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Death of Floyd Collins - movie

The Rock


The American Spelean History Association Section of the NSS, has published a special Floyd Collins issue of JOURNAL OF SPELEAN HISTORY, volume 34, number 3, 49 pages, all Floyd. Six different articles pertaining to Floyd, by cave authors David Brison, Dale Ibberson, William Halliday, Roger Brucker, John Benton, and Dean Snyder.
A copy can be had by sending $2.50 to Bob Hoke, 6304 Kaybro Street, Laurel, MD 20707 bobhoke@erols.com Make checks payable to ASHA.

Floyd Collins Festival

April 16 - 18, 2010 Fundraising event for the American Cave Museum. Featuring Author Roger Brucker, Exhibits, Live music, cave tours, field trips to historic Collins family sites, and an Old Time Radio Show Saturday evening. Tickets are $25.00 per person. Sunday field trips are an additional $10.00 each and are limited. First Come, First Serve.
Call (270) 786-1466 for tickets and information.
Location: American Cave Museum, Horse Cave, Kentucky
Download flyer here..

NSS Convention

Here is a rundown of speakers for the Floyd Collins Symposium,
that was held at NSS Convention in Mt. Vernon KY, Rockcastle County, on
Thursday July 26, 2001.

No particular order;

Bill Halliday   The Place of Malcom Black in the Floyd Collins Saga

Dale Ibberson   Vernon Dalhart and Floyd Collins

Dean Snyder     Collecting Floyd Collins Postcards

Roger Brucker   Controversy in the Floyd Collins Story: Historical Methods
                for Learning the Truth

Dave Brison     The Early Floyd Collins Ballads

John Benton     Presence of Floyd Collins in Mammoth Cave Area Today.

Roger Brucker and Floyd Collins Musical (Photos)

The University of Kentucky Department of Theatre honored Floyd Collins by performing a haunting and celebrated musical about Floyd Collins in April 2001

Floyd Collins - Musical Soundtrack Very good CD! (See customer reviews.)

The "Floyd Collins Story"

The premiere of the "Floyd Collins Story" was on Saturday, July 24, 1999 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cave City Convention Center. Roger Brucker was on hand to sign the third edition of his book. Videotapes of the film will be sold for $19.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling.(Kentucky residents must also pay 6% sales tax.) Movie posters are also available for $10.00. Orders should be made by sending a check or money order to "Floyd Collins Video", Post Office Box 460, Cave City, Kentucky 42127.

February 1925 Press Photo

Recording of Vernon Dalhart's 1925
"Death of Floyd Collins"

Newly discovered article!

Some recent SAND CAVE photos!


In nineteen hundred twenty-five, "Twas in my fifteenth year. I witnessed such a tragedy; A cave became a bier. His name was Floyd Collins, Spelunker's work today That he'd be called. He crawled in caves; Exploring was his way. But in the dead of winter, With snow the land was capped, Alone in damp and bleak Sand Cave, Floyd Collins was entrapped. They tried to get him out the way He went into the cave, And many men worked at the job, Men dauntless, stout, and brave. Their strenuous efforts came to naught, So down into the ground They sank a shaft to reach the man And there his body found. His father, Homer, knew my Dad and asked Dad to give The funeral sermon then and there. Flyod's body did not live. The Pathe camera's ground away As Dad the sermon preached. The news heard all round the world, To millions it was reached. Save war, 'twas biggest human interest tale In more than hundred years. It caught world-wide attention and moved many folks to tears. I went with Dad when he did go To Sand Cave and did pray To God to save Floyd Collins' life Before he passed away. In Trapped, by Brucker, Murray, too You can pursue this tale. It sometimes makes your blood run cold And makes your face turn pale.

BY JOHN EDWARD DICKEY, SON OF THE FAMOUS JOHN JAY DICKEY Thanks to: J.P. Downard of nearby Louisville, KY.
William Burke "Skeets" Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for his report in the Courier- Journal, where Mr. Downard worked for 38 years, retiring in 1983.

Floyd Collin's family owned Crystal Cave. A nice cave but it was too far off the tourist trail to make much money. Floyd was determined to find an entrance to the Mammoth Cave System that visitors would see before they came to Mammoth's historic entrance. Sand Cave is one of those little "nothing" caves that are usually bypassed by almost everyone. Floyd was on his way out of a dangerous unstable passage when a 27 pound rock fell on his foot. There is a chance that the passage did lead to Mammoth and that Floyd had *found* what he was looking for when he got trapped. Understand, Floyd Collins was known as the best caver in the country surrounding the longest cave system in the world. Decades later explorers found things miles from Crystal Cave indicating Floyd was indeed the greatest caver. But further exploration that day was not to be. Just 120 feet from the entrance and 60 feet underground, Floyd lay unable to move in the darkness. The night of Jan. 30, 1925 passed with no relief for Floyd Collins.

For more than 2 weeks, Floyd suffered in that cold, wet tight passage. Above was a carnival atmosphere, each day the news was reported in the Louisville, KY newspaper from a first-hand account as their brave cub reporter navigated the unstable cave passage, fed, talked with and even attempted several times to free Floyd himself.

