Episode 36: “Gilded Tombs”

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CONTENT WARNING: Descriptions of a mining disaster (including descriptions of aftermath and corpses), hallucinations, claustrophobia, paranoia, and loud noises including screams.

10312019b: Finally arriving in Oslow and ready to begin her investigation, Kate Sheridan begins to hunt for answers, only to be met by slammed doors and a city-wide paranoia. Desperate for clues, she discovers an old blog post on Anna’s website about an abandoned mine not too far away, and the horrifying events that brought it crumbling down…

Starring Airen Neeley Chaconas as Anna Sheridan, Virginia Spotts as Kate Sheridan, Maurice Cooper as Jerry Price, Conrad Spotts as the Nurse, Sarah Karnes as Lara Smith, Jesse Steele as Bill Tyler, and Ezra J. Wayne as Ned Leroux, with original music by Jesse Haugen. Written by Trevor Van Winkle and produced by Virginia Spotts and Trevor Van Winkle, and made possible by our supporters at Patreon.com/homesteadcorner and ko-fi.com/homesteadcorner

For more information, additional content, and episode transcript, visit thesheridantapes.com

Script

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Transcript

CONTENT WARNING: Descriptions of a mining disaster (including descriptions of aftermath and corpses), hallucinations, claustrophobia, paranoia, and loud noises including screams.

Cold Open

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[Static fades away]

[Birds chirp outside Kate’s hotel window, along with the sounds of traffic below]

[She zips up a backpack]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Alright Anna – Here we go. Day one in Oslow. I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got my leads – I’m ready.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[A somewhat busy downtown street]

[A truck beeps as it backs up nearby]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Are you sure you don’t know anything else?

JERRY PRICE 

Not a thing. Wish I did, but I just saw Sam that one time before he left town. No idea what happened to him after that. Sorry.

KATE SHERIDAN

And what about my sis – Anna Sheridan’s van? I heard he might have stolen it when he left town?

JERRY PRICE 

I really can’t tell you that. You’re going to have to ask someone at the police station.

KATE SHERIDAN 

Trust me, I’m trying. 

Are you sure there isn’t anything else you can tell me–

JERRY PRICE 

Listen lady, I’m sorry, but I really don’t want to get any more mixed up in all of this than I already am. I’m in enough trouble with Morrison already.

KATE SHERIDAN 

You’re… who’s Morrison?

JERRY PRICE 

You have a nice day, Kate. I need to go feed my dog.

[Footsteps as he walks away]

[The chain link fence jangles as Kate lets go of it]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Okay, that… That could have gone better.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Sounds of honking and traffic far below her hotel window]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Oslow Investigation, day three. Yesterday was a bust, but I’ve got a good lead now, so – Today will be better. Today will be better.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Talking in the background, a busy hospital environment]

KATE SHERIDAN 

What do you mean they’re all in a coma?

NURSE

Exactly that – they all succumbed to the toxins in the fungi soon after they were brought in.

KATE SHERIDAN 

But – all of them? Is that normal?

NURSE 

Nothing about this has been anything like “normal.”

KATE SHERIDAN 

Did any of them… I don’t know, say anything? Before then, I mean.

NURSE 

Are you with the press, Miss…?

KATE SHERIDAN 

Sheridan. No, I’m not.

NURSE

Are you a family member of one of the victims?

KATE SHERIDAN 

What? No, no, no. I’m looking for information about my sister – she disappeared here in Oslow, and she was interesting in things like Templi Prophetam, so I thought –

NURSE 

I’m sorry, but if you’re not family or a member of the media, I can’t tell you anything else. I’m in enough hot water as it is. If you need more, you should talk to –

KATE SHERIDAN

Yeah, yeah, someone at the police station. Been hearing that a lot this week.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Kate’s in the middle of a giant yawn]

[It’s quiet outside her room]

KATE SHERIDAN 

[Yawning]

Goddamnit – Can’t sleep, so I guess we’re starting, uh – Oslow Investigation, day… 5? Starting day 5 a little early. Or – a lot early. Hooray.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Footsteps through grass & dirt]

[Creak of screen door]

[Small knocks]

[A rooster crows in the background]

KATE SHERIDAN 

[Another big yawn]

Come on Kate, just wake up and –

[The door swings open behind her]

[Inside, someone pumps a shotgun]

LARA SMITH 

You have exactly ten seconds to tell me who you are and what the hell you’re doing on my property.

