Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

Floyd Collins

In 1925, Floyd Collins, one of the world's premier cavers, met a tragic and bizarre end in part of Mammoth Cave called, "Sand Cave." Collins, determined to find a "show" cave as a source of family income, was trapped on his way out of a dangerous unstable passage when a 27-pound rock fell on his foot. Just 120 feet from the entrance and 60 feet underground, Collins lay unable to move in the darkness.

Relatives eventually noticed that he was missing, and a quick check in Sand Cave confirmed the worst. The rescue effort that ensued quickly turned into a publicity carnival. It lasted for 18 days and captured the interest of the whole nation through the relatively new medium of radio.

Rescuers tried everything—digging and hacking at the passageway, sinking a new shaft, feeding Collins to keep up his energy, and sending down reporter Skeets Miller to chronicle the drama. At one point, rescuers even considered amputation. Nothing worked. Eventually, a passage just above Collins collapsed, cutting him off from aid. Fifteen days after being trapped, Floyd Collins died.

The authorities decided it was too dangerous to remove the body and left it in the cave. Eventually, his body was put in a glass-topped coffin in Crystal Cave where cavers from around the world paid their respects to him for many years. Then in the most dramatic and grotesque twist to the story, his body was stolen—and later found in a nearby field missing a leg. After this incident his body was placed in a chained casket. Eventually, the National Park Service absorbed Crystal Cave and closed it to the public. In 1989, Collins was properly buried in Mammoth Cave Baptist Church Cemetery on Flint Ridge.