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…
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.
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.
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!