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The Gold Rush Edit
A long time ago in the American West there was a small and peaceful valley lying in the shadow of the red buttes known as Big Thunder Mountain.
A river ran through its landscape of forests and plains, broken up by a number of islands, one of which was home to the mountain itself, an imposing rock formation composed of vertical peaks and natural stone arcs.
It was little wonder that this unique landmark inspired the imagination of those who lived in the valley. Ancient traditions of the native tribes, in fact, told of a powerful spirit protecting the mountain...known as the Thunderbird, this deity would punish anyone who dared disturb the sacred rocks of Big Thunder. It was said that a flap of its mighty wings would cause the earth itself to tremble and open up.
For the longest time, the spirit’s rule was respected by all...until, one day, white settlers arrived in the area. Searching the land for precious minerals and other riches, they didn’t care to heed the natives’ warnings of a vengeful deity. Indeed, their search would soon prove successful. A rich vein of gold was discovered in the red rocks of Big Thunder Mountain and as soon as word got out, more and more settlers streamed into the area transforming the serene wilderness into a lively and steadily growing gold-rush town. The year was 1849, and the town would bear the name of Thunder Mesa.
Over the following years, railroad cars and riverboats carried more and more prospectors and fortune-hunters into town, each hoping to strike it rich. The owner of the mine, an industrial baron called Henry Ravenswood, soon founded the Big Thunder Mining Company in order to handle the increasing mining operations in and around the mountain.
For his own family, the increasingly wealthy Mister Ravenswood began construction of a splendid mansion on a hill overlooking the sprawling town. Apart from the four-story manor-house painted in white with a red gable roof, the estate encompassed vast gardens decorated with marble statues as well as the family cemetery on the banks of the river. Its owner’s dearest pride and joy, however, was his beautiful young daughter Melanie. She grew up protected, free to pass her time in the expansive manor gardens under Henry’s watchful eye.
Indeed, things appeared to be going quite well at Thunder Mesa. The wealthy elite of Thunder Mesa presided in the stately Silver Spur Steakhouse. Even the undertaker Jeremiah Nutterville couldn’t complain about business. All of this good fortune, however, was about to change.
The Curse of the Thunder BirdEdit
After eleven years of plundering the riches found in Big Thunder Mountain, it would seem that its guardian spirit had finally had enough. Whether it was actually caused by the Thunderbird’s mighty wings or by an exceptionally strong mining blast, in 1860 a terrible earthquake struck the town of Thunder Mesa. Henry Ravenswood and his wife Martha perished in the quake, while the gold mines collapsed in a shower of rubble and timber
However, even before this grave incident, it would seem that trouble had been brewing at the Ravenswood home. Rumors said that Melanie’s suitor planned to take her away from Thunder Mesa, and that Henry was furious! After his tragic demise, it seemed that nothing more would stand in the way of their wedding. As the day of the wedding arrived, however, the groom was nowhere to be seen. Melanie searched for him throughout the house, but in vain. Heartbroken, she locked herself away – or so it was thought. All the guests left the manor, as Through the windows she was sometimes seen wandering from hall to hall in her wedding dress, candelabra in hand.
Some said she was waiting for her groom to return, while others believed that she was kept captive in the mansion by some evil presence. In fact, rumors soon spread that Henry Ravenswood himself had returned from the grave to prevent the wedding and to keep his daughter from ever leaving the house. More than one late night wanderer had walked past the manor to find a dark shadow looming behind the curtains, or to hear the sound of maniacal laughter echoing through the manor gardens.
The day after the fateful wedding, a search party consisting of most of the wedding guests entered the manor grounds attempting to find Melanie. The manor seemed empty and they were lured by a voice to the back of the house where there was seemingly a tunnel dug, as the search party entered the makeshift tunnel, a minor earthquake occurred, making the tunnel collapse, and killing the searchparty, thereby making the manor catacombs.
Over the years, the manor fell into decay. The inhabitants of Thunder Mesa, too scared to set foot on the estate, began calling it Phantom Manor. There were tales of brave souls who had dared to enter the house and never returned. As for the gold vein of Big Thunder Mountain, the source of Thunder Mesa’s wealth, it was lost in the earthquake. Attempts to retrieve it proved to be in vain.