The Ghost Of Cudjo’s Cave
By Donald F. Blanford © 1986
Issue: July, 1986
Cudjo's Cave, now known as the Gap Cave. Photo curtesy of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.You can't miss Cudjo's Cave. It's right in the middle of Cumberland Gap on Highway 25E. A sign on the side of the mountain marks the entrance, and a souvenir stand and snack bar are perched on a cliff across the road. At first glance, it looks like one of those seedy, roadside tourist traps which used to dot the highways before the intestates were completed. I was surprised to discover that the whole thing is run by Lincoln Memorial University.
I was heading to the university to do some research for my doctoral thesis. The library at L.M.U. had most of the source material I needed on the Lincoln Douglas debates, and I really liked the idea of getting away from Chicago for the summer. The school is in Harrogate, which is just across the Tennessee line and over the mountain from Middlesboro, Kentucky. Those two states and Virginia all come together right at Cumberland Gap.
I hadn't realized how hot the summers were in this part of the country, and after taking a side trip through the national park area, I decided to pull in at the stand by Cudjo's for a cold drink. Actually, I never intended to go in the cave at all, but the air conditioning on my ancient Plymouth was broken as usual - and the thought of that cool air in the cave was enticing.