The Devil Gives The Sinners A Taste Of What's To Come!
Fire, Fire, Fire, Fire...
Pass It Down The Line...
THE HOTTEST HAUNT GOING!
Now entering its 35th season, the Cave’s popularity has spread like wildfire the past several seasons. This season it entered the #8 spot on Hauntworld’s list of the ‘Scariest Real Haunted Houses In America’. During the course of the evening we found that people had come from all across Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky to see it (and in some cases, hauntgoers hailed from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Hawaii!). Owner/operator Mark Schaefer has overseen the transformation of the Cave from a charity haunt with a cool location to an event that rides the cutting edge of haunt technology. What’s new down in the bowels of the cave, 80 feet under the ground?
“Well”, said Mark, “We haven’t added many new scenes but have instead added more effects to what we already have. We have a new animated T-Rex skull that comes out of a wall and snaps at the crowd. We bought a shock panel that features a head that comes out to startle the audience-we used it as a template and built several more on our own and worked them into existing scenes. The machine gun on our truck is new, and the cavern it’s in has an elaborate lighting setup. The Devil’s Maze has had two new doorways added to it. The White Strobe Maze had all of its dead ends eliminated to cut back on some of the congestion of years past, although you can still easily go around in circles. The lighting in there isn’t as harsh, either (it’s now a subdued red rather than the glaring bright white of years past)”.
That isn’t to imply the Cave was lacking in effects-it’s loaded with them. It’s hard to walk ten feet without being blasted by an air cannon, having a flying spectre cut across your path, being sprayed with water by the vengeful spirits of the Cave rising from the lake, or having an entire room of coffins begin to thrash wildly. Then there are the show-stoppers-the giant animatronics that have the ‘wow’ factor. These range from the giant bat that comes flapping up from below a walkway to what we call the ‘giant termite’-a creature that stretches two stories up from the ground to strike at hauntgoers as they cross the same walkway. From there, you can look across an open cavern to see a huge gargoyle rising up from the ground and carrying away a human body. A vibrating walkway across a bridge creates the illusion (along with a train horn) that you’re soon going to be mashed by an onrushing train careening through the fog. The Cave also has two CGI effects-the Zombie Attack, which can leave you feeling as if you’ve just been splattered with the brains of a zombie hit by a shotgun blast, and the Asylum Door, which features a door that appears to be having dents hammered into it by an ax-wielding psycho that can be glimpsed through a window in the door.
The Cave has also replaced much of its lighting this season with LED’s rather than traditional floodlights. Still, the Cave employs several distinct lighting schemes. The lair of the Water Monsters is lit with sporadic bursts of artificial lightning. The underground cemetery is lit largely with over a hundred candles, giving it a creepy gothic air. A lone coffin, seemingly laid out for a funeral viewing, is brightly lit with natural lighting. The swamp (featuring several ‘claustrophobia’ effects that give one the feeling of slogging through mud) has laser lighting that works with a layer of fog to obscure an entire cavern. A crafty cave creature took advantage of this fact to pop up directly in front of us from below, seemingly appearing out of thin air. The cavern that the ‘Machine Gun Truck’ roars through has a spectacular computerized lighting scheme that makes it look like a swirling portal to another dimension-it was the most breathtakingly beautiful thing we’ve ever seen in a haunt. The Cave also cannily follows up well lit scenes with completely dark ones, completely disorienting hauntgoers and playing havoc with their ability to adjust to the light. You haven’t seen-or NOT seen-dark until you’re 80 feet under the ground. The monsters have night vision goggles. You don’t. Good luck. And don’t think the two glowing ‘eyes’ in some scenes will lead you to the way out, because they don’t-except when they do, so you never know.
The soundtrack to the Cave sizzles as well. There is nothing more gloriously chaotic in hauntdom. The acoustics in the Cave carry sound to and fro, making some scenes ear-splitting and some so quiet you can hear the frantic heartbeats of the people trapped in the Devil’s Maze. Sparking electric fences and sizzling short circuited wiring add to the ca-‘coffiny’. With spoken dialogue, music, and the screams of actors and patrons alike reverberating everywhere, nowhere has a soundtrack more perfectly complemented its event.
