Men have mined all corners of the earth fueled by their lust for gold. The Crescent mine in Sumpter, Oregon is one of these places and it was the site for the SYFY Channel’s show Ghost Mine. Men first starting working the ground beneath that mountain back in the 1800’s. Many over the years have told tales of shadow figures, spectral voices and infamous Tommy Knockers down in the mine. Many have died working this ominous site so it is only natural that their ghosts would still be found there, looking for answers, or maybe they are still trying to claim what is theirs.
The collapse of the Crescent mine during the finale of Ghost Mine’s second season certainly indicated that some hidden force within didn’t wish to share the riches that lay buried deep in the mine. Fans of Ghost Mine watched faithfully as the secrets of the Crescent mine and the surrounding area slowly unfurled over the course of two seasons, only to learn with heart break that the show would not be returning for a 3rd season. Many of the cast members have said repeatedly that the show has not been canceled. I guess only time will tell. I sat down recently with one of the “Green Horn” miners from Ghost Mine named Jay Verburg, and we talked for a while about his experiences on the show.
Russell Dickson: What was it like working in the mine?
Jay Verburg: Being the new guy in the mine there were so many different bits of info that you had to retain. Some things you don’t forget, like when you are barring down the rock and they tell you what to listen for. Sometimes you think something is solid and the whole thing falls in, that sticks with ya. So you kind of tend to retain a lot of the information.
RD: So how long was a typical day at the mine?
JV: We usually started at 6 am, to anywhere up to 6 or 7pm at night. Sometimes it was earlier if Patrick and Kristen were coming up to do a reveal or if they wanted to have a meeting. Some days we didn’t have a choice, like the time there was a forest fire. We had days of heavy thunder and lighting and because of all the metal equipment we had, we thought maybe this isn’t such a good idea and left. During the work week, we tried to work 6 days on, one day off.
RD: Ever fear for your life while down in the mine?
JV: Fear of being injured or hurt is something you learn to get over quickly. You have to get the job done and you have a crew of guys working together. You have got a responsibility, and you don’t want to be holding up the next guy, at the same time everyone takes safety as a real priority.
RD: Any close calls that you can think of?
JV: I think it was season one, Dingus kept turning around and telling one of the camera guys get out of there, back up, you don’t want to be here, and when things started falling, the camera guy was like “whoa.”
RD: Did you ever run into problems in the mine that made you question your career decision?
JV: Yeah (Laughs), every day, sometimes it is when one of the other miners was yelling at me because I did something stupid (laughs). I didn’t encounter anything until the season 2 finale when everything was coming down on us in the mine. I didn’t encounter any physical things within the mine that made me go, wow, I shouldn’t be doing this.
RD: Were the old wood supports in the mine as unsafe as they looked?
JV: When you go further back into the mine there are some really old timber sets that have been there since the mine was first sealed up. The air in there is stagnant, the tunnel is full of water, everything is just sort of sitting in this state of suspension in this space filled with nothing and as soon as you open the mine, the water comes rushing out and the oxygen comes rushing in and that is when things start to rot. Some of the timber back in there from season one is starting to fall in, and it makes you a little nervous, because the timber is so soft you can literally shove your finger into them. It is just mush, and you have years and years of rubble that sit on top of them.
RD: It must have been rough working in the mine?
JV: Yeah, and the further back you get in fact, (again second season) all the way back, you could feel the loss of oxygen, it was hard to keep a lighter lit, you would get headaches, even though the mine was sitting there open for 9 or 10 months the oxygen still has not gotten back there, it takes time to cycle through.
RD: How did you make the jump from computers to mining?
JV: It was just the perfect time situation. I was just shutting down my company, and I had just quit drinking, and so I don’t know if I want to call it clarity (laughs). But I kinda started thinking you know there has got to be other stuff out there. I don’t know if I want to be a computer guy the rest of my life, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I was introduced to the mine owner and he told about his mine in Sumpter. I had been to Sumpter before, one of my big passions with my family was going to ghost towns, and researching old western history, and I have always been fascinated by that, so when Larry mentioned he was looking for a couple of green horns. I jumped in and said “Hey you know what? I’ll do it.” He kind of stopped for a minute and said “Really?” And I said “Yeah, absolutely.” Most guys don’t want to do that kind of work.
RD: I guess I can see why he would be surprised, 12hr+ days underground doing hard labor doesn’t sound fun.
JV: I wanted the excitement and the experience of trying something new. I wanted to prove something to myself and to my kids. I wanted them to know that is never too late do something that interests you, and have a passion for and I got to be immersed in the history out there. I spent my days off just researching a lot of the old homesteads, mines, old towns, cemeteries, things like that. It all happened by chance and of course the mine is haunted and here are some paranormal people and here you go.
RD: Did you believe in the paranormal before the show?
JV: Yeah I did believe in the paranormal. I had a few experiences when I was younger. In fact, my most recent was 7 years ago in a ghost town, spending the night in a hotel. I always kind of believed that a haunting was someone or something trying to relate information to you out of concern or they are trying to get a message to you whether it be about their restless soul or comfort to you personally. This is the first time I ever experience not being sure if they have anything for us that we need to know. I think they just wanted us out, they just wanted to express anger, and I say anger because of how it all ended up.
RD: Any funny behind the scenes moments you can remember?
JV: Gosh, we had so many funny behind the scenes moments. The funny thing is they have got three months of us working that they have got to capture into 12 episodes, so there are so many things that don’t make it in. I was really glad to see that they got Bucket pranking Mikey by pretending he was getting sucked back into the drift by something. You have all sorts of pranks like fake turds being put in the outhouses. There were all kinds of stuff going on.
RD: Do you think the chances are good for you guys to get a third season?
JV: Yeah, if you look on the SYFY website there is a schedule that shows that there is a Ghost Mine marathon in February. I don’t know what’s going on for a season three. Of course we are not canceled; they have just not brought us back right now. To me it sounds negative, but I don’t know how television works. One of the things I look forward to, if there is a season three, is answering all the questions in my head, like so many viewers.
I have so many things I want to learn. I was really looking forward to the Octave Mine in Arizona because you are dealing with a different type of rock and a different type of mine. They have like 25 miles of drifts and tunnels down there.
Maybe this would be an easier job and maybe I would learn more techniques. Plus there is all the history of Arizona and all the ghost towns out there. The only thing that I wasn’t excited about was the freaking tarantulas or spiders. I don’t mind snakes or scorpions, but I do not do spiders. I guess now that everyone will hear this they will probably send me pictures of spiders (laughs).
RD: What will you do if the show doesn’t continue?
JV: That is an interesting thought, some people like the TV experience. There are a couple of other ideas I would like to explore. I thought about going back to computers. I thought about getting a mining job. Miners are such tough burly guys and they are not easy going ad I have a feeling if I went to a job, they would consider me the pretty miner from TV and try to test me. I have a feeling I would have to work very hard at another mine. I am not sure I want to go through that.
That is why I was hoping for a third season. I have more that I want to learn. I love working under ground.