Voices in the Coalshed: The Shadowmancer

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This month, we challenged you to try and finish Dave's spooky Halloween poem, 'The Shadowmancer', and you certainly delivered!
Discover what The Shadowmancer gets up to once the Museum closes for the day in the video below and see if you can hear your contribution!

The Shadowmancer


Deep in the dark, deep in the dark,

Cast-by machines lie interred,

Forsaken, alone and silent,

But once a year they are stirred.


The Shadowmancer works by night

With shadow staff who have been

Forming portals that let him move

Shadow to shadow unseen.


Machines are sleeping underground,

Up above machines are still,

Primed for mechanical motion

Come The Shadowmancer’s will.


Then the Halloween moon wakes them,

They start up heavy and slow,

Lumbering on to the surface

From the labyrinth below. 


The mining museum’s closed

And the visitors gone home,

It’s when the curators leave that

The machines begin to roam.


Flames flare up in the Davy lamps

And by their flickering light

There are shadows of the machines

Moving around the site.


The Shadowmancer summons them

As they come to life again,

At Caphouse and at Hope pits they

Gather together, and then…


Having risen out from the earth,

Their decaying bodies stark,

They haunt all those of the living

Who left them down in the dark.


They’re famished and they’re thirsty

They’re choked with coal dust and soil,

They’re seeking to gorge themselves on

Electricity and oil.


The Shadowmancer has freed them

To go where their shadows lead,

To move around the human world

They fed, so they can now feed.


And woe betide anyone who

Might try and stand in their way,

While the machines cut all they can

By the dawn of All Souls’ Day,


When they must journey together

Back down deep, deep underground,

‘Til then, they rejoice at midnight

And nobody hears a sound.


The Shadowmancer quietly

Slips away while the night’s clear,

None will know he was ever there,

Or if he’ll return next year.

 Dave Alton

This ballad for Hallowe’en has been made from ideas and words supplied by the following:          Daniel Orme
Mike Keeton
Pam Waites
Lauren Wood
Sally-ann Burley

Many thanks to all of you. While the number of contributions varies from month to month, the quality does not. The invention and imagination in the responses to the themes is always gratifying, and October is no exception.  I wish I could have used all the wonderful images and phrases you sent, but that would have been a very long poem.

Dave Alton

Writer in Residence

National Coal Mining Museum



Keep an eye out over the next few days when we'll be launching November's activity!

Find out more about Voices in the Coalshed here!

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