Luray Caverns charms visitors more than a century after its discovery

It all started with disappearing cattle and disappearing water. Something was going on in the hills around Luray, Virginia back in the summer of 1878 and a group of local men wanted to get to the bottom of it.

On a 90-degree August day, searching the fields and hills for caves with three others, Billy Campbell felt cold air coming out of some loose rubble. When he and the group dug down about 10 feet, they suddenly felt something.

“Cold air rushed out of the entrance in such volume that it was chilling to the skin despite the hot sun,” and had “the odor of washed potatoes and damp earth,” wrote Russell H. Gurnee, in his book “Discovery of Luray Caverns, Virginia.”

The rushing air was so strong that it blew out a candle.

On August 13, a five-member group returned and slinked into the abyss on a rope. They were instantly overwhelmed by the other-worldly formations they found. They said they looked like dripping carrots and sparkling pin cushions, amid glistening walls, tall columns, and pools of crystal clear water.

Their shouts of wonder echoing throughout the caverns hinted that they had found a big cavern complex. Known locally as “the Phantom Chasers,” the men had discovered a grand and mysterious cave.

To read more about the ancient history of the caverns, why a huge, musical organ was installed deep underground and what fried eggs and the Michelin Man have to do with Luray, click here for the rest of the story at the Ashburn Magazine website.