The White Lady of Spring
Due west of Helper, in
is Spring Canyon, a one time coal mining mecca now filled with
Here, along this rugged path, surrounded by mountains, boulders,
mining remnants, and and the crumbling remains of once thriving
buildings, roams an ethereal white lady.
Before the mysterious
"white lady" and the many coal miners who lived in this canyon, the
area was long occupied by the
who left behind numerous rock art panels. Other larger occupants,
namely dinosaurs, also left their marks in abundant large footprints
been found in many of the area coal mines.
Carbon County changed dramatically;
however, when the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad began to seek
a route from Denver to Salt Lake City in the 1880s.
Unfortunately, this is not a "real"
picture of the White Lady,
but rather a ghost superimposed over a
photo of the Liberty Mine entrance in
As the railroad opened up the area, coal
was discovered and by the late 19th century, the county was filled
with coal mining camps. As prospectors continued to search the region
for coal, more was discovered in Spring Canyon and the first mine in
the district was established in 1895 at
the next several decades, numerous mines and small settlements
sprouted up in the canyon, including
Throughout the decades
the Spring Canyon District was called home to over 2,000 miners,
businessmen, and their families as the mines extracted almost 43
million tons of coal from the rugged hills through the 1960's.
Though the mines brought people and
prosperity to the region, it also brought tragedy and violence in
mining explosions and major strikes. But, when Spring Canyon's heydays
were over, it left behind only memories, scattered mining remnants,
and legends, the most famous of which is that of the White Lady.
for years, the legend has numerous variations that have been told of
who this mysterious woman might have been. Though her identity may
always be in question, it is interesting to note that a century ago,
women and mining equaled bad luck to virtually every miner in any type
of mining camp. The superstition, having its roots in Europe, was very
strong among immigrants, which tended to make up the vast majority of
miners of the time. These miners believed that disaster and tragedy
would follow if a woman visited a mine and could cite instance after
instance of "true” stories that had occurred. Though outsiders
believed these instances were purely coincidental, the miners didn’t
think so, and became extremely agitated if a female even got near a
mine shaft, causing almost as much nervousness in the mine workers as
did ghosts or
Given the superstitious nature of the coal
miners, it is not surprising that the legend of the "White Lady” has been
told for so many years.
The woman was believed to
have lived in
which is about seven miles west of Helper on Spring Canyon Road. The
mining camp, which got its start in 1917 when the Liberty Mine went into
production, once boasted numerous homes, a post office, a school, a
company store, mining offices, and about 400 people.
One version of her history says that her
husband was killed in the mine and his body was never found. Another says
that both her husband and a son were killed in a mine accident, leaving
her alone with an infant daughter. The tale continues that
her baby was later kidnapped, thrown into a wash and drowned. Afterwards,
the woman lost her mind and soon died.
another version alleges that she lived in
Peerless, another mining camp
situated just about three miles west of Helper that thrived from 1917 to
1930. This account says that after her husband died from blood poisoning
and, as his death was not mining related, she and her infant child received
no compensation and were destitute. Instead of allowing her baby to
starve, she drowned it, lost her mind and was institutionalized in a mental
facility. Later she escaped to return to
Peerless, where she later died.
Latuda about 1940, photo by William Shipler, courtesy
State Historical Society.
Another report says that
she herself was killed in a rockslide in
while an additional story says that her child was killed in an avalanche and she later
A final tale says that
after her husband was killed in a mine accident that the company refused
to give her full compensation and after a confrontation with mine
officials, she was so angry and driving so fast, that she drove off the
narrow road and was killed.
Though the truth of her
life will probably never be known, for whatever reason, she continues to
make her presence known in the canyon. Some say she seeks revenge against
the mining company or against those who kidnapped her infant daughter.
Dressed all in white, others say that she continues to search for her lost
child, specifically in the canyon wash. Interestingly, this sounds very
much like another popular legend – that of La Llorona, who has been seen
haunting rivers and streams, also looking for her lost child, throughout
the southwest for centuries.
In any case, numerous
sightings of the spectral lady in white have been reported throughout the
years. Some of the earliest accounts say that she was known to float
around the entrance to the mines, luring miners into their vast depths,
ensuring certain disaster. Other tales are not so sinister, saying that
instead of enticing them into the mines, she would appear to warn them to
leave in order to avoid some kind of accident.
Allegedly, she has been seen several times
mine entrance, inside the mine, and near the old Liberty Mine office. By
the 1960’s, the legend was so well known that teenagers often came to the
mine office at night to tell ghost stories and catch a glimpse of the
spectral lady. On one occasion, though there is no evidence that the ghost ever
appeared, the teenagers’ visit resulted in disaster when one of them blew
up the building, resulting in his imprisonment.
Other reports tell of sightings of her
walking around the abandoned town of
usually in the direction of the mining office, but disappearing just
before she reaches it.
of America, updated July, 2011.