Dead Man's Hole by
In 1999, land owner Ona Lou Roper deeded Burnet County 6.5 acres
around the hole for use as a park. A year earlier, a state historical market had
been put up at the site.
expression "he just dropped out of sight" had both figurative and literal meaning
in Burnet County during and after the Civil War. |
Common belief held that
folks who disappeared in that area often ended up at the bottom of a 150-plus-deep
foot limestone fissure south of Marble
Falls aptly named "Dead Man's Hole." Local lore has it that the bodies of
as many as 17 men were tossed down the hole. Some hapless souls may have been
thrown in while they were still alive, but legend is silent on that point.
The first person of European descent to the see the hole up close had better luck
than many subsequent visitors -- he lived to tell the tale. Ferdinand Lueders,
a German naturalist, noted his discovery of the feature in 1821 while passing
through the area looking for unusual inspects. Nearly a quarter of a century would
go by before settlers began building cabins in the area and rediscovered the hole.
the Civil War, Central Texas proved a dangerous place for those who didn't cotton
to secession. Unionists, as they came to be called, found themselves on the open
season list. Some of them, according to once-whispered stories, ended up at the
bottom of Dead Man's Hole.
Despite the claim that the hole proved to be
the final destination of as many as 17 men, local historians have come up with
only five names, and two of those are speculative.
best-known Dead Man's Hole disappearee is Benjamin McKeever. Described as a "dashing…swain"
full of Southern (read racist) pride, one day in August 1872 McKeever fired shots
at a dog snapping at his horse's heels. He missed his target several times, and
also missed when he snapped a shot at the dog's owner.
The owner was a
black man, which in that era tended to mean that local authorities would not be
overly concerned about pursuing any charges against McKeever. The dog owner's
friends, however, took umbrage to the assault and ambushed McKeever a few days
later. When they unloaded shotguns in his direction, they did not miss.
As soon as McKeever's friends realized he was missing, a search party rode out
to check "Dead Man's Hole," the formation already having a reputation as something
of a limestone tomb. Sure enough, someone spotted a blanket and shoe known to
have belonged to McKeever hung on a ledge part-way down the dark hole.
With some effort, volunteers pulled McKeever's body up from the bottom, though
accumulated gases in the fissure caused the sheriff to pass out.
of five men subsequently indicted for murder in McKeever's death later received
life sentences. The fourth defendant got a two-year prison term and the fifth
seems to have been found not guilty.
Burnet County became more law-abiding, "Dead Man's Hole" fell from usage. But
as time passed, people began telling stories of its dark past. It became the most
haunted venue in the area.
Because of the gases in the hole, it remained
unexplored until 1951, when breathing equipment could be used. The Texas Speleological
Society mapped the feature in 1968, measuring it as 155 feet deep and extending
50 feet in length.
In 1999, land owner Ona Lou Roper deeded Burnet County
6.5 acres around the hole for use as a park. A year earlier, a state historical
market had been put up at the site. The opening to the hole has been sealed with
a heavy metal grate for years.
Dead Man's Hole haunted? One Web site that reports news of the supernatural says
that amateur ghost hunters with the Austin Paranormal Society have detected Class
A EVPs in the vicinity of the feature.
EVP is ghost hunter talk for electronic
voice phenomena. They are voices, according to another Web site on the subject
of ghost-detecting, "that you can understand, and [that] can be heard by most
all people over a speaker or headphone." A human voice being capable of a frequency
range of from 300 Hz to 3000 Hz, EVPs are "voices" logging in below 300 Hz or
above 3000 Hz.
This investigator had no sophisticated ghost-detecting equipment
to use on a recent visit to Dead Man's Hole, but certain voices did shatter the
eerie silence hanging over the hole.
"Daddy, you said you would take me
to Dairy Queen," occurred repeatedly. "It's starting to rain," a more mature female
voice said, "let's get back in the car before we get soaked."
Man's Hole is haunted by 17 restless souls forced to drop from sight before their
time, they didn't make any fuss that day.
© Mike Cox
30 , 2006 column