In the local paper there are reports of rumblings in the dark, and disembodied voices heard in some of Kiruna’s old wooden houses. A group of people have got together to collect stories of local hauntings. I’m not sure why – perhaps they just want to believe it, or perhaps they think it will be of interest to other people and might be a good business idea.
I think Kiruna is full of old ghosts. So much of its past is still there, and it’s packed in a lot of history into its 100 or so years. You can smell the wild west frontier town atmosphere that must have pervaded the whole place back in the early 1900s, when the railway first came to town.
Yesterday I ran along a path that begins at the old railway station and ends up at the mine. Out on this path you get a great view of Kiruna’s skyline, and the two former mountains of Luossavaara and Kirunavaara, the names that have formed the mining company’s name – LKAB, ‘Luossavaara-Kirunavaara Aktie Bolaget’. The path circles around the collapsed ground, giving you views across it to the mine and to Kirunavaara.
One area of this collapsed ground is known as ‘Ön’, or ‘Island’. It was the first part of town to be occupied, a sort of shanty town when the mine first began. This bit of land actually collapsed long ago, long before all the razzmatazz around the current threat to the town. There were houses, storage buildings, roads, and a tram line crossing the area – bringing workers from further out in town out to the mine. Now it’s an even wider area that has collapsed, taking in newer roads and byways which have disappeared back into the landscape.
Workers who came here in the ’20s and ’30s had to be persuaded to come with offers of good salaries and a modern tram line, introduced as early as 1907, to bring them straight into the mine. Working in the mine was hard physical work so ensuring your workers arrived full of energy and raring to go must have been a benefit to the mining company.
Looking out across the area of ‘Ön’ I had the feeling, while I was running along that path, that there was a tram of workers rattling across the land beside me. The men inside were looking out of the windows, and could see me, a lone figure on the path. They were wondering why I was taking such a long route, when the tram line goes straight there. They were wondering why someone would be running that way, in the snow – a lone female figure, in odd clothing, at night.
I was wondering what it was like to be a mine worker in the 1920s, how it felt at the start of your working day as you approached the mine, which in those days was all above ground. They kept looking out at me, the mine workers, as their tram pulled up at the foot of Kirunavaara, and then they all got out of the tram and walked towards the mine entrance for the start of their shift. I reached the entrance soon after them, and then turned my back on them and ran back towards the town.