The Dark Side of Casper Mountain
I’ve spent a lot of time hunting fluorescent minerals on Casper Mountain. Looking at my Confessions page, I’ve probably spent way too much time there.
But until now, only half the story was told. Here’s the other half. And it’s as intriguing as the fluorescent mineral side of the story.
Collecting fluorescent minerals requires:
- going to out of the way places
- late at night
- and on the darkest nights possible
Out west, that usually takes me away from civilization as well. And I often end up going alone.
But that’s not the case with Casper Mountain. It’s:
- 10 minutes away
- not isolated
- like collecting in my backyard
Since that first visit, and continuing until I returned from Florida in 2008, night collecting at the Pacer pegmatite was strange.
A few minutes after my eyes adapted to the darkness, the usually sharp, bright and distinct night visual experience isgin to degrade.
Within 5 minutes, I’d wonder why those freshly charged batteries failed to light up the pathway or the collecting area as they did moments before.
Ten minutes later, I’d notice this strange, thick wall of darkness. It swallowed all ambient light beyond the headlamp’s reach. And it would get dark, even on a moon lit night.
By 30 minutes, the headlamp didn’t illuminate 10 feet. So, I’d stop. Check the connections. Try a new set of freshly charged batteries. All without any effect.
Shortly after that, an impending sense of dread, and an overwhelming urge to immediately get out of there would come over me. I’d think that I was spooking myself out and doggedly continue my collecting no matter how I felt.
Then my headlamp was quickly go down to a dull glow. it couldn’t even illuminate more than a couple of steps. I’d find myself getting caught in spurious bard wire strands. And taking the wrong paths in an area I knew well.
So, I’d call it quits and head back to my truck. There, I wouldn’t be so spooked out.
But not so. The truck’s headlights would only penetrate half a truck length. Visibility out the side windows was nill. It was difficult to drive around the pit area even though I was familiar with it.
And that urge to beat feet out of there combining with an overriding sense of an ominous, threatening fear was overwhelming.
Once out of the mining area, the darkness was gone. The lights on the truck worked again. And so did my headlamp. My night vision was good. And I’d have a great sense of relief. I would often resume collecting elsewhere without problems.
Having been in and around mines most of my life, I knew how bad or noxious air could affect me. But there wasn’t any poisonous material or potential for that in this hill top, open air and usually windy site.
And most of the collecting was done on the spoil piles above the mine, and not in its depths where noxious gases might accumulate.
I couldn’t explain this phenomena. And I was actually embarrassed by it.
So, I didn’t discuss it with anyone. I kept returning and collecting, until it either became too unsafe. Or that overwhelming dread turned to fear and washed the thrill of the hunt out of me.
And this experience became rather routine. Sometimes it would all happen in less than 10 minutes. Other times, it would take as long as 30 minutes.
I didn’t like it much. But I didn’t let it stop me from going out. I never was actually threatened. Just felt that way and was uncomfortable.
Not Just Me
Years later, just before moving to Florida, my wife and son went with me. They knew nothing about this darker side of Casper Mountain. I was excited:
- it was a great chance to spend some time with my family
- do a little collecting
- and kick back and watch the stars
I figured we’d spend a few tens of minutes lamping. Then relocate to the south side of Casper Mountain. And spend most of the time watching the stars.
- I pulled in
- stepped out to hook up my lamp
- my wife stepped out
- she walked a few paces
- rushed over to me
- and frantically insisted we leave NOW!
I tried my best to talk her out . She would have none . And she was ready to leave on foot if I didn’t leave immediately. She couldn’t give me any logical reason for it. So, we left.
In 2006 we moved to Florida. While there, I digitized and organized all those bazillion 35mm slides that accumulated in my life. During this process, some images reminded me of a similar instance.
I’d been camping in the Wind River Mountains since my youth. We’d:
- always select a site at the upper end of a meadow
- pitch the tent
- cook a few trout
- spend the night watching the Milky Way
- and counting myriad shooting stars until the campfire coals were done.
It was heaven on earth.
A decade before my Casper Mountain experience, I’d picked just such a spot with my boys. We setup camp. And eagerly awaited darkness. A fire was built. Food cooked. But something other than a repeat of those glorious childhood experiences awaited us.
As that darkness closed in, it closed in like it did on Casper Mountain. My boys were uneasy and didn’t want to sit around the campfire after diner. I tried to encourage them and built a huge bonfire.
But rather than illuminate that end of the meadow, it seemed to get darker. The air felt opaque and adsorbed the light rather than transmit it. That darkness was thick.
I stepped a few tens of feet away from the camp to do my business. And looking back, the bonfire barely illuminated the camp area. My headlamp was useless.
It was strange and slightly unnerving.
I went back and sat by the fire surrounded by a wall of darkness. Very uncomfortable. Not at all pleasant. I went to bed for a restless night.
That remembrance peaked my interest. It was time to share. A friend suggest it was a paranormal experience. And that those kind of things are often associated with some violent death or tragedy.
I knew nothing about that. My religious upbringing taught me it was evil and dangerous to even think about, let alone talk about such things. But childish explanations aren’t sufficient for adults. So, I did a little researching.
The Wind River Mountains camp site was easy. A dozen young men were killed when their B-24 crash there during WWII.
They swooped down to strafe a bear and killed it in the spot we were camped. Unfortunately they failed to clear the rock wall immediately above our camp and crashed.
But I couldn’t find any tragedy near the Casper Mountain area. Sometimes such tragedy is hidden. Or it can predate the white man’s history.
Returning from Florida
In 2008 we moved backed to Casper.
My wife would visit the mine in the daylight. But she refused to go back there after dark. She’s:
- an oncology nurse
- works with the dying
- and isn’t at all superstitious.
But she didn’t enjoy the singular dark experience. And she doesn’t want to repeat any .
But, I looked forward to visiting the “haunted” site. So, I did. By myself. On the darkest night.
What did I find collecting there alone on a dark night? Thick darkness? Overpowering dread?
Nope. Just the usual night stuff I always experience when night collecting, searching the night skies with my Celestron telescope, or camping in the woods. My lights and batteries worked normally. No dark wall. Nothing unusual happened.
Although, I must admit, that if there was I time that I could have spooked myself out, that first visit back there was it!
What’s changed? A bed and breakfast was built just down the road. More cabins have been built near there as well. As a result, there’s more traffic on the dirt road near the pegmatite.
End of the Matter
Later, I learned that paranormal activity was reported at other remote Casper Mountain locations near there. And was sometimes associated with a visual apparition.
It liked rocky outcrops, was territorial, and preferred solitude. To keep that solitude, it would try to scare intruders away. And it had relocated several times when civilization encroached.
So, this experience isn’t unique to me. In fact it was reported almost 100 years ago. And it would certainly be interesting to talk with the native people who lived here before the white man.
Obviously, what ever it is has moved on. And so have I.
Recently almost all of the unique fluorescent material was removed or buried. The area has just been reclaimed to make room for more development. So, I haven’t been back.