KATE SHERIDAN 

Whoah! Easy, easy, I’m – my name is Kate, and I’m just investigating–

[Lara cocks her gun]

LARA SMITH

Kate who?

KATE SHERIDAN 

Sheridan, Kate Sheridan! I’m investigating all the – uh, the weird stuff happening in Oslow recently. Could you please just – put the gun down?

LARA SMITH 

You press?

KATE SHERIDAN 

Do I look like press?

LARA SMITH

CIA?

KATE SHERIDAN

CPA, actually. Uh, no, no, I’m – I’m an accountant.

LARA SMITH 

You’re a what?

[Lara lowers her gun]

KATE SHERIDAN 

[Relieved noises]

I’m just here looking for some answers. My sister disappeared somewhere near Oslow, and I was hoping to figure out if she –

LARA SMITH 

I don’t know anything about your sister.

KATE SHERIDAN 

I didn’t think you would, but with what happened here last week, I thought that maybe you would–

LARA SMITH 

I don’t know anything about anything like that. Now – please leave, I’ve got a barn I need to fix.

[Screen door starts closing]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Miss Smith, if you’d just –

[Lara raises her gun again]

LARA SMITH 

Don’t make me repeat myself. You want answers, ask around the police station. They’re the ones who paid the hush money.

KATE SHERIDAN 

What hush money?

[Lara steps back inside and slams the door]

[Kate sighs heavily]

[A cow moos in the distance]

[Cassette noises]

KATE SHERIDAN

Well Anna… What now?

[Click]

Main Theme

Recordings Continue

[Cassette noises]

[Click]

[Static fades away]

[End-of-day traffic and the occasional car horn heard from outside Kate’s hotel]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Well – Shit. This is Oslow Investigation day 6, and I’ve already run out of leads. It’s about 5pm. Peter’s out trick-or- treating with Andrew right now. He just sent me some pictures and…they look so cute.

I haven’t been able to do anything all day. I’ve just been trying to find any scrap of news or rumors about supernatural occurrences around here. I gave up looking for specific mentions of Anna by day two. Besides a few newspaper articles and one half-baked “Find Anna Sheridan” campaign, it seems like no one even knew she was here.

[A honk outside]

Typical Anna. Drive into a town in the middle of nowhere without telling anyone, camp out for a few weeks looking for ghosts, and then vanish without a trace. If not for what happened back in Lake Isabella, I’d almost think that…

[Long pause]

[She sighs]

Cut that out Kate. Anna’s alive. You know she is. And she needs help. You’re not giving up on her like that. Not this time.

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[A few minutes later–traffic is slightly quieter]

KATE SHERIDAN 

I think I might have found something. I got frustrated with looking on the local news sites, so I just decided to search “Anna Sheridan, Nevada.” I didn’t really expect to find much, but one of the first results was an entry from Anna’s old blog. She wrote it back in 2003, so – yeah, not exactly fresh, but it’s something that directly connects her to Oslow, which is better than anything else I’ve found so far. And she actually recorded herself reading it and posted it on her website. She always did like the sound of her own voice, so that’s not too surprising. Let’s see what she has to say, then.

[Kate clicks a mouse a few times, hits a space bar, and an online clip begins to play]

[Spooky background music plays]

ANNA SHERIDAN 

“The Ghosts Below,” by Anna K. Sheridan. Based on a true story.

[Clears her throat]

There are ghosts beneath the sands of Oslow, Nevada. Always have been, and always will be. East of the Sierra Nevada, where the Earth’s crust is thin and fractured, it’s a place where gold and silver once flowed like water. A place where the shadows that lingered in the caverns and mines sometimes crawled up through the rocks to terrify the hardy peoples who made a living off the desert’s meager bounty. A place for ghosts, below.

