Monster Monday: Knockers and Bluecaps

We all know about vampires and werewolves, or at least we think we do. The legends and myths that inspired these monsters are sometimes surprisingly different, but no less chilling. In this series of posts, Monster Monday, we’ll investigate the monsters that have informed our modern notions, as well as some lesser known monsters. Today, we talk about Knockers and Bluecaps.

An Old Mine Entrance, 1887
An Old Mine Entrance, 1887

Knockers and bluecaps are both spirits that haunt mines. Knockers are from Cornish and Welsh folklore. Bluecaps are from English and Scottish folklore, especially the Borderlands area. Both types of spirits are known for the knocking sounds they make on the mine walls.

In some instances, they are malevolent, the knocking being the sound of them weakening mineshaft walls or supports to create cave-ins. Most of the time, however, they are seen as benevolent spirits, if somewhat mischievous. They are known to steal unattended tools, but they also knock to warn miners of cave-ins so that they have time to get out. The also sometimes knock to indicate the presence of veins of valuable ores and metals. The more intense the knocking, the richer the vein. Cornish miners had a tradition of leaving the last crumb of their characteristic pasties for the knockers.

When Welsh and Cornish miners immigrated to the United States, they brought the stories of the knockers with them. In the United States, the term “tommyknockers” became popular.

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