Story and photo’s by Philip Walker
What Came First: The Chicken or the Egg
There was an unconfirmed rumor about a Florida stage coach robbery. As thundering hooves rhythmically pounded across the central Florida terrain, exhausted horses gasped for air. Knowing the bandits may soon overtake them, a money box was thrown from the racing Stage into the rocky crevasse of a sinkhole. The intent was to go back and retrieve the loot. The unconfirmed rumor is that the loot was never retrieved.
From 1851 until the railroad was built in 1882, the Concord Stage Company ran the only public transportation between Jacksonville and Tampa. The Stage line used a watering hole and rest stop nine miles south of Ft King (present day Ocala). The rumored robbery occurred close to this location.
In the 1930’s Tuck Lundy bought land and started exploring the many sink holes dotting the landscape. Knowing the power of water to move boulders and reshape the land, tools and explosives were used to explore further into the ground, looking for the elusive lost loot. As underground cavities where enlarged, help was hired to extract the rubble. The rubble was then used to build structures on the property. The structures are some of the finest examples of backyard engineering ever seen, discarded rock, concrete, car parts, roofing buckets, sections of guard rail, and even old refrigerators were used. Since these new caverns became such a curiosity, a decision was made to charge money to visit them. As the popularity of Florida’s only show cave with an underground waterfall grew, a gift shop was opened and Hotels were built. Business was good.
After the highway system was built in the 1960’s many tourist attractions closed down. That is when Mr. Lundy shifted gears and created the most unique businesses ever to be born in Florida and perhaps the world. For a small fee you would step into an elevator that would transport you into deep depths of the underground. Deep underground psychic visions were strong and your future could be read. The elevator was a wooden box on springs inside a dark stone structure. After the door was closed, a switch was flipped to illuminate a rock wall moving past a window. The elevator never moved, it only rocked back and forth on springs, while pictures of rocks moved up or down. When you apparently reached your destination, the opposite door would open allowing one to exit in the opposite direction of the same stone structure.
Rumor has it the loot was never retrieved from the Stage Coach robbery. However, buying this property made one entrepreneur a living for many years and made Mr. Lundy legendary among the caving community. The question is: Was the rumor started to boost the business or did the business boost the rumor.
Bill walking tall.
Kimber in zen with the world.
No weed is safe with weed-whacking Steve on the loose.
Sunday, November 16th was a beautiful day for 25 cavers to converge on the historical property that had one of Florida’s earliest land transportation routes pass through, was a show cave, physic business, farm, and finally a home. The Florida Speleological Society (FSS) went to assist in cleaning the property and the caves. The old show cave has been heavily vandalized, with structures now deteriorating rapidly. The old elevator has rotted away leaving only a partial structure and a bit of machinery. A large tree has fallen on the old gift shop damaging it heavily. Geology is working on the sinks and cave as well. Sometimes breakdown and rubble completely cover the old hand railings and stairs.
Even though it was made by the hand of man. Lundy’s Cave is a wonder. It is an incredible amount of work to dig, chip, and blast chert and limestone to the extent that it was done. Thanks to everyone that came out to lend a hand.
If you happen to have historical photos or information on this area as a tourist attraction, please contact us at Board@floridacaving.com