Published on April 9th, 2015 | by Ashley Williams0
Quirky UK: The Hell Fire Caves
When travelling to countries far and wide, we often come across the strange and bizarre that seem to make little sense or have any real purpose out of context. Such as the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel in Shanghai, a Willy Wonka inspired acid trip train under the Yangtze River; or a green screen booth offering fantastic shots of you surfing or standing next to the Eiffel Tower….at the Great Wall of China; or a 30 metre high golden cross with restaurants, crazy golf and funked up Santas perched on the top of a hill, looking over Skopje in Macedonia.
All seem strange and peculiar when seen (and experienced) but will often be the highlight of the day or even the become ‘that cherished memory’ you roll out when asked what [insert fantastical country] was really like! In fact, we love these little nuggets of strange.
So, keeping with this idea of oddness, we’ve begun searching our own country for the strange, silly and weird.
Quirky UK: #1
The Hell Fire Caves: Buckinghamshire.
Caves are a secret love of Lindsay’s (she’s part mole) and whenever possible, we’ll find ourselves exploring underground caverns in most of the countries we visit. So when we discovered there was a cave in our home county, we had to find out more.
Now, technically, the Hell Fire Cave is a man made one, as its the left over excavation of a chalk mine, used to build the local roads. However, after the hillside and caverns had been plundered of all their chalk in the 1700’s, the leftover underground network was repurposed for other notorious reasons by the now infamous Hell Fire Club. A a seedy sex squad of politicians and aristocrats, the Hell Fire Club spruced up the dark caverns in the 1800’s, turning them into an orgy and alcohol fuelled underground palace of dirty misadventure. Many stories as to what might have happened still float through the history books, but what went on in the darkness is still not entirely known. However, the bills for booze, invites to ‘fun’ woman and purpose built curtained off corners do build a certain image of the caves 18th century life.
The Hell Fire Caves are also, apparently, the home of many ghosts, with stories of murder, man slaughter and mysterious deaths floating through the ages of the caves. With the horrific deaths of betrayed lovers and stolen hearts, many stories and sightings of the other world have emerged from the darkness. Even British and American paranormal reality TV shows ‘Most Haunted’ and ‘Ghost Hunters’ have visited the caves in search of the paranormal.
After learning all of this, visiting the caves became a must. So, upon passing the Hell Fire Cafe, serving horror themed lattes and murderous macchiatos, we passed through the theme park styled gate and entered the darkness of the caves…..along with a small family, an elderly couple and some random Italian tweens on a day trip from Oxford. Walking along the dimly lit passageways, you could see quite quickly why so many ghost stories had emerged from this hole in the ground. However, what I found more unnerving was the caged mannequins of Benjamin Franklin having recored conversations with various other mannequins down the tunnel. I assumed these weren’t part of the original Hell Fire Club design, however, I could see why some of the more passionate paranormal enthusiasts might have sworn blind they’d seen something in the shadows.
As the tunnel continues down, underground corridors emerge into dining halls and smaller rooms of past misadventure, which the owners of the modern cave attraction have added to by installing more mannequins of murder victims, Greek themed statues and fake stalagmites, adding to the illusion of the theme park haunted house. In fact, the only thing missing was a guy in a sheet jumping out and shouting boo.
The Hell Fire Caves, historically a little odd but still a whole lot of strange.
Check out the short video of our adventure into The Hell Fire Caves.