The quiet hills and hollers between Gest and Lockport hide their past easily to the casual passerby.
During the fall as Halloween nears, the old wives tales and family folklore lend themselves to the macabre of hallows’ eve where fact and fiction blur peaking our fascination, imagination and delight of fear. The tale of Cave Springs is one such story passed on by the Craigmyle family near the sight of a presumed haunted history.
Down in a hillside off of Fallis-Gest Road, outside of Gest proper and before the road turns into Lockport-Fallis Road, tucked back in the thickets lies part of the old road. From the modern road, the old road is hidden in the valley of a creek shaded by a cathedral of twisted trees and broken streams.
The hillside above is dotted with gravestones of an old neglected cemetery. The easiest landmark is one large headstone fashioned like a small obelisk. It has four sides each for a different family member. The writing isn’t very legible and the script is covered by moss.
Surveying the hillside near it, lay other headstones with family names like Meade that may have been prevalent in the area before the cholera outbreak of the 1800s, which wiped out any hope of the town’s anticipated growth.
The steep hillside can be negotiated for those where the rural landscape proved to be their playground. The descent is veined with deer trails for more sure footing. After descending about 100 yards, or for a spell as my grandmother would put it, you will find the wide creek bed.
During a season of heavy rain, the creek most likely rushes with turbulence, but in the fall its scattered deep pockets of water only stirred from the occasional falling burnt autumn leaf and minnow swimming in it.
Moving south along the creek, the land rises to prominent banks on both sides. From the creek bed, layers of stacked rock can be seen on both sides on the site of the old bridge. The sides look almost like walls still defiant despite the passage of time.
From there across the bank in a southwest direction lies Cave Springs. Several gullies and pushed embankments must be crossed but its opening is unmistakable. The cold air can be felt pushing from its mouth like a deep exhale from inside the Earth. The hole is dark with a tunnel that twists into the hillside to the right. A tree grows twisted above it and the opening has been diminished by the obvious collapse of rock above its opening, but it still seems passable for someone of the right size.
On this site possibly more than 100 years ago, it is rumored the old timers put their milk and other goods here to keep them cold from spoiling. The air feels no warmer than 50 degrees. But tragedy and superstition supposedly put an end to its use.
It is rumored that a woman hanged herself by a tree in front of the cave after finding out that she was pregnant. After sadness and fear had sculpted her resolve, she decided suicide was better than shame to her family. In one version of the story, her family left her body there until it separated itself from the noose leaving her head still swaying in the breeze. It is uncertain if this was from grief or the popular belief that she had condemned herself to damnation by the act of suicide.
Whether the invention of this tale was to keep children from entering the cave or not is up for debate. Families were told not to take the road and cross the bridge at night near Cave Springs. They were warned that the headless woman would steal any child from the wagons for want of her own. Some also say the screams heard at night in that valley are owls or wildlife, but this tale best serves the skeptic and those that want to be scared —especially near Halloween.
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