An hour east of San Francisco, CA, sits the long-forgotten relics of five mining towns. Now a preserve, the entire 6,000 acres north of Mt. Diablo has many hauntings attached to it. The old towns of Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartsville, West Hartley and Judsonville sit sandwiched along the rolling hills, between the San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta and the Diablo mountain range. However, today, the area is known as the old Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.
Tales of witches have always been heavily connected to locations on the northeast seaboard of the United States. But, as settlers moved west, the stories and fear of witchcraft came with them, and the Golden State is no exception.
From Farm Land To Lucrative Coal Mining
The discovery of coal in the area put the region on the map, earning it the name "Black Diamond." It became one of the largest coal distributors in California, producing over 300 million tons between 1850 and 1906. The tunnels under the mountain are said to be haunted for obvious reasons. Many miners lost their lives while searching for coal in the Black Diamond Mines.
The Black Diamond Mines Cemetery
The Rose Hill Cemetery is perched on top of a hill between the Sommersville and Nortonville sites. After the towns were abandoned, the cemetery was also forgotten. Many headstones were vandalized or stolen. However, over the years, more than 200 bodies have been discovered in the cemetery grounds —the final rest for many coal workers. It is also the final resting place for other residents of the old towns, including women and children who died from diseases such as smallpox, scarlet and typhoid fever.
Visitors to the abandoned tunnels of the mines, now turned into tourist attractions, have reported seeing figures roaming the grounds of the cemetery and hearing sounds of digging, scraping, and wailing coming from deep within the mine tunnels. Some have even reported seeing the glowing figures of children running through the area. Nevertheless, the most bizarre cases of hauntings are of two women, whom the locals refer to as the "White Witches."
Witchcraft In The Golden State Black Diamond Mines
Interestingly, there are two stories of witches in the area. And they are both referred to as a "White Witch" because of the luminous glow they give off when seen.
The first "White Witch" was a woman known only as Mary. In the 1870s, she was a nanny who cared for many children in the area. Sadly, all the children she looked after passed away. Understandably, the town went into an uproar and charged Mary with witchcraft. She was hung for the murder of the children, and her home was burned to the ground.
People have reported seeing her wandering around the area, appearing as a white, glowing apparition. They say she stays close to the entrance to the mines. Some believe that she holds the children she allegedly murdered captive, keeping them earthbound.
She's known as an aggressive spirit who purposely frightens anyone who comes across her, discouraging anyone from entering the mines.
The second story of a "White Witch" is of a woman named Sarah Norton. Sarah was a sought after midwife and loved by all the townspeople. On the night of October 5, 1879, Sarah was on her way to assist a laboring woman. She was unfortunately thrown from the carriage she was riding in and crushed to death.
Sarah was not a religious woman and had requested that there be no funeral when she passed away. The townspeople, grief-stricken by her sudden and unexpected death, couldn't accept the idea of not giving Sarah a proper burial. They decided to go against her wishes and hold a funeral service.
On the day of the funeral, a violent storm forced them to delay the service. On the second attempt to hold the service, another terrible storm sprung up unexpectedly, forcing them to postpone yet again. Eventually, the residents decided to bury Sarah in the Rose Hill Cemetery without holding a service and did so without incident.
You can still visit Sarah Norton's grave site. Her headstone is still present and she is periodically seen guarding. People report seeing her hovering above the ground, with a glowing white light surrounding her spirit. The sudden onset of violent winds accompanies her apparition.
It is said that the storms disrupting her unwanted funeral were brought on by Sarah's disapproval of the service, as they formed quickly and without any warning.
Hidden Gems In The Bay
The beauty of the Golden State area should not be missed. Visitors can hike the trails of the preserve, see the local wildlife and experience the abundance of wildflowers in the spring. And if you're lucky, you may even experience your own ghostly encounter with a resident from a long-forgotten, abandoned town.