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Floyd Collins' final resting place is at the Baptist Church cemetery on the grounds of Mammoth Cave.
In the 1920's Floyd Collins was known as the best cave explorer in the world. His family's Crystal Cave (which he discovered on January 18, 1917) was overshadowed by Mammoth Cave. He was part of the infamous Cave Wars between Mammoth and 17 other cave attractions. While trying to find a passage from Crystal Cave to Mammoth Cave, he was exploring Sand Cave when a large rock fell on his foot, trapping him 60 feet underground and just 120 feet from the entrance. He had only one light, was ill-clothed, didn't have a protective helmet, and was exploring alone.
He lay trapped there for two weeks. He was close enough to the entrance for people to get food to him for the first four days. then a cave-in closed the entrance to the passageway and reporters could only talk to him. Reporter William Burke "Skeets" Miller from the Louisville Courier-Journal received a Pulitzer Prize for his interviews with Collins. When the shaft that was being dug to rescue him reached his location, he had already died.
Authorities decided it was too dangerous to recover the body, so it remained in Sand Cave for several months until Floyd's brother Homer raised enough money to give Floyd a "decent burial". When Crystal Cave was sold in 1927, Floyd's body was put in a glass topped coffin in the cave. The body was stolen in March 1929 and later found in the river minus one leg.
The body was returned to Crystal and the casket was chained down for security. In 1961, Crystal Cave was purchased by Mammoth Cave National Park. At the Collins family request the National Park Service re-interred Floyd Collins next to the old Mammoth Cave Baptist Church on Flint Ridge road on March 24, 1989.
Many books and even one musical have been written about Floyd Collin's death. The book originally titled "Ace in the Hole" about the media circus surrounding his death was made into a 1951 Billy Wilder movie starring Kirk Douglas.
Updated Nov 4, 2007
The area that is now the National park, has change significantly. After the gov't bought the land from the many families in the community that were living on the land which is the park now, they tore down everything; from houses, to schools, to stores. All that remains today are 74 cemetaries & 3 churches. After they tore down the abandoned houses they replanted most of the trees that you will see today in the park. Most of the families sold their properties to the gov't for the park for $1 to make it legal. But Ms. Lucy that owned the Great Onyx cave was the last to sale in 1960, 19 years after the establishment of the park. She sold for $360,000, she wanted much more. I suppose that is why it took 19 years for the sale!
To find out more about Ms. Lucy:the famous court case
Updated Oct 9, 2007