Jamie Davis Writes

Mammoth Cave National Park, KY, Floyd Collins and Crystal Cave

Before Mammoth Cave became a national park, there was an entirely different carnival in operation. In 1917, Floyd Collins discovered Crystal Cave on his family’s farm and was able to commercialize it into a show cave. It was too far from the main road, and in 1925, he entered into an agreement with his neighbors to explore and develop what would later become known as Sand Cave (and his first grave site). The Kentucky Cave Wars were in full swing. Floyd became trapped and perished in Sand Cave in February 1925.

There is so much about this place and this time. A series of interviews were conducted by William Burke “Skeets” Miller, a Louisville Courier-Journal reporter who interviewed the trapped Collins and helped with the rescue operations, and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the tragedy.

Last known words: Finally, almost sullenly, Collins answered: “No, I am not free.”

Sand Cave

This trail is easy to find off the main road into Mammoth Cave National Park. There is nothing that strikes me as particularly spooky or really even interesting about the area surrounding Sand Cave. It felt like nothing to me. Just another walk in the woods, despite knowing Floyd died right there.

The Floyd Collins homesite and the trail and entrance into Crystal Cave are an entirely different story. There is a lot of weirdness around this location in my experience. It is not an area that is marked by signage from the road. We asked a ranger at the back country permit booth how to find the homesite and he replied: “I don’t think we have that here.” (We would later find it, hours later, within 2-3 miles of where the ranger’s booth was, and of course, it is fully inside the park). Inside the Visitor Center, there are maps but the homesite and Crystal Cave are not marked locations on the map.

The instructions I received from the guide inside the Visitor Center were to get back onto Flint Ridge Road and to park at the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church on my left. Then, I would access the first gate on my left to find the homesite. These were wrong instructions. By this point, I am under the impression that the park guides are under direct instructions to deter visitors from finding the homesite and Crystal Cave. The REAL INSTRUCTIONS ARE: Leave the Visitor Center and get onto Flint Ridge Road. Drive past the Mammoth Cave Baptist Church, and drive past the first gated trail on the left. When you arrive at the second gated trail, there is a place to park and this is the correct trail to access the homesite. The walk is maybe 20-30 minutes from the gate.

We walked long enough that I almost turned around because I thought it was the wrong trail. Suddenly, we crested a hill and the light became different. Fuzzy. And then we were there, looking at the homesite. Anyone who reads anything about the lore of the area will know what I am talking about. How sometimes time is fuzzy in Mammoth Cave. Thinner.

Between the homesite and the ticket booth, there is a path to Crystal Cave. It is downright eerie, but beautiful. You can still see the old posts all along the trail down.

I had been reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower books all summer, and maybe I was just more sensitive than usual to doors. Maybe. Yet a few quotes summed up the sensation of place perfectly: “I will see you in the clearing at the end of the path,” and “Go then. There are other worlds than these.”

Door into Crystal Cave

There is much mystery about Crystal Cave and the homesite. Troy Taylor recounts several tales of hauntings in Crystal Cave in “Down in the Darkness.” These are from former Geologists and Scientists at the park! One tale that sticks out involves a ringing phone coming from a disconnected phone line. Trust the science. I later found out that Floyd’s body was on display in a glass coffin inside Crystal Cave until 1989! So yeah, long story short, some people think he’s still around and this whole area is super strange.

One almost leaves with the sense that the National Park Service gave us Mammoth Cave so we would forget about Crystal Cave.

YouTube is a wealth of knowledge:

Mammoth Cave Baptist Church

Maybe one day they will run tours again in Crystal Cave.

A Walking Tour of Miner’s Delight / Hamilton City – WY

Bannack State Park – Dillon, MT

A short tour of one of the most well-preserved ghost towns in America: Bannack. We will start with two of the most fascinating buildings on site, the Masonic Lodge (still active, mind you) and School House, and the Hotel Meade.

