T'Owd Man & Other Caving / Potholing / Spelunking Ghosts

escargot

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The Nutty Putty caves were popular with all ages of cavers, up to 5,000 a year. There are vides on YouTube of people wriggling along the Birth Canal wearing no special gear except duct tape wrapped round the elbows!
This doesn't seem to have been unusual as the caves were open 24/7 for decades.

After a few dangerous rescues the caves were closed and later re-opened with a gate and more strictly controlled entry to weed out the more frivolous visitors. Six months later Jones was killed there and the caves were permanently closed.

Jones was an experienced caver, not a youth who'd gone there with friends on a whim. His mistake seems to have been to turn left instead of right. What he'd thought was the Birth Canal was an unexplored section.
 

blessmycottonsocks

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Nutty putty caves USA. A man died. There's footage online of some nutter crawling through the most claustrophobic space possible, literally only 2inch move room either side, In a passage called the birth canal.

Same caves, nutty putty. It's gotta be haunted by the man who got stuck. Died stuck, upside down, in the dark.


The 2016 dramatisation of the rescue attempt - The Last Descent, is available free to view for Amazon Prime members:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Desce...LG2T376?ref=dvm_uk_sl_tit_zzz_c_c475561600945
 

escargot

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blessmycottonsocks

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Thank you, I think. Had that on my bedside Mac last night to drift off to, thinking I wouldn't miss much with my eyes closed as it'd be dark in the caves anyway...
Might've been a mistake. o_O
I found it almost unbearable to watch - especially as we know how tragic the ending would be.
The poor guy's fantasies of being free, reunited with his family and meeting his unborn child, reached a level of poignancy off the scale.
 

Spookdaddy

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Being brought up in the Peak District, potholing and climbing were part of the culture - the former being a part I avoided like the plague, it has to be said. (There is in fact a quite considerable cave actually within the bounds of the town I grew up in, and less than a two minute walk from my old secondary school.)

The Neil Moss incident, which happened just up the road from where I'm sitting now, is still talked about. It happened at Peak Cavern - the infamous Devil's Arse - and was before my time, but a friend's father was involved as a young volunteer, and most of the cavers and mountain rescue types around us when I was growing up had been involved, as were Mines Research (more accurately Safety in Mines Research) another local institution, which later became the HSE Laboratory.


He's still in there, buried under cave rubble that was piled on top of the shaft after his death. My childhood doctor (lovely man - proper old-school, but without the associated arrogance) was himself an experienced outdoorsman and signed off on the death - later stating that it was the only time he ever declared a death without inspecting the body. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for all involved - there have always been rumours that the poor guy was euthanised, but I suspect the volunteers simply waited for him to die, which would probably have been an even worse experience.

The larger cavern containing the shaft which is now his tomb has been named Moss Chamber:


No. Nope. Nah. I'll pass, thanks.

There's a more in depth article – with some quite atmospheric photographs - on the Mountain Rescue England and Wales site: Remembering Neil Moss....

Definitely, worth a read as it really brings home the horrendousness of the situation, the apparent foolhardiness of Neil Moss’s initial action, and the reasons they so quickly led to disaster. It’s also an illustration of the enormous change in context between the bit the tourists see, and the bits they never get near. In fact, it strikes me that caves and caving might serve as a symbol for all the environmental hazards involved in outdoor pursuits. It’s like, you’ve got separated from the rest of the group on a tour of York Minster, you take a wrong turn, open a broom cupboard and step through onto a two inch ledge two thirds of the way up El Capitan. You are always that close.
 

Spookdaddy

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I've just done a bit of googling about my old doctor, mentioned above.

He was a Dr Hugh Kidd, and it turns out that it was also he who confirmed the cause of deaths of the victims of the Mossdale Caverns tragedy, mentioned earlier in the thread. I stated before that he was an outdoors type, but it hadn't registered that he was actually a member of the Derbyshire Cave Rescue Organisation. Derbyshire CRO would have been quite a way off their own turf, and Yorkshire has supposedly the oldest organised caver rescue system in the world - but I'm assuming that in a world as rarefied as this skills are shared across the board.
 