Finally after all the excitement, world-wide attention, mine shaft and all, Floyd still lay trapped. Sometime around the 15th day, Floyd's voice was stilled forever. The authorities decided it was too dangerous to remove the body and left it there. 80 days later Floyd's brother Homer raised enough money to give Floyd a decent burial. Later, Crystal Cave was sold and Floyd's body was put in a glass topped coffin in Crystal Cave. For many years cavers paid their respects. Then the body was stolen and afterwards found in the river minus a leg. Then just recently, finally buried.

This was quite a dramatic national story and was just as well known or even more than the "Baby Jessica" story was a few years ago. And that was without TV!

You can read the day-to-day account in the newspaper microfilms. First a minor article saying he was expected to be freed by the next morning. Then the story got bigger and bigger until it dominated the front page every day for 2 weeks.

Floyd's headstone:

William Floyd Collins
Born July 20, 1887
Buried April 26, 1925

Trapped in Sand Cave Jan 30, 1925
Discovered Crystal Cave Jan 18,1917
Greatest Cave Explorer Ever Known

Books about Floyd

Sandi Gorin writes;
I have a copy of a book called "Tragedy of Sand Cave" by Howard W Hartley, written 1925.

"Trapped! the Story of Floyd Collins" by Robert Murray and Roger Brucker.

In the mid 50's Joe Lawrence and Roger Brucker also wrote "The Caves Beyond" that chronicle the continuing exploration of this system and include some Floyd Collins info. They document finding signs that Floyd had been deeper in the caves than maybe anyone had ever been before.

"Dreams of Riches Led Floyd Collins to a Nightmarish End" by Fincher, Jack
Published in "Smithsonian" May 1990, v21n2, p. 137-150

"The Official Story of Floyd Collins" by Richard Henry
Official report with photos. Includes the "Court Verdict" referred to in the Death Certificate.

Floyd Collins in Sand Cave : America's greatest Caver "Cavalier" Vol. 6, No. 55, January 1958.
by Homer Collins and John Lehrberger

1996 A Cave and a cracker by Collins, Jenny

"Tragedy of Sand Cave" by Hartley, Howard W.
Published in Louisville, Ky., The Standard Printing Company Incorporated, 1925. 2d edition

"The Longest Cave" by Roger W. Brucker and Richard A. Watson.

"Beyond Mammoth Cave: A Tale of Obsession
in the World's Longest Cave"
by James D. Borden and Roger W. Brucker.

Floyd Collins - Musical Soundtrack Very good CD! (See customer reviews.)

Historic books about Mammoth Cave

"Mammoth Cave of Kentucky : An Illustrated Manual"
by Horace Carter Hovey and Richard Ellsworth Call. 1899.

More books on Caves and Caving!

Research on Floyd's family

William Floyd Collins Born July 20, 1887 Buried April 26, 1925 Trapped in Sand Cave Jan 30, 1925. Discovered Crystal Cave Jan 18,1917. Greatest Cave Explorer Ever Known.

Floyd's death certificate:


date: 250217 age: 036 place: BARRN volume: 011 cert: 05370 deathvol: 25

Floyd's brother Homer who was living in Louisville in 1958: HOMER L COLLINS date: 690916 age: 066 place: JEFFN residence: JEFFERSON volume: 045 cert: 22440 deathvol: 69 Floyd's brother Andy Lee: ANDY L COLLINS date: 410314 age: 047 place: BARRN residence: HART volume: 013 cert: 06191 deathvol: 41

Floyd's Father's death certificate:

LEE COLLINS date: 360315 age: 077 place: HART volume: 022 cert: 10636 deathvol: 36
At the time of Floyd's death, his mother and a sister were dead and his father had remarried. Floyd referred to his stepmother's as Miss Jane.

Marshall was called 'younger' brother. Homer Collins his 2nd brother, also Andrew Collins and younger sister named Alice.

Floyd's full name was William Floyd, born 20 April 1887 to Leonidas and Martha (Burnett) Collins on Flint Ridge in Edmonson Co KY. Lee and Martha married 28 Dec 1880 in Edmonson Co. They were the only Collins' marrying there thru 1920.

Crystal Cave is in Edmondson County, but is right on the Hart County border and not far from Barren County.

Dennis Short writes:

My GG Grandmother was Serelda Jane TAPSCOTT. She first married John Thomas BUCKINGHAM (a cave guide) and second married Lee COLLINS so she was William Floyd COLLINS' step-mother. Have info on this line back to 1664 in England.

Dennis Short's Genealogy research on Floyd's family

Prof. Dennis R. Short
Purdue University
1419 Knoy Hall, Rm. 363
W. Lafayette, IN 47907-1419
Voice: 317.494.6457
Fax: 317.494.9267
E-Mail: drshort@tech.purdue.edu

From Robert K. Murray and Roger W. Brucker:

Lee COLLINS was married twice; by his second wife he had a boy who died and a daughter named Leona. His first wife was Martha and they had a married son Marshall COLLINS. Lee died in 1936 and is buried in a grave on Flint Ridge, about 100 yards from the Crystal Cave Road. His stone is the only one readable - Born May 26, 1858; died Mar 15, 1936; Gone But Not Forgotten."

