What happened in Mystie, was it myth, legend, or.......?
Mystie in the beginning
The story of the caves where a young girl disappeared and a boy lost his mind became history for the tiny town of Mystie. Being so far away from other towns and not having much for the locals to discuss made the story famous. It was written into the town ledgers and discussed at town meetings. It was repeated at firesides and family gatherings until the story, old, filled with outrageous additions, and finally having no one around to vouch for the truth became a legend. A legend that prevented anyone from traveling to those caves, or did it? I know I wouldn't go exploring there.
Mystie was a sleepy little town tucked neatly into a lush green valley surrounded by large slate-gray rock formations. The first settlers were forty-niners and their families panning out a living in some of the roughest, most dangerous areas of the new west. There was no law and men and women were forced to gather together and create their own safe havens for their families. Thus Mystie was born. The people of Mystie were hard working townsfolk who were proud of their people and their heritage.
Many of the town's beaches were difficult to reach and remained empty. Solid walls of rock lined the land-side of those beaches while large underwater boulders and strong currents made up their watery access. For this reason, the beaches were untouched by man. Untouched, that is, until Mother Nature stepped in with some ground moving action.
Several beach caves, created by the constant inflow of sea water ran across a stretch of beaches located at the end of a large series of cliffs and valleys. They were a bit difficult to get to under most circumstances, but the young viewed them as a challenge. Because the caves were full of sea water at high tide, the townspeople deemed them dangerous and thus off limits. This, of course, made them even more desirable to the young boys of the area who wished to prove their bravery and impress their young girls.
A popular path was soon found through a long tunnel that was easy to travel with relatively no hazards. It had several cracks that allowed a great deal of light to show the way, at least during daylight hours. It was wide enough to allow several people to pass through side by side and was so well known to everyone in the town that many of the kids could walk through it without an added light source even at night.
For years teenagers, eager to prove themselves, had gone through the path to the other side alone and without a candle. Some hid in a hole or slight dent in the path to scare others who were trying the path for the first time. Of course, the ladies would never enter, but the men and boys did. Yes, that path was well known to all who lived in Mystie. The warning of high tides went unheeded for this particular pathway.
A new path is found
A second path was accidentally discovered when young Jonathan Whitmore, the thin, blond-haired, ten-year-old son of the livery stable cleaner, set out to prove how brave he was to his torturous bullying peers. He entered the cave alone, at night, but, never having been there before, took the wrong path. One that others claimed had never existed before that night. He swore he saw all kinds of ghostly figures walking along the path with him and heard them talking among themselves, though he couldn't tell what they were saying. The boy was so frightened that he wouldn't go back through the cave at all, even after several people had come through to show him it was safe. Rescuers had to drop ropes to him down the smooth rock face to get him off the beach. The climb was treacherous but it was either climb the ropes or feed Jonathan on the beach for the rest of his life.
What would the town do now?
Between the excitement of the rescue and the discovery of the new path, the town became extremely stirred up. Some people wanted to challenge the supposed 'ghostly figures' with crosses and stakes made of wood. Others wanted to somehow chip out the roof of the caves to make them undesirable to ghosts. When the story would not die down, the leaders of the town forced Jonathan's family to commit the boy to an asylum in the hopes of silencing the excitement. Jonathan died two weeks later of pneumonia, but the excitement of the ghostly path did not die with him. So, fearing someone might get hurt in their zeal to fight the ghosts, or walk the path because they were challenged, the town's leaders declared the caves off limits once more and blocked off both caves with heavy stones.
But then the unbelievable happened
The walls seemed to work for over a year until one day, during a very hot summer day, four young farm boys went out there for the fun of it and found the wall gone with no trace that it had even been there. Thinking the town's leaders had changed their minds about closing off the caves, the boys decided to check out the caves to see for themselves what, if anything, lay in wait there. However, they did not go immediately.
Believing that there was safety in numbers, the four, sons of a wealthy land owner, spread the word of their adventure to show that they were not frightened. Of course the trip was even more daring because the adults had to be kept out of their little conspiracy because they might try to stop their adventure before it began. Many others wished to join the team. Only two more young boys, cousins to the first four, were considered worthy to join their little outing. Each of the boys had to have their latest young escort as witness to their fearless entrance and successful exit. The girls would be the first females to enter those caves in known history and they were terrified but went to keep their wealthy escorts.
