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

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Tom and I slept that night on our wool blankets on benches in the train depot. Miraculously the building was left open, even after railroad personnel left for the evening. The next morning after getting breakfast at Mom’s again, we headed for home, hitchhiking this time. It took us a little over 6 hours.

John Brown’s Cave was for us a wonderland of exploration. We found that the narrow limestone cavern was about 4,000 feet long, with a dozen rabbit holes, with more large Caverns and all sorts of passageways. All through High School, the Cavern was our playground. During senior year, we even brought girls to the Cave and told the story about the skeleton in the doomed room. The girls always squealed when we told them about the bats. John Brown’s Cave was our secret, and we reveled in the knowledge that we had been the ones to find it.

We never went up again to the domed room. And as far as I know—no one did.

Forty years later, when my wife and I were driving to Delaware from California, we walked up the same railroad tracks, on the grade north of town.

We found that the entrance to the Cavern had been blocked off with concrete.

Truth be told, I don’t really know who the man was before he was the skeleton, sitting on the boulder seat positioned directly under the shaft of light at the back of the doomed room. I knew in my heart that he was a survivor from the Battle of the Harpers Ferry Amory. Possibly, he was one of the whites or Freemen that escaped in the heat of the battle. It was a miracle that he was able to scale up that rock face leading up into the small, domed room at the top. If he had been a religious man, I am certain that he would have felt closer to God, as he looked up at the stars in the obsidian night.

Whoever he was, when he breathed his last, he might have been gazing up at that black hole about 30 feet above his head. At that moment, I am sure he was thanking God for eternal peace at last.

The End

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