[Slight groan, realizing how cheesy that sounds]

The year was 1885. The place: Shamson, Nevada – one of thousands of little mining towns that sprang up on nothing more than a good well and the tenuous promise of a fortune. It was barely a town, and only the presence of a permanent post office and the will of the Braddock Mining Company put it on the map. William Braddock, it seems, had been keeping two eyes out for Nevadan gold for a long, long time. When the Comstock lode began to fail and a few forward-thinking miners started looking for their next payday, they quickly found the Shamson mine ready and waiting to extract one of the most promising seams the state had ever seen.

By that point, Braddock owned the mine, the land, and every mineral right that money could buy. The homesteader who first found the strike sold his claim for a measly thousand dollars – less than a percent of what Shamson Mine would earn its new owners. And while Braddock was no miner himself, he was a ruthless businessman who knew how to suck every last cent out of his operations. Prospectors were drawn in to work by the promise of a higher-than-average salary, but quickly realized that the only housing and provisions available in Shamson were company owned, and cost nearly double what they should have. They still made just enough that they didn’t feel like they were being swindled – but only just. Money came and went in cycles in that town, but it all came back to Braddock and his shareholders in time.

The mine was a dangerous, backbreaking place. While there had been obvious dangers and the occasional disaster in Virginia City, the worst of it paled in comparison to an average day in Shamson. The Comstock mines were clean, modern, and safe as any mine could be in that era. Shamson’s were not. Braddock made his fortune in the coal mines of Appalachia, and to him, a good day meant nobody died alone and suffocating in the earth. Everything else besides was immaterial. And so the miners who descended with pickaxe and dynamite in hand found the mine narrow, low, and dismally dark, poorly ventilated and easy to become lost in. Someone was injured at least once a week, often fatally. There were occasional strikes and pickets, but most of these ended when Braddock threatened to call the debts his employees had racked up in the company-owned saloons and brothels. The few who could afford to leave or were willing to go on the run did so, and Braddock replaced them within a week. And all the while, the mine never stopped working.

At first, extracting the gold was easy. The initial deposit was just below the surface, pure enough that you could pick whole nuggets out of the dirt at some points. A few months of strip-mining removed most of this, leaving a series of canyons and narrow ridges in the foothills of Oslow county that are still there today.

After that had been exhausted, the company began to dig down further into the earth, following the narrow seam of ore below the surface. Every day the miners descended and dug outwards, and every day the gold seemed to dry up a few feet from the central shaft. It was enough to keep the mine profitable, but after the initial boom, Braddock wasn’t satisfied with being merely profitable – not by a long shot.

So they kept digging – chasing the seam as it grew more and more narrow, as though it were trying to lead them somewhere. First hundreds of feet, and then thousands below the earth as they drove, cutting a thin channel through the rock held up by wooden scaffolding and the power of human greed. At those depths, the miners began to report odd headaches and flashes in their vision as they descended in the newly installed elevator, but after repeated checks for noxious gas turned up nothing, they were sent back to work. The shadows grew darker as they toiled into the fathomless depths of the desert, and then, only then, did the seam begin to expand again.

The Shamson Mine. Nearly half a mile deep and almost a mile wide at its lowest levels. Braddock’s instincts, misguided as they might be, were correct: most of the gold wasn’t on the surface, but far below it. The small elevator cage, now the only way to quickly get into or out of the mine, was moving almost constantly, carrying exhausted miners to and fro at all hours of the day and night. The tunnels expanded out in every direction, only really wide enough for one person to work safely, but often worked by as many as ten.

