Cherry Mine Disaster Investigation

Date: July 13, 2014

Location: 1.426667°N 89.2125°W in Cherry, Illinois

GRS Members present: Dale Kaczmarek   

Other investigators present: Paul Smith and Sara Bowker along with Kathi Kresol as it was a public event.

History: The Cherry Mine Disaster is the name for the events surrounding a fire in the Cherry, Illinois, USA coal mine in 1909 in which 259 men and boys died.

The Cherry Mine had been opened in 1905 by the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad to supply coal for their trains. The mine consisted of three horizontal veins, each deeper than the last. The veins were connected vertically by two shafts set some 100 yards apart. Both the main shaft and the secondary shaft contained wooden stairs and ladders. The main shaft was capped by an 85-foot steel tower which controlled a mechanical hoisting cage. A large fan, located in a shunt off the secondary shaft, pushed fresh air into the mine.

The miners included a large number of immigrants, heavily Italian, many of whom could not speak English. Boys as young as 11 years old also worked the mine. Rather than a fixed per-hour wage, pay was based on the coal production.

On Saturday, November 13, 1909, like most days, nearly 500 men and boys, and three dozen mules, were working in the mine. Unlike most days, an electrical outage earlier that week had forced the workers to light kerosene lanterns and torches, some portable, some set into the mine walls.

Shortly after noon, a coal car filled with hay for the mules caught fire from one of the wall lanterns. Initially unnoticed and, by some accounts, ignored by the workers, efforts to move the fire only spread the blaze to the timbers supporting the mine.

The large fan was reversed in an attempt to blow out the fire, but this only succeeded in igniting the fan house itself as well as the escape ladders and stairs in the secondary shaft, trapping more miners below.

The two shafts were then closed off to smother the fire, but this also had the effect of cutting off oxygen to the miners, and allowing the “black damp,” a suffocating mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, to build up in the mine.

Some 200 men and boys made their way to the surface, some through escape shafts, some using the hoisting cage. Some miners who had already escaped returned to the mine to aid their coworkers. Twelve of these, led by John Bundy, made six dangerous cage trips, rescuing many others. The seventh trip, however, proved fatal when the cage operator misunderstood the miners' signals and brought them to the surface too late - the rescuers and those they attempted to rescue were burned to death.

One group of miners trapped in the mine built a makeshift wall to protect themselves from the fire and poisonous gases. Although without food, they were able to drink from a pool of water leaking from a coal seam, moving deeper into the mine to escape the black damp. Eight days later, the 21 survivors, known as the "eight day men", tore down the wall and made their way through the mine in search of more water, but came across a rescue party instead. One of those 21 survivors died two days later with complications from asthma.

The following year, as a result of the Cherry Mine Disaster, the Illinois legislature established stronger mine safety regulations and in 1911, Illinois passed a separate law, which would later develop into the Illinois Workmen's Compensation Act.

A monument to those who lost their lives was erected May 15, 1971 by the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Illinois State Historical Society.

The centennial commemoration of the Cherry Mine Disaster was held in Cherry, November 14–15, 2009. A new monument, located at the Cherry Village Hall, was dedicated to the miners who lost their lives in the disaster.




Hauntings: While there weren’t any specific stories or hauntings that I could uncover about this tragedy, you could only assume that due to the great loss of life and how these people must have suffered before they died, that some form of residual energy could possibly linger in and around the site of the old mines and the city of Cherry.








The Ghost Research Society investigated the site of the Cherry Mine Disaster on July 13, 2014. Team members included: Dale Kaczmarek with help from Paul Smith and Sara Bowker along with Kathi Kresol from Haunted Rockford Tours. This was a public event.








Equipment setup: Only handheld equipment was used; digital tape recorder, Melmeter, video camera, Ovilus and Ghost Box devices.

Experiments performed: Open sessions were conducted at the cemetery where many of the unfortunate victims were buried along with as close as we could get to the site of the actual mines which were on private property and fenced off to the public. Paul and Sara, psychics, were both picking up impressions along the way at the off the bus locations.

Personal experiences: My Melmeter peeked very highly at both in the middle of the cemetery, far away from any electrical lines and also twice near the fenced off area. As I walked around the perimeter, the Melmeter spiked in the middle of the baseball diamond, again far away from any type of contamination and then a very high meter spike that was also witnessed by both Paul and Sara near the fenced off area. It quickly went back to 0.0.

Evidence collected:

Strange sound cherry.MPG – while standing by some tombstones and talking with others, with an open microphone, a very strange sound is recorded and then repeats itself near the end of the clip.

Strange voice cherry.MPG – while walking through the middle the cemetery, a very curious-sounding voice is recorded.

Conclusions: It would have been incredible to get a little closer to the mine entrance where all those miners died back in 1909 however that wasn’t possible. Usually cemeteries aren’t good places to look for ghosts. There usually isn’t a reason that a person’s spirit should be drawn back to the place of his physical internment. However there are always exceptions to the rule. While I didn’t really feel anything out of the ordinary besides some meter spikes that could not be easily explained, there is the possibility that there could be some earthbound or residual energy still lingering around these locations.

I think another investigation with a smaller and quieter group along with psychics Paul and Sara could prove more fruitful than a larger group. 

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