The informant tells the story of the Tommyknockers in his town


My informant, who comes from a small mining town in Colorado, says that everybody in his town knows about the Tommyknockers and the mining tunnels. However, he does note that they are indigenous to Idaho Springs, because nowhere else he’s gone has he heard about Tommyknockers, and even people down in Denver don’t know about these creatures and their interactions with the miners.

The story of the Tommyknockers is interesting and rife with cultural history. Most of the people of Idaho Springs either work or have parents who worked in the mines and quarries, which is one reason why the legend of the Tommyknockers is still so well known in the immediate community. These little creatures are of particular importance because of their interesting relationship with the miners of the town. Mining is a very laborious and dangerous job often held by less educated working-class citizens. With these two aspects compounded, it makes sense that the belief in and acceptance of these sprites is so widespread, because Tommyknockers can either lead a miner to a wealth of gold, or to their death, but the miner has no way of knowing one way or another. In this way, Tommyknockers mirror the way the miners live every day down in the mines: they might leave the mines a rich man, or not leave them at all.

Tommyknockers are similar to the leprechauns and other earth spirits in Celtic and English lore in appearance as well as in their defining characteristics. Just like traditional Celtic earth spirits, Tommyknockers are mysterious, dwarfy/leprechaun-type looking wily creatures that can either help or harm the miners in the tunnels of the mines. Not surprisingly, most of the miners in the mining town are of Irish decent, which makes sense why there Tommyknockers are in such close similarity with Irish sí and Celtic earth spirits.

Not only are Tommyknockers very demographic-specific, they are also incredibly location specific. Performing a piece of folklore about—in fact even knowing about—Tommyknockers immediately ties the person to Idaho Springs. And Idaho Springs has taken on Tommyknockers as a sort of town mascot, much like the Irish have done with the leprechaun. Not only do Tommyknockers bring a sense of community to the town with the lore surrounding the mines in which many work, but they also exist outside the realm of work: the town bar is called Tommyknocker Brewery & Pub and features a friendly, miner helmet-wearing Tommyknocker on both its awning and on the bottles of Tommyknocker beer that they brew, showing that the Tommyknocker has been adopted as a sort of mascot of the town, representing the town’s spirit as well as its past.