by Adam Winer
MAMMOTH CAVE, KY (WAVE) – Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. It's a popular tourist destination. It can also be a dark and dangerous place.
Some people say one early explorer is still roaming the cave, even though he died there long ago.
"Sometimes people hear things, feel things or see things they can't explain," said tour guide Colleen Olson.
Olson has been exploring the cave system and collecting stories about it for more than 20 years. "Stories that were passed down," she said. "Stories I heard from other cave guides."
One legend might not be just a story, but a haunting.
William Floyd Collins was known as one of the great cave explorers of his time. "A man who was trapped in a sand cave, a separate cave, back in 1925," according to Olson.
After 14 days underground, Collins died of exposure, thirst and starvation. His body wasn't recovered for another two months. "And then, back in the 1920s and 30sm his body was on display in a section of Mammoth Cave called Crystal Cave," Olson said.
Some people think Collins plays tricks on them in the cave. But guides say Collins has also been known to help prevent them from meeting his same fate. "For example," Olson said, "there's one story that a caver told me that she was caving near part of the cave where Floyd, when he was alive, would go caving, and she tripped and she started to fall, and then she felt somebody grab her and pull her back, and of course she thought it was her caving partner. So she was about to say, 'Thanks, Richard,' thanking her pal, but he was way on the other side. So then, when she realized it wasn't Richard, she said, 'Thanks, Floyd.'"
In live, Floyd Collins helped map and discover the longest known cave system in the world. In death, he might still do the same.