigated the Pocahontas Exhibition Mine located in Tazewell County in the town of Pocahontas, Virginia. I would like to take this moment to thank Amy Flick and Mayor Adam Cannoy for contacting BDPS and giving us permission to investigate such a historical site. We decided to use two teams of three to investigate this site. The first team consisted of Robyn, Amy Flick and myself. The second team consisted of Aaron, Mike and John. Our historian Nicole, with the help of Robyn and Tina, researched the property and found a tremendous amount of history connected to the property. Along with the expertise of Amy Flick, most of the information provided would not have been possible. We started our investigation around 9:00 p.m. and finished around 2:30 a.m.

     Equipment used at this site included (3) DVR’s, (2) Microcassette Recorders, (2) Camcorders with night vision, (4) digital cameras, (1) compass, (1) K2 Meter, and (1) EMF Meter. As we try to do in all of our investigations, we placed the DVR’s in areas that have reports of paranormal activity. One was placed in the bath-house, one was placed in the community room, and the last one was placed in the Museum. Both camcorders were placed in the bath-house where there are reports of seeing apparitions. Each microcassette recorder was held by each team as they went into the Exhibition Mine, bath-house, and Museum.

     Amy Flick explained the events that have been reported to her and unexplained paranormal events that have happen to her personally. Such as shadows in the mines, work boots coming off a hook and falling on the floor in the bath-house, doors slamming and locking on their own, unexplained voices, apparitions in the bath-house and unexplained noises such as knocking and footsteps when no one was there.  

     We started the investigation by Robyn, Amy and myself going into the mines while Aaron, Mike and John went into the bath-house and the community room. Each one of us had a personal experience that was unexplained. Even though we tried to debunk every experience, we were left with more questions than answers.

Rodney’s Personal Experiences in my own words:

     As we got into the dinner-hole area of the mines we heard groaning like some one was hurt or in pain. Robyn did some EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) work but we did not pick up the groaning on the recorders.  As we walked to the backside of the mines Robyn stopped to point out that she was seeing something ahead in the back of the tunnel. It took me a few seconds to see what she was talking about when one of the taller shadows moved up against a wall. Amy also saw it and said it might be some local kids and they’re trying to figure out what we were doing in the mines. I took a couple of pictures and then Amy said that couldn’t be kids because she couldn’t see them when the flash went off. I even shined my flash light in the area and only saw the shadows moving. The smaller shadow was moving towards me. I was walking down the tunnel to see who was there. Robyn and Amy stayed back because Robyn was feeling sick. I got about 50 to 60 feet in front of them and I noticed the taller shadow disappeared but the smaller one kept getting closer to me. I even asked who it was a couple of times with no answer. The shadow was so dark that I couldn’t see though it and as it got closer I was feeling colder. The shadow stopped about 10 feet in front of me and then disappeared and then there was a blast of very cold air that I felt pass through me and I even said “whoa”. Within seconds of that happening I heard Robyn yell for me that she was feeling worse and had to get out of there. As we were leaving the mines Robyn and Amy explained to me that they felt the cold blast of air right after I said whoa and that’s when Robyn got worse. We went outside and talked about what happened. It was a great experience for me but, where Robyn is is so sensitive to the paranormal, it may have been too much for her. I was concerned about her knowing how sensitive she is to paranormal activity. Later, I walked back into the mines alone to see if I could communicate with the shadows we saw but, as I got closer to the area where we were earlier, all I kept feeling was an overwhelming feeling of sadness and loneliness. The events that happened the night my dad passed away kept flooding my mind no matter how hard I tried to fight it. It continues to get worse. Maybe this was a way for the miners that lost their life in that mine to communicate with me because my father was a miner, too. I went back outside and it took me some time to get over the sadness I felt in that mines.

Robyn’s Personal Experiences in her own words:

     Rodney, Amy and me started in the mines, didn't get much except for a couple moaning sounds in the beginning. As we reached the far end of the bend I began to feel a little strange. All of a sudden I could see two dark figures at the end of the tunnel.  I stopped along with Amy while Rodney went on.  I could see the first taller image disappear as it walked towards us. I could still see the smaller one for just a second then I heard Rodney say something like whoa, a few seconds later Amy and I felt a very cold sensation go by us and at that point I got so sick at my stomach I had to leave the mines.  Later I decided to go back in with lights on, I stayed with Amy at the beginning of the bend, while during EVP work I asked if someone could repeat a knock sequence that I did on some block and a few minutes later I got a response. At that point I started to feel sick again so I yelled for Rodney to come back, loudly, but he said he couldn't hear me.  When he didn't answer my calls Amy and myself went to get him and he couldn't hear us even when we were almost on top of him.  What made him turnaround was a bang or knock that only he heard and that's when he saw us.  The feeling of sadness was overwhelming.

