Mammoth Cave –
One of the World’s largest cave systems, and possibly haunted by many spirits from the past. The first known visitors were over 12,000 years ago; early cave explorers used Mammoth Cave as a burial place for their dead. Many mummies have been found, usually in the typical burial posture, but also the mummified remains of early cave explorers have been found.
One spirit may be a slave, Stephen Bishop, who became enamored with the cave, living his life in and among the corridors of Mammoth Cave. He was the first man to explore- and map -the cave system. He loved it so that even when offered his freedom he chose to stay at the cave exploring it until his death. The love of this cave could be what ties the spirit of Mr. Bishop to Mammoth Cave.
And then there are even more possibilities of lingering spirits. Back in 1822, John Croghan became the owner of Mammoth Cave. He was amazed by the size of the rooms and the chambers they found. He could see the many possibilities and strived to bring visitors to tour the cave. Being a doctor he saw the medical benefits of the cave as well. John had heard of underground hospitals in Europe in which those suffering from tuberculosis had been cured. He believed that the moist air and the constant temperature of the cave might slow, or even reverse the ravages of the disease. It is said they constructed huts in the cave and then invited 15 tuberculosis patients to participate in the experiment. Several of the patients died in the cave and the attempt was considered a failure.
Generations of visitors, guides and personnel have shared legends and stories of strange sounds and sightings, hence the haunted legends attached to this cave. These eerie stories tell of unexplained lights, disembodied footsteps and of course, apparitions and spirits. The long history of the cave enhances the idea of spooks and specters, as many died from accidents in the days of the saltpeter operations. Of course Native Americans wandered into the cave and never found their way out; cave explorers went missing, the tragic tuberculosis victims suffered and died there. Could the apparition of a man in suspenders be one of those sickly patients? Which spirits enjoys playfully shoving visitors in the section of the cave where the guide turns out the light? Could it be Beverly, the young girl who fell in love with her tutor and tricked him inside the cave, darting off in a hidden spot and allowing him to find his way out on his own as a joke? He never returned, and she never got over the deadly prank, she later died of TB and many see what is believed to be her apparition, and others hear a female voice calling for the lost man.
Tragedy seemed to ensnare those who loved the cave the most. Another man who lost his life there was Floyd Collins. In one attempt to explore areas not open to the public, Floyd became wedged in a crevice of the cave. His leg was trapped between a rock that had fallen on his foot and the sandstone wall. Fortunately after he was missing for a few days his family and friends searched for him and found him alive though injured. Many attempts to free him were developed. It seemed each and every attempt failed and exasperated the situation. The crevice was so narrow and tight that all attempts to free Floyd caused more rubble to fall and entrap him even more. His father offered a $500 reward to anyone who could rescue him. Local news covered the situation and word traveled. Soon it became like a circus with more than 20,000 onlookers vying to see the trapped man. And then it happened, more slate caved in around Floyd, shutting him off from the outside world, and his rescuers became too afraid to help, even after they realized he was still alive. They started making a vertical shaft and finally made it to Floyd- but it was too late – he had died three days earlier, on Friday 13th.
Sadly, the family sold the cave and the next owner, Dr. Thomas wanted to move Floyd’s body because he was sure it could be a great moneymaker. He exhumed Floyd’s body and displayed it in a glass, bronzed metal coffin and opened it for public viewing in 1927. Hundreds flocked to see the body of one of the greatest cave explorers. Floyd’s family battled Thomas in court for years to try to stop the ghoulish advertisement of their son’s remains. Eventually the body was stolen, and after authorities and blood hounds located the body wrapped in burlap bags approx 800 yards from the cave’s entrance, missing one leg, the body was returned to its casket where a metal lid was fitted and locked every night. It seems Dr. Thomas won the legal battle and continued to show the cadaver until 1952 when the cave was closed to the public. Eventually Floyd Collins was buried many years after his actual death at the Baptist Church cemetery up on Flint Ridge Rd. Has his spirit finally found peace? Or is it trapped, much like his physical body was, in a cave that seems to hold much tragedy and remarkable history? It is easy to believe with as much death as permeated the cavernous walls of Mammoth Cave it is likely to be haunted.
On our visit we did catch hundreds of orbs in pictures, but nothing else. I attribute those orbs to dust and moisture. We enjoyed the tour and sought the evidence of spiritual residents, yet we came up empty handed. You can’t easily dismiss the many stories of spiritual encounters that have survived generations, but we could not confirm it is haunted.