This Is Why People Think America’s Biggest Cave Is Haunted

Published: Sep 22, 2023

Haunted caves and houses are often the centers of many scary movies and stories we don’t often expect them to exist in reality. However, with over 150 documented cases of strange sightings and events in the Mammoth Cave National Park, we could have a real case on our hands.

Is this Appalachian cave haunted, or are people just imagining things? There are too many testimonies that point to the former. Let’s review them.

First, Let’s Meet the Mammoth Cave National Park

The Mammoth Cave National Park takes up over 52,000 acres of west-central Kentucky’s land. If you are an experienced parkgoer, this should be music to your ears. More land, more fun.


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Every year, the park welcomes hundreds of thousands of people to experience the wonders and beauty of nature. It came alive on July 1st, 1941, and the National Park Service, a federal agency, helps keep its attraction intact.


A Bouquet of Unlimited Fun

Entrance into the Mammoth Cave National Park is free. So, if you are curious about history and eager for fun, you’ve got all that it takes for an unforgettable park experience.


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The fun is unlimited, too. From horseback riding, hiking, camping, picnicking, and fishing, to biking, there’s little space for boredom. Yet, we haven’t talked about the biggest item on the list.

The Central Attraction is a Massive Cave

For most of its visitors, the Mammoth Cave is the first part of the park they want to see. With a reputation for being the largest of its kind anywhere in the universe, its demand shouldn’t be surprising.


Source: Wikipedia

There are at least 400 miles of rocky tunnels for you to explore and lots of history to digest.

The Cave Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The park, alongside its underground network of caves and passageways, is also a refuge for plants and animals, including those on the brink of extinction. Another interesting thing you’d notice if you step in is its vast horizontal passages. 


Source: Wikipedia

UNESCO has officially recognized the cave as a World Heritage Site. A deserving recognition for such a large mass of limestone that has been over 100 years in the making.

Connecting Mammoth Cave With Appalachian History

The Mammoth Cave is seated in the Appalachian region, a cultural region in the Eastern United States that spreads across 13 states and 423 counties. Besides Kentucky, other states in this region include New York, Ohio, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas. 

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The Appalachian region is home to some of the country’s natural wonders, as well as some disturbing history. Aside from the coal mines for which the region was popular, we are also talking penitentiaries and brimming psychiatric hospitals.


The Appalachian Region and Its Scary Stories

Appalachian history and legend are replete with a blurred distinction between fact and fiction. There are lots of stories about ghosts, haunted woods, and paranormal incidents. 

Source: Wikipedia

One example is the Weston, West Virginia, mental asylum. This massive mansion mental rehabilitation facility is popular for its crude, highly inefficient, and fatal lobotomies. The asylum also had a reputation for housing over 2000 people with mental health conditions in its 250-capacity facility. However, the Mammoth Cave is the most prominent example.


The Ghost Stories of the Mammoth Cave

There is an abundance of ghost stories surrounding the Mammoth Cave. While it’s pretty usual for cave hikes to be creepy, the horror tales around the Mammoth Cave keep heaping up, with each new story lending credence to its haunted reputation.

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What first began as traditional campfire stories soon spread into newspapers and online publications. Now, there are about 150 different testimonies of paranormal encounters.


Unraveling the Ghosts of a Former Tour Guide

Steven Bishop was a former tour guide at the Mammoth Cave before his death in 1859. His burial place is reportedly an old guide cemetery close to the cave.


Over the years, many tourists and even tourists claim to have sighted his ghostly apparition amongst tour groups. A 200-year-old ghost is surely going to look its scariest.


Lots of Horror Sounds

Many horror stories about the cave revolve around strange sounds of footsteps. Imagine hearing the sound of feet slowly hitting the ground while you are meters away from your tour group. Scary, right?

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However, people who doubt these stories attribute these sounds to the continuous drops of water from the roof of the caves. Which side of the story do you believe?


Tourists Have Reportedly Been Grabbed and Pushed By Unseen Hands

Imagine getting shoved by an unseen hand while standing close to the cave walls during a tour. Although some tourists and park rangers who have alleged these experiences describe these shoves as “playful.” What’s playful about getting nudged or grabbed by a ghost? 

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The most popular stories about the Mammoth Cave’s paranormal activities have been those on the internet. 


The Stories Come Alive on Tik Tok

Many people heard their first stories about the haunted Mammoth Cave in a viral Tik Tok video. In a video by the Spooky Science Sisters Podcast, Dr. Meagan Ankney revealed the history of the cave dating back hundreds of years. 

Source: Spooky Science Sisters Podcast/Tik Tok

She also featured numerous witness accounts of paranormal activities. More interestingly, she provided compelling reasons why the cave could truly be haunted. Chief among these reasons is a ridiculous tuberculosis treatment experiment. 


Haunted By Dead Tuberculosis Patients?

Many commentators trace the plethora of alleged paranormal activities to the cave’s eerie history. The Mammoth Cave was once a tuberculosis treatment center. 

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It all began in 842 when Dr. John Croghan sent 16 tuberculosis patients to live in the rock. The doctor had good reason to believe that the cave’s peculiar humidity and temperature possessed some healing power.


Relics of the Failed Experiment Still Remain

The facilities which tuberculosis patients used while seeking treatment remain visible to date. A trip through the cave on its lantern tour will reveal several huts that once served as hospital rooms. 

Source: Wikipedia Commons

Previous visitors to this section of the cave have come out with stories of a frightening atmosphere and ghostly coughs during their tour. The extent of the failure of this treatment experiment is even more chilling. 


What Happened to the Tuberculosis Patients of Mammoth Cave?

Patients of the Mammoth Cave tuberculosis experiment passed away, and in terrible circumstances too. The five-month experiment even worsened the health condition of the patients to the point that – according to historical records – they became like skeletons. 

Source: Wikipedia

After the passing of five such patients, the managers of the facility placed their bodies on the rocks awaiting removal. People believe that the spirits of these patients still rove about the cave seeking closure. 


The Mystery Lives On

Dr. Meagan Ankney is just one of the numerous people who believe that the Mammoth Cave is still haunted. Her Tik Tok video garnered over 250,000 views and lots of confirmation in the comments. 

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The compelling testimonies of a haunted cave add fuel to the controversy about the presence of spirits in our world. Now, there are more questions than answers. Plus, it’s looking more unlikely that the Mammoth Cave will prove its innocence anytime soon.