I’ve often thought of Connecticut as the Devil’s State. You can find his name attached to more features, places and landmarks than anywhere else in New England. Even Long Island Sound was referred to as the Devil’s Belt. Because of this, I was not surprised to stumble on the mention of a cave called “The Devil’s Cave,” in Connecticut. I had seen it mentioned in a 1908 article about a spiritualist camp that lies near a cove along the coast. I won’t deny that the cave’s name is what caught my interest.
It wasn’t long before I discovered that this cave has been in many publications in my library. It’s mentioned in a list of lost Connecticut caves as Devil’s Den Caves. Many other authors briefly mentioned it as Indian Cave. The one thing they all seemed to all have in common was the lack of knowledge about its exact location. Some spoke of it as if it were a secret that only locals were aware of.
None of my sources gave any details on the cave’s history. I was in the dark until my friend Jim stepped in and applied his sharp detective skills. He discovered a passage on the cave in the 1908 edition of Anthropological Papers of the Museum of Natural History in the section on The Western Niantic, a tribe of Native Americans that lived in Connecticut. According to the book, “The only fragment of lore which could be obtained is a short historical account of an attack on the Niantic village…” The story goes on to say, “A short distance from the river there is a ridge of rock in which is a small cavern known locally as the Devil’s Den. In this, a band of Niantic retreated on one occasion when hard pressed by an enemy, some say Mohawks. Fortunately, expecting a siege, the Niantic carried some mortars and pestles with them, but they had no corn. The enemy, unable to dislodge them, settled down outside to starve them out. Soon, however, they heard the sounds of corn pounding and merriment from the cave and thinking the Niantic were provided with grain they gave up the siege and left. Local traditions attribute mysterious noises in the cave to the Devil.”
The article that inspired my quest for Devil’s Cave(s) said that the camp’s outdoor auditorium, ‘faced the placid waters of the Cove, flanked as it was by Devils Cave.’ With this simple detail, I was able to conclude that the cave was set in the most southern of the nearby Hills.
On Saturday I headed out to the hill. It wasn’t long before I came on a ridge and the talus the caves were in. My first view of the talus was rather disappointing, so as I continued into the ravine, my expectations were low. A little further into the ravine, I was suddenly surprised by two caves. The first cave was approximately 40 feet long and tall enough to stand in. The second cave was 10 feet deep, with a much shorter side passage. The passage was 20 feet long, but it appeared that it might go on further.
I continued to examine the rest of the ridge and discovered a third cave that was higher in the talus. It had a yawning entrance about 15 feet tall. After climbing up four feet, the cave continued into a chamber that had three passages that continued. I would have explored further in if it weren’t for the fact that it currently has a turkey vulture fledgling living in it. It defensive hiss made it clear that my company was not wanted.
Unable to continue deeper into the third cave, I examined the top of the talus. Above the third cave I found where the passage to the right exited. Once again, I could see my feathered friend greeting me with its hiss. Exploring further, I found another cave south of cave three. It was 25 feet deep before coming to a drop, where I could clearly hear the vulture close by. I concluded that this was the other end of the third cave. All together, I estimate that the third cave might be as long as 65 to 70 feet.
Though there was more to explore, I called it a day. This location has some passages that need to be further examined, and I need to get true measurements of each cave. I hope to return to the area in September, when hopefully, the young vulture has moved on.
Posted in Historical, Legends & Folklore, The Underworldwith 2 comments.