Saturday, August 23, 2008

Devil's Den, Kansas

Just north west of a town named Natoma, Kansas in Rooks County are a set of caves in the hillside known as the Devil’s Den. These caves have been around since before the Indians inhabited the area and the Indians wouldn’t go anywhere near them because they thought the caves were the home of evil spirits. It is thought the name Devil’s Den is a rough translation of an original Indian name long lost to history.

It seems there is more than one opening in most of the caves as air flows through them creating noises and currents of air at the openings that frightened the Indians. Apparently one or more white men have been frightened from the caves too. Back in the 1920s a story appeared in a newspaper about the caves saying the devil’s cloven-hoofed minions inhabited them. The newspaper account said “hundreds of small goat like hoof tracks were found imprinted in solid rock. The tracks formed a circle and in the center, fully six inches deep in the rock appeared prints of two large distinct cloven hoofs. Many people believe that the tracks are of the fiends dancing in satanic worship of the master, the devil.” Hey, I’m just repeating the story; I don’t make this stuff up!

Once the story came out a few men from Natoma set out to prove the caves were just caves and nothing else. These men later said that as they entered one of the caves they were greeted by strange shrieks and were suddenly surrounded by flickering lights which apparently followed them out of the cave and back to their car. There might have been a little alcohol involved here but that’s just a guess on my part.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with treasure. There are a few stories about treasure being hidden in the caves and the fact this is supposed to be a spooky place just adds to the intrigue. The biggest treasure story has to do with a robbery that took place in Mexico City in 1849. The bandits, thought to be Americans, made off with jewels and $300,000 in Mexican gold. Mexican authorities tracked the bandits to a spot near the Devil’s Den and then their trail disappeared.

In the early 1900’s a man from Juarez, Mexico came up with a map for the treasure when he was on his deathbed. The map indicated the jewels and gold had been hidden inside one of the caves that are the Devil’s Den. In 1916 Mexican authorities made an incursion into Kansas in an attempt to recover the treasure but when they got to the caves they found that a group of outlaws had decided to make the spot their hideout. Legend holds that a battle ensued between the bandits and the Mexicans with the Mexicans taking several casualties. The outlaws eventually escaped the melee and what was left of the Mexican party searched the caves but couldn’t find the treasure.

There are several other legends of buried treasure in and around the caves, mostly attributed to the no name outlaws that supposedly inhabited the caves but the Mexican treasure was the most interesting.

The caves are located northwest of Natoma, KS and north of Highway 18 just inside the eastern edge of Rooks County.

As a side note, there are several other places in the United States that are also known as Devil’s Den and one of those is in southwestern Missouri. The Missouri Devil’s Den is also a cave and has the same legends about the noises. Treasure was also mentioned as being associated with the Missouri Devil’s Den but I couldn’t find any specifics.

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