Ted the Caver Mystery

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I came across an interesting story the other day…a story which starts off rather innocuously as “Ted’s Caving Page“.

Ted Caving Page is an early blog-type series of pages which chronicle a spelunkers’ discovery of a virgin cave passage in some unknown location in the US.  The story, presented as Ted’s personal journal of discovery and back-thoughts is intriguing..and creepy.  All in all, it seems a lot like the Blair Witch story…believable characters up against an unseen force that has evil intent.  Overall, I found it to be rather captivating and believable.

Since the story ends rather abruptly, it left me frustrated and seeking closure.  However, in retrospect, the lack of ending ends up being the perfect ending, as the reader is left dangling, wanting more.   This element of the unknown lends even more suspense and credibility to the story.  In short, it leaves you guessing, and activates your imagination.

In my search for closure, I began to Google with the keywords “Ted Cave Monster.”  A surprisingly large number of hits came up.  But most of the hits were reposts of the original page.  Then I found something interesting…I found a forum entry where it was claimed that the Ted The Cave Explorer story was plagiarized from a Short Story written by Thomas Lera.  After I searched some more, I found the “original”…which is called “The Fear of Darkness.”

Waiting on L to get out of her CCD class last night, I read The Fear of Darkness.  Lera’s account of the story is slightly different.  In this story, a general location is given and many of the subtle details are dropped.  The “red eyed” mystery creature is described as “a thick skinned black beast, trailed by a wispy, dark mist coming off it like steam off a campfire doused with water”.

My initial impression of “The Fear of Darkness” is that I did not like it.  The ending was far fetched, totally unbelievable and unrealistic.  Plus it even used the age-old cliche of the “Old Indian Burial Ground”…perhaps the most overused horror element ever.

So now, on to the research.  Which story is the original?  Where is the cave?  Is the story real?  Let’s address these questions one by one.

As to which story is the first, “The Fear of Darkness” is not the original story.  It came after the original web postings of “Ted the Caver.”  “The Fear of Darkness” is a literary attempt to add an ending to the original story.

And where is this cave?  It is called “Interstate Cave” or “Freeway Cave” and it is part of the Timpanogos Cave network.  The Timpanogos Cave network is in the Wasatch mountains in American Fork Canyon near American Fork, Utah.

The National Park Service even surveyed an official map of the cave, which is found here.

Is the story true?  Well, Ralph E. Powers posted this on the National Speleological Society Discussion Board on 11/25/04:

The story is true. I happen to know B and his dawg. And I’ve been in the cave and through the hole after they opened it up. The passage continues on (surveyed) for over 140′ with a possibility of breaking into a side cave at the end. It was mainly walking passage after the inital tight (super-tight) crawl.
The passage goes directly under the interstate. Both directions and all four lanes.
I suspect that what those weird odd sounds they heard were semi’s moaning over and probably at one time a tire screeching to a halt or something similar.
Filtered through the bedrock the sound can be distorted enough to have that otherworldly effect.
I’ve heard the booming and odd sounds and it is IMO definitely the interstate traffic.
The survey team and I did not know about the events until after we were done with it. Nor did we notice an odd “Blair Witch” type marking on any of the walls.

It’s one of the tightest crawls I’ve been in ever but neat at the same time. There is a map of the cave on line… I’ll dig up the URL later…

 And now we can ask…is the story real?  Let’s ask the original author of the story!

Well, I guess it’s time I add my two cents to the topic. My name is Ted and I am the author of the story you have been discussing. I am the original author. I created the story on my own and copied no one.

I will explain the details of the creation of the story in a moment, but first let me just say — WOW!! I am still thrilled and amazed by all of the discussion that my story has generated. I was unaware of just how far the story had circulated until Yvonne contacted me a few weeks ago. I was aware of how many people had visited MY web site (the angelfire site) because of the counter on the site, and that number has been slowly climbing since I started the site. But I had no idea that two other people had copied the site, with one going so far as adding an “alternate ending” complete with a doctored photo! And I had no idea that the story had been discussed on numerous forums!

