Route 70

(270) 758-2180

Status: Natural Wonder



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This cave system is formed in Limestone under a strongly resistant layer of Sandstone making it one of the most stable cave systems in the world. It is the longest known system of caves in the world at 400 miles (644 km) of underground tunnels thus far discovered.

It was first used by the Native Americans both as burial ground (mummified remains have been found in the caves) and for habitation (many artifacts from this period have been recovered in the caves). In 1797 the caves were first discovered by the European settlers by a member of the Houchin family apparently while hiding from a bear while they were hunting.

The caves were first used for the removal of their large amounts of saltpeter reserves which was needed in the production of gunpowder. This mineral was suddenly in short supply during the War Of 1812 when British ships blockaded American harbors and stopped the imports. The caves were also heavily mined for calcium nitrate in the early 19th Century.

In the mid-19th Century the caves began to be used as a tourist attraction with a display of Native American mummy found within. At this time the caves were owned by a wealthy landowner who had his African-American slaves give tours of the caves.

Stephen Bishop, a slave, became one of the most important figures in the history of the caves when he explored and mapped them further than anyone ever had before by climbing past the so-called "endless pit".

During this time the caves were also used as Tuberculosis Hospital when it was thought that the vapors naturally emitted by them would cure the disease; this hypothesis ultimately prove false (TB was not cured until the discovery of antibiotics in the mid-20th Century).

In the early 20th Century, a period began that is now known as the "Kentucky Cave Wars". During this time many entrances were dynamited open into the caves to allow other landowners access and means to charge admission - other surrounding cave systems were also opened in this time - as everyone scrambled to get their piece of the money pie.

It is also during this time that Floyd Collins (the cave's most famous guide and explorer) spent 10 years exploring and mapping the cave system penetrating deeper into them than anyone before. Mr Collins would eventually die while exploring Sand Cave when a boulder dislodged trapping him.

The rescue attempts to get Mr Collins would lead to further publicity for the caves and, in the end, start a movement to get the Federal Government involved in making sure the caves were protected for future generations.

The Federal Government would eventually buy everyone who owned the land the caves burrowed beneath; although some landowners who refused to sell and forced off their land by the government with very little in compensation.

In July, 1941 the National Park was officially opened and the dream came true to protect the caves for eternity.

In the early 1970's Patricia Crowther squeezed through a slight passage that had defeated the male explorers before her and began the first steps linking Mammoth and the Flint Ridge cave systems.

The National Park Service owns the caves to this day and conducts tours of the system daily. You can go on very short tours into the beginning caverns or take ones lasting many hours to penetrate deep into the system.

In 1981 Mammoth-Flint was recognized as a World Heritage Site and in 1990 an International Biosphere Preserve. It is also thought to be one of the most haunted cave systems in the world.


Paranormal Activity

The Mammoth-Flint Ridge cave system is known as the largest haunted area in the world.

The apparition of Floyd Collins has been seen multiple times since his death. He has even guided people out who had become lost in the caves.

The apparitions of Native Americans have also been reported many times by people in the caves.

Another well known ghost is that of Melissa, who is said to be very beautiful. She fell in love with her tutor and when he failed to reciprocate her feelings, she led him deep into the caves and abandoned him there. When she had a change of heart and went back to lead him out, she couldn't find him and not spends eternity still searching and attempting to undo her terrible crime.

The apparition of Stephen Bishop is also commonly seen in the caves (he sometimes appears with the ghosts of a woman and 2 children) and he often blows out the lanterns of people taking tours without artificial light.

When the population around the caves was forced to move Joppa Church was closed and it's cemetery was left abandoned. One of the graves there belongs to woman who once played the violin, now the phantom sounds of violin music is heard by those near her grave after dark. Inside the church objects sometimes move on their own and other objects have moved only to reappear in a completely different location. Misty white apparitions have been seen exiting the church and walking into the woods beyond. There is also the ghost of a man who is said to have hung himself from a tree nearby - he is said to frequently appear as a ball of orange light.

Other Activity: disembodied voices including whispers and laughter; shadow figures; light anomalies; mysterious mists; touches by invisible presences; feelings of being watched, unease and being followed and cold spots.