The largest known cave in the world, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave features 392 miles of interconnected passages. Despite its popularity with tourists, folks know Mammoth for much more than its awe-inspiring size and stunning gypsum flowers. Legend has it a number of spooks haunt the vast cavern, including tourists from days gone by, a mischievous woman who left a man to die, and Floyd Collins, an adventurous explorer who died after becoming wedged in a tight passageway.
Tourists from Beyond the Grave
According to a report on PrairieGhosts.com, a few rangers in Mammoth Cave have spotted visitors who don’t seem to belong. Dressed in old-fashioned clothing, the visitors hang back from the main tour groups and disappear before everyone exits the cave. At times, tourists interrupt a ranger’s speech to ask about the strange man (or woman) lurking in the shadows. Another ranger reported that someone, or something, shoved her as she was leading a lantern-lit tour in the cavern.
Another legend tells of a woman named Melissa who led a friend (or ex-lover, depending on the version) deep into Mammoth Cave. As a joke, Melissa left the man to find his own way back, but the unfortunate friend never returned. Some say Melissa roams Mammoth Cave today, searching for the man she unwittingly left to die. Rangers have reportedly heard a woman’s voice calling from deep within the cave’s passageways, as well as screams and garbled voices. According to an article in Knickerbocker Magazine, Melissa confessed the sordid tale on her deathbed before succumbing to tuberculosis. Could this be why some rangers have heard violent coughing deep within the tunnels of Mammoth Cave?
Update: Turns out the tale of Melissa leaving a man behind is a short story from 1858, “A Tragedy of the Mammoth Cave” by Lillie Devereaux Blake
The Tragic Tale of Floyd Collins
By far, the most disturbing tale involving Mammoth Cave is that of the ill-fated Floyd Collins. An enthusiastic spelunker, Floyd became trapped in a narrow tunnel one day after a rock collapsed on his leg and pinned him to the spot. Floyd’s friends and family worked for nearly two weeks to set him free, and their tireless efforts attracted the attention of the media and tens of thousands of curious onlookers. Sadly, the effort was all for naught as Floyd died just three days before rescuers reached him. To add insult to injury, the man who purchased the cave and family farm from Collins’ father exhumed Floyd’s body and displayed it at the entrance to Crystal Cave for many years. At one point, the body was stolen but was eventually recovered, minus the injured leg. Is it any wonder, then, that Floyd reportedly haunts the area, screaming for help and begging to be rescued from his stone tomb? Another story tells of a group of Mammoth Cave employees who set out to explore Crystal Cave only to have a decades-old whiskey bottle chunked at their heads. Was it Floyd?
Mammoth Cave National Park
P.O. Box 7
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
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