Ted the Caver Revealed
Would the real Ted the Caver, please stand up?
I was excited to begin searching for the source to this tale as I had never really done any research on this story before. I didn't know what awaited me once I started digging, if I would find a rich labyrinth of content or reach an immediate dead end
If you do a google on Ted the Caver you will find dozens of discussions across a myriad of forums over the years sharing and talking about the story and one of the most common thing you will see is people demanding to know what happened and if there was more. Where was page 11?
You'll also be quick to find that the Angelfire website isn't the only place this story is hosted. At one point it seemed the story was on a dozen websites, many copying the formatting exactly. Most of these sites began to crop up around 2004, but the Angelfire website is the original. Though interestingly, some of these sites expand on the story and even offered alternative endings
There was one that I couldn't find that supposedly had a picture of a creature at the end that someone identified as a tourist attraction from the Cheddar Caves in Somerset UK
One example of this comes from a forum called abovetopsecret.com.
A thread in 2011 was discussing the story and seeking a conclusion, and user Plotus comes to the rescue
They claim to have found the rest of the story that was posted in December 2010 and is known as "Ted's Mystery Cave Final Story" they copied and pasted it into the thread
In this story, Ted, Joe and B decide to go back to the cave at the end of 2001. On the first trip back, Joe and Ted go through Floyd's Tomb and explore deeper into the other side than they had before, they end up finding a cavern that appears to continue on the other side but would need additional equipment to make it, so the three of them return home and prepare for another visit
On the second visit they're able to go even further, they hear some sounds of rock and rock, but really nothing unusual happens and Ted finds his camera. Ted and Joe don't find anything strange and determine they've seen all there is to see. Ted and B try to review the film on the camera but just keep running into issues with the camera powering off. They get it repaired and are able to see when Ted left it behind and hear a sound like rope whipping by and that was it
The trio feels satisfied with their exploration and don't feel a need to go back, but they did want to make sure they covered their tracks as not to attract anyone else to the site. It's mentioned that not even Ted's sister knows the location of the cave.
We all need time to unwind from all of this and sort everything out. We have decided to wait untill spring to renew any exploration and get our affairs in order. ***Ted, B & Joe***
This account is strange, while the pacing is similar to the Ted story, there are also inconsistencies. For one
- Inconsistent dates, at the beginning they say they meet up to discuss going to the cave in November, then go to the cave December 26th and return again November 21st all in the same year
- There's a lack of caving knowledge and jargon. There were multiple cases were the terms stalagmite and stalactite were swapped. In the original story Ted used these words appropriately
- The spelling was atrocious, common words were misspelled or entirely different words that look/sound similar were used instead (weather of instead of whether). The original story had few glaring spelling or grammatical issues
- I was unable to find any other references to this story
The whole thing leaves more questions than it answers, good thing Ted's sister is here to give us closure.
Marc and I havent heard from you in a long time Ted. We looked up some of your friends and none of them seem to know the location of your mystery cave.
After asking around and offering the description of the cave from notes you posted on your web page, we finally found someone who knows of such a cave.
He and Marc set out searching for you, B, and Joe. After navigation of the directions you gave on your web page, They found a place that resembles the area that you and B ahd worked so hard at opening.
The hole that you worked so hard to enlarge isnt there. Insted there is a crack in the rock from where a cool breeze blows from and the rumbleing noises can be heard.
Click here to see the photograph I took of the hole that my brother had worked so hard to open. I had paid somebody to enhance it with a photoshop program but people were calling it a fake. So I decided to scan the photo myself and put it here. Please pardon my poor photography skills.
Ted, We don't know the password to your web site so we copied it to this free hosting service in hopes that if you are out there, you will find it and contact us.
We miss you verry much.
Don't worry, I have created a direct comparison between Jan's photo and Ted's. They look awfully similar. Ok let's be clear. They are the same picture, the right has just been photoshopped to remove the hole and the glove
Not long after, we would get page 12
We were pretty sure that we found the wrong cave after seeing that the entrance that Ted and B had worked so hard to open is mearly a small crack. But from the descriptions of the cave and the limited photos that Ted had posted on his original cave page, Not to mention the cool breeze blowing from the crack in the rock and the rumbleing noises. I found another page on the web.
According to this page, It may not take thousands of years for a cave enterance to seal itself over.
We have also found a pocket knife that looks identical to the one that Dad give to Ted on his 12th birthday. The knife was found in the area where Ted described that he and B would rest between work shifts.
We will continue to search until we find my brother Ted.
IF YOU ARE OUT THERE SOMEWHERE READING THIS WE LOVE YOU.
