Monk Caves, Pirate Caves, Spouting caves and now Castle Caves. I never really expected that the crew here at Strange New England would be encountering so many caves this summer. Each one seemed to be stumbled upon by accident. Castle Caves was no different. As I was examining an old United States Global Survey (USGS) topographical map of the Sutton MA area, the words ‘Castle Caves’ just jumped out at me. It was only a few miles directly south of Purgatory Chasm. I was surprised I had never noticed it before.

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In Colebrook Conn. it is rumored that there exists a cave of mammoth proportion. Colebrook Cave was alleged to have been discovered in the 1800’s, and rediscovered around 1926, only to be lost once again. Some say that this tale was a hoax created by local pranksters. Though the story reads much like the typical legend, as you dig deeper into its history you begin to find evidence to support it.

Connecticut is the home of many caves, large and small, most New Englanders are not aware of. The largest of these are the Twin Lakes Caves in Salisbury. These caves are impressive in size and called the Champions of New England caves. Though previously commercial caves, they are now closed to the public.

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I’m often asked how we uncover these interesting places and history in New England. Often, I will stress the worth of libraries and lots of reading, but forget to mention the immense value of just talking to people. Many of our greatest discoveries come from a conversation with a friendly person we meet in our travels. One of those casual conversations is what led to my discover of Deadman’s Cave.

In fall of 2012, I was once again reminded that chatting with friends and family around you can also pay off. I was told that my father in-law Richard Gallo had a story about a long-forgotten cave in Cranston Rhode Island.  Though I found it hard to believe I could have missed something like this, I was intrigued.

When I met with Richard, I immediately asked where the cave was located. Expecting to hear that it lay on a lonely hill in the western extremes of Cranston, I was surprised by what in his story revealed.

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Goshen MysteryClay Perry included many things in his books that would only be considered caves by the most generous definition. There were also some entries he referred to as artificial caves. These were man-made stone tunnels and chambers that can be found scattered across New England. Though he had and entire chapter that covered some that he found most interesting, there is one in Goshen, Massachusetts that will only be found in the index as a counterfeiter’s cave, but it is known as Goshen’s Counterfeiters Cave .

In late 2015, I had the chance to visit and explore this counterfeiter’s cave with My friends Jim, Michael , Tristen and Zack. I had known of the tunnel for over 25 years and had always wanted to explore it. I found the available descriptions and illustrations to be accurate. The tunnels branching off in two directions did appear odd, but the corbel construction is something I have seen in other colonial tunnels in New England. Their appearance greatly resembles old Roman culverts that can still be found in England. If it weren’t for the hardpan in which they are seated, I might suspect they were to divert or transport water over a property.

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All over New England are stone chambers of all different shapes and sizes. Clay Perry referred to them as artificial caves, and 1dedicated a chapter to some he speculated were created by Irish monks around 1000 AD. There is one that locals call the Hermit Cave.

In East Thompson, Connecticut there is one known as the Hermit Cave. It is a corbelled dome chamber built into a low natural mound. It has a small crawl-in opening two feet high and wide with a three-foot-long passage. The passage slopes slightly to an oval chamber 6 feet, 8 inches high and 7 feet, 6 inches wide. The rear of the chamber to the entrance measures 11 feet, 6 inches long. This small chamber is an amazing work of dry masonry.

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Pine GroveI’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.

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Lacys-5In Cumbria, England, is Eden Valley, a quiet part of the UK with its traditional towns 1and pubs, beautiful hamlets and sandstone villages, some dating back to Viking times. A few miles north of the historic town of Penrith, is a small village called Little Salkeld. On the west side of the village is the Eden River. It was known to the Romans as the Itoun. This name derives from the Celtic word ituna, meaning water, or rushing. It winds its way north toward Carlisle.

The largest house in the village is the manor in Little Salkeld, confirmed by King Edward I. It is said to be the original home of the Salkeld family of landowners and Salkeld Hall built in the 16th century. The village has a vicarage with no church and Little Salkeld Watermill that was built in 1745 and is still operating. Little Salkeld is also known for Long Meg and Her Daughters, a Bronze Age stone circle consisting of 51 stones (of which 27 remain upright). The tallest stone is 3.7 meters high and stands outside the circle. It is made of local red sandstone, carved with a spiral, a cup and ring mark, and concentric circles. Poet William Wordsworth deemed them to be the country’s most notable relics after Stonehenge.

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Counterfeiters Den BannerAlmost a year ago we had found the counterfeiters den that had been lost for close to 100 years. We promised that we would share the full story behind the Den once our research was complete. Though the story is still not complete and there is much more research to be done, we felt we would share how much we have so far. We have withheld names and particular details of the story because we are currently working with members of the local government to protect it. We confirmed that the den is on private property and we are trying to arrange a conservation easement. For now, the den should be considered off limits. Soon we hope to meet with the land owners to begin discussions. We hope to develop a good relationship with them so that the den can be protected and possibly accessible in the future.
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damnation_bannerMVC-009FIn August 2003 I returned trip to Purgatory Chasm. With a diet of 90% fish and lots of exercise, I had trimmed down a few belt sizes. When I last visited the Damnation Cave, I hit a road block. The passage to the lower level was much narrower than I remembered. Now, I was ready to squeeze through that final obstacle and make it to the inner sanctum. This time I planed on mapping the cave. This gave the trip a useful purpose, but finding my way to the lower chamber was my true goal.

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The story of Eldon French’s discovery of a beautiful cave reads like a young boy’s fantasy. It reminded me of those moments in my own childhood where I would read about pirates secreting treasure on some lonely shoreline or the discovery Beautiful Farm Land Near Eldon French's Homeof ancient ruins. I would be out exploring the forests the next day in the hopes of making my own discovery. Eldon was one of the few whose love for exploration and keen sense of observation paid off. He had discovered what is still considered one of the longest caves in New England. Though my own childhood adventures more often met with great disappointment, this would be my chance to revisit those fantasies of my youth while living vicariously through Eldon’s story.

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