I want to thank everyone who took the time to read the story. I hope you enjoyed it. It took a long time to write and even though there are a few things I would change, I am happy with how it turned out.

The recent events leading up to this post are as follows: I was contacted by my friend Brad (the ‘B’ in my story) a few weeks ago concerning an email he received from Yvonne. He mentioned that Yvonne was seeking the author of the “Caver Ted” story in order to obtain permission to translate it into French. I gave him my approval to pass along my name, email, and phone number to her. Two weeks ago I received an email from Yvonne making the same request, adding that there was a discussion in progress on the NSS web page concerning my story, and whether or not I was the original author. I was floored, as I mentioned above. But I was shocked and REALLY disappointed to learn that credit for writing the story was given to someone else. SO, I’ll take you back to the beginning and run through how the story came about, then I’ll discuss “proof” of authorship belonging to me.

I’ll begin by giving everyone an outline of the creation of my story. Most of the following is what I wrote to Yvonne.

Between December 30, 1999 and February 24, 2000 Brad and I worked on a passage in Freeway cave. We made numerous trips, and spent many hours of hard work, before we were finally able to get through the opening and into the new section of cave. During the course of our adventure I kept a caving journal and documented our activities surrounding our attempts to be the first people to enter the new passage. Since we were giving friends and family members updates as we worked, I thought it would be a good idea to put my entire journal on a web page, along with our pictures, then we could simply refer people to the site.

The thought then occurred to me: It sure would be fun to embellish the story a little! From there it was a short leap to simply creating a work of fiction based on our experiences. I felt like the Internet was the perfect medium for my idea, so that is what I set out to do. For the next year I worked on the story, off and on. Sometime in April (I think) 2001 I posted the first few pages. After that I added them as if it was happening in real-time. After posting the last installment (May 19) I just kicked back and watched the web page counter to see if anyone was stumbling onto the site. (I found one site recently which confirms these dates: http://www.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultim…5/t/000198.html is a forum dated June ’01, shortly after I posted the site)

To summarize the fact vs. fiction discussions about the story, let me just say the parts about the digging and passage through Floyd’s Tomb are, for the most part, true and taken directly out of my caving journal. I intentionally altered a few details of the cave, but as has been mentioned, it still accurately describes Freeway Cave, Floyd’s Tomb, and the passage now known as Gypsum Passage on the map. The supernatural aspects of the story are all pure fabrication. Even the rumbling that both Dale Green and Ralph Powers mentioned exist in the cave did not inspire the story. I simply used them later to add to the mystery! And that is that. Nothing mysterious happened while we worked on the cave. It was just an experience filled with challenge, hard work and lots of satisfaction. The feelings I mentioned while in Floyd’s Tomb were real. That’s what made it so fun to write.

When I learned about the discussion on this forum I did some digging and found other sites discussing the story. As I read all of the different comments about the story I was grinning at the variety of opinions expressed. Some people liked it, some thought it long and boring. Some thought it creepy, some thought it was too farfetched. The negative comments didn’t bother me. That’s life! What did bother me, however, was the accusation that I had copied the story. I felt like my integrity was being challenged, and I don’t like that. That may sound silly, since I was completely anonymous, but I still felt that way. Besides, I didn’t like the notion that someone else was taking credit for my work.

Although I will not likely, or at least not immediately, post on other forums, I will definitely defend my story on this one, since it involves caves and caving. I would like to begin with most obvious evidence: the cave itself. It is clear to anyone who has been in the cave that the story accurately describes Freeway cave. Even using the map as a guide one can “see” that the description resembles the cave. What are the odds someone could have written such an accurate description without seeing the cave? And not just any cave, but a cave that only came to light as a result of construction, as told in the story? As Dale mentioned the cave was opened in the 70’s, so someone could have been through before 1987. But not the new passage! As Ralph stated, and the pictures show, the story accurately describes the ‘Floyd’s Tomb’ section of the cave, the opening, and the passage beyond (although I did take a few creative liberties there with the description, such as the ‘Blair Witch’ hieroglyphics and the round rock). And Ralph, Dale, or any one of dozens of Utah cavers can testify to the approximate date the passage was opened. Now, did Thomas Lera see all of this in a crystal ball to write about it accurately? Or did someone swipe my work?

