Several years ago, I was with a friend who took me on a tour through an old mine in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As we were walking through the main shaft, we heard a weak knocking in the dark. We advanced and tried to find the source of the knocking, but we never did. Laughing, my friend attributed the sound to the Tommyknockers.
Originating in various countries, the Tommyknockers are green, gnome-like men with imp- or gremlin-like qualities. The Germans called them berggeister (which means “little ghost”); other names include kobold, coblynau, and wichtlein.
Cornish miners from the United Kingdom believed that Tommyknockers were the souls of the Jews who crucified Christ and were sent by the Romans to work as slaves in tin mines. They are known to commit both good and bad deeds on miners. Good deeds include warning miners of danger, whereas bad deeds range from playing practical jokes to absconding with tools and food.
According to lore, Tommyknockers are about two-feet tall and live in mines. They dress like miners, have long beards and oversized heads, long arms that touch the ground, and are said to be very wrinkled and ugly.
Another legend of the Tommyknockers states that such “knockers” are dead miners who are trying to protect working miners from harm. Their knocks are meant as warnings of danger.
Belief in the Tommyknockers was strong, even as late as the 1950s and 1960s. For example, there was a case in California in 1956 when a mine was closed and workers were told to seal the entrance. The Cornish workers petitioned management to keep the entrance open so that the Tommyknockers could leave and follow them to the next mine. Management agreed and kept the entrance open long enough to satisfy worker demands.
Horror author Stephen King took the name Tommyknockers for this 1987 novel, which dealt with the residents of Haven (in Maine) succumbing to a mysterious object in the woods. The extraterrestrials in the novel are called Tommyknockers.
About the Monster of the Week: Every week, I will pick a monster that has captured my attention above all others. I hope you enjoy this series, so please leave a comment after you have read this article.