Hidden deep in the forest of Connecticut is an outcrop of granite that to most, would appear to be no different than any other in the northeast. It stands almost 100 feet tall, 300 feet long and has had a long and interesting history. Recently we rediscovered this amazing location. We enjoyed the excitement of uncovering each of its known natural features. The moment that will stick in my mind the most though, is my encounter with the Terror Beneath the Devil’s Coffin.
In 2013 Adrienne and I traveled to Connecticut to find a cave called Squaw’s Kitchen. Clay Perry had noted it in New England’s Buried Treasure. The details concerning this cave and its exact location were very limited and vague. We eventually found a tall ledge, with a talus made of monster-sized boulders. Though the ledge looked like it might hide several caves, our information seemed to place the cave in the talus. It wasn’t long before we found the cave we were searching for, or so we thought.
I made a return trip to the location, accompanied by a fellow explorer Jim Moore. As we approached the ledge, Jim’s sharp eye soon spotted interesting features along the base of the ledge. We were excited and decide to take a closer look at them. To our surprise we found a second cave. It sloped upward into the ledge for 23 feet. Climbing in to better examine it, we found it led into a chamber. The chamber was 17 feet long, six feet wide, and seven feet high; and it was well illuminated by the second entrance from the top of the ledge.
Excited by our discovery, Jim began to examine top of the ledge, and soon stumbled onto another interesting fracture. It penetrated downward into the ledge, and opened into a chamber. This chamber was about 14 feet long, five feet high and six feet wide. Spying around the chamber we noticed a low passage at the base of the north wall. Following it, I found it zigzagged downward for another 26 feet into the ledge, ending at a long narrow fracture tall enough to stand in. Short on time, we headed back to the Jeep and started toward our next destination.
A few days later, Jim surprised me with The Graphic, an 1895 publication he had dug up. Inside was a very detailed article about Squaw Rocks and several caves that can be found there.
The article mentioned that this was a popular picnic spot from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. It was said to be, “amongst the most interesting of nature’s curiosities in New England.” The locals believed it was so fantastic, it was also known as The Seven Wonders. Tradition claims that the Nipmuck tribe used the ledge and large talus as a summer resort, and during war, as a hiding place for women and children. Until 1892, remnants of the camps could still be found and arrow heads were frequently discovered by picnickers.
The article described four caves the locals visited frequently at The Seven Wonders. The first two mentioned were The Old Lady’s Kitchen and The Well. The last two had no names, but based on their descriptions, I will call them the Unknown Cave and Two-Way Cave.
I spent the next few days reviewing the article, along with all my old sources on the area. I soon realized that the Old Lady’s Kitchen was also known as Devil’s Kitchen and Squaw’s Kitchen, the cave I had thought I had already found. To avoid confusion, I will refer to it as the Old Lady’s Kitchen for the rest of the article. The Graphic article placed it in a different location than my original sources, hidden in the ledge, at its highest point. Reading on, I learned that the first cave I found was actually the lower entrance to the cave known as The Well. Though the name might seem odd for the cave, it was inspired by the pit entrance at the top of the talus. The Well extends downward 20 feet into the talus to a series of passages, which, if followed, would eventually lead to the cave I visited in 2013.
Two-Way Cave was described in The Graphic as, “two openings from without that lead into a good-sized room.” This description matched the first fracture cave Jim had found on the far north end of the ledge.
The Unknown Cave was said to contain, “A narrow Passage within the rock”, that goes on for an “unknown distance.” This is an excellent description for the second facture cave, which contained the passage that zigzagged deep into the ledge.
It appeared that the only cave I hadn’t found yet was The Old Lady’s Kitchen, the same one that originally brought me to this location. The Graphic placed the cave near the Devil’s Coffin, a 20 foot long geological feature that can be found at the highest point of the ledge. A few feet below this, you can find the entrance to the cave. Within the cave are natural features with names like, The Old Lady’s Armchair and The Old Lady’s Stove/Table, along with a natural chimney and a window overlooking the valley.
Determined to complete my quest I began years ago, I decided to venture out to the ledge one more time. I plotted where I believed I would find The Devil’s Coffin, and the next weekend, I set out to make another visit to The Seven Wonders.
