Urban Legend: Seneca Caverns *Workshop Collection*

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is a prompt from my writing workshop class: Basically, create your own urban legend/contemporary myth. I wrote about the Seneca Caverns in Ohio.

Submitted: November 07, 2011

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Submitted: November 07, 2011

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“Way back in the 1400s, the Seneca Indians used this cave for shelter. They kept their treasures in here, too. But later, the Germans came and took it over. They used it for water, mostly. That was in the 1700s. But you wanna know the best part?” Billy asked, teasing his four-year younger brother, Jack.

“What?!” Jack pleaded, his eyes wide.

“This was part of the Underground Railroad.” Billy stated matter of factly.

“No way!” Jack’s eyes couldn’t get any wider than they were now. “Tell me more!”

“Okay, so the civil war took place in the 1860s, but slaves have been here since the Europeans have. And nobody wants to be a slave, right? So slaves have always been trying to escape, to get to Canada. Well, the best way to Canada is across Lake Erie. Slaves used to sneak all the way up to Ohio in order to get to Canada. But it was really dangerous, so eventually a bunch of white people created the—“

“Underground Railroad!” Jack yelled, happy to know something his big brother knew.

“Exactly.” Billy said crossly. “Now don’t interrupt or I won’t tell you the best part.”

Jack was glum. “Okay. Wait, but you said the best par—“

“Hush. Let me finish. So, a bunch of white people made up this thing called the Underground Railroad so they could help the slaves escape to Canada. Usually the white people hid the escaping slaves in their homes, barns, stores, or wherever they thought was safe. Well, these caves were part of that. The white people would lead the slaves down into the caves. That’s why there’s so many; the white people and the slaves dug more and more caves so the slaves wouldn’t get caught. And that’s still not the best part.

“There’s a secret tunnel.” Billy whispered. Jack nearly fell over in excitement.

“A secret tunnel?” He asked, amazed and awestruck.

Billy nodded. “Yep. A secret tunnel. It led all the way from these caves, the ones we’re in right now, to Kelly’s Island. There’s this building there, it’s abandoned now, but it used to be a winery. People went there all the time. It was really popular. But in the cellar, where they kept all the wine, there was a secret door in the wall. Through that door was a secret room where the slaves hid. It was awful for them, because it was really cold, and they could always hear the people in the store above them, drinking wine and dancing. The old floors creaked a lot, and sometimes dust would fall down. Many slaves were afraid someone would break through the floor and discover them hiding there. Rumor has it, there were once thirty slaves in that room at the same time. That’s a lot of slaves.”

“Yeah it is.” Jack said breathlessly, caught up in the story.

Anyway, so after the slaves got to Kelly’s Island, they would lie low for a couple days. Three at the most. Then, in the middle of the night, the owners of the winery, an older couple, would sneak the slaves onto a boat and take them to Put-In-Bay. They landed the far shore of the island, where there was a bunch of overgrown bushes and trees and stuff. Someone would meet the slaves in the trees there, and they snuck them onto a fishing boat. Then, the slaves would be shipped over the lake and into Canada.”

Whooa. That’s sooo cool!” Jack said, drawing out his vowels.

“Yeah, but what’s really scary…no, I shouldn’t tell you that. Never mind.” Billy half-turned away, so his little, gullible brother wouldn’t see the smirk forming on his face.

“What? Tell me! Tell me!” Jack begged, grabbing Billy’s arm and turning him back to face Jack. “Tell me! I want to know!”

Billy let out a big sigh. “Fine. But if it scares you, don’t blame me. And you better not breathe a word of this to mom and dad.”

“I promise! Not a word! And I won’t get scared!”

“You better not. Well, you know how it’s so cold down here?”

“Yeah. I didn’t wear my coat and I was freezing!”

“Well, just before the Civil War started, some slave traders found out that these caves were full of slaves. So, they sent a spy in there, and found out there were constantly slaves going through there. Every day some left, and every day more arrived. The traders called this the biggest station on the Underground Railroad. So, after watching the caves for a few days, a bunch of traders got together and attacked the caverns. They killed all of the slaves and any white people who tried to stop them. After that, no more slaves were transported through these caves.”

“Wait, but why are they so cold?” Jack asked, with a very confused look on his young face.

Billy opened his mouth to explain, but he was interrupted.

“Boys! It’s time to go! Your father and I want to get home before it gets dark!”

“Coming, mom!” Billy called over his shoulder, then turned back to Jack, leaned in close and whispered, “Because the ghosts of the slaves are still here.” With that, he turned around and ran to his parents, leaving Jack behind. As Jack stood up to run after his brother, a cold, damp wind blew past him, coming from the deepest cave in the caverns.


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