Amy’s Personal Experiences in her own words:

     When coming around the back side of the Exhibition Mine about 20 feet before the drainage tunnel - Robyn said there were two people at the back entrance. At first this scared me - then I knew without a doubt - it had to be kids. When I looked closer I saw their figures - I noticed they were inside of the gate - at that point I knew it had to be kids because they can fit through the opening - I asked who it was - I figured it was one of the neighborhood boys when they didn't answer. Rodney snapped a picture - from that I knew we could find out who it was for when they ran. They moved right up against the wall - I guess trying to hide - or I thought. Robyn and I didn't proceed forward - when they didn't run it scared me. Rodney did go to see who it was - and the figure started walking toward him that is when I really was confused. All of a sudden there wasn't a figure anymore. Within a few seconds a breeze went by and we got colder then I have ever been in there. I felt sick to my stomach - Robyn also felt very sick. We had to go. When walking out - either I scared myself really bad or somebody was following us. I just felt like somebody was watching me from behind. I kept turning around but nobody was there. These black figures have been seen in the mine many times before - mostly in the dinner hole. I swear every time a kid has come in from the back and they are just goofing around. We have also seen the figures at the mine jeep. Like they are still working or something! Recent employees and I have sat at the opening - in about 50 feet - and watched this many times before. One time we were so convinced it was kids - she went to the back to catch them coming out - the figure went away and nobody was in there. These are solid black figures - almost like a walking shadow. Another thing that confuses me nothing strange happened in the bathhouse - which is where I was hoping something would happen. Doors always shut by themselves (when secured by a piece of cinder block) - I have had boots fall twice in there off of big hooks on the baskets.
Nothing strange happened in the education room either - actually I felt alright in there - for once. Usually you feel like somebody is watching you or following you in there.
Nothing strange happened in the museum. Many strange things have happened in there.
I did get a secret laugh at one point when we came out of the mine - we were all sitting on the concrete - somebody made a comment about change being left on it. They teased Rodney that it all fell out of his pocket. We constantly find change (coins) in the museum. I figured it was from customers dropping it. More and more appeared - I have picked it all up on several occasions at 5:00 (closing time) to find more in the morning when I open. Was it Rodney's change - I don't know - I just got my laugh because it was more unexplained change.

Mike’s Personal Experiences in his own words:

     The only personal experience would be in the bath-house with Aaron and Johnny. Johnny had walked out the front door, (restroom area) and the inside door slammed behind him. I was in the back part of the room and really couldn’t tell if it was the wind or not, but from where I was I didn’t feel a breeze or anything.

Aaron’s Personal Experiences in his own words:

     Johnny, Mike and I were on our first trip through the mine to investigate. As we were walking through the main shaft when you get to the first bend, we saw what appeared to be a thick mist or fog. It stayed in one location (near the dinner-hole). As we were walking out, it had completely vanished.

Johnny’s Personal Experiences in his own words:

     Aaron, Mike and myself were going through the mine and nothing out of the ordinary happened with the exception of a thick fog appeared in one area around the first bend of the mine and as we were leaving the mine it was no longer there. This the only time we saw this fog or anything resembled the fog.

History of the Pocahontas Mine

The original mine opened in 1882 and was worked out in 1955. There were many Immigrants that came from all over the world to work this mine such as Hungarian, Welsh, Russian, Polish, German, and French, English and Irish decent and many more.

     **The history of the Pocahontas Mine was provided by an Article by Edward L. Henson, Jr. Professor of History, Clinch Valley College. Without his hard work and dedication the memory of these brave men, women, children and community might be lost forever though the passing of time.