While the Cave is well known for its elaborate and over-the-top effects, at times these features overshadow its fine cast and crew. Most haunts have problems trying to fill a couple of dozen acting positions with capable actors-but the Cave on any given night will have well over a hundred actors inside. When one considers that many of them are inside bulky and restrictive costumes or in exposed positions like lying on the floor, suspended on platforms, inside coffins, or immersed in the depths of icy water, the level of their performances is amazing. None of this happened by accident, something that became apparent as we followed Mark on his rounds. With the combination of being open a week early and a thunderstorm, crowds were lighter than usual (although there was still a constant line) and Mark took advantage of this to visit each area and work with the actors. His advice ranged from the best types of clothes to wear in a certain role to telling the gravediggers how to move around the candles in the graveyard to obscure their faces and help hide the other actors in the scene (placed on the ground or behind trees). The individual attention and encouragement each received spoke volumes towards the desire of the event to not only train them to be the best actors possible, but also to see to it that they were enjoying themselves doing so. It also gave The HOD!!! the opportunity to speak with many of the Cave’s characters, many of them longtime denizens with a unique perspective on the event.
Ted’s currently hiding in the Cave’s graveyard, inside a ghillie suit (a camouflage suit that blends in with foliage-and in this case, the cave walls). He’s been with the attraction several seasons and started off as a ‘caveman’ (what better for a cave?) throwing a spear at the audience. The spear was attached to a line that prevented it from actually reaching them, although in the dark it was impossible for them to know that!
While most of the time you’ll get fired for laying down on the
job, Amy’s playing an undead corpse inside a casket, so it’s OK. In her second
year, she’s reprising her role from last season and is having a great time.
We met many more of the Cave’s actors as they ramped their way up the old feeder shaft to the surface, all with their own unique experiences. We were impressed not only with how seriously they took their roles, but also at what a great and convivial group of teens and young adults they were. But when the lights go down and it’s time to get down to business, they’re among the best in the area. And boy, do they ever WANT to scare you. Allen, Ted, and Amy all said that terrifying people was the best part of the job by far. Unlike most area haunts, the actors at the Cave are allowed to touch you (the mudprints left by the water monsters on my pants cuffs are testament to that!) and this gives their performance an immediate impact. They’ll also come from any angle-from below, from behind, from up above, and suddenly right in your face-occasionally all at the same time!
Some scenes might not have fancy effects or lighting, but still manage to impress. The underground jail is one of those. Once you manage to squeeze through a narrow passage past a ground of burly…shall we say, ‘lonely’ inmates looking for companionship and groping at you through a fence, you make it to the safety of the guard station. Too bad they’ve mistaken you for inmates! You’re likely to be searched for weapons and then spun around like a top by the all-female guard staff-the three guards that descended on us literally bounced us from one to the other, turning us around in a circle while screaming abuse the whole time. It was a lot like being at work, but strangely enough, we liked it.
The only downside to the evening was the massive thunderstorm that hit the event about 9:30 that evening. While the Cave was unaffected (along with its covered queue line), the rain washed out for the evening its companion event, the "Historic Mine Tour" offered by the Lewisburg Historical Society. This wagon ride takes you through the grounds of the old mining operation and past many decrepit old buildings like the dynamite shack, drills, and the 100 foot tall kilns that were used to process the ore. It also enters a part of the cave that’s not being used for the haunt, which if anything is eerier than the part that is. With scattered pieces of old equipment scattered about and colonies of bats lining the ceilings, it’d be a perfect location for the next ‘My Bloody Valentine’ movie. The tour guide on the wagons explains the history of the cave along with detailing what each of the old buildings did. It added a whole new dimension to the Cave for us when we toured it last season and we highly recommend checking it out-preferably BEFORE you take the main tour.
Another effect the thunderstorm had was the HOD!!! getting the opportunity to sit in the Cave’s ticket office (thanks to Sandy Schaefer, who obviously took pity on a drowned rat) and observe things from the business side. Even with a raging storm that Sandy called “the worst I’ve seen in all my years here”, there was a steady stream of customers eager to get inside the attraction. We also saw one of the funniest things we’ve witnessed in over 40 years of covering haunts, and made the trip to Lewisburg worth it just for that. And no, we can’t tell you what it was, except that it involved someone collecting a bounty. While hiding out in the office, we also met the young lady that sells glow necklaces and other novelties in the queue line-she manages to fund her school volleyball team through the sales of the items, demonstrating another facet of the Cave’s contribution to the community.
