You are hereThe Knockers
In many old established mining areas throughout the world, there was a
long tradition of mine spirits, in Cornwall these were known as the
Knockers. They frequented the tin mines that formed much of local
economy in 18th and 19th century Cornwall. Knockers was not the only
name given to mine spirits others being Knackers, Buccas, and Spriggans
to name a few. As well as the mines, the Knockers were thought to haunt
some wells and other natural features, which along with the other names
for them, suggests a wider use of the term to describe supernatural
According to descriptions, the Knockers took the form of small
thin-limbed entities with large hooked noses. They inhabited the
deepest darkest parts of the mine, and could sometimes be heard
knocking and working their own lodes in the darkness. No doubt that any
distant creak or rock fall would be amplified in the claustrophobic
darkness of the mines. It is no wonder spirits were thought to inhabit
these dangerous work places, where thoughts of the supernatural could
cause an instant shiver down the spine.
The Knockers generally kept to their own company and were thought to
be benevolent, knocking at the richest of the lodes and showing
themselves only to those that they favoured.
But as with all fairies they needed to be treated with respect,
whistling could offend them, as could intentional spying on their
activity, and making the sign of the cross. To appease them they were
left small offerings of food or tallow, in the more remote parts of the
mines, failure to do this could cause repercussions such as bad luck.
Strange tricks were often played on those who offended them, and a
miner could find himself led to dangerous places in the mine.
There were a few musings as to the origin of the Knockers, some
thought they were the ghosts of Jews who were working the mines in
penance. Another theory suggests they were the spirits of souls who
could not gain access to heaven or hell, this is also used as an
explanation for wider manifestations of fairies. The fact that Knockers
were also thought to haunt other recesses and wells, suggests the name
became mixed in some quarters to describe several types of fairy.
Belief and sightings of Knockers has died with tin mining industry,
although they are still thought to reside in the dark un-worked tunnels
in some quarters, now free from human interaction.