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escargot

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I found it almost unbearable to watch - especially as we know how tragic the ending would be.
The poor guy's fantasies of being free, reunited with his family and meeting his unborn child, reached a level of poignancy off the scale.
Yup, was texting Escette about it.

As soon as John started trying to turn back I told her 'Well that's me behind the sofa!'

She said 'But what if you get stuck?'
Yeah, VERY funny. Very funny INDEED.
 
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Quercus

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Exceedingly creepy potholing account here, from a Staffordshire cave system in March 2017:

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/strange-things-lurk-deep-dark-561244
Oh, now that's interesting...

As the cave became silent and the footsteps stopped, Rob heard a noise.

“It sounded like shuffling but it was behind me – I knew we were alone. I realised it couldn’t be someone else potholing as there was no light,” Rob told me, almost shaking as he reminisced. “I called out to see if anyone was behind me but nothing came back.”

He shone the torch from his helmet in the direction of the noise but all he could see was the wet rock that surrounded him.

The face of the rock shimmered as he traced his light left then right, over and over, slowly looking for the source of the shuffling.

Then he caught sight of something.

“It was a man, he was crouched down and facing the wall about 30 feet away from me – he looked like he was dressed in old clothing. I thought he looked like a miner,” Rob recalled.

“Hello,” Rob called out.

Nothing. Suddenly the man turned towards Rob and faced him directly.

“That’s when I saw his face, or lack of it. It looked like either a mask or he had no features – I still have nightmares about his face,” Rob explained – now physically shaking as he talked to me.

Letting out a scream, Rob brought his party running towards him. He met them at the entrance to the each of the three tunnels and turned to face the man who had previously been stood staring at him – but the mysterious entity had gone.
Not wanting to cross-pollute threads, but you'll maybe know why I've an interest in accounts of figures with no features/ face/ head (but not 'headless' in the sense of decapitated) appearing to lone individuals in liminal spaces.

Duly bookmarked.

More on-topic, I suppose I'm mildly claustrophobic in the sense that I don't much care for being stuffed into small spaces, but some of these accounts are absolute nightmare fuel. Especially the account on the attempted rescue of Neil Moss in Peak Cavern.

I suppose anyone taking part in hazardous recreational activities must be constantly aware of the danger - that's part of the appeal, I understand - but there's possibly a sense of invincibility that makes individuals think that it won't happen to them. Until it does.

And even imagining what that sensation must feel like; the slow dawning that you're never going to make it out, that the fellow-cavers only a few feet away can't help you, and that you've inadvertently climbed into your own tomb... *shudder*
 

blessmycottonsocks

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Interesting article here, featuring some great photos, of the labyrinthine and largely uncharted tunnels inside the "hollow mountain" near Cardiff.
Notoriously, the body of a strangled woman was discovered there in 1963 and, further into the complex, the mummified and partly calcified bodies of cats have been found.
Ghost hunting tours are occasionally laid on here and I think I recall the Most Haunted team having a poke around many years ago.

caves.JPG

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/garth-mountain-cardiff-caves-underground-18688847
 

RaM

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I was 11 when the Neil Moss tragedy happened, It was on the news
seem to remember they had a local blacksmith make brackets that were
intended to go over his shoulders to try to lift him out, it was said at the
time that he was later concreated in.
Put me off squeezing through small places for life though I have been in
tunnels caves and mines.
 

Spookdaddy

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...It was on the news
seem to remember they had a local blacksmith make brackets that were
intended to go over his shoulders to try to lift him out, it was said at the
time that he was later concreated in...
I was brought up believing the latter, too - but it appears to be nothing more than folklore. Accounts - both from the time, and from modern cavers - all seem to make it clear that the shaft was blocked with rubble from the chamber floor.

Thinking about it, simple practicality - a pretty intense force in such a situation - would suggest this might be a myth. After all, getting bags of mix down there would in itself present something of a challenge - and an unnecessary one at that, given that the alternative was literally lying around in situ.