The Cave continues to earn its reputation as one of the area’s elite attractions. With an hour plus tour, over a hundred crazy actors, tons of special effects, a killer soundtrack, and the cave’s natural creepiness, it’s a haunter’s dream come true. The Water Monsters would tell you a ‘wet dream’ come true. And the Devil would assure you as he puts out his smoking hair that it is indeed “The Hottest Haunt Going!” Head up to Lewisburg and see for yourself just how Smoooookin’ it is.
Gateway To Another World
Our Photo Completely Fails To Capture The Beauty Of This Scene-
But Trust Us, It's Awesome!
Take Our Advice...
DON'T Stand In Front Of The Window.
Even If You Make The Zombie Cry.
2012 EVENT INFORMATION
2011 HAUNTED CAVE AT LEWISBURG
Mark Schaefer, owner/operator of The Haunted Cave At Lewisburg, was pointing at the cavern wall as we prepared to enter the stygian cave. “This is the limestone that the mine was created to dig out. They used it for general construction and for roads, and also for steel refining. It goes up another 46 ½ feet, and then through a water table, sand and gravel before you come to topsoil. We’re actually about 80 feet under the ground. The mine shut down in 1969 when it was no longer profitable,” he said. The Cave has one of the most impressive queue lines anywhere, descending at a steep angle through bat friendly gates into a tunnel cut out of the solid rock. 80 feet down, you say? Must be awfully dark down here when everything’s shut off…as if on cue, the lights blink out and everything immediately goes to impenetrable darkness. A staffer yells out that Mark never should have done the electrical work himself. Mark yells back it would have helped if the electric bill was paid. The entire time, things from the bowels of the cave howl and gibber, seeming to get closer with every moment. While the mine might have ceased operations years ago, Mark and his crew have discovered the Mother Lode of haunting!
The Haunted Cave At Lewisburg is now in its 34th season, having gotten its start under the stewardship of the Lewisburg Jaycees and the Mounted Patrol of the Masons. The proceeds from the event have paid for the local stadium, grandstand, and contributed to the Scouts and many charitable groups over the years. It’s found more widespread fame the past few seasons and its reputation continues to gain momentum. It’s listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the “World’s Longest Haunt” at over 3500 feet-and that doesn’t include all the backtracking you might do in the maze. It’s probably the longest in terms of time it takes to go through, sometimes as long as an hour and a half! Mark introduces us to his daughter Maria, who proves to be the perfect haunt hostess-patiently schlepping the HOD!!! around for three hours, answering questions, and pointing out those oh-so-valuable shortcuts our second trip through.
A good way to start your evening at the Cave is to take the "Historic Mine Tour" offered by the Lewisburg Historical Society. This wagon ride takes you past many of the decrepit old buildings of the mine (like the dynamite shack, drills, and the 100 foot tall kilns that were used to process the ore) and down into a section of the cave that's not being used by the haunt. It'll help set up an greater sense of anticipation for what lies ahead as you get a look at just how HUGE this place is-about 45 square miles of tunnels, of which Maria says only about four are used for the Haunted Cave. The Guide on board gives you the history of the mine as the wagon passes by flooded cave chambers and walls that were drilled and ready to be dynamited when operations ceased in 1969. The odd bit of abandoned equipment or debris gives the cave an eerie vibe-it's like riding through a ghost town. One pertinent bit of information to the Haunted Cave is that of the two deaths associated with the mine (both on-the-job accidents-there was never a cave-in here) one occurred on the conveyer belt area which brought unprocessed limestone up to the surface. This is the steep area that you descend to get to the underground entrance of the mine. Could it be that it's the spirit of the long dead miner that's causing those power outages that often hit that area? Maybe he just wants some company!
