Hollow Walls?
The legend tells of a hollow
wall that gave way. Most of the
walls, however, are solid rock.
Unusual Formations
Early residents of the area
enjoyed exploring the caves
during their free time,
especially during picnics.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Florida Caverns State Park
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Florida Caverns State Park
The "Rip Van Winkle" of Florida Caverns State Park
The Sleeping Man of the Florida Caverns
The historic caves near Marianna, Florida have
many legends, but this one is the most bizarre.
A Legend of the Caves
Many legends have been told about the
caves at Florida Caverns State Park near
Marianna, but the most bizarre has to be the
story of the "Second Rip Van Winkle."

According to the story, as recounted by the
late Marianna folklorist and historian Janie
Smith Rhyne, a party of young people were
having a picnic near the Natural Bridge
during antebellum days. This was a common
occurrence and usually involved exploring
some of the caves by torch light.

A member of the party became curious about
the nature of the stone walls of the cave and
tapped on a wall with his hand. To his
surprise, the sound indicated the wall was
hollow. He banged harder on the wall and to
the surprise of the group, the stone suddenly
gave way and collapsed, revealing a new and
unknown room.

When the dust cleared, the picnickers were
stunned to see an old man lying on the floor
of the new chamber. At first they thought he
was dead, but he suddenly sat up, just as
astounded to see them as they were to see

He was described as being dressed in skins
and wearing a coonskin cap. He had a long
beard and carried a bowie knife.

According to the story he spoke a strange
accent that was described as "cracker" but
with Spanish influence.

After some trying, the picnickers finally were
able to distinguish enough of his words to
understand him. He asked the year and
when they told him, he is said to have yelled,
"I been sleep a hundred years!"
Before they could stop him, he ran from the
cave and disappeared into the swamps and
was never seen again. His rescuers then
noticed a strange scent coming from the
cave and fled themselves. They believed it to
be some natural gas that had caused the
man to fall asleep.

The story definitely brings to mind
Washington Irving's famous tale of Rip Van
Winkle, the early settler of the Hudson Valley
who was tricked by "little people" into drinking
a liquor that sent him to sleep for decades.
The Sleeping Man
Florida's version of "Rip Van
WInkle" supposedly ran away
into the Chipola River
swamps and was never seen
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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