PLEASE CALL ME. THE FAMILY JUST ISN'T THE SAME WITHOUT YOU.
Your Loveing Sister,
And that would be the last we would hear from 'Jan', but the page "she" links to is something else
It talks about two men in the San Pedro Mountains Wyoming in 1932 who were digging for gold. They used some explosives to further their excavation and instead blew open a sealed cavern
"Inside this cavern was a small ledge on which a pixie-like creature sat, cross-legged. It turned out to be a tiny mummy about 7" high (18 cm) with a total height of 14" (35 cm). It's face looked like an old man's. It had a flat head, huge, heavy-lidded eyes and a very wide mouth. It was so well preserved that the finger nails could still be seen on the hands. It gets stranger - the top of it's head was covered in a dark jelly-like substance."
This goes on indicating that this may have been a supernatural being
Wikipedia says otherwise: "X-rays which determined that it was the body of an anencephalic infant "whose cranial deformity gave it the appearance of a miniature adult."
The real question is what does this have to do with Ted? No idea, but thanks 'Jan', I am sure to find some interesting stories on this site
So I looked into this domain gigdig.com. The page is still running today and you can even still find the copies of Ted's story there, but all of Jan's pages are gone. The owner of the site appears to be a man named JD and seems to be a conspiracy theorist and troll. So I think it's pretty safe to assume that these entries can be dismissed
In Ted's story he mentions looking up caving myths and finding out about the creature called a hodag, so naturally many think the hodag is responsible.
I was able to find a website dedicated to the legends of the Hodag: which does indeed confirm this is a popular myth among cavers
One story "The Black Hodag and other Back country creatures" by George Dasher had this to say
Contrary to contemporary opinions, the Hodag is neither indigenous to West Virginia or to caves. The first known hodag (Bovinus spiritualis) was captured near the end of the 19th century near Rhinelander, Wisconsin by one Eugene S. Sheppard and two companions.
The Black Hodag had "the head of a bull, the grinning face of a giant man, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with a spear at the end." It lived in the dense regions of nearby swamps, feasting mostly on mud turtles, water snakes, and muskrats, although it did partake in an occasional human. The beast had the transmigrated soul of one of Paul Bunyan's oxen and a very obnoxious odor. This odor was so rank that the residents of Oneida County burned their woods for seven years in an effort to be rid of the beast.
Naturally I googled this supposedly historic event and wasn't disappointed, wikipedia could tell me all about it! Indeed, in 1893 Eugene Shepard did claim to capture a Hodag, we even have a picture!
But it also says that Shepard was forced to admit it was a hoax not long after. Though that didn't stop the town from embracing their local cryptid
The hodag became the official symbol of Rhinelander, Wisconsin. It is the mascot of Rhinelander High School, and lends its name to numerous Rhinelander area businesses and organizations, including the annual music festival, Hodag Country Festival. The city of Rhinelander's web site calls Rhinelander "The Home of the Hodag". A larger-than-life fiberglass sculpture of a hodag, created by a local artist, resides on the grounds of the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce where it draws thousands of visitors each year. Rhinelander Ice Arena houses two hodags, one a full body creature just inside the entrance, and the other one an oversized head that blows smoke and has red eyes that light up, located in the corner just off the ice and which was created by the same artist who designed and built the Chamber Hodag
The Life and Habits of the Hodag by D.L. Peters
Perhaps one of the most widely known and yet at the same time least understood of the many phenomena occuring in caves is that of the Hodag. It is generally conceded that the Hodag is a small animal, probably a mammal, commonly inhabiting semi-vertical real estate in the neighborhood of certain "big" caves and quite often, for some unknown reason, frequenting the caves themselves. Yet there are facts and observations which seem to belie this concept of the Hodag.
