written by Emma Chiao
From 1850 to 1906, the area known as Mount Diablo Coalfield in present day Contra Costa Country produced more than 300 million tons of coal. The coalfield was so lucrative that it earned the name Black Diamond Mines. Shipments of the coal were made all across California, to communities and markets in Sacramento, Stockton, San Francisco and more. Once the coal mine and town closed, the area was abandoned and left to ruins. It was later discovered that more than 200 of the town’s residents had been buried at the Rose Hill Cemetery. Many of the deceased were children who had died in plagues of smallpox, scarlet fever and typhoid fever. Though the facts may seem strange, there lie even more unsettling stories behind the deaths of the children: many people believe that the mines are actually haunted by two white witches.
In the 1870s, there was a woman named Mary who was the nanny of several children. All of the children she cared for died of illnesses or other unknown causes. Enraged, the town charged her with witchcraft after discovering evidence of sorcery rituals at her home. She was hanged immediately and her property destroyed. Mary now haunts the mines, seeking revenge for her unjust end.
The second white witch was a midwife named Sarah Norton. On a stormy night, she had been on her way to deliver a baby when her carriage tipped over, and her body and skull were crushed. Sarah was not religious and didn’t want a funeral, but the townspeople insisted on giving her a cheap funeral plan anyway. On the day of the funeral, there was a terrible storm that caused the funeral to be postponed. The funeral continued to be delayed due to sudden and mysterious storms. Finally, the town decided to just bury her in the cemetery. If you visit the abandoned cemetery now, you may be able to see her ghost guarding the tombstones.
Today, many of the mines remain closed due to the danger of carbon dioxide and methane, as well as unstable rock quality. However, if you want to risk it, you may even be able to see the ghosts of the “two white witches.”