1884 ~ 1901 ~ 1906

1884 - 114 DEAD

1901 - 17 DEAD

1906 - 36 DEAD

~~~~~ARTICLE by EDWARD L. HENSON, Jr. ~~~~~

Professor of History, Clinch Valley College

In 1884, as the signs of spring multiplied in the Pocahontas coalfields of Southwest Virginia , Harriet Eliza Latrhop could look back over the preceding thirty months with a great deal of satisfaction. Just before Thanksgiving in 1881, she had left her native New York with her husband, William, a twenty-six-year-old mining engineer, to come to a wilderness where she faced snakes in her kitchen and people afraid of kerosene lamps. Now, thanks to her husband's leadership, the mines which he opened and the town which he built were both thriving. Pocahontas boasted a company store, a bowling alley, an ice house, and an Episcopal congregation.
At 1:30 in the morning of March 13, 1884, a loud explosion rocked the Lathrops in their bed. Young Lathrop soon learned that a blast in the Laurel mine had knocked houses off their foundations three-hundred feet from the drift mouth, and heavy mine cars had been hurled from the mine. Inside were mangled bodies, some without heads and some missing limbs. A fire necessitated sealing and flooding the mine with 114 bodies still inside.
When the fire was out, the water was pumped into a creek running through the town. Two carloads of disinfectant were dumped in the creek and on the streets, and men were brought in to build coffins. Lathrop finally became ill under the strain, which threats against his life did not help. He and his wife were glad to move to another job when an opportunity arose.
The Laurel mine was regarded as non-gassy so that there was no apparent reason to use safety lamps. This supposition left the miners free to "shoot from the solid" - to get coal down from the face by substituting massive amounts of explosives for the tedious and time-consuming job of undercutting. There was almost certainly a quantity of methane present in the Laurel mine which was ignited by the blasting. This in turn touched off suspended coal dust which provided the chief explosive. The initial blast created a wind of hurricane force which picked up more coal dust, ignited it, and produced a raging, all-consuming, and self-perpetuating horror.
     The explosion at the Laurel mine was shocking to the people of Southwest Virginia because it was their first. Before it, mine explosions in the Richmond area had assured Virginia it would lead the nation in this category of mining casualty until 1890.


Because Pocahontas had no cemetery, land was chosen for the burial site of the 1884 Explosion victims. The few settlers who had died previously had been buried in the HOUCH CEMETERY, about a mile from the present cemetery, on the east end of PEEL CHESNUT MOUNTAIN.

Land for the Pocahontas Cemetery came from the Southwest Virginia Improvement Company in 1888, deeded to Trustees of the Pocahontas Cemetery Association. The Association dissolved in the 1930s, and when the property reverted back to the successor of the Southwest Virginia Improvement Company, Pocahontas Fuel Company, it was deeded over to the town of Pocahontas.

A register is kept at the Town Hall in Pocahontas for those buried in the cemetery.

I want to thank area residents THOMAS CHILDRESS and EDNA DROSICK, whose contributions to local history are invaluable beyond calculation. Without their efforts this Pocahontas page would have been near impossible.



  • Boone Maxey W 16
  • M. L. Hampton W 38
  • John Keys W 27
  • M. G. Jewel W
  • George Hicks W 25
  • Floyd Jewel W
  • John Pelfrouse W
  • Garrett Jearbotos W
  • A. M. Daugherty W 22
  • Paul Pevello W 16
  • George Miles W
  • Ernie Goodman W
  • Audro Futo W 25
  • Mike Bochrise W 26
  • Joseph Futo W 28
  • Jacob Kraboushi W 35
  • John Kraboushi W 25
  • Audro Bochrise W 28
  • Arthur Daniel W
  • Peter Rogendorf W
  • Jordan Hicks W 28
  • L. C. Hopkins W
  • Lewis Schultz W
  • James Grim
  • George Chapman W 30


  • Johnson Surface W 25
  • A. A. Campbell W 22
  • William Slusher W 25
  • John Jewell W
  • Joseph Huffman W
  • James Cordell W
  • Jasper Edwards W
  • Wade Stuart W
  • J. W Jones W 28
  • John Little W
  • William Moore W
  • Lewis Cocherhand W
  • Peter Harris W
  • Stephen Harris W 30
  • Bogdon Istvau W
  • Andrew Kishvardy W
  • Zolko Ferenz W
  • ? Taylor W
  • ? Giovani W
  • ? Karvolk W
  • ? Mehalsky W
  • Robert Lewis C
  • Amos Conner C
  • Thornton Hicks C 28
  • James Witten C


  • James Maxwell C 27
  • George Maxwell C 25
  • Penny Richardson C
  • James Hampton C 28
  • Henry Seers C
  • Edward Tucker C 23
  • Howard Quarles C 20
  • Henderson Miller C 27
  • Charles Wyatt C
  • Larkin Richardson C
  • Lucius Watson C 25
  • Creed Burrows C
  • Joseph Young C
  • Joseph Brice C
  • Phil Ragland C
  • Riley Austin C
  • Allen Graves C
  • Milton Heath C
  • John Henry Jones C
  • John Jones C
  • Edward Mitchell
  • John Hicks
  • John T. Hicks
  • Luke Ray
  • Rush Davis


  • Lacotto Carnera
  • John O. Key
  • Jacob Pacoto
  • Robert Davis
  • Ellis Mullen
  • Daniel Robertson
  • William H. Comaford*
  • Thomas Woods
  • William Culler Cordell
  • S. H. Ambetson
  • John Lawson
  • John Maxwell
  • Daniel Johnson
