The Wampum Mines
as trolled by Phil Fasso
I had an opportunity to visit the Wampum mines once. A local filmmaker Scott Goldberg was doing some pick up shots for a film called THE THREE, which starred Lori Cardille and Hell of Famer John Amplas. Any fan of George Romero will see those two names and conjure up images of them in those mines back in 1985, trying to escape the foul clutches of the undead and the even fouler language of Capt. Rhodes. For whatever reason, fate got in the way and Goldberg cancelled the trip. I really wish things would have been otherwise, because the Wampum Mines, along with the Monroeville Mall and the city of Evans City, PA, is an iconic locale in the annals of zombie lore.
It’s also the darkest of the three. The film’s tagline, “The darkest day of horror the world has ever known,” can be take quite literally. Miles and miles of black corridors wind their way through the mines, as if nature had created its own underground tomb. Pools of shadows hide foul things in this foul place. The darkness threatens to close in on our protagonists below ground, as it overtakes the whole world above.
I’m a creature of the night, so I know darkness, and can appreciate what Romero was going for here. The Wampum Mines are the Dracula’s castle of the original Dead trilogy, a gloomy place that is home to the living dead. Romero refers to those fans who like DAY best of the trilogy as “trolls.” And I would imagine it would make for a spooky time trolling around in those mines, even if they weren’t overrun by dead people who wanted to tear into my flesh.
I can also appreciate his metaphor in the tagline. DAY OF THE DEAD is by far the bleakest of the Dead trilogy. Rampant militarism had overtaken any sense of logic in the 80s, and the comic book fun of DAWN OF THE DEAD has been swallowed up in a black sea of AIDS, anti-abortion bombings and madmen threatening to end the world in a nuclear holocaust. Underground, the military and science factions exhaust them in futile clashes, impotent to do anything to solve our problems. The mines reflect the darkness that seems ready to snuff out us all.
Given how much gloom and doom I’ve piled on so far in this induction, maybe it’s better that Goldberg cancelled that trip. I haven’t had cause to visit the Wampum Mines since, but every time I revisit DAY OF THE DEAD, the place gains a little more of my respect. It’s iconic in the landscape of Romero’s Dead trilogy, and it joins the Monroeville Mall as part of the landscape in the Hell of Fame.