By: Kevin Sheffler
When I hit the car of Barnyard Lampoon’s Editor-In-Chief, Michael Gallo, I was coerced into writing a series of travel columns for his magazine. And after one of my first checks bounced, Mr. Gallo sent me down to Hot Springs, Arkansas to review Crazy Carl’s Caverns.
Humans have been obsessed with caves since we lived in them some 125,000 years ago and that obsession continues today, with attractions like the cave paintings in France, Fantastic Caverns in Springfield, Missouri, and spelunking (a popular hobby in the 90s where people went deep into caves for fun, apparently). It would appear Crazy Carl was trying to tap into this obsession when he created Crazy Carl’s Caverns, a tourist attraction in Hot Springs where visitors traverse dangerous caves without any source of light. And when I say there’s no source of light, I mean it: it is absolutely pitch black in the cave, and head lamps are banned for reasons that remain unclear. I stubbed everyone of my toes at least 37 times, and I hit my head on 16 different stalactites, four of those hits resulted in skull fractures.
What’s advertised as “science-based family fun” is really a horrific experience where you flirt with insanity.
While the total darkness is supposed to “disconnect you from your senses and allow you to relax in a form of Zen called ‘Puredark’” it actually results in a sort of terror that taps into an unconscious part of the brain that has probably been dormant since the days of early man. Within seconds of entering the cave you become disoriented and lost, with no path underfoot and a deafening silence which is infrequently pierced by the screaming of the lost. I was in Crazy Carl’s Cavern for close to three days, where I was forced to do unspeakable things to survive, the sound of my whimpering the only thing keeping me from going insane in the total darkness.
According to the website, only 6 out of every 10 visitors makes it out of the caverns and there have been 35 missing persons reports since the caverns opened two months ago. A majority of those missing persons cases are women.
What becomes wildly apparent very quickly is that Crazy Carl is in fact crazy. A certifiable madman, Carl apparently got this business running without any sort of permit, title, or registration, and frequently runs through the pitch black caverns screaming (something he’s able to do after having developed a natural form of night vision from living underground for so long).
It would appear Crazy Carl has a lot in common with Lester Ballard, the protagonist in Cormac McCarthy’s novel, Child of God. In that book, Lester kills women, wears their clothes, and has sex with their dead bodies in caves, the dwelling space he is forced into after society runs him out of every respectable form of housing.
I don’t know how this place is still open. My only theory is that the Better Business Bureau doesn’t make its way down to Arkansas very often. Is Crazy Carl doing this on purpose? What’s he doing to those missing people?
I sleep with the lights on. My therapist said I will never be the same again. I cry before, during, and after sex.
Never, ever visit Crazy Carl’s Caverns. Never. Please. Why has my god forsaken me?