Monday, October 7, 2019


By Kristy McCaffrey

A Tommyknocker is a type of troll spirit who lives underground and was therefore of great concern to miners. The term originated in the British Isles, but superstitions surrounding the beings filtered into other places. Miners in Colorado took great care to appease the Knockers by leaving a bit of their lunch out for the sprites.

Standing about two feet tall with a grizzled appearance, many believe that Snow White’s dwarves were Tommyknockers. They usually wear standard miner’s garb and are responsible for any mischief that might befall a miner, such as losing tools and food.

The name derives from the knocking on mine walls that precedes a cave-in, which is usually just the creaking of earth and timbers before failing. Some miners believed the Knockers were malevolent beings, but others took them to be practical jokers.

In Cornish folklore, the Knockers were spirits of those who had died in previous mine accidents and were now trying to help the living by warning of impending dangers. As an offering of thanks, miners usually cast the last bite of their lunch pastie (a type of meat pie) into the mines for the Knockers.

In the 1820’s, Welsh immigrants to Pennsylvania brought tales of the Knockers with them and their presence soon spread all the way to California. Belief in the Knockers remained well into the 20th century. During the closing of a mine in 1956, a petition was circulated by the miners to set the Knockers free (so they could move to another mine) before sealing the entrances, and the owners complied.

If you're in the mood for a spooky western romance this Halloween month then you might enjoy my Crow series, a collection of short novellas. (The second novella features a tommyknocker.)

The Crow and the Coyote
Volume 1

Among the red-rock canyons of the Navajo, bounty hunter Jack Boggs aids Hannah Dobbin in a quest to save her pa's soul.

"With just the right amount of mystic and adventure, this novella packs a punch, delivering a charming love story." ~ Michelle Reed, Sunshine Lake Reviews

The Crow and the Bear
Volume 2

When no one will help Jennie Livingstone enter a haunted ravine to find her papa, she must accept the help of enigmatic bounty hunter Callum Boggs.

“With some surprising twists and lots of unnerving second guesses, The Crow and the Bear is sure to do the trick for a short, easy, sweet and fun Halloween story!” ~ Michelle Reed, Sunshine Lake Reviews

A Murder of Crows
Volume 3

Eliza McCulloch is determined to reclaim her family book of spells and her only hope is Kester Boggs, a manhunter called The Crow.

“A suspenseful ride into the supernatural with a western twist. This is a must read!”  ~  Devon McKay, author of Lead Me Into Temptation, Gold Dust Bride Series

An excerpt from A Murder of Crows
Kit Boggs downed the last of his rye whiskey and settled into the wooden chair, the supports creaking loudly. He fully expected the contraption to give out at any time. He usually kept his liquor intake to a minimum when on a hunt, but the firewater was so watered down that he indulged his thirst.

From his vantage point outside the Wild Dog Cantina, the midday bustle of La Noria buzzed like a bee’s nest. The border town—straddling Mexico and the Arizona Territory—was occupied by mostly local white and Hispanic farmers, but the streets were also swarming with the hungry and savage looks of men who had arrived in search of work in the nearby Patagonia Mountains. With their eyes clouded with dreams of riches, these desperados were no doubt intent on striking it big with copper or silver. But that wasn’t what had brought Kit so far south, farther than the usual region he and his manhunting brothers patrolled.

As he watched the main street, his gaze was drawn to a woman riding a lathered red Indian pony. Both exhibited a stubborn bearing. The woman stopped before the mercantile and slid from the horse, tying the reins to the hitching post, her clothing covered in dust and the hem of her skirt frayed. Pausing, she removed her hat and wiped sweat from her forehead. She gripped the wooden support and appeared to take a fortifying breath, then leaned her head back to read the overhead sign. Her dark hair spilled down her back, loosened from the pins of the bun at the base of her neck, and Kit’s eyes were drawn to the outline of her feminine curves.

“Kester Boggs?”

Reluctantly, Boggs turned to the scrawny Mexican beside him. “Nobody uses that.” He planted all four legs of the chair to the ground. “Call me Kit.”

“Like a kitten?” The gaunt man was also missing a few teeth.

“No.” Kit’s voice was resolute. “Do you have news for me?”

Sí. They will see you tomorrow in an abandoned smithy at the far end of town.”

“What time?”

“Ten o’clock.”

“Gracias.” Kit tossed a coin at the man, then turned back to the woman. She was gone.


He searched up and down the street for her horse, but both animal and female were nowhere in sight.

Had he imagined her?

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Alicia Haney said...

Hi, I enjoyed reading this post and about the Tommyknockers, I'm glad I hadn't heard anything or even knew anything about Tommyknockers when my husband worked at a uranium mine 39 years ago, they sound kind of creepy, anyways , he worked in a uranium mine for about a year and a half of which I was very happy when he got a different job. The book series sound like very good reads, I would love to read them. Thank you for sharing this post. Have a Great week. God bless you.

Andrea Downing said...

Really interesting post, Kristy. I've heard of the Tommys before as concerns the Cornish tin mines, but I didn't know they'd transplanted. Thanks for sharing.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Hi Alicia,
I suspect the tommyknockers were more suspicion than fact, so I'm sure your husband was fine. Although maybe he knew about these superstitions? Thanks for stopping by!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

It's interesting that the miners who came here from England brought their beliefs with them. It's perfect fodder for scary stories! Hope you're having a great time in WY.