The National Park Service tells a tale of the Oscar Blevins farmstead northwest of Bandy Creek being haunted. Visitors to the farm over the years — including park rangers — have claimed to have seen ol’ Oscar (who died in 1988) roaming the place near sundown.
And there are plenty of other spooky places in the Big South Fork, too. It’s something about the way the fading light dances in the crevices of all the BSF’s rocky crooks and crannies.
But I would submit to you that there’s nowhere any creepier late in the evening than this place: Devil’s Cave.
It isn’t really a cave, of course. But it’s the closest thing you’ll find to a cave in the Big South Fork National River & Recreational Area. It’s a large cleft in the cap rock at the “head of a holler” that feeds into the Big South Fork River upstream from Leatherwood Ford. The opening is massive, and the rock “house” that is formed by the giant fissure is deep, gradually narrowing until it’s so small that humans can no longer pass through. By the time you get to the back of it, at one point having to climb a jumble of boulders to a higher level, the light from the opening is no longer illuminating the passageway. There’s a giant shelf overhead, and it’s not difficult to imagine what sort of critters might be living up there.
Devil’s Cave is located off the trail. Getting there requires using a rope to climb down the face of a bluff, then making your way through a giant field of boulders to the opening of the “cave.”
Standing at the entrance, it isn’t difficult to imagine how this rock feature earned its name. It’s like you can sense the foreboding. presence. The air that comes from the mouth of the rock opening is cool, but occasionally blows warm. It’s just the currents playing tricks with the mind, but it isn’t difficult to imagine some satanic presence breathing hot breaths of foul air from within.
Nearby is a tree with initials engraved on its trunk. If you find yourself wondering how many of them entered the “cave” and never emerged, you probably aren’t the first.
As you step inside and turn back to look at the outside, you realize just how massive this rock crevice is.
The stone passageway, meanwhile, meanders deeper into the earth, soon eliminating any light from the outside world. There are small openings at the top of the cap rock far above, but these “skylights” provide little more than a faint glow inside the giant cavern.
With your flashlight illuminating the way, you will find different sorts of critters living inside…snakes, frogs (toads and bullfrogs), and worms. Lots of worms.
By this point, you won’t be able to take pictures with a conventional camera. On my most recent trip this week, I was shooting pictures with my iPhone, but had my Nikon D7100 and tripod in my pack, intending to shoot a slow-shutter picture inside to illustrate how spectacular and cave-like this underground passageway really is. Unfortunately, my battery was dead. But I lifted the following photo from Chuck Sutherland’s Flickr feed. It is a spectacular capture by a very good photographer, using the slow-shutter technique that involves taking a very slow picture in a dark environment using a mix of natural and artificial light to illuminate the scene to perfection.
My camera batteries may have died, but my flashlight batteries didn’t, fortunately. Because while I don’t believe in ghosts and haunts, I always manage to become a little bit unnerved after spending a little time deep inside Devil’s Cave.
In fact, if you visit it for yourself and find yourself exiting as quickly as is safely possible, you probably aren’t the first to have done so.