- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2016

POTTSVILLE, Pa. (AP) - There have been a few books published detailing the 1963 Sheppton mine accident, but Maxim W. Furek’s takes a new perspective on the incident.

“Although there are a few books on the Sheppton mine disaster, no one really went there about the miraculous and supernatural and I thought that was the real story,” Furek said last weekend at a book signing at the Yuengling Mansion.

Published in December, Furek’s third book, titled “Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music,” explores the supernatural mythology still surrounding the Aug. 13, 1963, disaster.

Furek, a Mocanaqua music journalist, wrote his first book in 1986 called “The Jordan Brothers, a Musical Biography of Rock’s Fortunate Sons” and became the unofficial biographer and historian of the Frackville band.

“I’ve developed this love and affection for the coal region and Schuylkill County,” Furek said.

Furek said he was 16 years old when the mine disaster happened and became fascinated with the rumors and urban legends surrounding the accident. He said he has been working on the book for 36 years, conducting research and interviewing relatives and acquaintances of the miners involved.

“Even though there were other disasters that lost more people, Sheppton resonates on so many levels,” Furek said. “I think it is the coal region’s last mystery and has not been unraveled yet by authors.”

According to newspaper archives on the mining accident, two miners, David Fellin and Henry “Hank” Throne, spent two weeks below ground until rescuers used a new technique - drilling a borehole - to free them Aug. 27, 1963. A third miner, Louis Bova, had been cut off from the others and was never recovered.

Some of the mythology explored in the book, and mentioned on its back cover, include the miners claiming to have been in the presence of Pope John XXIII while trapped and seeing bizarre humanoid creatures and stairwells leading to a golden city. The book takes a look at the song “Timothy,” released by The Buoys in 1971 that eerily paralleled the Sheppton disaster and introduced allegations of cannibalism.

“(The book) has had a lot of interest, especially on the supernatural aspect,” Furek said. “It’s amazing how many people believe or want to believe.”

“I wanted to do for Pennsylvania what Steven King did for Massachusetts,” Furek said. “Why not? We have enough of that supernatural aspect in the Pennsylvania coal region. I don’t see other authors looking at that and I’m looking into avenues that have been untapped.”

About 25 people attended the book signing, some with their own connections to the mining disaster in Sheppton.

“I was 12 years old when the mine disaster happened,” Jack Reznick, Ebervale, said.

Reznick, who lived in Hazleton at the time, said he remembers seeing the lights from the helicopter that transported the miners to the hospital.

“That was all you saw in the newspapers and on TV,” he said.

Meanwhile, his wife, Margie Biros Reznick, was living in Sheppton at the time. Her late father, John Biros, was part of the rescue effort.

They picked up a few copies of the book to share with family members.

“I try to read everything I can about local history because we live in a unique area,” Jack Reznick said.

Mike and Linda Mostardi, Wayne, also picked up a copy of the book Saturday.

“I’m a mine historian,” Mike said. “I do a lot of research on mine disasters.”

He collects mining memorabilia and has newspaper clippings that covered the disaster. He also said his grandfather was a miner from Mahanoy City and took him to visit the site of the disaster a few months after it happened.

“We actually picked up a stray cat when we were there and named it Sheppton,” he said.

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1TXRIGi

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Information from: Pottsville Republican and Herald, https://www.republicanherald.com

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