Friday, May 24, 2013

Grand Ghosts


Grand Caverns
5 Grand Caverns Drive
Grottoes, Virginia

It’s not hard to imagine that investigating in pitch black darkness could be both terrifying and exhilarating. Ghost hunters are accustomed to stumbling about in dark spaces, but usually there is some dim light even if just from the moon or street lights outside. Within a cave, the inky darkness envelops you and there is no ambient light.

In an article from WHSV, the ABC affiliate out of Harrisonburg, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley, the founder of the Twisted Paranormal Society of Virginia talks about the adrenaline rush that he gets from investigating the shadier side of things. In the investigation report from this investigation he says, “Once the interior lights were turned off, [Grand Caverns] took on a whole new appearance.”

According to the history on its website, Grand Caverns is the oldest continually operating show cave in the nation. Throughout the world caverns have been opened—exploited some say—for tourists and these are show caves. Like so many caves, Grand Caverns was discovered when someone simply stumbled on it, in this case a hunter retrieving traps. Bernard Weyer discovered the cave in 1804 and within two years tours were being led through it. In the thick darkness, tourists imagined ghosts, demons and all those denizens of the underworld were just at their heels. The weird formations were transformed into manifestations of nightmares: Dante’s Inferno and George Washington’s Ghost among them. At Dante’s Inferno especially—a hole-like formation with rock that seemingly melts towards the mouth of Hell—tourists were warned of evil spirits there that would extinguish candles or torches: the only sources of light here.

Formations within Grand Caverns. Photo 2010 by P199.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Other areas inspired awe or whimsy. In one large room, grand balls were held while the sacred space of The Chapel was actually used on occasion for religious services. These things brought the curious to visit these caverns for just over two centuries. When the Virginia countryside was overrun with angry armies during the Civil War, soldiers visited, easing their minds of the weariness of war.

Years of the tramping feet of visiting tourists seem to have left a spiritual mark upon Grand Caverns just as a mark has been left upon the caverns much bigger cousin, Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. Now protected as a national park service property, Mammoth Cave is known as the largest cave system in the world. While the history of Grand Caverns does not include Native American usage (as far as I can tell), Mammoth Cave’s history includes perhaps centuries of use. After Mammoth Cave was discovered—supposedly by a young man pursuing a wounded bear—in the very late years of the 18th century, its saltpeter was utilized during the War of 1812 when American ports were blockaded. Just years after Grand Caverns began to host visitors; Mammoth Cave began to attract them as well. One of Mammoth Cave’s most important early guides was Stephen Bishop, an African-American slave. Among the spirits spotted within the shadows of Mammoth Cave, an African-American family, quite possibly Bishop and his family.

The identities of the spirits within Grand Caverns is unknown. While the articles relating to the haunting point to the military visitors to the cave during the Civil War, though it appears that the soldiers simply visited and none died or were killed within the cave. Twisted Paranormal’s investigation did produce some results that may indicate the presence of spirits within the caverns, though their investigation was only 3 hours long. The group presents on their website some of the evidence they captured including some photographs with orbs and video of EMF detectors being set off with no one around. Unexplained flashing lights were also encountered.

Sources
Adams, Cindy. “Strange activity found in Grottoes Grand Caverns by paranormal
     investigators.” Examiner.com. 26 June 2012.
History. Grand Caverns. Accessed 24 May 2013.
Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal Activity Group Searches Grottoes Grand Caverns.”
     WHSV. 16 April 2012.
Lamb, Elizabeth. “Paranormal activity in the Caverns.” WHSV. 26 June 2012.
Olson, Colleen O’Connor and Charles Hanion. Scary Stories of Mammoth Cave.
     Dayton, OH: Cave Books, 2002.
Twisted Paranormal Society of Virginia. GrandCaverns. Accessed 24 May 2012.

3 comments:

  1. I am a bit claustrophobic but still would love to visit these caverns.

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    1. I would highly recommend Mammoth Cave if you're claustrophobic. The name refers to the size of many rooms and passages in the cave which are enormous. There are a few places where it may feel tight, but those a fewer than some other caves.

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  2. I love a haunted cave story to show that just about anywhere has the potential for paranormal activity...even places where we normally don't think of as having a ton of human interaction. WV has its own haunted cave system, Seneca Caverns, where among other incidents, a ghostly tour group is heard following real tour groups. We were going to go several years ago, but my son wasn't walking very well yet and when we asked, were told that we COULD bring a stroller, but would end up carrying it most of the way, lol. Now that he's older, and this blog has sparked a renewed interest, we might check it out this summer!

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