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Haunted mines and UFOs

Author Mark Leslie talks about Sudbury's unique spooky stories

About 1.85 billion years ago, a giant rock collided with the earth, creating what we now know as the Sudbury Basin. This major geological structure is the third largest impact crater in the world, and one of the oldest that has been discovered to date.  

The impact of the meteorite resulted in an impact melt sheet containing nickel, copper, platinum, palladium, gold, and other metals – which eventually turned Sudbury into one of the biggest mining communities in the world. 

Because of this history, it's not surprising that Sudbury's greatest stories have always been about what comes from the sky and what lives in the ground. 

In 2013, co-authors Mark Leslie and former Northern Life reporter Jenny Jelen published “Spooky Sudbury.” The book explores scary stories told by Sudburians themselves.  

Leslie, who grew up in Levack, looked at the book as an opportunity to learn about the history and the lore of his hometown. By reading about cemeteries, haunted theatres, and creepy forests, you get to see a darker, spookier side to the city we know and love. 

Two of the stories included in the novel seem to stick out by capturing the true spirit of Sudbury. 

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The haunted Levack mine 

On a normal weekend in the 1970s, the Levack Mine was almost deserted as the mine only operated during the week. Only three people would typically be on site. 

Those three usually included a single hoistman, an operating shaft boss (OSB), and a fireguard. 

It was the fireguard's job to patrol the mine. He would climb down the ladders, walk the drifts and occasionally punch a time clock to certify that he had visited certain locations. 

One night, the fireguard descended into the mine. 

After some time, the OSB got a frantic call from 2650 level. 

He picked up the phone to hear the fireguard's panicked voice on the other end. 

“You have to get me out of here!” he was saying. 

“What happened?” said the OSB. “Are you hurt?” 

“No, I'm not hurt,” said the fireguard. “Get me out of here!”

It takes some time for the cage to get down there. Leslie estimates about half an hour to go down and then get back up. 

Once the fireguard got to the surface, the OSB figured that he would have calmed down. 

Instead, he found the fireguard as panicked as ever. 

When they opened the cage, the fireguard said, “there's somebody down there.” 

“No, there isn't,” said the OSB. “There's only three of us here.” 

“There's someone down there,” the fireguard insisted, out of his mind with panic. “Someone was watching me. I wasn't down there alone.” 

The fireguard left that day, swearing that he saw a ghost. He would never return to the Levack Mine again. 

Mark Leslie sat down with local historian, author, and retired hard rock miner Hans Brasch to talk about this story. What struck Leslie about the story was how popular it was. 

“Everyone (I talked to) spoke about it. Everyone who was retired and used to work at the mine told me about 2650 level.” 

Of course, there are a number of explanations. Hans Brasch said that there were often bats down in the mine. It was also pretty common for small animals to hitch a ride on the train cars going in and out. It was possible that the fireguard saw the reflection of his headlamp in an animal's eyes. 

Sleep deprivation from shift work is also a possibility. Leslie, who worked the night shift as a security guard while taking full time classes at university, knows how sleep deprivation can play with your mind. 

Whatever it was, the Levack mine has had a reputation for being haunted ever since. 

The scramble over Sudbury 

Sudbury was, according to Leslie, a “hotbed” for UFO activity from the 1950s to the 1970s. As he was conducting his research for the book, he remembers coming across many stories, newspaper clippings, and sketches of alien sightings in the area. 

One of the stranger occurrences happened on Nov. 11, 1975. 

In the early hours of the morning, reports started to trickle into police headquarters. 

There were three unexplained bright, white lights hovering over the city near Falconbridge. 

Multiple witnesses of the event came forward. They included civilians, police officers and military personnel stationed at the NORAD radar base in the area. 

According to the witnesses, the lights hovered low in the sky, and then eventually shot straight up. 

Investigators said that this was one of the stranger events, because in addition to eye-witness accounts, there is also photo and radar evidence of the UFOs. 

The reports were taken seriously. At around 11 a.m. the next day, two jets were scrambled from a U.S. Air Force base en route to Sudbury. Once they arrived, they found nothing. 

Leslie spoke about the existence of a 30- to 40-page document produced by the U.S. Air Force. Unfortunately, most of the document has been redacted, which just adds to the mystery of what happened that night. 

To this day, it hasn't been explained. Although many theories have been put forth. 

It could have been Russian spies. Maybe the air force came to cover something up. Or, it could have been aliens scanning the ground with advanced technology to scope out our natural resources. 

So, is it true that three different UFOs visited the sky over Falconbridge in 1975? Is level 2650 of the Levack mine still visited by a ghost? 

“I am a believer that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies, as Shakespeare said, but I also like to view things from a skeptic's eye,” said Leslie.  

Either way, keep an eye out both above and below the ground this Halloween.