  • Henry Melvor
  • James Perdue
  • Robert Perdue
  • Reed Howard
  • Daniel Wright
  • Joe Wright
  • James Cornwell
  • Pharoah Bowers
  • Henry Henly
  • Henry Scales
  • Buzzard Ray
  • Andrew Johnson


  • Giles Bacon
  • James Campbell
  • Sam Lawson
  • Andrew Marshall
  • Booker Wilson
  • Benjamin Henly W
  • ? Odham **
  • ? Odham **
  • Isham Maxwell
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Braxton Bragg Moore W 16
There is a separate marker for
Braxton only a few feet from the

W - White
C - Colored
Ages - About

* Correct spelling for William H. Comaford was provided by Don Freeman, gg-grandson of William. William was married to Margaret Emily Burton.

** Odham Brothers...First names unknown at this time.

NOTE - Two colored ladies and a young child also perished in this explosion. Do not have names.



Marks the location of the March 13, 1884 victims interred in the Pocahontas Cemetery. Burial was in common trench that runs below and near parallel of marker. The burial of these victims marked the beginning of the Pocahontas Cemetery.


The 1884 explosion occurred on the night shift, March 13 at about 1:20 AM. There were no survivors. This is a partial listing of the day shift employees who worked this mine and fate spared from this 1884 Disaster for that reason. I include this list of non-victims for two reasons. It is a welcome relief to post a list of non-victims and the names may help someone searching for a coal miner ancestor. These names appear in Jack M. Jones' book, "EARLY COAL MINING IN POCAHONTAS, VIRGINIA."

Day Shift Employees were under William H. Cochran, Inside Mine Boss.

Henderson Tabor *
Dan Slomkesi
James D. Sexton
William Whitker
John Peters
Robert Lidolee
John Hager
Phil Buchanan
Boony Davis
Thomas Boons
Josept Odell
Albert Angel
Frank Renale
Floid Nelson
Luther Brown
Marshel Scott
William Barmona
Lefeyett Pruat
Andy Hill
William Hill
Sam Wallar
Henry G. Bowling
John Erpe
Thomas Dotson
Charles Shaffer
Fank T. Faff
Barnhard Endlekson
John Hawkings
Robart Wright
Lee Taylor
Lee Muncy
Robinson Carter
James Alridge
James Basmar
John Smith
Albart Davis

* Henderson Tabor married Rebecca Nelson, daughter of famed Jordan Nelson, and made their home in Shinbrier, WV. Rebecca is buried in Shinbrier's Isaac Bell Cemetery along with their son, Kelly Tabor. Henderson may also be buried here in an unmarked grave.








The Mountain Cracked by the Force of the Explosion

The victims of the mine disaster at Pocahontas, Va., last week, leave 97 widows and orphans. There were five distinct explosions, and their force was so great that the mountain was cracked. There were no expert gas men employed in the mine, and no safety lamps used. The officers say the explosion was not caused by a lamp, but probably by a blast which opened up a large quantity of gas. Two-thirds of the men were white, and more than fifty had families. The actual number killed is 184, of whom fifty were negroes, forty Hungarians, and the remainder Germans and natives. Ten mules were also killed.
The night relief went into the mines at the usual hour on Wednesday night. A little after midnight the town was startled from its sleep by a noise that sounded like the rumbling of an earthquake, followed by a clap of thunder. Soon a messenger came from the mines, three-fourth of a mile away, with information to the superintendent that there had been a terrible explosion there. The superintendent and others hastened to the mines, and the scene presented to their view was indescribable. The entrance to the main shaft was entirely torn out and scattered pell-mell for hundreds of feet. The little train track was torn and twisted, and shapeless timber and ties were mixed in confusion all around.
The cars were taken up bodily and torn apart, and their iron wheels were shivered. They were thrown across a ravine five hundred yards, and buried in the mountain beyond. The mountain itself was up heaved by the force of the explosion and in several places near the entrance of the mines enormous crevices were made in the earth. In many places on the mountain coal dust has settled an inch thick. Immense trees were uprooted four hundred yards from the mine. Three dwelling houses near the mines were demolished by the falling of cars and debris on them. Two colored women and a child were in one of the homes, and were literally torn to pieces. Rocks were thrown through the workshops, and every object that stood in the direct course of the forced air was demolished. Several workmen in the shops were injured. The shops, as well as the locomotive house, were leveled with the ground.
The furthest entry affected was by a Hungarian whose son was buried in the ruins. Nearly crazed by grief he could not be restrained, and penetrated to a considerable distance, but was eventually compelled to retire. He reported seeing a number of bodies congregated in one chamber indiscriminately, torn and mangled beyond recognition. One of the victims was a youth, 13 years of age, who was employed as a door boy, and was the pet of the mining camp. The little fellow had just entered the mine when the explosion occurred.