Ask most people what a Hodag is and a blank stare will be all you'll get in return, but almost any caver who's been around at all will at least have heard of the creature, and quite a few will be able to respond with the characteristic most often associated with the Hodag, that of having legs longer on one side than on the other becase of the nature of the hilly terrain it inhabits
One of the great mysteries surrounding the Hodag is the fact that, although it is generally conceded that its normal living place is outside the caves, no one has ever seen a Hodag except in a cave
I was unable to find any records of Hodag sightings in Utah, which is where Mystery Cave is supposedly located
During my googling it wasn't long before I came across a handful for forums claiming that Ted wasn't actually the original writer of the story, that instead it was a plagiarized from a short story written by Thomas Lera, called "The Fear of Darkness" that had been published in 1987
Immediately I felt a sense of disappointment that my adventure would end so abruptly. I began to look for this short story and eventually found a copy that left me confused. On the first page, at the end of the second paragraph, the story says that it is based on journal notes of the author starting on December 30th 2001. Which is almost an identical start date as Ted's page, except his says December 30th 2000
Reading the story there was some notable differences
- The author's friend is Matt not B
- A cave is named, Hupman's Cave in Arizona
- Instead of B's Jack Russel Terrier, Matt had Jedda, an Australian Sheep Dog
- Events move faster in the Lera version, cutting out a lot of content, but the content that isn't new is almost exactly word for word to Ted's version
- There is no Joe in Lera's story, instead Matt/B is the one that goes into the tunnel the 2nd time after the author smacks their head
- Even though, in this story, Matt/B is capable of climbing through the hole, he doesn't join the author on the 'final' trip into the squeeze, the author goes alone for some reason
About 15 pages in is where Ted's story ends, but Lera's continues for another 7 pages, at this point the writing style changes dramatically and the story takes a wild departure, reading like a muddled horror genre acid trip full of inconsistencies and plot holes, without any supporting structure, the best way to tackle this is through bullet points
- The two men return to the cave and both go in through Floyd's tomb
- In the round rock room there's shards of bones, skulls and tatters of women's clothing
- The voice of a girl tells them to run (so ghost?)
- As they crawl through the tunnel, one of them is grabbed by a webbed hand (monster from the black lagoon?)
- They get out of the squeeze to see red light flood from the other side (satan?)
- Unable to exit the cave (don't ask) their lights go out and a demonic scream, heat and fetid smells fill the cavern
- Now suddenly they can exit the cave (don't ask) where they run into a red-eyed Jesus wizard who begins to speak in tongues at the sky (to be clear this character is not identified as Jesus, just has a similar description)
- A black cloud races over a nearby hill and hisses like a black cat at Jesus (smoke monster from Lost?)
- Jesus's chant is echoed from the woods like the howl of wolves?
- The smoke monster is sucked into the cave and everything is cool, so Jesus is a ghostbuster?
- Jesus asks if they are ok and then tells them that they encountered a demon or the devil, up to them what they wanted to call it, but then says it's both, but also neither
- Jesus then wanders off into the woods, chanting away and disappearing
- The two end up finding some old dead bodies behind a tree, conveniently carrying a framed picture, that includes Jesus but much younger with a wife and daughter (The Shining?)
- Also a journal! How convenient!
- Apparently Jesus and his family lived here in 1890s and had a clumsy daughter that went missing. Jesus and his wife accidentally find the cave and in it a bloody hair ribbon that belonged to the daughter
- Jesus had a bum foot so his wife ran off down the passage (floyd's tomb, which is only a hole in the wall that's the size of a fist at this point?)
- His wife disappears and eventually screams, followed by red light and the smoke monster, who is carrying his wife's one armed torso, then proceeds to sit down before Jesus and eat it
- Jesus sullenly walks away and then decides to go home and get his shotgun
- He calls for the creature that shows up and now looks like a smoky black dog with glowing red eyes
He calmly leveled his shotgun and waited to pull the trigger until the last second, when he could feel the beast's hot breath on his face
- He shoots it, it turns to dust and the cave sucks it up like a dust buster
- No one believes him so he commits his life to trying to figure out what it was. But a Navajo man came to save the white man having heard of his story, and tells him about a Navajo legend about a creature called a 'hindi' or soul eater
- The word hindi stood out to me as it did not sound like any aboriginal words I have ever heard, so I googled hindi and Navajo and could not find one article or website that connected the two. That doesn't mean it's not possible, many aboriginal myths and legends are passed orally, but still unusual
- What I did find was the word "chindi"
In Navajo religious belief, a chindi (Navajo: chʼį́įdii) is the ghost left behind after a person dies, believed to leave the body with the deceased's last breath. It is everything that was bad about the person; the "residue that man has been unable to bring into universal harmony". Traditional Navajo believe that contact with a chindi can cause illness ("ghost sickness") and death. Chindi are believed to linger around the deceased's bones or possessions, so possessions are often destroyed after death and contact with bodies is avoided. After death, the deceased's name is never spoken, for fear that the chindi will hear and come and make one ill. Traditional Navajo practice is to allow death to occur outdoors, to allow the chindi to disperse. If a person dies in a house or hogan, that building is believed to be inhabited by the chindi and is abandoned
- The Navajo man introduces Jesus to a Navajo shaman so that he can become a wizard
- Jesus spirit bonds with this "hindi", which is what the marks in the cave are for. So when the hindi woke again, Jesus woke to fight it
The incantations engraved into the wall apparently had enough power for the man to return to our plane of existence long enough to once again contain the entity, protecting us from certain death.
