Monday, June 11, 2018

Kentucky Ghosts: The Ghosts of Portal 31

Coal mines. They've been a huge part of West Virginia and tri-state history since our earliest years...and have provided quite a few ghost stories and legends that persist well after the mines have shut down.  The Portal 31 Mine, located in Harlan County, Kentucky is one such mine where history and mystery intertwine.


Lynch, Kentucky, where the mine is located, was built as a coal mining town. Owned by the U.S. Coal and Coke Company, this particular section of mine opened between 1917 and 1920. The coal that was pulled out of the mine was exclusively for use by U.S. Steel.  During the first half of the 20th century, the community of Lynch was considered a model coal camp town, complete with company health care, schools, churches, etc.  However, Lynch was not immune to the problems facing other coal communities.  Early coal mining practices were inherently dangerous and there were accidents, especially in the earliest mined areas of Portal 31.Of the approximate 250 coal related deaths in Lynch, it is estimated that 150 of those deaths happened at Portal 31. 

Also, the community was no stranger to violence as coal officials did everything in their power to prevent unionization.  Clashes between miners and mine officials earned the area the nickname of Bloody Harlan.  It's interesting to note that the mine history states that at least 38 nationalities were represented among the miners of Portal 31. While doing background research for my team's Whipple Company Store investigation (in Fayette County, WV) I came across information stating that mine owners encouraged great diversity among the miners, not for the noble reason of being all-inclusive of immigrants...but because of the fact that if you had a group of people who spoke different languages and had different backgrounds, religion, and culture, they were less likely to communicate and form bonds; thus, they were less likely to try to unionize.


By 1963, the mine had ceased normal production, but did stay open for awhile in various capacities. Talk eventually turned to the idea of opening the mine to the public as an exhibition coal mine.  It took several years, but the mine opened around 2007-2008 as a tourist attraction.  Visitors to the mine can board a rail car and travel through the depths of Portal 31.  Animatronic miners tell the story of the mine and showcase a history of mining equipment and techniques.

Visitors and staff of Portal 31 aren't just treated to a fun and educational experience when they enter the mine---many are treated to a brush with the other side! 

I recently stumbled upon a great video on Amazon Prime called Ghosts of Portal 31.  The film documents the history of the mine, interviews with staff concerning paranormal experiences, and then features an actual investigation of the paranormal claims by The Crypto Crew.  Activity reported includes a sense of being watched or not being alone and movement in one's peripheral vision.  Moving lights have been reported that seem to evoke a feeling of a miner carrying a lantern or wearing a head lamp walking down the path.  Some of the most common activity, though, seems to be unexplained noises, notably the sounds of a group of men talking/working, machinery running, and a hammer ping on metal.  

I really enjoyed the film.  I think the crew did a good job at sharing the history of the mine and the stories of those who have experienced recent paranormal activity.  I also really enjoyed seeing the investigation portion of the film. The crew did a pretty thorough job, adequately explained the equipment they were using, and even had a few things happen to them that aren't easily explainable.  During the multi-day investigation, at least two investigators felt a tug on their camera straps, and many witnessed a small red light that had no apparent earthly origin. 

If you have an Amazon Prime membership, I'd definitely recommend checking Ghosts of Portal 31 out (it's also available on DVD)...but if you're in the Harlan County, Kentucky area or plan to be, I'd definitely recommend checking out the actual ghosts of Portal 31, lol.  Even if you don't have your own haunted encounter, you'll have hopefully learned some history and experienced a little of what a miner's life was like, deep underground.

The Crypto Crew
Portal 31 Homepage (Tour Information and History)

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