The management, to prevent the possibility of any fresh disaster, will flood the mine. It may be therefore several weeks or months before any attempt can be made to reach the bodies of the unfortunate miners.
Plattsburgh Sentinel New York 1884-03-21

Details of the Explosion in a Virginia Colliery.

Many Miners Suddenly Hurled to an Awful Death.
Particulars of the terrible explosion in a coal mine at Tazewell, Va., are harrowing in the extreme. The mine in which the explosion occurred is situated at the base of the Flat Top mountains, which divide Virginia from West Virginia. Accounts of the disaster, made up from various sources, are as follows:

Shortly after midnight a terrific explosion alarmed the residents of Pocahontas, Tazewell County, Va., and soon thereafter a scene of the most intense excitement ensued. Men, women and children arose from their beds and rushed out into the open air in the night-dresses. The streets were thronged, and all were at a lost to determine what had happened. It was not long before the truth was known, and then the excited crowd rushed toward the principal coal mine in the southern suburb. Upon arriving there, a dense volume of smoke was found pouring forth from the shaft of the mine.
Scattered around within a radius of a quarter of a mile were broken timbers and broken mining machinery of every description. Upon every side lay fragments of human bodies, some of which were lodged upon the top of sheds and in the branches of adjoining trees. The shrieks of the women and children filled the air, and added more horror to the scene.
Everybody appeared paralyzed at the spectacle, and it was some time before the bravest of the men present realized the extent of the disaster, and began to take steps to ascertain the extent of the damage. After two hours had elapsed and nothing accomplished by the panic-stricken crowd, a man with a ghastly white face mounted the debris and cried out: "For God's sake, men, let's stop this. We all have friends and relatives down below, and maybe we can help them. Let us see what we can do," he added, "and let the women folks do the crying." Every one of the officials of the camp were below, besides one hundred and fifty laborers. There was no one to lead the rescuing party, and it was with the utmost difficulty that volunteers could be induced to go near the mouth of the mine. The leader again addressed the men present, and then, throwing a blanket around his head, made an effort to ascertain if it was possible to enter the mine. He soon returned, and announced that all attempt at a rescue of the poor creatures who were entombed was useless.
A dense volume of flame then began pouring out of the mouth of the mine, and illuminated the country for miles around; crowds of people collected in groups of a half dozen or more, discussed the terrible situation, and lamented the death of father, brother, or husband. When it became evident that nothing could be done before daybreak, every endeavor was made by the men to quiet the women, one of whom in her frenzy tore the hair from out of her head by the handful and cried out; "Oh, my poor husband! He is burned to death! Won't someone help him"
When day dawned the horror became apparent. The men were by this time more composed and the women in a measure quieted. The latter began to gather up the fragments of the bodies of the unfortunate miners who had been working near the shaft at the time of the accident and were blown upward out of the mine. Every one of the fifty men at this time was overcome with the horrible conviction, doubtless true, that every miner was dead, from the shock of the explosion, or subsequent suffocation.
The superintendent repaired to the mines at once and the scene presented to his view was indescribable. Words, he said, could not convey the faintest idea of the destruction that was wrought in a few very short seconds. Signs of it were visible on every hand. The entrance to the main shaft was entirely torn out and scattered pell-mell for hundreds of feet. The little train track was torn and twisted and shapeless timber and ties mixed in confusion all around. The cars were taken up bodily and torn in part and their iron wheels were shivered. They were thrown three and four hundred feet away. The searching party found a pair of shoes that had been blown to the summit of the ridge, and a mule was found at the same place twisted into an indescribable shape. The second entrance to the mine presented a similar appearance to the first. At the entrance of the fan tunnel stood the company's large ventilator, which, with the house around it, was swept entirely away, leaving the engine standing on the foundation shattered and broken with the pipes twisted and forced. As indicated, the force of the explosion was terrific. Rocks were thrown through the workshops and every object that stood in the direct course of the forced air was demolished. Several workmen in the shops were severely injured. The shops as well as the locomotive house were leveled with the ground. Of the one hundred and fifty men who were in the mine at the time of the explosion not one returned to the surface to tell the fate of his companions. Parties who ventured into the mines the next morning, discovered several mangled bodies, one of which was identified as that of M. L. HAMPTON night foreman, who leaves a wife and large family. About thirty-five Hungarians are among the victims. The others are colored men and white miners from Virginia and Pennsylvania. The accident was said to have been caused by the men going too far into the mines with their lamps. A relief train with physicians and a force of workmen on board went to the scene of the accident from Petersburg.
