Elijah Davidson followed his dog Bruno into the cave, leaving his rifle near the entrance, with just six matches in his pocket.
He crawled through a narrow crevice until he came to a larger chamber.
It was 1874 and Bruno had chased a black bear away from the hunter and into a cave.
He followed the sound until he couldn’t hear anymore. By then curiosity had taken over and he cautiously kept going with little or no light to guide him.
When he needed to find his way out of the cave he followed the river — which has since been renamed for the mythological Styx.
It is now believed that Davidson spent at least three hours in the cave until he exited the same way the river does.
And guess who was there on the outside waiting for him. That’s right, his faithful four-legged friend Bruno.
Nearly 143 years later we retraced some of his steps. We carried a lantern with us, not just a few matches but not quite a flashlight either.
The Oregon Caves are a national monument and a hotel was built near the entrance of the caves in 1934.
These caves are one of the few marble caves in the United States and although much of the cave can be explored on various tours, there are still many chambers and hallways that remain off limits for visitors.
A candlelight tour of the Caves provided a unique perspective of what early explorers may have seen, or missed, when they entered the cave system.
Arrows —presumably left behind by those early explorers— stand out in black on the marble walls of the caves. And in one location signatures with dates of the late 1800s are left behind by those who first came into the cave system.
Nowadays, leaving a signature in the Oregon Caves would cost you $250,000 or 10 years in federal prison, but those signatures and arrows provide a look into how the caves were explored.
Although it does require a bit of stair climbing and ducking for low hanging rock formations —when you first get to the caves you’ll be asked to learn a special cave walk— the caves are now accessible to most due to the walkways and staircases that were built to accommodate visitors.
Prior to those walkways and staircases visitors would have to climb, using rope and ladders, often with a chance of losing their source of light in the river below or because of the draft that runs through the cave.
When we came to the ghost room in the cave and were asked to blow out our candles, it was easy to see how people would lose their minds on early explorations.
In total darkness many of us will start hallucinating, when the lights were out I could’ve sworn I could still see the outline of the rocks. When I was asked to wave my hand in front of my face, I could see its outline too.
Perhaps, that’s why it was called the ghost room.
Or maybe it had something to do with the supposed hauntings that have taken place in the area.
After it’s completion in 1934 the Oregon Caves Chateau, the hotel nearby, quickly became known as a place where hauntings were taking place.
It is said that a young woman named Elizabeth fell to her death —or was pushed— out of the window from room 310 after finding her new husband in a passionate embrace with a chambermaid during the honeymoon.
She has since been known to haunt the halls and kitchen by dropping things on the heads of those who dismiss her story and by crying in the third floor linen closet.
Guests who stay at the top floor of the hotel have also reported hearing footsteps overhead, despite being on the top floor and nobody working on the roof at the time.
Due to all the ghost stories surrounding the area the staff at the Oregon Caves are holding several Halloween Tours of the Caves where they will tell some of the lesser known ghost stories that surround the area.
We didn’t encounter any ghosts, but if I imagine my own hands in total darkness I can believe that hallucinations would only increase the longer I would be without light in the area.
Luckily for us our candles were soon re-lit and our tour continued.