When the “1987” version surfaced it took all of 15 seconds of reading to recognize it was definitely my story, with a few changes made. I figured I would read it and see if there was some way that I could prove he copied me, but it was difficult. Since 99% of what he wrote was copied verbatim from my story, there was not much to go on, but I did find a few interesting things. Granted, this is little more than circumstantial evidence, but it starts to add up. I’ll try to be brief

1. Isn’t it an incredible coincidence that the story mentions a friend who likes to cave, was injured in a climbing accident, was told he would never walk again, yet managed to beat the odds and through hard work and determination not only walks, but caves, though with some difficulty, AND I HAVE SUCH A FRIEND!?! His name is Brad, his story is true, and both Dale and Ralph can attest to his this. That’s some crystal ball, Lera.

2 The dog we really took in the cave to check out the passage was real (as Ralph mentioned, he died a few years ago). I’ll try to dig up a photo of him in the Tomb. It was a Jack Russell. The Lera version switched it to an Australian Shepard. Hardly a dog to fit in a tight squeeze. See http://www.australianshepherds.org/adult.html

3 On page 15 of the Lera version he mentions the tools we invented and created. TRUE STORY. For part one of evidence I refer you to the photo of Brad: http://www.angelfire.com/trek/caver/pictures/b.html he is holding the actual tool. For the second part of the evidence I humbly call upon Ralph Powers. On our last trip into the cave we did not take the pipe wrenches that were necessary to dismantle the tool, consequently we left it in the new passage. Ralph, when you mapped the passage did you find the tool? (Also did you find a mini-mag light? I dropped one in the new passage when I went in with my wife a month after it was opened. LOL) Now how did Lera, in 1987, know we were going to make those tools?

4 In the Lera version he used a cordless drill. In the true version I mentioned a De Walt cordless drill. I don’t know who did this , but check out the map of the cave at http://www.nps.gov/tica/RMweb/MapGa…terstateMap.pdf and zoom in on the entrance to the passage. De Walts Dig! I assume this came from Brads conversation with Ralph about the project (Ralph, can you enlighten us?) Doesn’t really prove anything, but it was just something I noticed. ***See my fixed link below***

5 This may be nit-picky, but Lera omitted one of the tools I mentioned (and that we actually used). He said we used a hammer and chisel, which we did, but failed to mentioned the tool most responsible for us getting through, and that is a bullpin. He may not have known what that is, and to be honest I’m not sure that’s its real name, but I will describe it: it is about 12 inches long and sort of cone shaped. The pointed end is about 1/8” in diameter , and it grows to about 1 ½ “ diameter at the other end, with a mushroom head to smack with a hammer. After we drilled our holes with the masonry bits we would insert the pointed end of the bullpin (which is round like the drill hole) into the hole and hammer on the other end. That would force the rock to expand as the pin was driven in, which broke up the rock. The chisel didn’t work with the drill and would only be used to break off small chunks around the edges. Again, not evidence, but another detail that I noticed.

Well, that’s about it. Not the best evidence, but it’s all I have . This post is already way too long. If you made it this far, thanks. And a special thanks to Yvonne for taking the effort to ‘get to the bottom of this’ and for contacting me. Also thanks to Scott McCrea. I am impressed with both of your efforts. It is rare to see people refuse to just accept what is handed to them. If there is anything I can clear up for you, feel free to contact me.

I wrote the story, but I’m not seeking fame from it. I never was. If that was the case I would have put my name on it from the beginning. I just want to protect my work from other people who may lay claim to it. Clearly someone read my story, copied it and put another date on it.

I wrote it so people would read it and enjoy it. And maybe wonder about it. Even though the story took on a life of its own, I can still make the satisfying proclamation: Mission accomplished!