Ticonderoga Sentinel New York 1884-03-21

The Pocahontas Disaster


LYNCHBURG, Va., April 11: After everything had been got in readiness at Pocahontas yesterday evening a police force was placed on guard at the main entrance to the mines in order to keep back the crowd which had been attracted by the notice posted by Superintendent LATHROP announcing that the bodies would be reclaimed, and then Mining Engineer MOODY, in charge of a rescuing party, entered the mines to note the situation of affairs. When the party emerged from the mines it was announced to the crowd that the damage was less than had been supposed and that little trouble would be met with in recovering the bodies of the victims.
Two bodies were recovered yesterday in a horribly mutilated condition. They proved to be those of BOON MAXEY, a white boy, and JIM CRIM, a negro. The work of recovery was then postponed until this morning, when it was resumed under the direction of Engineer MOODY. A still larger crowd than that of the day previous congregated at the entrance, and ropes had to be stretched around to prevent too near an approach to the entrance. The crowd, however, observed proper decorum, and no undue excitement was manifested, a spirit of great solemnity seeming to pervade the assemblage. The bodies, as they were recovered were placed in boxes on the inside of the mine, and several of them were brought out together on a car. A number of miners well acquainted with the victims were placed at the entrance for the purpose of identifying the bodies, if possible, but of the 16 recovered so far only 6 have been identified. These are JIM CRIM, recognized by a bell he wore; ISHAM MAXWELL, by his boots; GEORGE MAXWELL, by being found with his brother; WILLIAM SLUSHER, identified by a patch on one of his boots; YOUNG JEWELL, by his hair and the location in which his body was found, and a German who was recognized by his wife.
Many of the bodies are horribly mangled; some with the heads blown off, others with arms and legs torn from the sockets, and still others with the entrails torn out entirely. An arm and a leg were found in the main entrance, but the body to which they belonged could not be found. A thrill of horror passed through the crowd in front of the mines as the rescuing party brought out the charred remains of a miner with his dinner bucket clasped in his arms. He was probably just partaking of his midnight meal when the explosion occurred. Several miners were found with picks in hand, and the positions of these bodies indicated that death was instantaneous to all in the mines. At 3:30 o'clock the announcement was made that no more bodies would be removed before 9 o'clock Saturday morning. The remainder of the day was occupied in getting out the carcasses of mules, which, being too heavy to be dragged out, had to be quartered and taken out. Very little excitement prevailed at the mines any times during the day. As soon as the announcement was made that no more bodies would be taken out until Saturday the crowd quietly withdrew.

The New York Times New York 1884-04-12



A newspaper was in circulation between 1881-1884 in Charleston, WV. Named "The Evening Call" This is what it reported:

Friday March 14, 1884

Report reached here last night that an explosion occurred yesterday in one of the coal mines in Pocahontas, Virginia, in which one hundred and fifty lives were lost. A son of James Hicks, of West End, is among the killed. Mr. Hicks left on the train today to bring home the remains.
This was found in Volume 3 of Kanawha Valley Genealogical Society on obituaries from West Virginia Newspapers.




  • John Odram
  • Walter Davis
  • George Radford - See Note 1
  • Hall Richards
  • W. C. Kelly
  • Cleave Foster
  • John Osborne - See Note 1
  • Major Brown - See Note 2
  • Sanford Foster
  • Samuel Cook
  • J. A. Dancy
  • Henry Green
  • John Cumbee
  • Jerry Palmer
  • Jordan Lewis
  • L. L. Woody
  • Jonas Tomori
  • Dudley Watson
  • Will Davis
  • William Brown
  • Will Mooran
  • Ben Perry
  • B. Shannon
  • Ed Ward
  • Paul Walsco


  • Mike Fifer
  • Joe ILLES
  • Steve Hoswoody
  • Boshas Shando
  • Boduia Zigmo
  • B. Easton
  • Frank Kish
  • George Blitzer
  • Jonas Horwat
  • Morris Brown ----- See Note 1
  • Joe Blash
  • Bertie Estony


Note 1 - Victims, George Radford, John Osborne and Morris Brown are interred in the Scott Cemetery on East Peeled Chestnut Road, Pocahontas, VA.

Note 2 - Two victims listed as Major Brown and Morris Brown may be same person. Major may be incorrect or may be Ed Brown.











Pocahontas, Va., Oct. 4. -- Nineteen known dead and from thirty to forty more men entombed, and doubtless all dead, is the situation up to a late hour tonight at the West Fork mines of the Pocahontas Collieries Company, where the explosion occurred late yesterday afternoon.
