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The Mystery of John Brown’s Cave, Harpers Ferry West Virginia: A True Story

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Part V

After another 100 feet of doing the duck-waddle, the narrow passageway opened up. We stepped out into an enormous cavern. The floor was scattered with stalagmites, limestone formations that had formed over hundreds of years ago or more. These stalagmites were caused by other limestone formations; icicle shaped stalactites, hanging over 100 feet above us in the giant cavern.

We marveled at the breadth and depth of this giant cavern. Tom waved his torch, high above his head.

“Do you see that?” He waved the torch again.

“Looks like some kind of growth on the ceiling, like maybe moss or lichen?”

“Those are bats,” he said, “Thousands of them, hanging from the ceiling.”

“We’d better avoid exiting this cavern at sundown.” When darkness falls, bats fly out into the night. I wouldn’t want to be in the narrow entrance to this cave when they feel “the call of the night.”

We made our way forward for several hundred yards. Then we could go no further. At the far end of the cavern was a narrow hole in the floor. It looked open, but I hesitated to go further. The hole looked wet.

When I waved my torch to see how high the ceiling was on this side of the cavern, I spotted what appeared to be a narrow room at the top of a shear wall about 75 feet high. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw a dim light emanating from the small room.

“Tom, I am going to put my torch out. Just walk to the center of the cavern—back the way we came about 150 feet.” I reached inside my jeans just to make certain the Zippo lighter was there. It was there in my pocket. I spun the wheel against the flint. Sure enough, the spark from the flint combusted to light a flame from the lighter fluid.

“Ok, I am going to rub out my torch in the moisture from this rabbit hole. You move back into the center of the cavern.” Sure enough, when I put out my torch and Tom moved away to the center of the cavern, I spotted a dim light at the top of the shear wall. When Tom came back, I told him that I had seen a light.

“I am going to try to climb up to the domed room at the top of the shear wall,” I said.

“Are you crazy!” he said. “What if you fall?”

I knew that I wouldn’t fall. I was a wrestler, with good upper body strength. I was confident that I would make the climb.

“I’ll be all right, “ I said.

First, we needed to re-light my torch. This was harder than you might imagine.

We had to heat the partially burned sock with Tom’s lighter. Then finally the soggy sock, with the tar on it, lighted up again. I lifted it high above my head. At the heel of the shear wall was a large pile of huge limestone pieces with cave moss growing on the surface. The pieces looked like they been there for one hundred years.

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