But the high point of the historic tour for us was the cloud of bats we passed under when first entering the cave. The cave is home to about 25,000 nesting bets (five species including the endangered Indiana Brown Bat). A couple of hundred were swirling around the ceiling in a circle as we entered. The ceiling is pretty low in this part of the cave-only a few feet above your head, so the bats were darting to and fro only a few inches above the wagon. Maria reminded us that "...bats can 'see' something as thin as a human hair in complete darkness, so no one has to worry about being attacked". This was true-the surprisingly tiny creatures kept to themselves and provided an interesting spectacle. But don't worry-the bats inside the Haunted Cave DO attack, and they're bigger. MUCH bigger.
How many haunts have actors in wet suits laying low in a cold cavern lake to ambush hauntgoers? The actors at the Cave are a different breed. Many of them deal with suits or costumes that severely restrict their visibility and movement, but they never seem to tire or slack off. Stuck in the rafters, in the water, setting themselves on fire, driving vehicles, and dealing with a Cave full of very freaked out people, they provide the best in high intensity haunting. “Lots of our actors have been with us for ten years or more, like the guys in the lake,” says Maria. “The Doctor in the lab (who’s currently scared a woman so badly she’s groveling in the mud) is another one”. It’s sometimes difficult to get good performances from 20 haunt actors, so the fact that the Cave can elicit them from 116 actors (an unheard of number outside of a Scream Park) is a badge of honor.
Some of the veteran actors show a lot of creativity with their characters. Tom Wilson, who plays Jebenezzer Law, has infused his character with a backstory that has him living in the Cave’s underground jail all year round. You’ll recognize Tom-he’s the guy holding the big ‘puppy’ that snarls and viciously attacks everything that enters the room. Another character has assumed the name ‘Herman Mudgett’, a notorious serial killer of the late 19th century, not going with something obvious like Manson or Ed Gein. There are only a few scripted scenes throughout the Cave, but they’re all well done and effectively carried out.
Maria takes us through a shortcut to bypass the White Fence Maze to show us the area that powers all these animatronic marvels. There’s a colossal air compressor in here that, lying on its side, looks big enough to be a two-man submarine-and it turns out there’s another one the same size upstairs!
The Devil's Maze is a masterpiece of design. It's set up with two Demons (who Maria tells us switch off roles during the night owing to the rigors of the part) threatening to claim the souls of the hauntgoers, while transferring the flaming souls of prior victims onto their hands (this impressive looking feat of pyrotechnics is accomplished through lighting hand lotion smeared onto a heavy duty protective glove-but DON'T try it at home-this is inside a cave where you don't have to worry about burning it down). There's one way to redeem themselves-to find their way through the maze of human emotions and failings to emerge safely on the other side. The way to redemption is clear and temptingly close-only a couple of feet away on the other side of a fence, you can see others making their way out of the exit. But the Devil isn't known as the Prince of Deceivers for nothing. That exit is far off in your future. With a blast of searing flame erupting from the floor to punctuate his remarks, he sends you towards one of three themed doors, each with an emotion scrawled above its entrance. Once entering the maze, it proves to be gloriously frustrating. It alternates darkness with occasional pulses of low key lighting. Unlike a lot of mazes, each path through has something unique and different to look at-so getting lost is not only good but recommended if you want to see everything. You might find yourself cut off from your group, isolated and alone in a dead end for several minutes. Seconds later, you'll be part of a large group that's converged at the same point from several directions. And once you've found the way through the maze, you enter an open room (with a haunted dollhouse and more feats of pyro) to be confronted with-another maze! We'd say "Damn that Devil!", but he already is.
After a tour like that, you can’t help but be impressed by every aspect of the event. The sheer size bespeaks of the amount of time, creativity, money, and hard work that went into it. We asked Maria when Mark starts working on getting the cave ready for haunt season, and she replied “Last year he started right after Christmas! Dad’s down here all the time. It’s always 55 degrees down here whether it’s Winter or Summer, so the season doesn’t matter”. The Cave is a sheer Wonderland-it has virtually anything you’d ever want to see in a dark attraction. The longest tour in the world, a horde of actors, impressive effects, eye candy everywhere, and not least the Cave’s unmatched natural ambience. Over 40 years after mining operations ceased, more and more hauntgoers have discovered it contains the Mother Lode of haunting!