The bodies of these men were recovered from the mines as the result of the heroic work of a band of thirty-five men constituting a rescue party that worked incessantly through the hours of the night and day. It was not until 7:30 o'clock this evening that the rescuers reached a point near St. Paul entry, where the explosion occurred. The work of rescue was very slow, as the conditions confronting the party were difficult to surmount. Toward the middle of the evening the hope was expressed that all the bodies would be recovered by midnight.
The authorities anticipated the fearful extent of the casualties’ to-day by ordering a carload of coffins and burial supplies which are expected to reach Pocahontas early to-morrow morning.
Supt. WILLIAM LECKIE, of the mine, who entered as one of the rescuing party, had a narrow escape from death. He was overcome by the fumes, and had to be carried out.
Two Rescuers Die From Gas.
EDWARD JONES, the inside foreman, led the first rescue party, and when that party failed to return in a reasonable time a second rescue party under Supt. LECKIE followed. Two of the LECKIE party, JOHN ODHAM and ED BROWN, were overcome by gas and died. LECKIE barely escaped with his life.
Then the third party was formed and continued the work. Meantime the first party had reached another entrance to the mine in safety, and sent word over the mountain announcing that fact. All this time the work of bratticing the mine, necessary for the work of rescue, was being effectively carried on.
Some confusion was caused in the determination of the exact number of men entombed by the fact that when the explosion occurred the exchange of shifts was in progress, added to which was the fact that a number of the men escaped from the Tug Fork entrance.
The scenes around the mine were pitiful. Relatives and friends gathered in groups at the entrances and elsewhere awaiting tidings of the victims, and gave vent to their grief as the bodies, one by one, were brought out.
Up to midnight the exact number of men who were in the mine was not known. About a score of mules were killed. There are no evidences of fire in the mine tonight.


Reports are current in Pocahontas that at least eighty men are in the mines. The rescuing party that came out at 6:15 reported that many of the eighteen bodies they found were literally torn to pieces.
Rescue work is progressing slowly, on account of fallen slate and the damaged condition of the track. The air in the mine is exceedingly good, and the rescuing party hopes to recover all bodies tonight. The party brought out one body but will not bring out the others until it is possible to disperse the crowd of several thousand that has gathered around the drift mouth.
A new shift has been put on tonight, and the work is going on as fast as possible. Among those killed by the explosion were about eight telephone boys, who range in age from fourteen to fifteen years.
The force of the explosion was so great that it was felt in the mines at Coaldale and Mill Creek three miles away, and the miners refused to work in them today. The Browning mines are also shut down.

The Washington Post District Of Columbia 1906-10-05


1901 DISASTER ~ NOVEMBER 14 & 17

A total of seventeen men lost their lives in this disaster that involved at least three occurrences over a period of as many days.

The first problem arose at 3:30 am Thursday morning, Nov. 14 when an explosion occurred at the Baby Mine, present site of the Exhibition Mine. Sections of the mine were set on fire and the blast was plainly heard in the town of Pocahontas only a mile distant. Fire Departments and citizens hurried to the scene. At first their attention was focused on the fan house, as it was emitting a great amount of smoke, thinking it was the source of the fire.

After four or five hours passed FRANK TABOR and a companion named DYER were found pinned in by a fall of slate and rescued. Many others had found their way out without assistance.

While the excitement was at its highest, a short time after daybreak, there was another explosion. This second occurrence took place in the West Mine which connected by openings with the Baby Mine. A number of men had gone to work in the West Mine thinking the trouble was isolated to the Baby Mine. The force of this second explosion at the mouth of the Baby Mine was terrific. W. S. LYONS, a member of the rescue party, was standing near the Baby Mine entrance and was hurled against some projecting stones and received a severe scalp wound.

POLICE OFFICER BREWER was one of the first to attempt entering the mine. He was enveloped in a flash of flames and inhaled some of it. It was feared he may die as a result. I do not know his fate.

A rescue party of three entered the mine some time later. They were LOUIS WOOLWINE, son of R. P. WOOLWINE of Bluefield, WILL MONTGOMERY and M. D. KOONIZ, a Company Store clerk and all three perished. The fate of these men frightened others and for a while no rescuers would enter the mine..

Finally DR. STUMP led a rescue party who succeeded in bringing a number of bodies out including the bodies of WOOLWINE, MONTGOMERY and KOONIZ. Eighteen men were reported injured and some were in serious condition.

