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Tuesday, November 2, 2021

'Ghost Of Portal 31'  Has Intrigued A Global Audience 
Pathfork Paranormal Investigator Determined To Unlock Secrets Underground

Thomas Marcum is no stranger to unexplained phenomenon underground. Besides being a highly-respected paranormal investigator and researcher living in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains in Southeast, Kentucky, Marcum has witnessed enough bizarre occurrences happening in the hills to make him start expecting to see anomalies rather than being surprised with something mysterious does appear. One of the places that has received much of Marcum's time and energy are the emptied coal mines throughout Harlan County. It is the history of mining that intrigues Marcum. Having worked around the mines since he was 13 years old, Marcum is familiar with much of the fascinating history coming out of the coal fields' abandoned portals. It is a dark and dingy history that defined the culture of Harlan County - hard work, blood, sweat and tears. But, there's more to the complex history of coal mining than is shared in textbooks, stored in local archives, and displayed at mine museums. The oral histories that are handed down by coal miners telling of their days toiling away far beneath the Earth's surface are some of the most astounding tales coming out of these hollows, surpassing time and continuing with new generations of miners and their families. It is these stories that Marcum looks for.

It is these stories that Marcum mines for and extracts for posterity. He may not be digging for coal, but he's digging for a good story, and some hard evidence in the process. It's important to the longtime Pathfork resident  to document as well as to research, for if most do not believe the stories coming out of the belly of Harlan County's Black Mountain, some will - and some will give testament to the fact that there are more than black diamonds  to be found - much more!

That is why Marcum set out with a film crew in 2017 at Lynch's famed PORTAL 31 Mine Exhibition Tour, which is a tourism attraction known throughout the world. During the early 1900s, Lynch's US Steel Coal Operation was the largest in the world, hauling out thousands upon thousands tons of coal to provide energy to the masses and to fuel an exploding economy. Much of the coal is now gone, and what remains are the stories told by our old coal miners - well stories, and what a growing number of local folk would say are ghosts. Strange occurrences have been known to happen at Portal 31 Mine Exhibition, which transports visitors underground on a tram through a series of animatronics that tell the history of coal mining in Lynch. When reports started coming from Portal 31 visitors, staff, and volunteers, Marcum knew he had to get a team together and investigate underground. Several days of filming took place in 2017 at Portal 31, and during the winter months, Marcum feverishly edited together hundreds of hours of video into one compelling film - "The Ghosts of Portal 31," which is now available on Amazon, The Roku Channel, Tubi TV, Plex TV and several other streaming services. The film has literally been seen around the world, although few people on a local level realize its global appeal.

"I don't think people realize what happens here in Harlan County right in their own back yards," Marcum said. "You've got this rich, fascinating history about our coal mining heritage, and if that wasn't enough, you've got the paranormal things that's been happening underground and near our mines for several generations. We want to tell those stories - unearth them and keep them alive. We don't want to keep these stories imprisoned. We also want to capture as much official, scientific proof as possible while investigating these mines so that these stories will not also be told, but they will also be believed."

Although it is unnerving underground, especially when you spend hours chasing eerie sounds, shadows, and movement, Marcum said years of paranormal research had prepared him for the darkened trek underground at Portal 31. What he saw during the filming at Portal 31 is a sight that has been commonly reported by coal miners underground, but still does not keep the hair from standing up on your arm.

"We were recording several EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena), and then we saw these phantom red lights," Marcum said. "It looked like red lights floating. Some say it appeared as though they were the lights of coal miners, and I would have to agree."
Marcum said there could be several reasons for mysterious things happening underground. He said spirits were attracted to energy, and there were certain rocks underground, like limestone and quartz, that conducted energy.

"When people die, often times their spirits tend to wonder back to their happy place," Marcum said. "And while the work was hard, there's been many a miner who were happy underground. It was their home away from home."

One of the more interesting folklore tales about underground paranormal activity are the stories of the Tommy Knockers. While these mountain haints have not been seen as much as other types of spirits underground, Tommy Knocker occurrences have been said to take place within the portals of eastern, Kentucky. Among the many stories, folksongs, and superstitions of the coal miners comes the legend and lore of the Tommy Knockers. These underground creatures were described as  little men who worked alongside the miners inside the mines. The creatures were known to be mischievous, and as stealing miners’ tools or food, but also benevolent helpers at times.  Not only were the creatures  blamed for missing tools and stolen items, but for also saving the lives of many miners. The miners believed the creatures would knock on the side of the mine to warn them of an impending collapse.
Stories of the Tommy Knockers quickly spread across the United States. Both friend and foe, tales of the Tommy Knockers were used to explain the unexplainable. If a miner's light went out, and they were stranded in total darkness, it was the trick of a Tommy Knocker. Anytime a miner narrowly escaped a tunnel collapse, it was thanks to the Tommy Knockers. As the legend spread, miners came to believe the Tommy Knockers were the spirits of dead miners who were warning their fellow miners of impending danger. Miners would often leave offerings of food and other items to express gratitude to remain on the creature’s good side. Occasionally, however, visitors to abandoned mines will claim to have heard strange sounds. The sounds, they say, are almost like a faint knocking sound.

Marcum heard strange noises inside of Portal 31, and he is familiar with the legend of the Tommy Knockers, but he is unsure as to what the source of the strange noises are. That is why he continues to investigate and to explore. He knows there are answers out there to the unexplained, but finding those answers will take many more years of research.

Links to Marcum’s films can be found at Zombie Media Publishing Website



This is a guest post by Jennifer McDaniels. Jennifer is journalist, marketing and public relations specialist. She is also a News Correspondent & Marketing Manager for WFXY Foxy Radio and currently holds several degrees in communications and journalism.

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