Atlas Coal Mine National Historic Site
Situated in the Canadian Badlands, the Atlas Coal Mine was constructed out the the coal rush initiated by Sam Drumheller who purchased land from a local rancher, Thomas Greentree, and sold it to the Canadian National Railway. Within that time, after the Canadian National Railway constructed tracks into the area, thousands of people migrated from Eastern Canada and Europe, to dig coal in the burgeoning mines. The rich sub-bituminous coal seams provided both income and employment, and by 1912 the area supported nine working coal mines, with more to soon follow . The influx of workers and camps required more services and housing resulting in a town boom which quickly diminished after the Leduc Oil Strike in 1948. After that period, the area notarized as “the fastest growing town in Canada, if not in North America” soon resulted in several closed communities, ghost towns, and closed mines.
Before the last shipment of coal from the Atlas #4 mine in 1979, early life in the valley was fraught several hardships from mining accidents to local fistfights. The settlement of the valley from the mining industry also brought in new families and local services.
Unexplained activity continues to be recorded every year with new experiences at the Atlas Coal mine as late as this past summer (2014). The experiences reported at the Atlas Mine are varied and include staff and visitors seeing apparitions of previous miners to hearing voices and seeing moving objects and apparitions. Jay Russell, executive director at the Atlas Mine, keeps an ongoing record of such events and experiences. The beginning of the document reads:
“Like most ghost stories, those at the Atlas are a collection of unexplained sightings, experiences, and feelings. Some buildings feel haunted, while others don’t. Every year we have operated as a museum, staff have been convinced that we are not alone. Substantiating these anecdotes, however, is impossible.”
The Atlas Coal Mine not only comprises the large wooden tipple and upper processing plant, but also several historic houses, shacks, offices, and shops long since closed. In addition to the many historic structures on property, the Atlas Coal Mine maintains a machine graveyard for retired mining equipment. Between the fields surrounding the property, the old East Coulee Bridge, the large underground tunnel systems, the property offers different forms diverse and unique historic spaces that continue to retell the valley’s history.
Several impressive unexplained experiences are reported yearly from the Wash House, a large concrete building built for showering the coal dust off of returning miners, on property. Visitors commonly report hearing footsteps above the shower area and feeling a distinct presence before entering the showering area. Several guests at Atlas in 2008 also reported odd lights appearing on their photographs.
Another active location at Atlas is the Mine Office. Several visitors have reported seeing what they interpret to be former administrative and operating staff from the mine. In 2012, a young boy on an educational tour with his classmates reported seeing “a man sitting right there in that chair.” The young boy, with no hesitation, was able to identify the figure he saw sitting in the chair within the array of photographs and newspaper clippings adorning entrance to the Mine Office.
Next to the Miners’ Shack sits the Grey House. Inside the house some visitors see an old male apparition sitting down adamantly proclaiming that a wall is missing. Indeed a wall was removed from Grey House to accommodate an expansion, and the boundary of the removed wall aligns with a material change of flooring in the first room upon entry. One staff member reported hearing her name called out in a raspy, deep voice before hours and several interpretive guides receive inquiries about the man residing inside Grey House from new visitors.
While these represent only a few of the several unique spaces at the Atlas Coal Mine, several psychic mediums, intuitives, and paranormal investigative groups believe that Atlas comprises both intelligent and residual hauntings in many of the different buildings and structures. Despite these ongoing unexplained incidents, staff and visitors agree that the hauntings especially friendly, “not scary…just a presence like a ghost reading a newspaper,” which parallels the welcoming nature of the location and the staff.
Today, the Atlas Coal Mine and Museum provide different tours and educational programs for all ages which contributes to the expansion, preservation, and documentation of coal miner life in the Badlands valley. If you wish to learn more about the Atlas Coal Mine, their tours, offerings, history, or operating hours, please check their website or view their contact information below.
Open May 3rd - October 13th, 2014
June 27th – August 24th: 9:30 am – 8:30 pm
August 25th – 29th: 9:30 am – 6:00 pm
August 30th – 31st: 9:30 am – 8:30 pm
September 1st – October 13th:
9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Address: Box 521, 110 Century Dr.
East Coulee, Alberta, Canada
Group information bookings: http://www.atlascoalmine.ab.ca/group.html