A total of nine men died as a result of the November 14 explosions and fires. Six bodies were taken from the mines and three others expired after being taken to their homes. JOE KRISS, one of a rescue party, was overcome and brought out for dead. After working with him several hours he was revived. H. P. REES, a member of the fire company, was badly burned in a rescue attempt.

The body of JOHN BARNHART had been the first to be recovered. This occurred about ten o'clock Thursday morning. He was found near the drift mouth having reached that point before being overcome by deadly gases.


The Baby and West Mines were closed. After a couple of days it was decided the West Mine could possibly be reopened. On Sunday morning, Nov. 17, an inspection team of eight men, led by mine superintendent WALTER O'MALLEY, entered the mine. Contact was lost with the eight member team and the worst was feared. In late afternoon rescue teams were organized and entered the mine but were forced back due to large accumulations of gas.

Several days later, after the mine was clear of gases, a rescue party found the eight member inspection team lying together as though sleeping. They had been the victims of after-damp gases. This brought in total seventeen lives lost in this 1901 disaster.



  • John Barnhart
  • Louis Woolwine
  • Will Montgomery
  • M. D. Kooniz or Koonta
  • John Byrne
  • ? Hale
  • ? Hudson (Italian)
  • ? Urico (Hungarian)
  • No Information



  • Frazier G. Bell - Afterdamp
  • J. A. Cardwell - Afterdamp
  • A. R. Hurst - Afterdamp
  • William Odham - Afterdamp
  • Walter O'Malley - Afterdamp - Mine Superintendent
  • William J. Preece - Afterdamp - SEE NOTE
  • Robert E. L. St.Clair - Afterdamp
  • W. Morris St.Clair - Afterdamp


NOTE - William J. Preece is buried in the Coopers Cemetery at Coopers, Mercer County, West Virginia. Was born Worcestershire, England. Married Sept. 7, 1888 in Mercer County, WV to M. M. Williams, born Tafeshire, Scotland about 1848 to Alex and Christina Williams. William was a Coal Inspector at time of marriage.


  • March 18, 1839 Black Heath Mine - New Richmond 40 Dead
  • June 15, 1844 Black Heath Mine - New Richmond 11 Dead
  • 1850 Cox's Pit, Clover Hill - Winterpock 7 Dead
  • 1854 Chesterfield Mine - New Richmond 19 Dead
  • 1855 Midlothian Mine - Coalfield 55 Dead
  • 1859 Bright Hope Mine - Winterpock 9 Dead
  • 1863 Raccoon, Clover Hill - Winterpock 17 Dead
  • April 3, 1867 Bright Hope - Winterpock 69 Dead
  • May 20, 1876 Midlothian - Coalfield 8 Dead
  • Feb. 3, 1882 Midlothian - Coalfield 32 Dead
  • March 16, 1907 Bond & Bruce - Tacoma 11 Dead
  • Jan. 10, 1909 Carbon Hill - Gayton 6 Dead
  • Dec. 14, 1910 Greenco - Tacoma 8 Dead
  • Jan. 20, 1911 Carbon Hill - Carbon Hill 7 Dead
  • July 16, 1912 Carbon Hill - Gayton 8 Dead
  • Jan. 18, 1932 Parrott - Parrott 6 Dead
  • Feb 27, 1932 Boissevain - Boissevain 38 Dead
  • June 13, 1932 Splashdam No. 6 - Splashdam 10 Dead
  • Aug. 6, 1934 Derby No. 3 - Big Stone Gap 17 Dead
  • April 22, 1938 Keen Mountain - Hanger 45 Dead
  • April 18, 1946 Great Valley - McCoy 12 Dead
  • May 20, 1948 No. 2 Mine - Dante 6 Dead
  • June 21, 1983 Clinchfield Coal McClure No.1 - 7 Dead
  • Dec. 7, 1992 Southmountain Coal Mine No. 3 - 8 Dead

E. L. Harris
1718 Hamilton St.
Warren, OH 44485


     We have come to the conclusion that this property has very low paranormal activity in the form of personal experiences and orb activity. Our hope is to one day come back to investigate this historical site with more advanced equipment. This was our eighth investigation and it was a great success. We have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be working with such a historical town as Pocahontas Virginia and with Amy Flick and Mayor Adam Cannoy. I feel honored to have had the success we’ve had and to be working alongside such a professional team.

     I look forward to our next investigation. If anyone would like for us to do a paranormal investigation of their home, business, church, property or a family cemetery please contact us. If you would just like to speak with us about any paranormal activity you may be having we would love to hear from you. No problem is too small. We would be honored to help and we do not charge for our services. Contact BDPS to set up a time and place for us to discuss your paranormal questions and or problems.

     I feel honored to be working with such a great team. Without the team’s hard work and professionalism BDPS would not be what it has become today.

     BDPS would like to wish Johnny Belcher a Happy 55th Birthday and also Robyn and Johnny a Happy 2nd Wedding Anniversary.

*We would like to also announce our website go to:


     I hope everyone enjoys the photos and the analysis sheet along with the new video we are providing. Also we will have our EVP’s and any video evidence on the site for everyone to view and listen to. You can judge it for yourself. If anyone has any questions or comments we would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think.


Rodney Shortridge


Robyn Belcher

Case Manager/Lead Investigator

Black Diamond Paranormal Society