Mason Lodge/School House

Jerome, AZ – October 2020

Are these Halloween spooks in Jerome, or permanent fixtures in Jerome? The Skeleton driving the one way taxi seems familiar, but I can’t be too sure.

Scenes from the shops and the street. Holy Family Church. Note the skeleton miner in the window of the church.

Black and white scenes. Views from the bottom of the hill.

We walked the streets and visited Jerome again. But this was as close as we got to the haunted hotel on the hill and the clubhouse.

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Sedona)

Notes from a Play Journal.

Sedona Airport is the perfect fly-in day trip. You don’t even need car service or to get stuck in the infamous traffic loop to enjoy one of Sedona’s best hikes and restaurants. The Airport Loop trail is in very close walking distance to Red Rock Aviation Services, where you will tie down.

Mesa Grill overlooks the airport and offers the best tableside guacamole you are likely to find anywhere.

I really appreciate a destination that gives you a good taste of a venue without having to leave the premises!

Literary Characters Who Kept Journals: Matthew Rose Sorensen (Piranesi, Susanna Clarke)

For those fans of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, comes another highly anticipated release by Susanna Clarke. Piranesi lives in a magical home. A labyrinth, really. There is only one other occupant of the home (The Other), who visits and meets with Piranesi twice a week.

The world is Narnia-like, but replace winter with the coming tides. The story also reminded me of The World House, by Guy Adams. The Other is obsessed with discovering the Great and Secret Knowledge that is hidden somewhere inside the labyrinth, and Piranesi is assisting with this purpose, but slowly loses his belief in it and realizes that he just doesn’t care anymore. How did Piranesi come to this world? That is something that is explored through his journals!

In the very beginning of the story we learn that Piranesi writes down his observations in his notebooks, and that there are mysterious page gaps unaccounted for. Piranesi is also careful to make an index of all of his journals. I am in heaven! Be still my heart. Here is how Piranesi explains his indexing system: Page 14: “One of the drawbacks of keeping a journal is the difficulty of finding important entries again and so it is my practice to use one notebook as an index to all the others. In this notebook I have allocated a certain number of pages to each letter of the alphabet (more pages for common letters, such as A and C; fewer for letters that occur less frequently, for example Q and X). Under each letter I list entries by subject and where in my Journals they are to be found.”

The world building is quite engaging, and readers will have great fun unraveling the mysteries of The Other, and who exactly, is the good guy and who is the bad guy in this tale.

Pictured with the book is Pretty as a Peach, one of our Hardcover Notebooks. Each indexed book journal features 186 pages that are ruled and numbered for your ease of use. The numbered pages with an index will help keep you organized and make it easy to find your important entries. To really make your brain sing, we recommend that you use tabs and update your book journal’s index as necessary immediately after you have completed your journaling.  

Secret Diary Journals are hardcover ruled notebooks made to resemble hardcover books that can easily be shelved in your living room or sit on a table at a coffee house without screaming: “I am a personal journal and I contain private thoughts. Pick me up and snoop!” Secret Diary Journals are designed to help you maintain your privacy when keeping your personal notes.

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (Harris Neck Army Airfield, Townsend, GA)

Notes from a Play Journal. There is a secret and very special place to hike and bike near Savannah, Georgia. Harris Neck Army Airfield in Townsend, GA is a nature preserve that provides visitors an opportunity to explore the old runways and taxiways of the abandoned airfield. You may find yourself off the beaten path and stumbling upon one of the old hangars. What happened to the interior roof? Was it a fire?

This is a must-see for any aviation enthusiasts and/or pilots!

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires,” by Grady Hendrix.

Wow! What started off as a bit of a campy, light-hearted, Southern-fried horror tale turned very dark (and went way deeper than I expected). Set in Charleston, SC, the ladies are old-fashioned housewives of the 1980s -1990s, but if you have ever lived or traveled there, you will know that trends move slower in the South.