Starting from Two-Way Cave, I began following south along the top of the ledge. On the forest floor, I could see the vague signs of a beaten path, now obscured by the shrubs and forest debris. Was it possibly the path used by the picnickers until the early 1900s? At the crest of the path, I spotted a deep fissure. The east side of this fissure was made of a slab of granite 20 feet long, 12 feet deep and eight feet wide, leaning toward the valley below. The top of this slab looked like a coffin. Suspecting this was the Devil’s Coffin, I began searching for the entrance to the cave.
This is where my visit became a bit spooky. As I examined the cracks and crevasses at the base of Devil’s Coffin, I sudden heard a strange sound coming from inside the cliff. It was very slow and muffled, like an angry dog bark. I paused to hear more, but heard nothing. I returned to my search when suddenly I heard it briefly again. I thought it might be coming from inside the cave below, which made me a bit concerned, but still very curious. Eventually I heard it a third time, but this time the mystery was revealed. The sound began to change until I saw a large black vulture fly past the edge of the ledge and up into the tree tops. I could hear the pounding of its large wings as it passed close by. It was then followed by a second vulture. Looking up above I saw five other individuals already circling above. These raptors appeared to be adults, so I concluded that what I had heard was the flapping of their huge wings resonating, as they entered and exited the cave below. This wasn’t the first time I experienced cave acoustics making animals sounds seem strange.
Returning to my search, just south of the Devil’s Coffin, I found another fissure that dropped 14 feet. I could see that it led into a fracture in the ledge. As I climbed into the fissure for a closer look, about half way down I saw a small opening that dropped another four feet. Peering in, I could see it continued north and under the Devil’s Coffin, confirming that it was the entrance to The Old Lady’s Kitchen.
The Old Lady’s Kitchen is made up of two chambers and several passages. The first chamber is 12 feet long, five feet wide and five feet high, with a 15 foot long passage running parallel to it. It is separated from the next section by large breakdown boulders. Past the boulders is the chamber known as the Old Lady’s Kitchen. Immediately to the right the window described in the article could be seen, along with its fine view of the valley below. Nearby could be seen signs of how the vultures were using this window to enter and exit the cave. Below the window was a narrow passage, sloping downward for over 11 feet, and exiting the cave onto a ledge about 20 feet above the base of the cliff.
The Old Lady’s Kitchen is 18 feet long, six and one-half feet wide, six feet tall, and shaped like a long shoe box. Examining the sides of the cave, one could quickly see how they had once fit together like a puzzle. On the far end was a narrow passage to the face of the cliff with a small ledge one could precariously rest on. All features described in the articles were easily matched to natural features in the cave. The chimney mentioned was two feet high and three feet wide. A 15 foot-long passage in the ceiling of the cave continued upward and exited the cliff above. The rock was still blackened from the soot of the fire from long ago. On the floor nearby, a now half-buried stone ring, which was once the fire pit could be seen.
The last thing I found in the cave was not mentioned in any of the literature. One of the cave’s visitors from long ago left his mark. There on a wall at the far end of the cave, were the initials GN carved into the granite. As I stared down at my discovery, for a moment I felt connected to this person. Sitting there enjoying the view of the valley, I found myself imagining GN doing the same. Searching the cave, I found no other carvings.
I can see why this cave would have been a popular stop for the picnickers over 100 years ago. It is fun to explore, and in the summer, it would offer a cool place to sit with fantastic views. Though it is one of the more interesting of nature’s curiosities in southeastern New England, it now sits buried and forgotten in the woods. Years ago I said I had hoped to return to the area soon for a better look. I now regret it took me so long to do so. The Seven Wonders is a fantastic example of the many lost treasures in the northeast waiting to be rediscovered.
Posted in Cave, Geology, Ghostly Haunts, Historical, Legends & Folklore, Natural Wonders, Subterranean, Wildlife and tagged cave, Coffin, devil, folklore, geology, hidden, history, indian, Kitchen, Monster, Native American, Seven Wonders, Squaw, terror, Vultureswith 6 comments.