As for Thomas Lera (or anyone who tries to steal my story): May an amorous Hodag in the pinnacle of heat find you in a damp and lonely cave.

The link to the National Parks Services map in the above quoted text is dead. The only live link I have found is to a PDF map of the actual caves. They are apparently right along a highway in Utah. It’s a “.gov” link, so I seriously doubt it is a hoax.

http://www.nps.gov/archive/tica/RMweb/MapGallery/InterstateMap.pdf

I can’t find the exact location, but the link above can be cut back to the Timpanogos Cave page on the NPS website. Must be in that area.

http://www.nps.gov/tica

I spent way too much time finding all this crap. What can I say, I’m a CJ major who is bothered by not having the truth behind everything.

I’m going to keep digging, but I think what I’ve already posted is a reasonable explanation.

So that pretty much sums it up…  It is a real cave…there is a real rumble (from the Interstate)…and the rest is fake.  At least it made for an interesting read.  And now I have the closure I was seeking!

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52 responses »

  1. Thank you! This is the closure I needed after reading the original story and wondering what really happened. And thanks to Ted for an amazing, captivating story. Well done!

  2. There was never a doubt in my mind which was the original story. To those who spent time researching the truth, thank you! Ted does a brilliant job on this story and deserves credit. For those who may not have read the original…happy reading, oh and you may want to read it with the lights on.

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  4. There were quite a few fishy things with this story that made me realise that this was most likely ficiton. Including:

    1) The classic ‘Oh No! All my electronic equipment has stopped working only in this mysterious room!’

    2) The other classic ‘Oh No! I was so scared that I forgot to take my video camera back with me!’

    3) The unexplained tugging at the telephone wire (previously described as being ‘thin’). If a thin valuable wire was trapped under a round rock, would you try to yank it out or just push the round rock off it?

    4) When they got out of the cave and they saw that ‘something’ was putting tension on their rope around the tree, why didn’t they mention hearing something hit the floor once they cut the rope? You’d think that would be their best chance to get an idea of how big this ‘thing’ was?

    I know I’m picking holes, but I’m swiss!

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  6. The story was linked to me by a friend who claimed it was a great read. And boy was he right. I love a good scary story and I happen to actually work in a cave. I work at a touring cavern in Virginia and have always been fascinated by caves, but I have too much of a fear of heights to do some of the things caving would require… and I am a might claustrophobic. Reading the part about Floyd’s Tomb was frightening and really got my heart racing. Thank you Ted, for writing a fantastic tale. :D

  7. Great story, but I need an ending. I can’t be left just dangling trying to come up with my own theories of what happened. A good solid ending would be nice.

  8. I thought the cliff hanger was extremely tense. I read the story getting more and more agitated, wondering if they’d be okay, wondering if this ‘creature’ would get them. I stumbled across it randomly, the other version has been maliciously ruined.
    I must say to all the stories I’ve read, this has been the most alluring, sure we all want closer BUT. I bet everyone who read it felt a spark of.. fear perhaps? No final words, did he die? Did he get trapped and crushed?

    Such a good story, I never would’ve guessed it was fictional. Bravo to you Ted (:

  9. A friend of mine posted the Ted the Caver story to his Facebook. I think it’s easily as fascinating that the story has wandered about the internet gathering its own intrigue. Highly entertaining.

  10. Yay! I’m so happy to have a “ending.” I loved the read! In retrospect, the lack of ending is absolutely perfect. Thanks for doing all of this research

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  12. I conducted my own research on this topic before finding this page that will show Thomas as a fake and here it is. This is a quote I made on another forum.

    “Some claim that it was written by Thomas Lera in 1987. In the Lera version there is a copyright symbol 1987-2004, but after skimming i found that the glow stick reference wall still being used but after doing some research I found that the last documented improvement on the functionality of glow sticks (how they get brighter when you shake them) was in 1977, at this point glow sticks were not publicly available and at the very least not available until the year 1987 but it is very unlikely that they were public this early in development and even if they were they still would have been hard to come by and due to time it takes to get published the story was most likely (if the copyright statement is true) written in at least 1985.