After reading his journal and understanding what had happened, Matt and I felt safe enough to return to the area and explore a little more. About a mile past the cave we found two unmarked gravestones. Could they have been the man's wife and child? We never told anyone about our experience. Who would have believed us?
Many questions go unanswered even until today. Where did that evil thing come from? Was it a natural creature of earth, a demon, or some other ancient creature? Are there more of them out there, living the cycle of feeding then hibernating? Who or what recovered the hole while we were in the cave? Was it the spell trying to contain the beast or was it some other force trying to keep us in there for the creature to feed on? Why didn't the beast kill us while it had us trapped instead of breaking through the barrier and coming back for us? All I know is there are things on this earth still left for us to discover and understand. But we had seen, read and heard enough never to enter the cave again.
I've read over this a dozen times and I still can't fully comprehend what I read. If this had indeed come before Ted's story and he had used it as inspiration, Ted's version is by and far, my favorite
So what the hell is the deal?
What do we know about this story and Mr. Lera?
The earliest reference to this story I found was Feb 2004 and was posted as response saying they have proof the story is not true and explains that Thomas Lera is the original author. Then interestingly enough, a couple months later the same user posts the exact same comment on the same thread
Enter PanamaJack of StraightDope.com
In October 2008, PanamaJack did their own investigation which can be found here. First thing they found was possibly earlier draft of The Fear of Darkness titled "The Terror in Hupman's Cave". Try as I might I could not find a copy of this story, the link that Panamajack provided has long been dead and there's no archived version I could find, but Panamajack had this to say:
"Although the details are the same as in "Fear of Darkness", this one lacks an ending, and has more dates. In fact it's far closer to Ted's story; they may be nearly identical."
"But there's a disclaimer there, claiming that it was ripped off by "Ted" and, again, written in 1987. This note definitively says that it was at that time set in the future, though the explanation as to why isn't that clear. That explanation doesn't inspire confidence. There appears to be no good reason for that story to have been post-dated, if written in 1987."
Panamajack looked into the ownership of the site where "The Terror in Hupman's Cave" was hosted on and found it was registered anonymously through GoDaddy. Searching the name Thomas Lera brought Panamajack to Thomaslera.org which is connected to a site in the Netherlands ontis.nl.
Ontis serves almost as a resume for Lera, articles on the conservation of bats, caving, his travels and his short horror stories. Absent from this is any mention of either version of Lera's supposed caving story. The one segment that you would expect to be related to caving because of the title speleology (the study and exploration of caves) has a fair number of articles related to stamps and stamp collecting. What do stamps have to do with caves?
Well Panamajack found Thomas Lera's name associated with the site www.speleophilately.com. Turns out there's a whole field of study about stamps related to caves and caving. Who knew! Today, speleophilately.com doesn't go anywhere, but in 2008 when Panamajack was doing his research it brought him to a site saying they've been around for 20 years
"The front page even says they only touch on the "core topics" since "the fields of speleophilately are large". We'll take their word on that."
The site did seem to be legitimate, but what did it have to do with Thomas Lera? Turns out that he was a contributor to this site! In his profile it says he's been working in cave conservation for years, that he was once the president of the Speleophilatelic Section of the National Speleological Society.
"Furthermore Mr. Lera is author of the book Bats in Philately and a successful writer of horror and sci-fi stories, all of which have a small reference to a cave or bat in them. They can be found at www.horrorlibrary.net. His stories are published under the nom de plume "John Rowlands.""
Sure enough stories can be found on the defunct website horrorlibrary.net
Panamajack notes that there is a link that's labeled www.thomaslera.com but the actual URL points to https://www.dougaustin.com/~toml/ . Doug Austin.com is where the PDF of "Fear of Darkness" can be found, it appears that Thomas Lera had a home directory at dougaustin, meaning most likely there is some connection between Doug Austin and Lera. The dougaustin site was already going to a 404 page way back in 2008 and it still does so today
- Panamajack looked up the registration info for speleophitaley.com and ontis.nl and found that one was someone in the Netherlands, with the same last name as someone listed in the Contributors page
- Panamajack compared some of these stories to "Fear of Darkness" and finds the writing to be different, with the Rowlands story seeming to overuse adjectives that isn't present in the cave story
This brings us to four conclusions:
- Someone obviously wrote the Rowland stories
- Someone obviously wrote the Ted the Caver website
- Someone wrote Fear of Darkness
- And there's someone in the Netherlands that might have something or nothing to do with this all
These could all be the same person, or all be entirely different person and it begs the question, is Lera even real? He seems to have a web presence and to have written things. It would require a lot of work to fabricate such a thing, and why would you? It's not like the "Fear of Darkness" was for sale anywhere. The first claims of plagiarism and appearance of "Fear of Darkness" occurred in 2004, 3 years after Ted's website went up. As Panamajack says:
Even if the story was written in 1987, it doesn't seem to have been published anywhere that Ted could read it. Unless Ted and Thomas are the same guy or knew each other.
If we are to assume that the story was actually written in 1987 and it was a near-future narrative, there are some aspects of the story that must be questioned:
- "video camera" - In 1987 it was difficult, but not impossible, to get a portable camera to shoot video.
- Chemical glowsticks - they didn't seem to be terribly common around the time the story would have been written
- The cordless drill - the first cordless power tools were made by Black and Decker in 1961 and were used by NASA and other high end research facilities. I was unable to determine when cordless tools became readily available to the average consumer but it's likely there were some on the market by 1987
And this is where Panamajack's investigation ends, but four years later a new user would comment on this thread a user named DieScorpion with some copyright records
- They found a copyright of the Ted the Caver story, attributed to a man named Ted Hegemann. The claim is for the 2001 story but was registered in January 2005 (after the plagiarism claims began to arise)
- They also found a copyright for Thomas Lera's book "Bats in Philately" published and registered in 1995. This is not Fear of Darkness and is an entirely different story
Using the same copyright site I looked for Fear of Darkness, but found nothing but a copyright claim for something called "Fear of Darkness" in 2016 with no other associated information
What the heck is going on here?
Unfortunately I never found a satisfactory answer about who exactly Thomas Lera is and his role in this saga, but I did find some stuff out about Ted's version
What's the Truth?
Thankfully there are a handful of amazing detectives out there that have done a lot of the legwork and one surprising source is a cooking blog of all things. John's blog (as it's titled) is a wordpress site, where John posts his recipes, but in September 2009 it appears he fell down the same rabbit cave I did
I don't know anything about John, his blog does not have an about page but here's what he has to say: He too came across the Thomas Lera story and also did not have a high opinion of it. John presents some interesting information including the actual location of the cave!
In Lera's story it's in Arizona and known as the Hupmann Cave while with Ted he was very clear he wasn't going to reveal the actual location
John had come across some posts on National Speleological Society Discussion Board by a Ralph E Powers and a Dale Green who claimed to have known B, or as he's actually called: Brad. They also knew the location of the cave
Interstate Cave, also known as Freeway Cave is a part of the Timpanogos Cave network in the Wasatch Mountains in American Fork Canyon near American Fork, Utah
I found a Utah Caver blog that had a small write-up and some pictures, definitely looks like the cave featured in Ted's story
The Interstate Caves are comprised of Interstate Cave, Highway Cave, Roadside Cave and Left Cave with Interstate cave being the largest by far at approximately 1062 ft. in length and 200' deep. Roadside cave is the second longest at approximately 224 ft. long.
John made reference to a map from the National Park Service website, unfortunately the link was dead. It took a lot of digging (ha!) but eventually I found the map and well, it's better if I just show you
- This first image shows you a cutaway of the land and how the cave looks if you were able to look at it like an anthill
- In the upper right-middle you can see the entrance, the hundred foot drop, the boulders you need to climb over, the four way split, a couple more drops leading further down
- I'm going to provide you a closer image now
- Here you will see a section call Dewalt's Dig and right after it, Floyd's Tomb
- You can see how the highway runs over this area
- The next image I am going to show you is the top-down view
- One thing you'll notice is a disclaimer in the bottom right saying that a permit is required to enter these caves due to the danger of falling rocks because of the highway above
So the cave is real! But is the story real?
John found a thread on the NSS discussion board from November 2004 where Ralph E Powers was addressing a discussion about Ted the Caver
The story is true. I happen to know B and his dawg. And I've been in the cave and through the hole after they opened it up. The passage continues on (surveyed) for over 140′ with a possibility of breaking into a side cave at the end. It was mainly walking passage after the initial tight (super-tight) crawl.
The passage goes directly under the interstate. Both directions and all four lanes.
I suspect that what those weird odd sounds they heard were semi's moaning over and probably at one time a tire screeching to a halt or something similar.
Filtered through the bedrock the sound can be distorted enough to have that otherworldly effect.
