Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


October 17, 2013

Haunted Cavern offers whole new level of fear

CROSSVILLE — Late in the evening, lights of downtown Chattanooga peacefully twinkle below when taking the road that goes up Lookout Mountain, one of the nation's most scenic and historic mountains. Located on the side of it is a large structure known as Cavern Castle, which serves as the entrance to Ruby Falls, a 145-foot cascading waterfall located more than 1,120 feet underground.

The castle, a replica of a 15th century Irish one, is touted as the "world's grandest cave entrance." Constructed out of limestone excavated from the cave, it serves as the perfect starting point to experience some of nature’s most remarkable wonders — and some of the most frightening, depending on the season.

Beginning in late September, starting around 7:30 p.m. EDT, things only seen in nightmares and horror films begin roaming the premises as part of the unique Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern attraction. Ordinary haunted houses have monsters, ghosts and special effects, but Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern adds a whole new level of fear: “Descend 26 stories underground...where no one can hear you scream.”

Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is a free form haunt, where visitors move at their own pace, with a little encouragement. The intense event takes place both above and below ground and is considered one of the area’s best haunted attractions. It was awarded the number six spot on Rand McNally’s top 10 national haunt attraction list in 2010 and has been listed as a Top 20 Event the last two years by the Southeast Tourism Society.

A new story is created every year for the attraction, ensuring that even repeat visitors get a good scare. For its 10th anniversary, Haunted Cavern shares the story of former billionaire Thadeus Krane, and visitors near and far are invited to partake in his experiment.

The story goes that Krane has spent his life and fortune devising ways to beat death. Rumored to be more than 130 years old, his time is running out and depleting funds has forced him to move his experimentation facilities into one of his abandoned businesses, the legendary Toy Factory. With his team of world-renowned scientists long gone, Krane is forced to rely on the abilities of unscrupulous geneticists and a team of NecroEngineers to continue his mission.

Reportedly, Defex from ruined experiments run the streets, harvesting specimens to continue Krane’s nightmarish research. They scour the area, raiding morgues, cemeteries and hospitals and drag or even lure fresh, live specimens back to the Toy Factory. From there they are taken to “The Pit” to await their time of experimentation.

Many of the Defex can be seen during a freak parade at 7:30 p.m. and while waiting in line to get into Cavern Castle. They offer up a good scare before the blood and gore begins. A freakishly tall one is stationed in front of the castle to “greet” guests as they drive by. Sliding Defex, who have proven useful in corralling victims, lurk in the parking lot, as well as other monsters who like to see the new arrivals up close.

Near the castle, guests are given a glimpse as to how far Krane will go to live forever. There, a woman is suspended from the top of a large wooden box, her body torn in half and its intestines left to dangle in the chilly night air. Despite her appearance, don’t be afraid to talk to her. She actually prefers it, offering up some comedic relief before the screaming begins.

“You can talk to me,” she said. “This isn’t a zoo.”

Once inside, visitors are directed to a glass-doored elevator that descends 260 feet deep into the heart of the mountain. During daylight hours, this is when a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide greets guests to share interesting and unusual facts about the cave, the waterfall and the city itself. For the Haunted Cavern, however, they are immediately ordered to stand in a single file line by one of Krane’s dog soldiers. Then the person in front is handed a tiny glow stick and ordered to lead the group forward into the dark cave.

Hidden inside are gruesome scenes of nurses and doctors tearing open patients, body bags dangling from the ceiling with other parts scattered around the path. Terrifying monsters lurking in the darkness are attracted to the dim light of the glow stick. The leader of the group may draw their attention, but most times they prefer to attack those behind him.

Another elevator awaits the group at the end of the cave to take them to a new level of horror. They are eventually led outside, where a shuttle bus takes them back up the mountain to the final segment of the haunt. There, other monsters who have survived tortuous experimentation now wish to bring this joy to others with the use of metal grinders and chainsaws. Others simply jump out wanting to “play,” and others are too distracted while their patients scream out for help.

On average, the full Haunted Cavern experience takes approximately 45 minutes to complete. However, frightened visitors often go through much more quickly.

As it gets closer to Halloween, be prepared for large crowds and expect the wait outside to be significantly longer than the attraction itself. On the night of Oct. 12, those arriving around 10 p.m. had to wait over two hours before getting inside Cavern Castle to buy their tickets. Finding parking may also take some time, causing many to circle the parking lot a few times before securing a spot. One parking attendant suggested coming on Sundays, when the attraction is open until 10 p.m.