The adventure begins
The oldest boy, a strong well-muscled boy who could pick up a full grown cow alone, (a rather strange claim to fame, I grant you), tried to prove his intelligence by taking a coil of his father's heavy rope so that the girls would feel safer. They set off for the caves with a large following of kids who stopped at the entrance to the path leading to the caves shouting taunts and challenges. The six boys made their way to the cave entrance with their pretty escorts in tow. The girls, their bright frilly dresses a strong contrast to the boys dirt stained overalls, held onto their arms squealing and giggling as they walked. When the group arrived, the first thing they noticed was that the first path was still clear and the twelve teenagers could see through it to the beach on the other side.
Just for the fun of it:
Do you believe there were ghosts in Mystie's caves?
Let's play a bit before we return, they thought with glee.
Nothing approached them as they walked through; nothing blocked their path; nothing called to them or wafted over their heads to frighten them. On the other side of the tunnel lay the warm inviting sand and water of a very quiet, undisturbed beach. The teenagers could not resist the chance to sport in the waves for a bit as they celebrated their success.
After only a few hours, however, curiosity kept them from enjoying the beach and they soon tried the other path to get back. Angelina was the youngest of the group. A delicate sixteen year old brunette, approximately five foot five inches tall and slim. Her father ran the bank and the general store in town. She was the pretty young escort of the youngest brother. She tended to be giggly and frightened of just about anything. She hadn't wanted to go on the adventure, but was warned that she could no longer retain her escort if she refused. Twisting her delicate features into a pout had not helped, and so she soon found herself on the other side of the cliffs.
Angelina offered to make her way back through the safe tunnel and wait for the others, but the rest made her go with them since they felt everyone had to go. The oldest tied them all together with the sturdy rope and they set off. Halfway through, Angelina began calling out their names as if she couldn't see them anymore. She had been last in line but now her part of the rope was dragging on the path as if she had untied it, though the tight knot remained intact. Angelina's voice, calling out to them in desperation, grew softer as if she was moving away from them. The eleven teenagers ran back through the tunnel calling her name and searching everywhere for her. But they couldn't find her. Fearing the worst, they raced back to town for help.
The search for Angelina
Their story was not immediately believed, since the leaders had blocked the caves up with brick and mortar. When the other kids in town admitted that the adventure had been planned and witnessed, they gathered lanterns and ropes to search. Several men made their way back to the caves with everyone from town who was curious close behind. There the men found that the bricks were gone, but there was no sign of Angelina.
There was an intense search for the girl through the first tunnel and then the beach. When the first search didn't produced the child, the townspeople put lanterns high up in both tunnels to see if they could find a hole where she might have fallen, or a turn she might have taken that the others hadn't seen. Once more they found nothing. The walls and floor of the tunnel were solid rock.
They searched the beach again, and then the fields. They even searched the homes of each of the teenagers, but Angelina was not found. The local sheriff believed that Angelina was the victim of foul play as did her family, but they could find nothing to prove this. There was no blood, no torn clothing, none of Angelina's belongings to be found anywhere. Each of the girl's male companions swore that they had been together when Angelina disappeared. The girls' stories, though told separately, were nearly identical as well, once they had been calmed down enough to speak.
A legend is made
Could it be, as some of the townspeople believed, that the caves were haunted and that the ghostly figures seen by Jonathan Whitmore had taken Angelina as a warning to the town to leave them alone? Or were the occupants of the cave the familiars of Satan, as others believed? Or was Angelina the victim of foul play? Angelina's companions feared for their lives as threats and strange, unexplained accidents began to happen to them. They believed that many of the townspeople thought them to be cursed. The two cousins moved away to avoid the persecution of their neighbors. The four brothers became hermits. The five girls had to be treated by the local priest as if they were possessed before anyone would even look at them. Neither of the teenagers, even when they grew to be very old, would ever approach the caves again.
The story of the caves became a fireside fable with a bad guy named Jonathon Whitmore and a victim named Angelina that was used to scare unruly children. Because it had been told and retold with so many changes, the younger population of Mystie no longer believed the story. And, eager to prove how brave they were, once again approached the beach caves of Mystie to challenge each other to walk the second tunnel.
And here we end...
We end the story here, at least I do. There are probably going to be more as children become more and more curious (as children do). Could there be another disappearance? Could there be another experience with ghosts? Maybe you will decide to walk the tunnels to the excluded beach beyond. Maybe you will decide how you would like the story to end. Maybe.....
© 2011 Cheryl Simonds