I've never heard the blacksmith story - and it's kind of hard to see what the point would be. Moss was said to be stuck in a space 18 inches across and well out of reach of his rescuers on the surface. It's hard to see how anything rigid could have been maneuvered into a position below the widest point of his body (I can only really visualise such a device as being something intended to be hooked under his armpits - and I don't think that was achievable).

It's also worth pointing out that, although maybe not as accessible a sport as they are these days, caving and climbing were already quite popular. The gear available then was clearly very different to that which might be used now - but it wasn't exactly stone age, and, as with many other things, the war had acted as a spur to the research, testing and development of the equipment available. It's not that people were naïve and gung-ho, necessarily. They were - relatively speaking - equipped and experienced enough to deal with run of the mill emergencies. But this wasn't one of those.
 

RaM

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I always thought he went down head first though that hard to imagine hence the brackets.
 

Spookdaddy

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I always thought he went down head first though that hard to imagine hence the brackets.
Wedged vertically upside down in a space like that I doubt he'd have lasted even long enough for his comrades to get outside help - I'd guess you'd be talking in minutes rather than hours.

The guy who died in the Nutty Putty caves is often described as being upside down, but from what I can gather it would be more accurate to state that he was on a downward incline with his head at the lower point. That in itself would be a huge strain on the heart - and heart failure is what seems to be considered the cause of death.

I'd also assume that the more inverted you become towards the vertical plane the more catastrophic the effect will be on the lungs ability to function properly.

Christ - it doesn't bear thinking about. And I just did. Some of these videos actually make me feel a bit out of breath.
 
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blessmycottonsocks

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Long, but worthwhile account here of how getting lost in a cave can make the brain go haywire and could account for some apparently supernatural experiences.

It centres around the remarkable case of Frenchman Jean-Luc Josuat-Vergès who, in 2004, wandered into the tunnels of an abandoned mushroom farm at Madiran in south-west France and got lost. Josuat-Vergès, who was 48 and employed as a caretaker at a local health centre, had been depressed. Leaving his wife and 14-year-old son at home, he’d driven up into the hills with a bottle of whisky and a pocketful of sleeping pills. After steering his Land Rover into the large entrance tunnel of the mushroom farm, he’d clicked on his flashlight and stumbled into the dark.
The tunnels, which had been originally dug out of the limestone hills as a chalk mine, comprised a five-mile-long labyrinth of blind corridors, twisting passages, and dead ends. Josuat-Vergès walked down one corridor, turned, then turned again. His flashlight battery slowly dimmed, then died; shortly after, as he tromped down one soggy corridor, his shoes were sucked off his feet and swallowed by the mud. Josuat-Vergès stumbled barefoot through the maze, groping in pitch-darkness, searching in vain for the exit.

On the afternoon of January 21, 2005, exactly 34 days after Josuat-Vergès first entered the tunnels, three local teenage boys decided to explore the abandoned mushroom farm. Just a few steps into the dark entrance corridor, they discovered the empty Land Rover, with the driver’s door still open. The boys called the police, who promptly dispatched a search team. After 90 minutes, in a chamber just 600 feet from the entrance, they found Josuat-Vergès. He was ghostly pale, thin as a skeleton, and had grown out a long, scraggly beard—but he was alive.

The full article, including Josuat-Vergès' account of how he experienced bizarre mood swings (and a few other strange historical caving stories), can be read at the link below:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/getting-lost-cave-labyrinth-brain/582865/
 

Sharon Hill

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Long, but worthwhile account here of how getting lost in a cave can make the brain go haywire and could account for some apparently supernatural experiences.