"The line is usually half the size,” he said. “I guess because people don’t normally think about going to haunted houses on Sundays.”

Guests can experience the haunt every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October, including Halloween night and Nov. 1-2. Tickets are $23 on Fridays and Saturdays and $21 on Sundays. There are additional savings if bought online, but doing so does not affect the wait time. On site ticket sales begin around 7:30 p.m., with the attraction opening at 8 p.m. In general, Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is open until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays but often stays open later to accommodate patrons on busy nights.

Because of the gore and violence, the attraction is not recommended for children ages 10 and under. However, adults and teens are dared to venture out and face their fears in the depths below.

Text Only
  • 8-8 counseling center-play with dolls.jpg Christian Counseling Center celebrating 12 years

    Help the Christian Counseling Center of Cumberland County (C5) celebrate 12 years of community service. Dine at Ruby Tuesday of Crossville Aug. 8, 9 or 10. Print the flyer from the center’s website,, and give it to the server.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • A Time 4 Paws collecting shoes to help Soles4Souls in fight against global poverty

    Attention anyone with a closet! Those shoes no longer wanted are desperately needed to fight the human tragedy of global poverty.

    July 24, 2014

  • Parkinson’s therapies help patients live big and loud

    Parkinson’s disease has famously affected the lives of celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali. But whether a person with Parkinson’s is world famous or a next-door neighbor, new therapies are offering hope for a better quality of life.

    July 22, 2014

  • 8-5 CATS in Palace-Carole Jarboe Cullen - waterfall.jpg Local art event planned at CATS

    Plans are being made for an event sponsored by the CATS Gallery at the Palace Theatre, 72 South Main St., Crossville, Tuesday, Aug. 5, beginning at 6 p.m. There will be refreshments, music and an opportunity to view a performance painting by artist Chuck Jensen. A live auction of donated art pieces will begin at 7:30 p.m. with the opportunity to "Be a Cool Cat — Buy Local Art." There is free admission, but it is advisable to get a free ticket at the CATS Gallery in the middle section of the Crossville Mall, at the Palace Theatre or from any participating member of CATS. During the event, original art items including paintings, photographs, and jewelry will be offered for auction, such as this expressive waterfall painting by Carole Cullen.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Marriage licenses (Published July 23, 2014)

    July 22, 2014

  • fair park.jpg Heritage demonstrators welcome

    Most of Americans today never stop to think how different our lives would have been several hundred years ago. How many times a day do we wash our hands, and do we ever realize when we take those hot showers and lather up, the long all-day process our ancestors had to go through just to make a bar of soap? Not to mention packing water to the house and heating it up over a wood fire just to have a bath and wash clothes. Times are changing faster than ever.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • pleasant hill ramblings.jpg Mathes restores a bit of Pleasant Hill's history

    Miss Alice Adshead, RN, created a “wilderness trail” through the woods just down the hill from Uplands Sanatorium, the first hospital in Cumberland County once located on Main St. in Pleasant Hill.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • plateau gardening-hydrangeas5117.jpg Prune flowering shrubs: now or wait until February?

    Experts say, “Don’t prune woody-stemmed plants (shrubs, trees and some types of vines) after mid-August.” Do pay close attention to that advice. The purpose of this late-season pruning prohibition is to keep plants healthy.

    July 21, 2014 2 Photos

  • IMG_1850.jpg Burgess Falls offers a big payoff for a short hike

    At Burgess Falls, you can be out of your car and taking in the breathtaking view of the Falling Water River as it falls 136 feet in the third and final drop of the river with just a short walk through the woods.
    But even though the state park is close to civilization, this natural wonder retains its wild and scenic reputation.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo 19 Links

  • 8-2 colonial dames.jpg Colonial Dames honors members with luncheon

    The John McKnitt Chapter Colonial Dames 17th Century held its May meeting at the home of Joyce Ernst. Those present were Sherry Sneed, Jessie Watts, Dot Brodhag, Kandy B. Smith, Lynn Constan, Donna Hamilton, Margaret Markum, Lana Davis, Sara Tripiciano, Jane Tavernier, Joyce Ernst, Kathy Wilson, Charlotte Reynolds, and Cheryl Chrobot. President Lana Davis welcomed the ladies and followed with the opening ritual.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo