A quick story of childhood adventure by J.R. Hardin:

When I was in my early teens, my older brother Bob and I learned of a cave a few miles from our house. The cave was known as Darlington Cave because it was on a wooded hill behind Darlington School. I used this same cave in my second kudzu monster book. When Bob and I were going to Darlington, we were told not to enter the cave. The cave was too dangerous; there were frequent cave-ins and deep crevices with slippery slopes.

Bob and I couldn’t wait to explore the cave.

We took flashlights, a rope, candles, matches, and a couple of friends. The cave was at the top of the hill. The entrance was a small opening to the side of a rock-lined funnel that went down ten or twelve feet. We crawled through the narrow tunnel into a large cavern. The cavern sloped down a muddy floor cover with boulders to another small opening. We crawled through this second opening and came to another room with even more boulders on the floor. The cave spiraled downward, and we came to a crevice over fifteen feet deep. We had our rope and tied it to Bob as he climbed down the rocky side of the crevice and up the other side.

Before long all of us were on the other side and continued our downward journey. Whenever the cave tunnel split, we left a burning candle on the side we used to come down. Further down the cave, there must have been a small opening to the outside, because we heard a moaning — like wind blowing through a narrow opening. We turned off our flashlights but didn’t spot any outside light. We were in total darkness. Water began to drip from the ceiling and the floor became a gooey mud. The suction from the mud pulled off our shoes when we tried walking through it.

We couldn’t go any further and headed back to the surface. One of our burning candles was missing, but we found our way back up. As we left the cave, one of our friends saw a flicking light far back in the cave. Our missing candle was burning again and moving, according to our friend.


J.R. Hardin