Sam Davis House

Sam Davis House
One of the rooms inside of the Sam Davis House in Smyrna Tennessee.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Book: Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins by Robert K. Murray & Roger W. Brucker


Wow! I have lucked in to reading some good books lately! This book was a very satisfying read.

I love Wikipedia. It is probably the site I visit most these days. They do a fine yet too brief job covering Floyd Collins and his being stuck in Sand Cave. This book is a thorough, easy read about the Floyd Collins situation. The story easily needs 300 pages.

Floyd Collins liked to explore caves in the Mammoth Cave area. It could be very profitable for someone to have a cave on their land at that time. Several land owners competed for tourist dollars trying to sell tourists on their cave being the most spectacular in the region.
Floyd was trying to find a new cave entrance. While doing this, in a very narrow cave area, he knocked over his lantern and his leg became wedged in a way that he could not get it out.
His friends and family found him the next day. Over the next several days friends, family, and many others came to the Sand Cave area to help. Actually, many just came and hung out. A carnival like atmosphere rose up near the cave over the next couple of weeks. Vendors and entertainers were on the scene, with Floyd, underground, the main unseen attraction.
Some people went in and tried to help Floyd by feeding him, trying to dig him out, etc. Many people started to go in to get to Floyd, but changed their minds, as Floyd was in a deep, narrow secluded area. Some feared they might also end up trapped.
Some people thought of ways to try to get Floyd out. Others argued against those ideas. One group of monument carvers arrived at Sand Cave to offer their assistance, and they were turned away.
For the first several days that Floyd was trapped, various groups of people offered suggestions and theories on ways to get Floyd out, but other groups would argue about why that plan would not work.
In a few sentences, Floyd gets stuck in a very narrow, scary cave. Some people show up to help. Many people show up to see what happens, and to drink and have fun. The people that try to help get protective about their rescue plans, and try to prevent other would be rescuers from putting their plans into motion. Eventually, Floyd dies as no one has been able to get him out.
One group does dig a hole 60 feet deep and they do get to Floyd that way (the passage Floyd used collapsed in 2 places) but it was too late. Floyd was dead.

The story is far from over though. Floyd's body is moved several times after this (it still takes his family and friends some time to recover his body). His body is stolen at one time, and there is even a legal battle about who owns his body. The authors do a great job of tracking the characters in the story (including another historically important figure, Charles Lindbergh, who played a part in the media coverage of the event). The authors track down other players, including one who suggests that Floyd was actually murdered, but refuses to elaborate.

Murray and Brucker also cover a lot of inaccuracies in the reporting of the event at the time. Many news outlets were eager to one up each other. In their efforts, false reports were made about Floyd and his situation. Many fake Floyd's surfaced. Rumors about Floyd being freed and faking his situation were printed.

The authors even get special permission to visit Sand Cave (it has been sealed off for some time). They make some very exciting discoveries, including a discovery that pretty much proves that rescuers could have continued getting to Floyd despite the collapses.

In my updated edition of the book, it is noted that several people linked to the incident (mostly decedents of the people originally involved) have contacted the author about their perceptions of people mentioned in the book, facts that they know about them, etc.

There are many reasons to check out this book. It is exciting. We know how the story of Floyd Collins ends, but there is so much more to the legacy and the details. Brucker and Murray cover it all thoroughly in exciting detail.

If you are interested in caving, Mammoth Cave, or strange stories, this is it. Its a good read and it keeps you attention. It was so well written that I wish the book was about 200 pages longer.

The story of Floyd Collins is just as interesting as many others that get more attention. The story is under appreciated. A musical has been produced, obviously some books, but I would love to see this story exploited more. Floyd deserves at least a comic book graphic novel, and a modern movie.

It is very hard to visualize Floyd's predicament. The authors do give a detailed description of their climb down. It almost seems that Floyd it trapped more in a very deep hole than in a cave. Also, the rock that wedges his foot is only 26 pounds.

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