Reading murder books at book club is how the ladies get some excitement in their life. At first, we are treated to some hilarious “Southernisms” and anecdotes in the beginning of the book. Everyone is eating cheese straws, shopping at the Piggly Wiggly, delivering casseroles, reading Redbook, and keeping their houses up to par. Until, one night, Patricia happens upon her elderly neighbor, Ann Savage, eating a raccoon while she is taking her trash out one night. I died laughing when Patricia’s response was a well-cultivated “May I help you?” Patricia is attacked and has her earlobe bitten off. 

Pretty soon all hell breaks loose from there. Ann Savage’s mysterious nephew moves into her home and begins wreaking havoc. James Harris is a vampire, and a unique one from the typical throat-biting Dracula model. Fighting the monster is just half of the horror, though. 

This book is a story of dual horror. One story line concerns the “ordinary” lives we lead. The relationships we cultivate, and what is left when things get hard. The horror themes from the everyday lives were the terrible instances of abuse, gaslighting, and manipulations that the husbands all engaged in over their wives. There is the theme of money, power, and corruption. There is the theme of racism and murder in the South. It is a much heavier and deeper book than I expected it to be going in. If you are paying attention, there is a lot to think about from a friendship/relationship perspective here. If you are paying attention, much of this book will make you angry. After all, you expect a monster to be a monster, but we don’t expect our husbands and our friends to be monsters. The ladies are flawed and late to take action as well, and sometimes it is hard to like them.  

Quotes that I kept for my reading journal: 

P. 61: “Everyone knew that any place up north was roughly the same: lawless, relatively savage, and while they might have nice museums and the Statue of Liberty, people cared so little for each other they’d let you die in the street.”

P. 77: “What are you reading that other people didn’t pick out for you?”

P. 224: “My family is my rock,” Slick said. “You’ve never lost everything. I have. Let Destiny’s mother worry about Destiny. I know you think this makes me a bad person, but I need to turn inward and be a good steward to my family right now. I’m sorry.” 

P. 228: “You’re on your side,” Mrs. Greene said. “Don’t ever fool yourself about that.”

P. 270: “No one cares about us out here except when they need us to clean up their mess.”

P. 351: “Let me tell you something…there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”

P. 363: “I am singular in this world. I am what you people make legends from.”

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Paris Hours, by Alex George

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Paris Hours,” by Alex George.

Notes from a Reading Journal: This was my BOTM April selection. This is a novel of four characters in 1927 Paris. Nostalgic creatives who show up: Marcel Proust, Josephine Baker, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and Guillaume (the Painter). The most compelling story line for me was that of Marcel Proust and Camille. The character of Camille was inspired by Proust’s real maid, Celeste Albaret, who was directed to (and allegedly did) burn all of his notebooks. Except… what if she didn’t? This is the story line of Marcel and Camille. I loved it.

What I needed most right now was to step into another place and travel using my mind. I needed an escape. What more appealing and picturesque place than The City of Light in 1927? Let me pretend for a moment that I am drinking cafe au lait in the Latin Quarter and indulging in story. Just let me dream. They haven’t taken that away from us yet. Story.

Collected quotes:

“You and I will never get too comfortable here, my friend. We’ll always be from somewhere else, won’t we?” P. 65 “

She knew the fragility of happiness, and for this reason he trusted her.” P. 80

“She breathes in the comforting smell of old books, and wonders how many lifetimes of stories are held here.” P. 83

“Worse still, he was yet to taste a single bite of cheese. But he could not turn back now.” P 88

“I see still waters running deep within you.” P. 133

“He likes to walk through the Latin Quarter. It is the oldest part of the city, a labryinth that meanders and intersects with itself without apparent design or purpose. The pace of life feels a little slower here. People linger a little longer at cafe tables as they watch the rest of the world amble by. One more sip of coffee, one more story in the newspaper. Generations of stories inhabit every brick in every wall. He can almost see the ghosts.” P. 145

“This is what war does, mon ami. The whole world is holding its breath, waiting for life to begin again.” P. 181

I hold my breath.

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