Monday, April 15, 2013

Kentucky's Van Lear Coal Miner's Museum

Photo Courtesy of the Van Lear Historical Society
It all started when a teacher from Pike County Kentucky, John Caldwell Calhoun Mayo, purchased coal rights to several areas in Johnson County, including an area along Millers Creek.  He then sold these rights to Northern Coal and Coke, which would be absorbed by the Consolidated Coal Company.

When the Consolidated Coal Company decided to open several mines along Millers Creek, they needed a company headquarters...but first they needed a town!  The town of Van Lear was created in 1912 when a director for the coal company, Van Lear Black, gave the money to build 5 miles of railroad track into the new property.  The following year the office building for the Consolidated Coal Company was built.  Over the years, it would house the directors' offices, the post office, the company store, the company doctor's office, and many other town offices and small businesses.  For years, it was the official hub of the town.

But, like many coal towns, Van Lear was soon in decline.  Consolidated Coal operated the mine at Van Lear between 1910 and 1946 before absolving those assets, and giving the option for the residents to buy their own residences.  Unfortunately, many of the other buildings in the town were torn down.  Still, the old office building withstood the progress of time.  In 1984, Citizens National Bank gave it to the Van Lear Historical Society, who turned around and transformed the structure into the Van Lear Coal Miner's Museum, showcasing the town's history with a variety of displays.

As the long standing hub of life for the tiny community of Van Lear, it only makes sense that the 100 year old building has also become a hub for paranormal activity.  According to the official website, common activity involves apparitions, shadow people, unexplained noises including footsteps and the sounds of talking, and even direct communication.

People have felt as if unseen children are sitting on their laps and Tina Webb, museum volunteer, has felt what is perceived as a hand that grabs people by the arm.  She has also seen a gentleman in the kitchen wearing a ball cap.  There's even a story that a 2 year old little girl wandered off one day.  She was found in the library talking to someone that no one else could see.

These events prompted Webb to call in investigator Joe Clark, who claims to have a photo of a man's face and agrees that this location is one of the most haunted he's ever investigated.  There is also another incident where a paranormal investigator was told by a phantom female voice to be careful while climbing a ladder!

The museum does hold haunted tours during certain times of the year, and there is information on the website for how you can set up your own investigation for a nominal fee.  Please see the links below for more information!

Official Website
Mystery Monday Interview with Tina Webb and Joe Clark

Fun Fact:  The museum's gift shop is named Icky's in honor of Richard "Icky" Wetzel who ran a restaurant/shop in the basement from the late 1940s up through the 1960s.  Apparently the name "Icky" was a moniker bestowed to Richard by his siblings after hearing a reading of the famous Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  The tale was said to have scared Richard literally to tears, and thus, he was dubbed "Icky" after Ichabod Crane and the name stuck his entire life.

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