I've heard the booming and odd sounds and it is IMO definitely the interstate traffic.
The survey team and I did not know about the events until after we were done with it. Nor did we notice an odd "Blair Witch" type marking on any of the walls.
It's one of the tightest crawls I've been in ever but neat at the same time. [...]
Then in the same thread was this post (the below has been shortened for length, but you can read the full post here)
Well, I guess it's time I add my two cents to the topic. My name is Ted and I am the author of the story you have been discussing. I am the original author. I created the story on my own and copied no one.
I will explain the details of the creation of the story in a moment, but first let me just say - WOW!! I am still thrilled and amazed by all of the discussion that my story has generated. I was unaware of just how far the story had circulated until Yvonne contacted me a few weeks ago. I was aware of how many people had visited MY web site (the angelfire site) because of the counter on the site, and that number has been slowly climbing since I started the site. But I had no idea that two other people had copied the site, with one going so far as adding an "alternate ending" complete with a doctored photo! And I had no idea that the story had been discussed on numerous forums!
I want to thank everyone who took the time to read the story. I hope you enjoyed it. It took a long time to write and even though there are a few things I would change, I am happy with how it turned out. [...]
Between December 30, 1999 and February 24, 2000 Brad and I worked on a passage in Freeway cave. We made numerous trips, and spent many hours of hard work, before we were finally able to get through the opening and into the new section of cave. During the course of our adventure I kept a caving journal and documented our activities surrounding our attempts to be the first people to enter the new passage. Since we were giving friends and family members updates as we worked, I thought it would be a good idea to put my entire journal on a web page, along with our pictures, then we could simply refer people to the site.
The thought then occurred to me: It sure would be fun to embellish the story a little! From there it was a short leap to simply creating a work of fiction based on our experiences. I felt like the Internet was the perfect medium for my idea, so that is what I set out to do. For the next year I worked on the story, off and on. Sometime in April (I think) 2001 I posted the first few pages. After that I added them as if it was happening in real-time. After posting the last installment (May 19) I just kicked back and watched the web page counter to see if anyone was stumbling onto the site. [...]
To summarize the fact vs. fiction discussions about the story, let me just say the parts about the digging and passage through Floyd's Tomb are, for the most part, true and taken directly out of my caving journal. I intentionally altered a few details of the cave, but as has been mentioned, it still accurately describes Freeway Cave, Floyd's Tomb, and the passage now known as Gypsum Passage on the map. The supernatural aspects of the story are all pure fabrication. Even the rumbling that both Dale Green and Ralph Powers mentioned exist in the cave did not inspire the story. I simply used them later to add to the mystery! And that is that. Nothing mysterious happened while we worked on the cave. It was just an experience filled with challenge, hard work and lots of satisfaction. The feelings I mentioned while in Floyd's Tomb were real. That's what made it so fun to write
When I learned about the discussion on this forum I did some digging and found other sites discussing the story. As I read all of the different comments about the story I was grinning at the variety of opinions expressed. Some people liked it, some thought it long and boring. Some thought it creepy, some thought it was too farfetched. The negative comments didn't bother me. That's life! What did bother me, however, was the accusation that I had copied the story. I felt like my integrity was being challenged, and I don't like that. That may sound silly, since I was completely anonymous, but I still felt that way. Besides, I didn't like the notion that someone else was taking credit for my work.
Although I will not likely, or at least not immediately, post on other forums, I will definitely defend my story on this one, since it involves caves and caving. I would like to begin with most obvious evidence: the cave itself. It is clear to anyone who has been in the cave that the story accurately describes Freeway cave. Even using the map as a guide one can "see" that the description resembles the cave. What are the odds someone could have written such an accurate description without seeing the cave? And not just any cave, but a cave that only came to light as a result of construction, as told in the story? As Dale mentioned the cave was opened in the 70's, so someone could have been through before 1987. But not the new passage! As Ralph stated, and the pictures show, the story accurately describes the 'Floyd's Tomb' section of the cave, the opening, and the passage beyond (although I did take a few creative liberties there with the description, such as the 'Blair Witch' hieroglyphics and the round rock). And Ralph, Dale, or any one of dozens of Utah cavers can testify to the approximate date the passage was opened. Now, did Thomas Lera see all of this in a crystal ball to write about it accurately? Or did someone swipe my work?
When the "1987" version surfaced it took all of 15 seconds of reading to recognize it was definitely my story, with a few changes made. I figured I would read it and see if there was some way that I could prove he copied me, but it was difficult. Since 99% of what he wrote was copied verbatim from my story, there was not much to go on, but I did find a few interesting things. Granted, this is little more than circumstantial evidence, but it starts to add up. I'll try to be brief [...]
