Friday, February 17, 2006

Lovecraft’s Visit to Endless Caverns

It's a pleasure to offer Tom Lera's guest essay today at HPLblog. He is a world recognized expert of caves and a keen fan of Lovecraft. Thanks, Tom.

***
Lovecraft wrote in The Shadow Out of Time: “Later in that year I spent weeks alone beyond the limits of previous or subsequent exploration in the vast limestone cavern systems of western Virginia – black labyrinths so complex that no retracing of my steps could be considered.”

Joshi says these are the New Market Endless Caverns which HPL visited in July 1928.
Having visited the caverns several times I wondered what they looked like in the 1920’s. A short history of the caverns relates that they were discovered in October 1879 on the farm of Reuben Zirkle and opened commercially in 1920 as Endless Caverns then operated by Major Brown and his father Colonel E.T. Brown (no relation to Steve Spielberg’s ET).















[above] View of the entrance in the 1920s














[above]
View of formations along the tourist trail.


The Caverns contain over 8,300 feet of passage on multiple levels including a lower stream passage. There are two sections - the Tourist Section about 4,000 feet of trails which takes about 1 ½ hours on the guided tour and the Explorer’s Trail section which covers some of the lower levels, including some 50 to 60 foot pits.


























Today’s view from the Interstate and the current entrance to the caverns.


Note:
Additional old 1920 photos can be found in the Norfolk and Western Historical Collection housed at the University of Virginia.

A post office opened at the Caverns in 1929 and remained open until 1943. Perhaps some correspondence of HPL was mailed from the Caverns on a later visit.

1. Caves of Virginia by Henry H. Douglas, 1964, page 409
2. Descriptions of Virginia Cave by John R. Holsinger, 1975 pages 218 - 219.

1 comment:

Tom Lera said...

Nice, the photos show well.

Cheers. TL

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