Nutty Putty Cave


Floyd Collins
Floyd Collins
July 20, 1887 - February 13, 1925

At the November 2009 Timpanogos Grotto meeting, our Secretary/Treasurer Richard Downey stood up to make an announcement to the 25 cavers in attendance and before you knew it he started rambling off on a tangent to relate the story of Floyd Collins. Our grotto has many newer cavers and only a few in the room knew who Floyd Collins was, before Richard’s relating of the historical events. Some was folklore and some of it was fact. It was ironic that just two weeks later caver John Jones would get stuck in the Nutty Putty Cave and that the majority of people in the room would be on site as part of the rescue party.

So who was Floyd Collins? Known as one of the greatest cavers in history, he broke the top 5 rules of cave exploration.

Floyd Collins:

  • 1) Went exploring alone.
  • 2) Had only one light source.
  • 3) Was poorly clothed.
  • 4) Had no helmet or hard hat.
  • 5) Did not tell anybody where he was going or when he would be back.

FC Sand Cave

Floyd was trapped 55 feet below the surface. For 18 days his body laid trapped in the cave. A rock had fallen and broke both his legs, trapping him in place. When rescuers finally made it to him, his father had to grant permission to amputate one leg at the knee so that the rest of his body could be recovered. Rumors abounded that one of Floyd’s legs was later stolen, when in reality it was left in the cave never to be retrieved.

Haunted hikesAndrea Lankford in her book Haunted Hikes wrote: “The indignity suffered by Floyd Collins does not end with his ungodly death. Instead of receiving a decent burial, his body became a tourist attraction. For 64 years Floyd was displayed in a glass top coffin inside the Crystal Cave. One night a group of midnight raiders amde off with Floyd’s corpse. The identity of the grave robbers remains unknown to this day, but the body minus one leg was found wrapped in a gunny-sack in the bushes near the Green River. Floyd’s body did go back on display in the Crystal Cave until the NPS (National Parks Service) obtained the cavern and closed it to the public. In 1989, that poor guy was laid to rest in a more civilized location, the cemetery at Flint Ridge.”

Floyds’s tombstone read: GREATEST CAVE EXPLORER EVER LIVED.  But Floyd Collins’ example of what not to do reminds us of what we should do to safely explore subterranean passages.

CAVE WARS - Floyd Collins discovered the Crystal Cave in Kenytucky in the midst of a war of private cave owners trying to gather public attention and tourism revenues. 18 caves, including Mammoth Cave were involved and Floyd Collins knew that he needed to further expore the area in the hopes of discovering an even larger more beautiful cavern that would draw the paying crowds. Many stories are told of what one cave oener would do to another to get people to come to their hole in the ground.
FLOYD’S ENTRAPMENTFloyd Collins - Floyd Collins decided to further explore the narrow Sand Cave when a rock fell and trapped his foot about 100 feet into the cave. Some reports state that it broke both of his legs, and others detail that as he tried to move more rocks would fall, so he stayed very still. Floyd did not previously tell anybody about his exploration and nobody missed him when he failed to return home. Once it was realized that Floyd really was missing the search was on and they sought after him at all of his favorite exploration spots until they found him in Sand Cave and the resuce efforts began.

Floyd CollinsRESCUE EFFORTS - Spanning over 18 days from his first entrapment, it reportedly became an above ground circus. Reporters came from around the nation and this brought immense public reaction, curiosity, and the need to know more. Radio allowed for real time reporting and newspaper sales went through the roof.

On the surface they started digging a shaft while only the smallest of rescuers could make it through the normal cave passages. They sent down food and water to keep Floyd’s strength up, and then a small reporter name Skeets Miller was sent in to interview Floyd and document the issue from inside the cave.