2 The dog we really took in the cave to check out the passage was real (as Ralph mentioned, he died a few years ago). I'll try to dig up a photo of him in the Tomb. It was a Jack Russell. The Lera version switched it to an Australian Shepard. Hardly a dog to fit in a tight squeeze. See https://www.australianshepherds.org/adult.html [...]
4 In the Lera version he used a cordless drill. In the true version I mentioned a De Walt cordless drill. I don't know who did this , but check out the map of the cave and zoom in on the entrance to the passage. De Walts Dig! I assume this came from Brads conversation with Ralph about the project (Ralph, can you enlighten us?) Doesn't really prove anything, but it was just something I noticed.[...]
Well, that's about it. Not the best evidence, but it's all I have . This post is already way too long. If you made it this far, thanks. And a special thanks to Yvonne for taking the effort to 'get to the bottom of this' and for contacting me. Also thanks to Scott McCrea. I am impressed with both of your efforts. It is rare to see people refuse to just accept what is handed to them. If there is anything I can clear up for you, feel free to contact me.
I wrote the story, but I'm not seeking fame from it. I never was. If that was the case I would have put my name on it from the beginning. I just want to protect my work from other people who may lay claim to it. Clearly someone read my story, copied it and put another date on it.
I wrote it so people would read it and enjoy it. And maybe wonder about it. Even though the story took on a life of its own, I can still make the satisfying proclamation: Mission accomplished!
As for Thomas Lera (or anyone who tries to steal my story): May an amorous Hodag in the pinnacle of heat find you in a damp and lonely cave!
Ted is real! The story is...mostly real and this would be the last real update to this story, that is until 2013
In 2013 David L Hunt's first feature film begins the film festival tour. The title: Living Dark: the Story of Ted the Caver
There is a movie
Living Dark would go on in the independent film circuit for the next 3 years and would be nominated and win awards all over the world before it was finally sold to New Films International for release in 2016
How did this happen? Well we'll get into that in a bit, but it is entirely legit, Ted signed off to have this made, so it's official, it's endorsed. The question is how was it and how was it presented?
Well turns out this film is on Amazon Prime right now, so I watched it on Friday
The story naturally takes some liberties and makes some changes, as the journal method of storytelling doesn't exactly translate well on film. The film focuses on two brothers who had a falling out years ago, who were now being reunited, because of their father's sudden death
Prior to his death their father had purchased a remote piece of land where he wanted to buried and this is where the film opens, the brothers standing at their father's grave. After some conversation they go to leave, Ted trips on something, he goes to see what it is and they find wooden hatch covering a hole in the ground. The brothers decide to explore it, working together and rebuilding their relationship.
Much of what happens follows the plot outline of Ted the Caver, some of the dialogue is nearly identical, and there are scenes that recreate the pictures that Ted shared in his blog.
There are some bigger departures, but the spirit of the story remains relatively the same
This is a horror film and there are some good jump scares and atmospheric horror. The part later in the film where Ted begins to hallucinate really had me spooked at parts. The film does not leave a cliffhanger like Ted's story, but I won't spoil it here. It is not for the fair of heart
It was better than I expected, the actors that played the two brothers put on a pretty good show. The recreation of Floyd's tomb was pretty spot on. Overall I would probably rate it 6/10, but is worth checking out for anyone that's a big fan of the original story, there's lots of little easter eggs in there for fans
So how did this came to be?
The Real Ted Hegemann
After I learned Ted's full name I began to search and what I came across blew my mind. An actual audio interview with Ted himself from Oct 2020!
Nick Botic is a writer and a big horror fan and had set off to create a Youtube channel where he would discuss horror stories and the like. He too had fell down the Ted the Caver rabbit hole and had a mutual friend that knew Ted and put them in contact and Ted happily agreed to come on the show
For the first time ever Ted sat down and told the whole story (this is a summary of the conversation, to listen to the whole thing visit the video at the bottom of this post)
- Like Ted had said on the NSS forums, much of the start of the story is true. A good portion of the content came from Ted's personal caving journal and there indeed was a cave and in it was a real tight passage that Ted and his friend Brad spent months trying to expand to be able to pass through
- The venture to open up Floyd's Tomb became a pet project for the two and all their friends and family were invested wanting to know how things were progressing. So he decided when they were done he'd just publish his journal online
- But as he started to transcribe he saw opportunities to embellish it. It would take him most of 2000 to write the story, he was not a professional writer, he had dabbled in a few articles for a local company, but it was never anything he took seriously
- He made the site in March 2001 and started posting modified entries from his journals amping things up until the big cliffhanger on May 19 2001.
