#17 – My Second Great Shock – 1982

Written by Russell Burrows:

I was amazed that a cave this large could be found in this part of Illinois. As a matter of fact, the state geological maps do not show a limestone deposit in that area. But the cave is certainly there, nonetheless.

It is really not surprising to find unrecorded limestone deposits; new ones are found almost weekly in that part of the state. What is surprising, however, is the fact that no one had found this one.

The limestone deposit is typical in that it has a sandstone cap. The overburden is quite thick. If one calculates from the entrance of the cave to the top of the hill in which the cave is located, then the overburden would be several hundred feet in depth, unless the sandstone/limestone formation runs at an angle.

The general area is rough in appearance, consisting of small hills and very rough hollows. These hills and hollows are, I am told, the result of the New Madrid earthquake, which occurred in December of 1811. Stories of this quake are still told by the residents of the area, mostly farmers, some of whom are still farming the land where their ancestors settled long ago.

According to those stories, handed down from generation to generation, the quake changed the appearance of the land so much that the farmers were unable to recognize their own farms and fields. So the stories go: where once fine pastures were to be seen, only deep ditches were found. Livestock were lost to openings in the earth or drowned in the floods which occurred with the earthquake. It is said that the Mississippi and Ohio rivers flowed backwards for three days after the quake. If the stories are true, the destruction must have been terrible.

I continued to explore the cave. Several days after my first entry, I reached an area which was very wide, but still only eighteen to twenty-four inches high, though the height increased somewhat as I progressed inward.

On this day, I was crawling along, quite frightened – but my curiosity had the better of me. Suddenly, I again found myself nose to nose with another face. This one is not a flat one on a stone wall but a complete head, well executed in black stone. I almost made a new entrance out of the cave right then and there, but the initial shock passed and I then saw four more of these handsome fellows in a half circle. After getting my heart rate back down to about twice normal, I was, at last, conscious that I had found something that definitely should not be there. These things were not Indian. They had a totally different look about them – my first thought was Egyptian maybe.

My next project was to get a look at the bodies of these statues, and to do so I had to dig. Of course these events were taking place over a period of time, and little progress was made each day because of the travel to and from the area, the long hike in, and the deception, all of which took time and planning. Each time a new obstacle presented itself or a new project was started new tools for the job had to be obtained and brought in. Nothing I did was as easy as it sounds.

In this case, because of the close quarters I never did dig a whole statue out, but I was able to clear out the silt down to about hip level. I found that each one of the statues is standing with its left foot forward and its arm extended. In every statue’s left hand, which is doubled into a fist, a hole can be seen, and it is clear that each of these statues held a staff or spear or something, the shaft of which was just under three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The objects that were in those holes are long gone, but these fellows are finely dressed. Each is wearing a pointed hat with well-done etchings. They are bare-chested except for crossed belts on three of them. Each is wearing a belt at the waist but I could not tell whether they are wearing trousers or a skirt of some kind. My impression is that they are wearing skirts. The other adornments are arm bands, wrist bracelets and a very wide, well-done necklace. I have no idea what they are standing on, but by probing with my shotgun cleaning rods I could determine that the statues are in excess of eight feet tall.