Cave-In-Rock is a small village in southern Illinois that has a fascinating history full of bandits, pirates, and murderers that most people don't know about.

Where Is Cave-In-Rock, Illinois?

I was today years old when I learned that there is a small village called Cave-In-Rock that is located on the Ohio River in southern Illinois.

This tiny village has a rich and eerie history that dates back to the late 18th century, and it got its name from an extraordinary 55-feed wide cave that was formed by wind and water erosion. The cave, and the village, still exist today and have long been a source of fascination and fear for locals and visitors alike.

The Eerie History of Cave-In-Rock, Illinois

The cave was first discovered by Native American tribes, who considered it a sacred site and used it for religious ceremonies. However, the cave's notoriety as a haven for criminals and outlaws began to grow during the 1790s. According to Wikipedia;

From the 1790s to the 1870s, the area around Cave-in-Rock was plagued by what historians as early as the 1830s referred to as the "Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers"

At the time, the Ohio River was a major transportation route for settlers heading west, and the cave's strategic location made it an ideal hiding spot for bandits looking to rob travelers and traders.

Cave-In-Rock's Most Infamous Outlaws

One of the most infamous outlaws tied to Cave-In-Rock was Samuel Mason, a former Revolutionary War soldier who formed a gang of river pirates and made the cave his base of operations. The cave served as a tavern, gambling den, brothel, and criminal refuge for Mason's gang who would also lure unsuspecting travelers into the cave with promises of safety and shelter, only to rob and murder them.

Over time, the cave became a symbol of lawlessness and danger, and it attracted other notorious figures, including the infamous Harpe brothers, who were known for their gruesome murders and scalping of victims. It's said that the Harpes used the cave as a hideout and that they disposed of their victims' bodies in the nearby river.

As the 19th century progressed, the cave's reputation as a den of iniquity began to wane, and it became a tourist attraction, drawing visitors from all over the country due to its natural beauty and things to do in the state park that surrounds it.

Modern Day Cave-In-Rock, Illinois

The cave's chilling past may have left a mark on the village of Cave-In-Rock as the village is currently home to only a few hundred residents. Rumor also has it that many of the buildings and homes are still haunted by ghosts of the past too.

Visitors can still explore the cave, which is now a state park, and marvel at its stunning natural beauty, but the village and state park have plenty more fun to offer too. You can take a ferry ride, go boating, fishing, hiking and so much more. Read more about what  Cave-In-Rock State Park, here.

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Gallery Credit: Google Maps

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