Expedition Team: Dave Miller
Date: October 25, 2022
This famous cave at Hocking Hills is believed by many to be haunted by Richard Rowe, a trapper who once lived in the cave in the mid-1800’s. During my recent two-day visit hiking the parks many trails with Rosie, I decided to investigate the stories. I spoke to a park ranger who told me that as legend goes, Rowe moved to the cave during the War of 1812 and lived under the overhang with his hound dog until the 1850’s. Sadly, the hermit accidentally shot himself as his musket discharged while he was trying to break through the ice in the nearby creek. Other trappers buried him in the cave with his dog on the sandy floor of the cave that he called home for decades. The overhang or cave was thus named, Old Man’s Cave. Fifty plus years later people found out about the beautiful gorge, waterfalls and rock formations and it became a popular picnic and hiking destination eventually becoming a state park in 1924.
Over time, the area gained a reputation for being haunted as patrons have heard the eerie baying of a hound dog or seen apparitions of an old man in hunting clothing in the cave. Often the apparition of the old man was seen walking along the creeks edge, walking into the cave and disappearing into the cave floor. In 1907, a resident claimed to have dug up the cave grave of the trapper and his dog and found a biography nearby. The book said the trapper loved eating pickles spiced in prune juice.
Ghost sightings increased in the decade after the grave was excavated. Several females picnicking under the overhang fainted when seeing the ghost. Dozens and dozens of sightings were documented.
Today, the hike to Old Man’s Cave (photo #6) was beautiful with the trees turning colors. Back in the cave, I took lots of photos. Even stating the phrase, “pickle spiced in prune juice” produced no EVP responses. There was a plaque in the cave placed near where the alleged grave of the old trapper is, telling his historic story. I rested there a while looking out at the stream below (Photo #5) but observed nothing unusual. As the old saying goes, “there is an element of truth in all folklore”. So, with the past ghost sightings and the history of the old trapper, was there really a ghost or is this just an urban legend?