ABOUT an hour’s walk from Reit, on the left-hand side of the entrance to the valley of the Alpbach, is situated a farm which bears the name of Larcha, and close to this farm is a deep mine in the side of the mountain, which at the time of this legend was being worked, and it was called the Silber Stollen (silver mine) of the Illn. Nine miners were employed in working the mine, and in it resided a Schachtgeist (mine ghost), who showed to the poor honest miners the richest lodes of silver. Their luck was extraordinary, and huge bars of the precious ore were carried every day out of the mine; and as the men worked on their own account, they soon became enormously rich, and for this reason they became also very dissolute and profligate. They were no longer content with their simple miners’ attire, but bought fine clothes; they would no longer wear their grey blouses, but they would have velvet and rich cloth, and their wives went about dressed up in the most gorgeous colours.
The proverbially simple Alpböcker Tracht (costume of the Alpböck) was entirely set on one side by them, and a new fashion introduced; besides that, all sorts of iniquities were practised by them, which it would be impossible to describe.
This made the benevolent Schachtgeist intensely angry; he became fierce and savage, and when he appeared at the entrance of the mine his mien foreboded anything but good. Meanwhile the miners went on more badly than ever, and got so extravagant in their notions, that they even cleaned their tables and chairs with bread-crumbs. One day the farmer of Larcha was standing taking the fresh air at his door; the clouds foreboded a thunderstorm, and the air was dark and heavy. He had been working with his men down in the cellar, from which they could distinctly hear the noise of the miners’ hammers, as they shouted and sung over their work. All at once the Schachtgeist passed by the door of the farm, and called out to the farmer in a terrible voice, “Shut your doors, and misfortune shall escape you; I am away to the Illn to silence the miners.” The terror-stricken farmer crossed himself, and on his knees implored Divine protection, while the ghost tore up the mountain, and then he shut his doors and returned to his work. Not long after, the farmer and his men heard fearful shrieks, which were immediately followed by a crash like thunder, which shook the earth, and made the cellar in which they were working tremble. They rushed up into the farmer’s room, and began to repeat the rosary, and as the noise abated they went to bed.
On the following morning the news of a terrible calamity spread far over mountain and valley. The miners had been buried in the mine by an earthquake, and their shrieking wives rushed wildly about, rolling in the dust, and, in their agony and despair, they nearly tore off the feet of the crucifix which stands just above the farm on a cross-road. But still more horrible was it when it was discovered that the buried miners were alive in their prison, and screaming for help in the depths of the mountain. For ten long days the terrible scene lasted; when at last, after having worked night and day, the villagers succeeded in entering the passage in which the miners were entombed; but there a horrible spectacle presented itself to their eyes. Over the dead bodies of the nine miners was sitting the Schachtgeist, covered with blood, and terrible to look at, with the visage of the devil, and glowering at the victims of his just wrath and judgment. The miners had been starved to death, and were holding the leather of their shoes in their teeth, after having gnawed their fingers to the bones.
Every one who wanders over the mountain, and passes by the farm of Larcha, can hear this dreadfully true legend, up to the present day, from the farmer, who is the son of the man who was witness of the fact. And if after the evening Angelus has rung, by any chance a door in the farm remains open, the housewife directly calls out, “Shut the door, so that misfortune may escape us.”