    Other fact that support this are

    Anyone can copyright something

    If the story was published in 1987 why would the copyright extend to 2004

    I can find no official mention of any Thomas Lera dating to before the 21st century

    The only mentions of Thomas Lera I can find (official statements) is of a currently living author who ironically writes books about caves and bats, no mention of the title “The fear of darkness”, the title of the Lera version, can be found in his list of books.

    The only mentions (all unofficial) of this Lera are all relating to this passage

    The language used in the Lera version is too modern

    The story in the Lera version takes a large dip when it comes to the part after the character we know as Ted returns to the cave (i couldn’t read much further it was too boring)

    Ted has pictures and if he did copy a already existing story (or even made up his own) He out way too much effort into it. “

  13. Ted the caver has a nice ring, I have also been in a cave that goes under the expressway, and the sounds are quite strange. I have also been writing stories about caves and have recently started writing some fiction based on experiences in caves. I have been careful to copyright with the copyright office all my work. after all it only cost $35.00 to do so. I would like to thank John for all the work. Maybe I will try and find the story and read the whole thing.

  14. Good on for you for clearing it up, it’s a real shame that some people believe Ted didn’t write the story, the Lera version stinks! I don’t know why anyone would re write such a great story and ruin it like that. Ted’s story shows that with horror you don’t necessarily need fancy words and good editing/grammar to make a story frightening. Besides, Ted has a much better command of words anyway. As for the story, it was a great read, it really sucked me in and that is a sign of a great writer. I had a hunch that it was a work of fiction, because all of the gray text was supposedly from his journal, yet it really read like he was writing it for an audience (even though he said he wrote it for himself), and he was buttering us up by describing sounds as eery etc. Also, his description of all his light sources (spare lights, glow sticks etc) led me to believe he was setting us up to Ted’s blackout later, which did happen. Also there was the ‘blair witch’ symbols which Ted’s camera couldn’t take a picture of (I mean come on), the fact that Joe conveniently said NOTHING about what happened to him. And lastly the story ended with a cliffhanger. Obviously if this story were true, somebody would have looked for him after not hearing back from his ‘promise’ of writing more. Yet google searches only turned up forums discussing the validity of the story. Obviously a fake, but I don’t care , it was very well written and captivated me for its entire duration! Honestly Ted, if you’re reading this (which I doubt because you are dead right?) I don’t know why you haven’t sold the movie rights to this.

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  17. Not always a massive fan of scary stories (my imagination tends to get WAY too carried away) but I have to say, this was a brilliant read.

    I have an uncle who was into caving when he was younger, and so I developed an interest in them too, however I am nowhere near the right build for it.

    Excellent story, Ted. Loved the “Macho Man” bandanna that you had on in that picture of you in Floyd’s Tomb, ooh yeah!

  18. Thanks alot for the “closure” :) Although i do not wish anything bad to happen to Ted, Brad or “Joe”, it would be awesome if the story was real, but with an ending…. like “We got back, went gangsta on the Hodag, and brought with us some pics and vids for all to see. If you look here, this is where we decided to put some fireworks up the Hodag’s…..”

    I love endings, mostly happy ones, especially on stories based on real events.

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  22. I am one of the readers that has just started reading this story a couple of days ago, and sadly part of me thought the story was true (at least until the ‘rope’ part lol). It is a brilliant work of fiction so far, and is one of the greatest stories I’ve read. I really have a gripping, anticipating feeling when I read it, and the pictures add a great touch! It’s sad that someone would be so low as to plagiarize this story just because they can’t come up with something creative of their own. Though I have to say, thank you for writing this awesome thriller, and I wish you the best of luck with this whole copyright situation!

  23. You should write short stories and publish them in a book of short stories or start a collection of your own.

  24. Thank you so much! I loved this story. It made a scared at the end, but happy whenever you got a little section cleared in the beginning. I also gave the url for your website (angelfire) to my teacher, I hope you don’t mind. Shout out to ImmotalHD for giving me the chance to read this amazing story. Again thank you so much for writing this, and I always knew you were the original. No question about it.

