Halloween Week – Dead Man’s Hole

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Up US 281 in Marble Falls, TX, there is a site called Dead Man’s Hole. Dead Man’s Hole is a natural limestone cave many ghost hunters insist is very haunted.

It’s hard to rattle me and I self-identify as a skeptic.  But even as I maintain that I am a skeptic, I have had strange experiences that I cannot fully explain.  Some of those experiences involve what I call wrong places.  A wrong place, simply enough, is a place wherein you feel something is not right.  It’s a place where you feel uneasy and you don’t know why. If you probe your feelings long enough, you may find an answer that explains your uneasiness. The human mind perceives more than we process on a conscious level and sometimes our subconscious filters just enough to give us valid information that we may attribute to unseen sources, like the paranormal.  I tend to think that was at play during my visit at Dead Man’s Hole, but, regardless the reason, Dead Man’s Hole is a wrong place.  It is a place where so much human misery played out that even without any sort of paranormal interpretation many may feel uneasy here.  The last time I was there I became so unnerved I likely will never return. I hope that despite the fact I was there during the brightness of the summer that the creepy nature of the place will show up in the pics.

The historical marker
According to the Historical Marker on the site, an entomologist called Ferdinand Lueders discovered the hole, presumably in the course of searching out insects, but it was not until the Civil War that the cave gained it’s ghostly and ghastly reputation. The cave is quite deep, probably around 155 feet down, and is now capped to prevent accidents and, one suspects, potential vandalism.

View of the hole
During the Civil War, it is believed that up to 17 men, most of whom had pro-Union sympathies, were hanged to death on an oak tree that used to hover over the hole, then cut down, their bodies dumped unceremoniously into the cave. As the marker above says, evidently there was once an oak tree that sported rope marks from the hangings, but these features certainly were not in evidence when I took these pictures. None of the trees near the hole looked strong enough to use for a lynching.

The hole itself
Closer look at the hole. Some people report smelling offensive odors coming out of the hole, but I didn’t experience any smells at all. I presume the offensive smells are a result of the natural gases found in the cave.

"Occult" symbols
Someone with possession of both a sharp object and a belief in the occult visited Dead Man’s Hole shortly before my trip. This was not scary to me – just annoying that people decided to desecrate an historical site – but several people in online communities freaked right the hell out about this.

Here’s where it starts to get a little creepy. I went out to Dead Man’s Hole in July of 2008 and took pictures around 7:00 p.m.  While I was there I became very nervous, bordering on frightened, and left sooner than I had planned.  My husband reminded me that the first time I visited Dead Man’s Hole in 2002, I had a similar response – an unthinking desire to get out of there. Little voices in my head kept telling me I was in danger and that I needed to leave immediately.

I discussed this feeling with my husband later, and he tends to think the visual and audible stimuli I picked up on at the site made my subconscious uneasy.

Entrance to the hole
First, there is only one way in and out of the Dead Man’s Hole and the entrance is flanked by large rocks. Had someone in a large vehicle blocked the entrance, I would have had a very hard, if not impossible, time getting away from the site in my little Toyota. And like any good rural place where lots of people died, I could not get any cell phone reception.

The site was quiet
Second, there wasn’t any noise at the site. I was the only person there and there was no traffic out on CR 401. I heard no birds, no insects, and there was no wind. I think the intuitive part of my brain sensed this silence and interpreted it as danger. But part of me thinks this place is so wrong that there will never be any birds chirping, insects buzzing or pleasant winds, so I guess I am not as much a skeptic as I would like to think I am.

But what was most upsetting were the statements that kept flashing around in my head.  In addition to my subconscious telling me that I could be trapped and picking up on the fact that it was unnaturally silent, I inexplicably began to think, “You’re next.” When that thought entered my head, I took my last picture and left.

Even though I can find reasons that explain my uneasiness, I am still surprised at my reaction to this site.

That same night, when I came home, I began working on my next weird investigation. I consulted a book I had purchased some months earlier and stuck on a shelf: Ghosts of Austin, Texas: Who They Are and Where to Find Them by Fiona Broome. I had not yet read the book and had purchased it because, at the time, it was one of the few sources about an obscure series of murders that happened in Austin in the 19th century (the Servant Girl Annihilator Killings, a nasty serial murder case from 1884-1885). As I flipped through it, I also found information about Dead Man’s Hole.

Some of this information was unlikely to be of much use to a skeptic, but at the same time it was a bit on the mark, given my recent experience:

There are several ghosts at this site, and all of them have a story to tell. Unfortunately, it’s the same story each time. The spirits claim they were unjustly accused of crimes that they never committed. They claim that at least one man-probably the hangman-was the actual criminal. They’d like to set the record straight. In addition, that guilty man may haunt the area around Dead Man’s Hole.

This isn’t a “fun” haunting, and it’s not a recommended destination after mid-afternoon. Never go there alone. This is strictly a stop for experienced ghost hunters with nerves of steel.

Ghost hunters, oh dear.  I went on two ghost hunts, attending from a place of curiosity.  I felt like Jon Ronson or Louis Theroux, observing with a straight face while unlikely events unfolded.  Half the participants were constantly craning their heads toward noises only they could hear, reacting in fear to things only they could see.  Strangely, or not, there was zero overlap in all that those twitchy people observed and experienced, meaning that the haunted pizza parlor and the cemetery outside San Marcos had to have been filled with hundreds of disembodied spirits, reaching out to emotionally strung-out hunters whose digital devices all failed to record their entreaties.  So it’s hard for me to put much stock in the reactions of the average ghost hunters because I suspect they would find a terrifying experience under every rock.

But yeah, I did go there alone after mid-afternoon, but then again, it is never a good idea for a woman to drive all alone to a random, secluded, rural place she is not familiar with. Have horror movies taught me nothing?  I do tend to think that my uneasy reaction was due to the fact that I had gone to a creepy place alone and subconsciously realized how easy it would be for a foolhardy woman sans gun or working cell phone reception to find herself in trouble before my conscious mind understood it.

All that having been said, I never want to go back to Dead Man’s Hole.  Ever.  Not even with Mr. Oddbooks.  I’ve been to some pretty creepy places on my own and I’ve never before felt so unsafe and, frankly, scared.

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