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Tales from the crypt

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On Sept. 3, 1897, 12 miners died in an explosion inside the Sunshine Mine up Fourmile Creek.No one would ever know their last moments.Until now.Nearly 110 years later, Jim Frale tells the story of the 12 coal miners as part of the Frontier Historical Society’s annual Ghost Walk fundraiser. In his distinctive storytelling technique, he combines the personalities of all 12 men, allowing them to talk from the grave.”We speak as one,” said Frale, who is in his third year of playing the role of the miners at Ghost Walk. “I myself have worked in the coal mines, so I understand what it’s like.”

When Frale was in his early 20s, he worked in underground surveying in the coal mines of Craig. He understands the danger, the fears, the bonds formed between miners.”When you go underground, you have to have a lot of trust in the people around you,” he said. “I want to impress on people who are listening how dangerous it is to work in the mines.”Frale has been a storyteller for the past six years, trained by Spellbinders. Whenever he has free time, he visits schools to share his passion for storytelling.”They say in storytelling, if a story speaks to you, you are able to tell it better,” he said. “I think about being underground since I’ve been there. It’s not a story I get tired of.”Relating his character to people in the audience is one way Frale tells a compelling story. After one Ghost Walk, Frale said a man came up to him and whispered in his ear.

“He said, ‘My grandfather was a coal miner.’ Sometimes when you’re experienced with something you can relate to it better.”Frale estimates he spent at least 40 hours researching the Sunshine Mine explosion, with the help of the Frontier Historical Society. The mine’s name was later changed to Sunlight Mine because there were others with the same moniker.”There’s a lot of history here in town, and there’s some good stories,” Frale said. “The Sunshine Mine explosion is one of them. It wasn’t just an event in time that came and went. There were actually things that came of it in regards to mining safety.”Bringing voice to the 12 miners killed on Sept. 3, 1897, is another way to remember their legacy.Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601aclark@postindependent.com



Tickets are still available for the Frontier Historical Society’s Ghost Walk fundraiser this weekend and Oct. 27-29. For $15 a person, tickets can be purchased at the Frontier Historical Museum or through the Looking Glass bookstore, or by calling 945-4448 for credit card orders. Guided tours take place at 7, 7:45, 8:30 and 9:15 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 7, 7:45 and 8:30 p.m. Sundays.


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