That far underground, the conditions of the mine became more and more hellish as time went on – a feeling not helped by the later addition of a blacksmith’s forge on the lower levels, built to ensure that no time was lost when workers needed to repair or replace their tools. Journals from the time reported a persistent smell of hot metal and the almost constant crackling of fire, along with increasingly frequent and disturbing glimpses of something else down in the mines. Nearing exhaustion, miners began to report visions of things moving in the dark – creatures of fire, stone, and red-hot iron emerging from the shadows with hands outstretched, stumbling towards them as if begging for help… or trying to warn them of danger. But Braddock dismissed these reports, saying that miners were merely superstitious and lazy by nature. So the mine kept working. Braddock grew richer. And the dark waited.

[Long pause]

December Fifth, 1902. The day began like any other in the mine… Though days didn’t really “begin” with Shamson’s round-the-clock schedule. The very concept of “day” was somewhat nebulous that far from the sun. The night crew, exhausted and sleep-deprived, shambled out of the tunnels at the foreman’s whistle, ascending five at a time in the tiny elevator cage. The day shift workers descended in after them, and five by five they left and entered the mine across one of the last hours Shamson would ever see.

It was almost noon before anyone noticed the fire. It had begun down one of the lesser used tunnels, far from the sight of any of the other miners. No one knows quite how it started – perhaps a lantern carelessly abandoned by one of the nighttime crew tipped over, or a small gas leak ignited before it had a chance to fill the mine. Many blamed the figures of shadow and flame they had seen, but… no one could prove it either way. By the time anyone noticed the smell of smoke, the fire had engulfed most of the timbers holding up that abandoned tunnel, then snuck a spark into the blacksmith’s supply of fresh wood. The foreman gave the evacuation order immediately, per company policy. Greedy as Braddock was, he knew a mining disaster and the investigation that would follow would hurt his bottom line far more than losing a single day of work. The miners began to evacuate, sending the older and weaker up first while the younger ones tried to fight the blaze, waiting for their chance to board the tiny metal box to safety.

Nearly half of them made it out in the end. The last to escape later reported that they seemed to have the fire mostly under control by the time they boarded the elevator. A few of the braver ones decided to leave the relative safety of the central chamber to chase down any smoldering embers further down the tunnels. But just as those last five workers climbed out and the operators prepared to send the cage back down again, a thunderous boom shook the earth beneath their feet, rattling the entire town of Shamson as a plume of smoke and dust billowed up out of the mineshaft. The miners called down to those below to see if everyone was okay. No answer came. No answer would ever come.

To his credit, Braddock did try to mount a rescue operation – though his motives were most likely profit, not the lives of his workers. For three days, the miners who escaped descended to where the shaft had been blocked by nearly fifty feet of hard-packed dirt and stone. Several times, a misplaced dynamite blast collapsed the shaft even further, or an aftershock rumbled up from below and forced the rescue crew to retreat and wait for the Earth to grow still. But finally, on the dawn of the fourth day, they broke through the wall of debris to reveal the mine – now as dark and silent as the tomb it had always been. The central chamber had all but collapsed, the cheap timber-frame supports having weakened and failed in the heat of the fire. Those not crushed by falling rock had fled into the dark at random, and more than a few of them were found at the ends of the tunnels, fingernails torn off by their attempts to claw through the merciless earth… Though what they hoped to find behind the walls of the mine nearly half a mile below the surface, I can’t begin to guess.

When the rescue crews returned to report their findings, they found William Braddock’s office empty, stripped of all records and valuables and left with a window open. By the time anyone outside of Shamson learned what had happened, Braddock and every one of his shareholders had disappeared over the border, leaving only the ruins of a ghost town and the wreck of a mine two miles outside of what would eventually become the city of Oslow, Nevada.

It wasn’t the most deadly mining disaster in Nevada – not even the worst example of someone shamelessly profiteering off the death and misery of those who worked the mines. But it’s certainly the most haunting. For as much as William Braddock seemed to think he held the lives and deaths of his workers in his own hands, it seems like he too was led along – drawn in by a thread of gold stretching far below the earth, compelled to send poor souls to their doom far from the light of the sun before the earth buried them deep. And there are some who say that golden thread still pulls those souls back into the mines. 