Floyd CollinsFor a Hollywood perspective, you should get a copy of the movie, The Big Carnival starring Kitk Douglas by Billy Wilder. Kirk Douglas plays the role of the reporter that would do anything possible to make this story bigger and increase his national exposure. We watched this play out in real life on Blowhole Hill during the entrapment and death of cave John Jones in the Nutty Putty Cave.What we learned is that no matter what the era, human nature does not really change. The difference between Floyd Collins’ circus and John Jones is the length of time until their passing, and the fact that the law enforcement kept the circus off the hilltop for John Jones. Had John stayed alive for longer, I can only imagine what would have resulted.
Floyd Collin’s body was recovered and placed in his family’s Crystal Cave. Floyd CollinsIt was presented in a glass coffin, but the normal paid tour did not pass by his glass coffin.Rumor has it that if you passed the tour guide a good gratuity, then a view of Floyd was allowed. Floyd’s body rested securely until one night a group of vandals entered Crystal Cave and stole his body. The robbers were never identified, but the body was found wrapped up in a gunny sack near the Green River. A lot of mention is given to the fact that it was missing a leg, as though the robbers took the leg off the corpse.Other accounts state that his Father authorized the amputation of Floyd’s leg in order that his body could be removed from his entrapment in the first place.

In 1989, Floyd’s descendants had a change of heart and buried his body in the Flint Ridge Cemetery.At that time the National parks Service took ownership of the cave, stopped all tours, and closed it to the public.

Enjoy following the links below to some great information about the life and death of Floyd Collins.

Floyd Collins - Wikipedia
The Floyd Collins Museum- Roadside America
Floyd Collins: Trapped in Sand Cave - James M. Deem
Floyd Collins Interview - Poetry by Davis McCombs

TrappedTrapped! The Story of Floyd Collins

In Trapped!, authors Roger Brucker and Robert Murray take readers into the mind of this simple Kentucky farmer whose ambition to discover a big cave was fueled by visions of fame and fortune.

In researching Trapped!, Brucker and Murray interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses and studied hundreds of documents to uncover facts about this tragedy that were not previously known. More than a book about a caving tragedy, Trapped! is a story of personal ambition, conflicting egos, and one man's courage in the face of unspeakable terror.

Floyd CollinsFLOYD COLLINS - TRAPPED - June 9, 2009 - TV news story about Billy Bob Thornton's plan to make a movie about the Floyd Collins tragedy of 1925. Floyd Collins was a cave explorer who got trapped in a Kentucky cave, in what is now Mammoth Cave.
Floyd CollinsTHE DEATH OF FLOYD COLLINS - A song by Vernon Dalhart - 1925
Floyd CollinsFLOYD COLLINS - Peridot Pictures - November 26, 2008 - The true story of Floyd Collins, a Kentucky man who was trapped in Mammoth Cave and later died there. This film was produced by Peridot Pictures.
From the Cave City, Kentucky website...

Floyd CollinsWhen Floyd Collins entered Sand Cave in 1925, little did he realize that he would soon become a national folk hero. His entrapment and the subsequent efforts to free him attracted national attention and became one of the most sensational news events of the 20th Century.

Floyd Collins was a farmer in the Kentucky hills and an avid cave explorer who, in the winter of 1925, entered a cave that he hoped to turn into a tourist-driven goldmine, and instead became hopelessly trapped.

FC PhotosWithin days, his plight had triggered a gaudy media circus – America’s first sensational, true-life soap opera played out on the airwaves. An account says, “Every L&N train, then the principal mode of transportation, brought swarms of newspaper reporters from the east to the west coast…Destination-Cave City and Sand Cave, with Press Headquarters in the Hotel Dixie, where feverish newsmen ground out dramatic stories of the fruitless efforts to free poor Floyd in his lonely trap in the depths of Sand Cave.”

FC PhotosRescuers tried everything – digging and hacking at the passageway, sinking a new shaft, and feeding Floyd to keep up his energy. A wealthy Chicago woman sent her surgeon to Cave City by plane to try to amputate Collins’ foot and thus free him, but to no avail. Reporter Skeets Miller squeezed his way between rock and sand debris to interview Floyd and chronicle the drama. Eventually, a passage just above Floyd collapsed, cutting him off entirely from all human contact; and poor Floyd died alone, buried alive. As the historical marker matter-of-factly states at the entrance to Sand Cave, his plight “Aroused the sympathy of a nation.”

FC PhotosThe Cave City Chamber of Commerce and the City of Cave City recently produced and filmed a docudrama entitled “The Floyd Collins Story”. Many local residents and descendants of Floyd Collins were featured in the film, which premiered at the Cave City Convention Center on Saturday, July 24, 1999.

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