Labour History Meets the X-Files!

Obviously, all is far from well in the western NSW copper mining town of Cobar. It has just been announced that the town’s only remaining mine is to close, throwing several hundred local miners out of work. Apparently, though, it isn’t only the living who are troubled by the behaviour of mine management. According to a recent newspaper story question (A. Hoy, “Go and find another haunt, mining town tells its ghosts’, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 January 1998), it appears that the dead are no less troubled than the living by the eternal parsimony of the mine bosses and, more importantly still, seem determined to let their feelings be known. Here’s an excerpt from the Herald story:

The mining town of Cobar is so fed up with things that go bump in the night that a clairvoyant has been called in to try to persuade the resident ghosts to move on.

The town’s 70-year battle with disgruntled poltergeists is legend, especially at the Cobar Museum, built in 1910 as the administration building for the Great Cobar Copper Mine and co Smelter.

The ghosts are not malicious, according to clairvoyant Mrs Sandra Norris. They are just protective of their patch and their routine, which involves hanging round the room that once served as the mine pay office, the scene of many a heated dispute with tight-fisted mining executives about hours worked. After 70 years, she says, they’re still waiting to be paid….

Believe in ghosts? “I just don’t know,” says Mr Jones, who has served as museum curator for the past four years. “But the spooky vibes around this place were enough to drive one of my predecessors out of town. You don’t just imagine these sort of things.”

“Over the years there has been numerous anecdotal evidence that the museum is haunted. Clanking noises upstairs. Chilling draughts in the middle of summer. And classical, shadowy apparitions,”

Enough was enough, he decided. Enter the psychic Mrs Norris and what, she calls her “spirit guides” – formidable band of ghostbusters recommended to the council by local gallery operator Ms Gloria Jones,

Mrs Norris ranges the country exorcising troublesome spirits from their, earthly strongholds, “They are stuck here through fear of leaving for what they don’t know,” Mrs Norris said. “But their real work is on ‘the other side’, My spirit guides … lead them towards the welcoming heavenly light.”

The museum housed droves of spirits, according to Mrs Norris’s visualisations. “Lots of minors, used as child labour in the mines, and farmers. I could see them going.” All of them? “There arestill a few that need moving on. I’ll do that one day when I’m there. “

Could it be that in our devotion to the documentary record we labour historians have overlooked yet another vital source of evidence on the great majority. Break out the Ouija boards!