First of all, I am not joking, that is their slogan. I first saw the sign during my awesome Find the Secret Missile Testing Site in Sandusky road trip, on my way back from the Sorrowful Mother Shrine. That was last summer, and I was determined to go spelunking Ohio Style before this summer's end. That style would be, by the way, walking in comfortable shoes with railings at opportune spots, and smoking copious cigarettes before going down.
Ohio is full of hidden treasures, like the dinosaur petting zoo. And Mystery Hill. I assume there is a cemetery next to Mystery Hill, since there is a cemetery next to everything in Ohio. This sign, for instance, is next to a cemetery. Which was in the parking lot of the gift shop for Seneca Caverns.
And everyone in those cemeteries died from not being able to figure these damn nail puzzles out.
The Waiting Room.
Cave entrance - complete with creepy iron gate.
The tour guide we had still went through all the stories, even though it was apparent all we cared about was running around and being snide city kids. Here's a few "facts" (I'm not vouching for the truthiness of any of this)
- The caves were discovered by some boys in 1872 when their dog and the rabbit it was chasing fell down a sinkhole. We asked. No one died.
- Mr. Bell bought the cave in 1931, inspired by a visit to Mammoth Caves. According to our tour guide, during the Great Depression when a bunch of people owed his law practice money, he had them pay off their debt by shoveling the layers of mud and glacial slime filling up the cave, to develop it for tourism. For 6 months. At .35 an hour.
- The humidity in the caves is so high, when Mr. Bell left a bag of cement down there overnight, the next day it had already hardened. The bag shaped cement is still there. I saw it.
-Nobody has ever really hurt themselves going down. Which I find surprising because the tour was actually more strenuous than I was anticipating. It's 110 ft down and then back up, and it's not super hard, but you have to be careful where you step. I knocked my head like five times stooping under the tunnels. My expression when I finally emerged was more like slave worker in coal mine, less excited breathlessness.
-The cave is still operated by Mr. Bell's son. He was behind the little wooden ticket grate smoking. Don't you wish your family operated a cave? Mom, Dad, where was your foresight? It's the only business that never has recessions. You never run out of supply, there's always demand. And I could have been up to my ears in nail puzzles my entire childhood.
Above is a picture of the underground river, quaintly named Ol'Mystry. It's the same water that flows through to the Blue Hole , completely clear and devoid of oxygen. The State oxygenates it for their trout hatchery in Castalia, which by the way is the place to go if you ever want to see a really clear stream teeming with very large healthy fish. That's kind of a natural wonder on it's own now. Just look along the right edge of the picture, you can barely see the water line. No one has been to the bottom of the river, so no one knows how far down it goes, but it has flooded to the top of the cave before, and in droughts has gone at least another 200 feet down. How cool is that? I mean, really. Aquifers are awesome. That right there is why Ohio is farmland. That is actual meaningful cause and effect.
Of course, our guide also pointed out the flip flop some girl lost over the edge. A flip flop bouncing against dark cave walls in a nonexistent underground current for the rest of the millenia.
For more badly lit pictures of rocks, go here.