[A slight musical sting marks the end of Anna’s recording]

For if you wander out into the desert on a cold, clear night, you can sometimes see the ghosts of those miners trapped in the fire, still trying desperately to return to their posts and pay off their debts to William Braddock and the Braddock Mining Company.

[The video’s music swells and resolves]

[Kate stays silent as it ends, breathing a little heavily]

[A car honks outside and startles her]

KATE SHERIDAN 

Shit!

Oh, goddamnit. And that’s why I should never listen to anything you’ve written in the dark, Anna. God, that is messed up. I mean it’s a true story, but still – I’m never going to get that imagery out of my head.

[Kate pauses, then types something in and presses enter]

Huh… Looks like Shamson Mine is just about ten minutes from here. I wonder if – No, no, it’s too dark out there right now. I should probably just…

You know what? Screw it. I’d prefer to get something done today.

[Kate stands, then fiddles with the recorder]

[Click]

[Silence]

[Click]

[Early night in the desert – a low wind occasionally broken by the distant howl of a coyote]

[Kate’s footsteps]

[Eerie sounds in the distance]

KATE SHERIDAN 

It’s about – 7 o’clock now, and I’ve finally made it into the canyons proper. I was going to start from the main trailhead, but it looked like there was something going on there, and I didn’t want to attract any attention. I’m pretty sure this place is supposed to be closed from dusk to dawn, though I don’t know exactly how you’d try to close the whole mine off. There’s got to be two dozen of these box canyons, all leading there from different directions. The only gate I’ve seen was at the trailhead.

And yes, I did just read all of that off the internet, and yes, I’m also kind of rambling to keep myself from freaking out, but –

[A few small rocks tumble from the top of the canyon] 

[Kate freezes]

That’s – I’m sure that was nothing. Just – the wind, right?

Oh come on Kate – you know better than that by now.

[Kate unzips her purse and rummages through it]

Let’s see – I put it in the inside pocket, with the rest of the… 

[Footsteps]

[Kate freezes, then tries to back away]

Shit, shit, shit…

[The footsteps round the corner] 

[Kate sees who it is and sighs with relief as she relaxes]

KATE SHERIDAN

Oh, thank god – Good evening, officer.

NED LEROUX 

What the hell are you doing out here?

KATE SHERIDAN 

Excuse me?

NED LEROUX

This area’s closed to the public. How did you get in here?

KATE SHERIDAN 

Oh, uh – I must have missed that. Got in before the gate was closed. I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize how late it was getting until…

[Another set of footsteps]

BILL TYLER

Ned? Who are you talking to – oh, great. Another tourist.

KATE SHERIDAN 

Lieutenant Tyler?

BILL TYLER

Wait… Mrs. Sheridan?

NED LEROUX 

What, you two know each other?

BILL TYLER 

Well, I wouldn’t say we know each other, but –

KATE SHERIDAN 

We’ve spoken. Once.

NED LEROUX 

Wait – Sheridan? As in Anna Sheridan?

KATE SHERIDAN

God, every damn time… Yes. She’s my sister.

[Footsteps, Bill comes closer]

BILL TYLER

What are you doing out here? I thought you were staying in town?

KATE SHERIDAN 

I’m just – chasing down some leads. I think Anna might have been out here at one point.

BILL TYLER 

So you came out into the middle of the desert after dark? Do you have any idea how dangerous that is?

KATE SHERIDAN 

I can handle myself, Lieutenant Tyler.

NED LEROUX 

Be that as it may – the mine is closed to the public. I’m sure you have a good reason to be out here this late, but it’ll have to wait until tomorrow –

KATE SHERIDAN 

Are you kidding me? I’ve been trying to chase Bill down all week! You think I’m just going to leave now?

NED LEROUX

Yes, you are.

BILL TYLER

Come on Ned, I should probably just talk to her for a –

[Bill is cut off by a keening howl/wail in the distance… An almost human sound, and definitely not a coyote]

[Silence]

KATE SHERIDAN 

What the hell was that? 

[Clack]

Recording Ends


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