Ted the Caver
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Let's go way back to 2001, to a time before two-sentence horror and creepypasta; before the founding of Facebook, Reddit, or Instagram; and even a few years before our old friend Tom founded MySpace; back when people called the Internet "the information superhighway," no one knew what a meme was, and 🔥 didn't exist.
I'm talking way back when today's average TikTok user was at that fun age of "not yet conceived," and the platform itself wouldn't be founded for another fifteen years. Years before the first iPhone was released and you had to use paper maps to try and navigate around. Back when modem screams were typical evening sounds, broadband wasn't available to anyone except the rich (Bezos wasn't rich and Amazon wasn't profitable), and the absolute ruler of us all was this guy:
If you've never seen the man above and have no idea what I'm talking about, then you'll probably never understand the critical relationship between this:
It's probably fine, though, even if you can't decode the secret language or understand the struggles of daily life—because, honestly, ignore the curmudgeon yelling at you about aluminum foil to fix your TV—you live in a largely better world.
But, some things are worth looking back at, whether you're twelve or a hundred years old. Here's one of them.
Some of you might have just raised an eyebrow at the image above, wondering where I'm going with this. For others, though, that one image just induced a deep-seated, long suppressed panic, a kind of visceral reaction urging you to run out into the warm, reassuring sunshine and forever stay away from anything even remotely resembling a rock.
If you were one of those who looked at that image and broke into a cold sweat, you might want to stop reading unless you're brave or stupid enough to revisit a nightmare from decades ago.
Ted's Caving Page.
December 30, 2000. It all began so innocently. A guy named Ted, along with his friend B went on a caving trip before the New Year. Ted decided to keep a journal online about it. And, why not? Angelfire was giving away websites for free, and only a few of Ted's close friends knew what to type into their Netscape or Internet Explorer (Neither Safari nor Firefox existed then.) No one ever thought a simple journal would become so gripping or terrifying.
If you're already familiar with it and don't want to relive the heart palpitations in their full force, here's a brief refresher on Ted's journal.
Ted and B began (real people) exploring a cave. Inside the cave, there was a small opening with air blowing out. Air moving like that could mean another exit/entrance beyond the small space—fun exploration if they could somehow get beyond the small opening. Ted and B were experienced cavers, so they decided to work on chiseling and hammering away at the small opening to make it bigger. Big enough to get through.
Making the opening larger was quite an undertaking with only hand tools—a cordless drill, a bull pin, and a sledgehammer. Along the way, in Ted's online journal, photos and text describe what happened. Ted's original journal entries are in gray text, and the blue text is his thoughts later as he reflected on his own entries. It takes a long time to get it big enough for a human to pass through. But, as the opening gets larger and larger, strange things begin to happen.
A noise from the deep.
Ted and B finally manage to carve away enough solid rock so that a person can get through to a part of the cave that no one has ever been.
There's no way I can summarize this without spoiling the story. You can read the entire thing online for yourself. And you should. Remember that these are real people and real accounts as far as anyone knows. When you read Ted's journal, put yourself into the mindset of a person living in 2001.
What the hell?
When you reach this entry written entirely in blue text, there's a Next button at the bottom of the page. The next button doesn't work. It never has.
May 19, 2001, was the last journal entry from Ted. He went back into the cave and never made it back out to update his online journal.
What happened to Ted?
Decades ago, there was no Reddit, no Facebook, no Instagram, no TikTok, no YouTube, not even MySpace. There were a few online forums, but they worked very differently than today, and the information superhighway moved at a crawl compared to today. If you stumbled across Ted's Caving Page, there was no way for you to verify anything you were reading or to even get snarky comments about fake news.
As far as anyone really knows, Ted is just...gone.
Aftermath of Ted's Caving Page
Many people say the whole thing was made up, and the cave isn't real at all. Only...it is. In his journal, Ted calls it the Mystery Cave, but we now know it's actually the "Interstate Cave" or "Freeway Cave," part of the Timpanogos Cave network in Utah. It's real enough that the National Park Service mapped out parts of it.
I managed to dig up an archive of the map from the National Park Service of the cave. Zoom in and find "Floyd's Tomb" and "Dewalt's Dig" (referring to the cordless drill Ted and B used.) Look for yourself.
On November 25, 2004, a member of the National Speleological Society Discussion Board, Ralph E. Powers, posted a message claiming to know Ted and B personally.
The story is true. I happen to know B and his dawg. And I've been in the cave and through the hole after they opened it up. The passage continues on (surveyed) for over 140' with a possibility of breaking into a side cave at the end. It was mainly walking passage after the inital tight (super-tight) crawl. The passage goes directly under the interstate. Both directions and all four lanes. I suspect that what those weird odd sounds they heard were semi's moaning over and probably at one time a tire screeching to a halt or something similar. Filtered through the bedrock the sound can be distorted enough to have that otherworldly effect. I've heard the booming and odd sounds and it is IMO definitely the interstate traffic. The survey team and I did not know about the events until after we were done with it. Nor did we notice an odd "Blair Witch" type marking on any of the walls. It's one of the tightest crawls I've been in ever but neat at the same time. There is a map of the cave on line... I'll dig up the URL later...
You may think that's pretty much the end of it, but things get weirder.
There's a short story from 1987 called "The Fear of Darkness" written by Thomas Lera. At first glance, it appears to be the story of Ted and B, which Ted ripped off and put online. Only, it's not. While the footer on the online PDF of "The Fear of Darkness" says 1987-2001, it wasn't actually published until after Ted's Caving Page was online. The 1987 part is a total fabrication. Ted came first, then this short story essentially plagiarized him.
So, where's Ted?
If you believe a random WordPress site called "John's Blog" that seems to be mostly about cooking, then you'll want to read this supposed interview with the real Ted about how he was mapping out the Interstate Cave and embellished a little for his friends and family. The problem here is that this could have easily just been invented. Like Ted's original journal, there's no way to verify what John's Blog says. Why should we believe that he found the original author, Ted himself, and interviewed him?
The blog goes from setting the stage of Ted's story of the cave, then a link on someone claiming to know Ted, and then straight into an interview with Ted—all without ever explaining how he tracked down Ted or who Ted really is. I could start a WordPress called "Robert's Blog" and post an interview with aliens from another galaxy right in the middle of my other posts about knitting.
Just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's true. It's possible that John's Blog was simply pasting from the National Speleological Society Discussion Board, but I couldn't find the original post on that board. If anyone happens to have it, send it my way.
Also, even if there is a post on that board, the same problem remains. Anyone could claim to be Ted anywhere they like. But unless that original page is updated by Ted himself, there's no way to know for sure. There have been multiple hoaxes of continuations for Ted's story, including one about his sister (including photoshopped images from Ted's caving page and an excuse for why the Angelfire page wasn't updated.)
Want to dig deeper?
The Human Exception has an excellent, in-depth write-up about everything you'd ever want to know about Ted the Caver. The very end of The Human Exception's page links to a YouTube video by Nick Biotic of an interview with a man named Ted Hegemann, the supposed Ted from Ted's Caving Page. It's about 40-minutes, and it's simply fascinating.
Fact or fiction? Ted's Caving Page hosted on Angelfire hasn't been updated since 2001, so we may never know the truth. There's been a lot of talk and theories on this internet mystery over the years, but one thing is certain: it's a damn good story.