Homer COLLINS moved to Louisville, married in 1929 and had one child. He was a wallpaper and paint salesman. He died in 1971 of a liver ailment.

Andy Lee COLLINS, mentioned in this book remained in KY, was a farmer in Hart Co for awhile and opened a small cave that he called the Floyd COLLINS Crystal Onyx Cave. He died in 1940, age 45, left 4 children.

Floyd's sister Nellie, married and lived near Homer in Louisville. She died in 1971, 6 months after Homer; she had no children.

Annie COLLINS, youngest sister of Floyd left home in 1919 and moved to Moline, IL and had five children. She was murdered by her husband with a butcher knife. Her daughters clung to her skirt while she lay dying. Her husband turned the gun on himself and killed himself while their 8 yr old son watched.

Marshall COLLINS was in 1978 alive and lived in Horse Cave. His wife was Anna - they had been married 60 yrs at that time. Two of their childen went west, the other children live in the area.

-Thank you Sandi, Jessie, Dennis, Roger and Robert for your extensive contribution to this project's research.

A few more interesting Floyd Links

Floyd Collins Monument

Collins Family Research/Musical

Floyd Collins Photo Sherpa - 1921

Sand Cave Museum

Floyd Collins Gravesite Info

pic of old 78 record "Floyd Collins Fate"

Small PA town (Corry) headline - Feb. 9, 1925

San Francisco Call dated Feb 14, 1925.

San Francisco Call dated Feb 17, 1925.

Dorko's "The Caver"

Mammoth Cave - Longest Cave in the World

American Cave Museum

"Floyd Collins" Musical

Ace in the Hole ( Retitled The Big Carnival) 1950/51.
Billy Wilder. Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling. A cynical look at how the media manipulated the story of a guy trapped in a cave.


by Rob Stitt (1975)

Well, it happened in Kentucky not so many years ago,
When a man they called Floyd Collins far underground did go;
He found a wondrous cavern, or so the stories say,
But Floyd did not live on to tell us of that day.
A Rock fell from the ceiling and trapped him underground,
And before the story finished it had surely got around;
For lithe young William Miller to save Floyd did try
And put it in the papers to tell to you and I.


Oh Floyd, where are you today?
Your spirit crawls on, so they say.
Through great limestone caverns so far underground
The legend of Floyd grew profound.
The rescue parties labored through winters short cold days
As Floyd's spirit wandered through far cavern ways;
Before they got to him, through tunnel long and wide,
Floyd had gone to meet his maker, his body had died.
But his spirit wanders on beneath the land
Through the great Kentucky wilderness so close at hand,
Far beneath our forests, in Mammoth Park so wild,
that through the years the hearts of many has beguiled.
Floyd's body lies in Crystal Cave in great Grand Canyon halls,
but his spirit ranges father within the cavern walls;
For he follows ever onward in his quest to find the end,
And in his footsteps only will the later cavers wend.
Through Colossal, Bedquilt, Endless, Salts, Great Onyx and Unknown
Floyd has led the path e'er onward and his following has grown;
Propelled by song and legend his followers so brave
Have pushed Floyd's cavern onward to connect with Mammoth Cave.
Floyd's spirit leads us onward through caverns ages old
And to countless new cavers his story had been told;
But Floyd's far distant caverns have become a place of play,
For too many now follow in Floyd's way.
In the distant future will our descendants know
That if they'd done it different wild caving they'd still go,
To wander in freedom through Floyd's marble halls,
Following his spirit that still calls.

THE DEATH OF FLOYD COLLINS As sung by Al Craver (Vernon Dalhart), Columbia 140627 Oh, come all ye young people and listen while I tell, The fate of Floyd Collins, the lad we all knew well, His face was fair and handsome, his heart was true and brave, His body now lies sleeping in a lonely sandstone cave. Oh , mother don't you worry, dear father don't' be sad, I'll tell you all my troubles in an awful dream I had, I dreamed I was a prisoner, my life I could not save, I cried "Oh must I perish within this silent cave. The rescue party labored, they worked both night and day, To move the mighty barrier that stood within their way, To rescue Floyd Collins, it was their battle cry, "We'll never, no we'll never, let Floyd Collins die." But on that fateful morning, the sun rose in the sky, The workers still were busy, "we'll save him by and by," But oh how sad the ending, his life could not be saved, His body was then sleeping in the lonely sandstone cave. Young people, all take warning from Floyd Collin's fate, And get right with your maker before it is too late. It may not be a Sand Cave in which we find our tomb, But on that day of judgment, we too must meet our doom.

Copyright © 1996-2010; Design, graphics and maintenance by Jon Hagee
Much appreciation to John Benton for some of the Crystal Cave photos.