The reason for the disaster was officially deemed as carelessness, both by workers and the operators, but many believed it to be a curse or a vengeful spirits doing.
Mining Sacred Land
Mount Mulligan was named after James Venture Mulligan, after he and a small group of prospectors sighted it in 1874, while searching along the Hodgkinson River for gold. At the time there was a gold rush, and many mines and fields opened up along the Hodgkinson River, and much of the land in the area was being explored. James Mulligan described the mountain as “a mountain once seen, never to be forgotten”.
These were prophetic words, as within half a century Mount Mulligan would be the location of Queensland's worst mining disaster.
Before white settlement, the mountain and surrounding areas were used by the Djungan Aboriginal peoples. The entire mountain is dotted with 'rock shelters' and many artefacts have been found there. It has the greatest density of aboriginal cultural relics in Queensland, with some finds dating back to the last ice age.
To the Djungan people, and many other Aboriginal groups in the area, Mount Mulligan, known natively as Ngarrabullgan, is a sacred site and features in many of the stories of the Dreaming. Two sacred sites located on the top of the mountain itself have Aboriginal cultural artefacts that date back at least 40,000 years.
When the gold rush started to come to a halt in the late 1890's, many of prospectors and miners left the area. In 1907, coal deposits were found under Mount Mulligan, and the gold and mineral mining companies took much interest in having a resource used for the smelting process found close to hand.
With the promise of lowering the cost of refining, the various material mined outside of the Mount Mulligan area (at Chillagoe), it was soon proposed that a train line would be built. Completed in 1914, the railway allowed the commencement of a larger scale coal mining operation directly into Mount Mulligan itself.
Tragedy and Death
Over the course of the next few days, more people arrived to help with the efforts, they too had heard the explosion, some saying as far away as Townsville (300km away although the furthest confirmed witness to the noise was 60km, still a massive distance)
The mine was shut down for four months, before resuming normal operations, and later closed for good in 1957. According to Wikipedia, the town 'with a single cemetery, a single occupied residence, a single chimney stack, and the overgrown remains of the once busy mining operations and electricity generator' is now a 'Ghost Town'.
Legends Borne out of the Ruin
Another legend is that the date 1921 appeared in massive numerals on the mountain face that overlooked the town. The numbers can still be seen on the mountain face, when the sun is in the right position in the sky. Many say it is formed by an uncannily coincidental formation of watermarks and erosion, many say it is a warning to others who may come to deface the mountain by mining it for its resources.
Finally, the ghost of a miner named Edward Morgan is said to haunt the mines and the local area. 'Morgans ghost' would appear to the men who worked the mine after the disaster, causing more than a few to resign the position, refusing to renter the shaft. There are several stories about why 'Morgan' haunts the mine:
One: being that his body was never recovered, t had been blown to pieces as he was the closest person to the centre of the explosion.
Two: that many of the towns people blamed the explosion on him.
Three: that it is not even Morgan who haunts the mine, but rather the 'Iku', the evil spirit, who caused the tragedy to unfold.
It is true that not all of the bodies were recovered during the rescue efforts in the days following the disaster. Only 74 of the 75 bodies were immediately recovered. George Turriff's body was not recovered until five months later, when the mine was reopened for production. His body was located in the pit, and upon discovery, the mine was shut down for the day, and the funeral was carried out the day after.
It is suggested more often than not that it is not 'Morgans Ghost' but rather 'Turriff’s Ghost' who haunts the mine. As all the other bodies were recovered and buried together, George Turriff’s remains lay in the mine alone for five months before discovery. Could he be the ghost?
What do you Think?
Who do you believe haunted the mine: Edward Morgan or George Turriff?
What about the 'Iku'?