  25. Just finished reading it as well. Raced through the last few pagges. Terrifyingly real, massive kudos to the writer. In a way, kind of relieving to know that all the supernatural stuff isn’t true.

  26. I would really love to speak with you (the author) directly. This story really got to me in the most sincere way. It was one of the best stories I have read in my 19 years on this earth and I would be honored just to chat with you. Is there any way I can get ahold of you? I know you don’t want to post your information publicly on this feed. Neither do I. However, If you would direct message me on twitter @Kpfeifer44, I would love to swap contacts and talk over the phone. If you are not the author, I don’t need twitter spam, please don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Kevin (a now avid fan of your writing)

  27. I loved this story. Can’t remember how I stumbled upon it but I read it all in one go. Believable at the beginning but as soon as he mentioned that the pictures of the large room didn’t show up I knew it was fake -___-
    But it was a good read

  28. I remember reading this back in 2006 and thought the idea was brilliant – I believe he has another website that has the conclusion to his cave story -

  29. You should publish this to Wattpad! Also, would be cool if a friend wrote and ending saying you guys never returned! Maybe they look for you and only find your helmets & clothes…

  30. When I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new
    comments are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I receive
    four emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me
    from that service? Thank you!

  31. Seems I may be late to the party, but Ted, would you consider making more similar stories? I loved the first one that had me clawing at the edge of my seat. Would LOVE to read another like this.

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  33. I feel as though the movie The Descent might actually have used Ted the Caver as the premise for the script in fact that was all I could think about as I read through the story at first.

  34. Pingback: Ted’s caving journal | My new form fiction blog

  35. Omg, I read the story yesterday and I swear to God that I thought it was real!
    And I was wondering if he was dead because he said he would update the site as soon as he got out of the cave, but it’s been 12 years.. So I freaked out and I spent the whole night thinking that he never maneged to get out of the cave!
    But here I am now, well, first of all, Ted you are an incredible writer! You totally should consider writing a book with more creepy stories or even a short story like the Mistery Cave.
    I really enjoyed reading it, as so many people did! And I hope you write more interesting things in the future :) Anyway, WELL DONE!

  36. Of all the scary stories I’ve red this is the longest and so far the most creepiest of them all, to the fact that it gave me shivers the whole time, it was like a wonderful experience just sitting on my chair reading as If I share the same emotions and fear that were present on the story. Thank you so much, you’ve inspired me to read stories regardless of how long they would take, usually I get all pushed back after seeing how many miles of reading it should take me to finish. THANK YOU SO MUCH. The ending kept me dangling and worried though, I thought you guys were already dead after going back. I’m relief that you guys were safe after all and everything and was all just fiction.

  37. Let’s face it, you and Lera were both there at the “same” cave: on two different times, two different days, as i am sure there are more than one experience with more than one person who has been in that cave. The caves does seem to be quite popular during the spring, summer and some fall months. Both Teds and Thomas’s story are two different stories and that is ok, but what is wrong is taking a passage or two even more out of ones own story and using those words as your own that is just wrong on so manny levels and every knows that, you will get caught. If you couldn’t come up with your own words for your story, is by far complete BS and shame on you. I completely understand, It does take awhile and a lot of practice to use someone words to transform in your own words,(can always use the concept of the phrase but it has to be in your own or cited) but a REAL writer would use a THESAURUS, rather than, stealing from the original story. But like i asked and assumed earlier that both of yinz were at the same cave on two different days? Furthermore, like another commenter mention the date of 1987-2004 questioning why the date only ended at 2004, 10 yrs ago? Thought that was a valid point as well. Nonetheless, it did take you, Ted, some quite time to give a link that actually worked? Wasn’t until the you posted the link of about registering to go caving. As i had a chance to view the web site’s I also found on the map, but since I have never been there to actually recognize and confirm; this cave is the “same” cave both authors had written about.

    That will be all!

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