- Ted had installed a hidden view counter on the website so he could number of visitors and things were pretty modest for a long time, until one day the counter reset and he lost track of that data.
- It would be 3 years later that the story really took off
- Around this time, Ted would receive an email from a woman that wanted his permission to translate the story into French for a caver friend of hers, which he was totally down with but she also suggested that he check out on a national caving forum where there was a big debate about who wrote the story and if it was real, this is what would lead him to the NSS forum
- Ted was confused about this and started googling the story and finding stuff all over the internet. He had no idea that so many people were fascinated with the story, talking about it and he was totally blown away
- When asked about the Thomas Lera story, Ted was shocked that there was a debate between which came first and he was super impressed at people's examination of the details to try and determine which came first
- In the caving forum one of the people that had joined the debate was a man named David Hunt who said "I really need to know who wrote it as I am about to shoot a movie based on this and need to know who to sign the contract with"
- Ted didn't take it seriously and just kind of ignored it, but finally decided to hunt him down and came across his wife instead who confirmed that David was serious and that it was all real
- Ted found out that David Hunt had actually signed a contract with the mysterious Thomas Lera for the rights to the story, before he knew that Ted was the original source. Ted doesn't know if Lera got paid, but Ted received a small amount for signing.
- David had already written his script but he and Ted did have some lengthy conversations about what it was actually like to squeeze through that cave. Ted has seen the film and thinks that David did a fantastic job and portraying that. The plot of the film itself varies somewhat from the original, with Ted and Brad being brothers who had just lost their dad
- The film opens with the brothers at their dad's gravesite and David asked Ted if he had a name he wanted on the tombstone, so Ted asked his actual father if he'd be willing to have it be his name which he happily obliged. Ted even gets a credit which appears in the first handful of credits
- When asked if he has seen the film Ted laughs saying he probably seen it 50 times and that he was very impressed with what David did, especially with the small budget he had
- Ted relays that both he and David are a little disappointed that the final version that hit streaming platforms had some edits done by the studio that made some changes to the opening and the ending that they feel really impacted some of the key themes in it. But Ted has a copy of the original, which is his preferred version
When asked if Ted had an idea of what the entity was that he had been referring to. Ted says he didn't know, he just focused on the experience of Ted and he never really felt the need to define it, even for himself
When asked if he ever thought of expanding on the story or maybe writing a novel, Ted admitted he hadn't really thought about it, but he had written a script for a play version that he thinks would be really neat. Ted has performed in a handful of plays so he thinks there's a lot of potential for a unique show
Ted says that the idea of expanding on it is daunting, that it took a lot to write the original, it's just not something that comes naturally to him. He explains that he abandoned the original project for 3-4 months before returning to bring the story to its conclusion. He had already put so much into it, it would seem silly to not go the rest of the way
When asked what was really on the other side Ted says "more cave" he explains that he made it another 100 feet, that there wasn't really anything amazing, but it was a very cool experience for him as the cave was just pristine and untouched, knowing that no one else had ever been there before had a kind of magic
He eventually reached another part that he couldn't get through, so he came back with his wife at the time who had no issue getting through Floyd's Tomb and was able to make that last squeeze and explore the final 50 feet, where eventually the cave turned vertical and became impassable
The cave itself is located right above I-80, right outside of Windover Utah. One thing that wasn't an embellishment in the story was the fact that Ted was once incredibly claustrophobic
He says that the first time he went to the cave and encountered an earlier tight spot he had a full blown panic attack, he almost turned around. So he says it was a big deal that he was able to crawl through Floyd's Tomb as was
Ted says he's always looking for new hobbies, with is current being disk golf, prior to that was mountain biking and before that was caving
Ted himself isn't really involved in any online horror groups or anything, but he has set up a google notice when "Ted the Caver" is mentioned, so hi Ted! He says he gets one, once or twice a year
When asked if he has any plans to write anything else Ted says he has just completed a short horror story that he's submitting to a horror anthology his friend is putting together. He's happy he did it, but said it was a ton of work. This story is quite a departure from Ted the Caver, and instead focuses on a man trying to escape a serial killer
Looking back at everything, Ted is still amazed that his story has touched so many people and that really is the best reward
And that's the story of Ted the Caver! While we may never know what the heck is the deal with the Thomas Lera story, we can thank Ted for the decades of entertainment and bringing us one of the first Creepy Pastas to grace the internet