The Rolling Mill Mine was located on the side of Yoder Hill (Westmont), by the confluence of the Stonycreek and Little Conemaugh Rivers. It is right next to the Johnstown Inclined Plane, which is the world steepest vehicular inclined plane built in 1891 to provide transportation to the community of Westmont. A tragic explosion there on July 10th, 1902 claimed the lives of 112 miners. Many stories have been passed around the area about the mine site being haunted and S.P.L.A.T. Investigations has done a great deal of research to try and uncover the truth behind the stories.
Cambria Steel owned the mine and it was in operation from about 1856 to 1931. The explosion was caused by a build up on mine gas know as afterdamp. Most of the men who died were Polish and Slovak immigrants of eastern European decent.
Few traces of the mine currently exist. You can gain access to one of the sealed off mine portals by walking up the James Wolfe Sculpture trail behind the Inclined Plane. Plaques about the mine disaster and sculpture trail are conveniently located along the path.
As you can see from the above photo there isn’t much to the mine. All that remains is a sealed off entrance that emits a strong cold damp breeze. Please be careful when visiting because rocks slides are known to occur along the trail.
The only real story we could dig up about the mine being haunted was from a 1992 article about a 10 your old boy who reported seeing phantom miners carrying lunch buckets on the trail. It was said that the boy had no prior knowledge of the Rolling Mill Mine. A Cambria County Transit Authority story about the incident and mine can be viewed here.
We contacted the Executive Director of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association for any information regarding ghostly sightings at the mine site or anywhere else around Johnstown for that matter. Johnstown has a history many tragic floods, including the 1889 flood that cost the lives 2,209 people. You would think with all the tragic deaths that there must be some kind of paranormal activity going on. To our surprise he told us there are very few stories and that the tale of ghost miners could just be a something that was used as publicity to drum up interest in the Incline.
An interesting side story that indirectly relates to the mine site happened on June 15, 1980. On this date Arthur Smothers (22) and Kathleen Mikula (16) were gunned down by Joseph Paul Franklin, a racist serial killer who attempted even attempted to kill Larry Flint of Hustler magazine. Franklin hid out on the hill side by the mine and shot the couple as they walked down Roosevelt Boulevard.
Unfortunately we have been unable to attempt any sort of investigation due to us not being able to get in contact with those who manage the Inclined Plane and the mine site.
Various 1902 Tribune Newspaper Stories-
Additional Information & Links:
- Ghosts at The Incline Article
- Rolling Mill NY Times Article 1902714
- Rolling Mill Pavlik Report
- Rolling Mill Victim List
- Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania
- Johnstown Area Heritage Association History of Coal Mining in Cambria County
- Johnstown Inclined Plane.com