It centres around the remarkable case of Frenchman Jean-Luc Josuat-Vergès who, in 2004, wandered into the tunnels of an abandoned mushroom farm at Madiran in south-west France and got lost. Josuat-Vergès, who was 48 and employed as a caretaker at a local health centre, had been depressed. Leaving his wife and 14-year-old son at home, he’d driven up into the hills with a bottle of whisky and a pocketful of sleeping pills. After steering his Land Rover into the large entrance tunnel of the mushroom farm, he’d clicked on his flashlight and stumbled into the dark.
The tunnels, which had been originally dug out of the limestone hills as a chalk mine, comprised a five-mile-long labyrinth of blind corridors, twisting passages, and dead ends. Josuat-Vergès walked down one corridor, turned, then turned again. His flashlight battery slowly dimmed, then died; shortly after, as he tromped down one soggy corridor, his shoes were sucked off his feet and swallowed by the mud. Josuat-Vergès stumbled barefoot through the maze, groping in pitch-darkness, searching in vain for the exit.

On the afternoon of January 21, 2005, exactly 34 days after Josuat-Vergès first entered the tunnels, three local teenage boys decided to explore the abandoned mushroom farm. Just a few steps into the dark entrance corridor, they discovered the empty Land Rover, with the driver’s door still open. The boys called the police, who promptly dispatched a search team. After 90 minutes, in a chamber just 600 feet from the entrance, they found Josuat-Vergès. He was ghostly pale, thin as a skeleton, and had grown out a long, scraggly beard—but he was alive.

The full article, including Josuat-Vergès' account of how he experienced bizarre mood swings (and a few other strange historical caving stories), can be read at the link below:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/getting-lost-cave-labyrinth-brain/582865/
That article was adapted from Will Hunt's Underground book which I must get.

Caves seem to be an environment that is entirely conducive to haunting experiences. The pure darkness, closed-in spaces, and, especially, the structure that allows sounds to echo and distort. On my list for a SpookyGeology.com feature.
 

escargot

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True darkness is terrifying. When my kids were small I took them to stay in a caravan in deepest rural Wales.

It was so far from civilisation (and street lights) that nights inside it were completely black.

I once woke up and had to feel my eyeballs to check whether my eyelids were stuck shut! :chuckle:
 

blessmycottonsocks

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The famous Chislehurst Caves, complete with ghost, have their own thread here (which may be worth consolidating?).

https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/chislehurst-caves-ghost.20469/

Nice, gothic account of a 2017 visit here:

https://xenogothic.com/2017/10/23/darkness-itself/

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit there a few years ago and will certainly go again, when lockdown is over.
The palpable blackness, as described by @escargot above, can certainly be experienced at Chislehurst.
Given that the unfortunate French guy, a few posts above, became lost in just 5 miles of chalk tunnels, I wouldn't fancy my chances of navigating 22 labyrinthine miles in pitch darkness.
Down that path, madness lies...
 
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Min Bannister

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True darkness is terrifying. When my kids were small I took them to stay in a caravan in deepest rural Wales.

It was so far from civilisation (and street lights) that nights inside it were completely black.

I once woke up and had to feel my eyeballs to check whether my eyelids were stuck shut! :chuckle:
I remember a powercut that happened overnight when I was about 10. I woke up and thought I was dead. :omg:
 

Souleater

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Pure darkness is a good description, so dark you can poke yourself in the eye and still not see your finger.
This reminds me of a school trip we took to 'Big Pit' in Wales, when we got down into the mine we were asked to turn off our head lamps to experience the true magnitude of the darkness, one of the group (known for not being the sharpest spoon in the draw) came out with a classic which had the rest of us in stitches 'it'll be ok when your eyes adjust to the dark'
 

Spookdaddy

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On a fictional tangent - two tales set close to where I live and both clearly referencing (if not specifically) places already mentioned in this thread:


Read by Greg Wagland - one of my very favourites voices in the spoken word universe.

Blue John is allegedly found nowhere else in the world - and limited to only two caves in the vicinity.

There's also The Demoniac Goat, by the bizarre M P Dare - and the subject of episode 81 of the most excellent A Podcast to the Curious. I can't find a full reading online. Not, in my opinion, a great story, but the podcast is - as always - well worth listening to.
 

David Plankton

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