Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mammoth Cave, Kentucky

Is the Longest cave system in the world. New discoveries and connections add several miles to the already known 390 miles each year. 
    The story of human beings in relation to Mammoth cave spans six thousand years. Several sets of Native American remains have been recovered from the cave, or other near by caves in the region, in both the 19th and 20th centuries. Most mummies found represent examples of intentional burial, with ample evidence of pre-columbian funerary practice.
        One of the most interesting of these spirits is a lady by the name of Melissa”. A letter was discovered that indicated that she lived near the cave for quite some time. This occurred in the mid 1800’s. As it is told, Melissa fell in love with a man. He was named Mr. Beverleigh and acted as her tutor. Unfortunately, the tutor did not seem to feel the same way that she did, but fell in love with her neighbor and friend. It is believed that she intentionally led this individual on a tour of the cave, and then left him behind. Because he was not familiar with the passageways, he died. Today, many claim that Melissa still visits the cave as a spirit and that the man is still trying to find his way out, despite the fact that both are now deceased. 
    Another story comes from Charlie Hanion, a former cave guide who became a nature writer. He and a friend were leading a "Lantern Tour" of the cave (a historic tour designed to give the visitor an idea of how early tourists saw the cave) and as his friend was talking to the assembled group, a girl of about 14 years-old turned to Hanion and asked who the man standing near the rocks was. Hanion looked about 40 feet away and saw a man in old-fashioned, formal attire. He was dressed in a fashion that tourists from decades past would have dressed to tour the cave. The man quickly vanished!
    Floyd Collins is another spirit that seems to frequent the caves as a spirit. This man was an avid explorer in life, and it is said that as he ventured into the magnificent cave, rocks fell on him and left him trapped. While he was found by friends, it was difficult for them to conclude a method to remove him from the area. As time progressed, the cave fell a bit more. The new cave in eventually killed Floyd Collins. Today, it is said that his spirit still resides within the passageways of the cave.
    An exception to purposeful burial was discovered when in 1935 the remains of an adult male were discovered under a large boulder. The boulder had shifted and settled onto the victim, a pre-Columbian miner, who had disturbed the rubble supporting it. The remains of the ancient victim were named "Lost John" and exhibited to the public into the 1970s, when they were interred in a secret location in Mammoth Cave for reasons of preservation as well as emerging political sensitivities with respect to the public display of Native American remains.
    Besides the remains that have been discovered in the portion of the cave accessible through the Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave, the remains of cane torches used by Native Americans, as well as other artifacts such as drawings, gourd fragments, and woven grass moccasin slippers are found in the Salts Cave section of the system in Flint Ridge.
    Legend has it that the first European to discover Mammoth Cave was either John Houchin or his brother Francis Houchin, in 1797. While hunting, Houchin pursued a wounded bear to the cave's large entrance opening near the Green River. Some Houchin Family tales have John Decatur "Johnny Dick" Houchin as the discoverer of the cave, but this is highly unlikely because Johnny Dick was only 10 years old in 1797 and was unlikely to be out hunting bears at such a tender age. His father John is the more likely candidate from that branch of the family tree, but the most probable candidate for discoverer of Mammoth Cave is Francis "Frank" Houchin whose land was much closer to the cave entrance than his brother John's. There is also the argument that their brother Charles Houchin, who was known as a great hunter and trapper, was the man who shot that bear and chased it into the cave.  According to family records passed down through the Houchin, and later Henderson families, John Houchin was bear hunting and the bear turned and began to chase him. He found the cave entrance when he ran into the cave for protection from the charging bear.
    In July 1812, the cave was purchased from Simon and other owners by Charles Wilkins and an investor from Philadelphia named Hyman Gratz. Soon the cave was being mined for calcium nitrate on an industrial scale.
A half-interest in the cave changed hands for ten thousand dollars (a huge sum at the time). After the war when prices fell, the workings were abandoned and it became a minor tourist attraction centering on a Native American mummy discovered nearby.

                      HAUNTED MAMMOTH CAVE
Eerie stories tell of unexplained sounds, strange lights, bizarre noises, disembodied footsteps and of course, apparitions and spirits. However skeptics maintain there are explanations for these things. A person so imagination can play tricks on them in the dark and footsteps and voices can seem ghostly when there are echoes from other parts of the cave. They also state that stories of encounters with ghosts in Mammoth Cave are told by tourists and visitors who have no previous experience with caves and with the natural phenomena that accompanies them. But there are others who would say that this isn’t true. While many of the stories are indeed accounts told by visitors to the cave, others are not so easy to explain away. Many of the tales are experiences shared by park rangers, cave explorers, spelunkers and even geologists who are fully aware of what strange things a cave can do.
    Believers in the resident ghosts can cite a number of reasons why the cave might be haunted. The long history of the place includes accidents from the days of the saltpeter operations, Native Americans who wandered into the cave and never found their way out, stranded travelers, missing cave explorers, tragic tuberculosis victims and even those who loved the place so much that they have never left --or so the stories go.
    Another tale from Crystal Cave is attributed to a former employee named George Wood, who filed it as a report back in 1976. He wrote that he and another employee, Bill Cobb, had spent a day in June checking springs for a study on groundwater flow in central Kentucky. They didn't make it to the last spring until after dark and it was located near the old and abandoned Collins house on Flint Ridge. Cobb went to the spring while Wood waited near the truck. After a few moments, he heard the sound of a man crying out in the darkness. At first, he thought it was his friend calling for help, but the voice seemed too high-pitched. It was also so faint that he had to listen carefully to hear what it was saying. The voice cried: "Help me! Help me! Help me, I'm trapped! Johnny, help me!" It called out over and over again.
As he stood there on the edge of the dark road, he felt a cold chill run down his back. He vividly recalled hearing and reading about Floyd Collins and how he was trapped in Sand Cave --- which was located just a short distance from where he was standing! A few minutes later, Cobb returned and Wood asked him if he had been calling for him. The other man had heard nothing while at the spring, but after hearing Wood's account, admitted that he was spooked. In fact, they both were and didn't waste any time in getting back in the truck and driving off.


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