Collapsing Caves, Dead Spelunkers, Corpse Robbery, and Big Mike’s Mystery House

We stopped just outside of Mammoth Cave at Cave City, a deserted row of run-down attractions. It has teepee-shaped motels, kangaroo zoos, and a hilltop theme park called Gunsmoke Mountain where a rusty chairlift rocked in the rain.

“It’s like we’ve driven back to the 50s,” Laurie laughed.

At the end of Cave City, I’d heard, was a museum devoted to Floyd Collins, the most famous spelunker who ever lived.

His career was cut short in 1925 when a sand cave fell in, crushing a leg and trapping him.

And yet Floyd Collins was still alive. Friends could pass him food, and drink. Newspapermen could interview him. But they couldn’t get him out.

Collins became a national headline. Tens of thousands of sightseers crowded around, to witness the drama. Hawkers sold souvenirs. The scene was an absolute circus. (See Billy Wilder’s amazing “Ace in the Hole” for a vision of it.)

After four days, there was a second cave-in. And the hole disappeared. Continue reading “Collapsing Caves, Dead Spelunkers, Corpse Robbery, and Big Mike’s Mystery House”