FATALITIES IN PORTH
By Tony Knibbs
Like many cavers, I have long
been puzzled by the high number of fatalities - and maybe
many more "near misses" - reported for Porth yr
Ogof. Obviously the accident rate could be related to the
intensive utilisation which this cave receives, but numbers
alone cannot account for this phenomenon. On a numerical basis,
taken with increased difficulty, a few other caves would have
ahigher fatality rate.
Maybe Porth yr Ogof has something
special about it which sets it apart from other caves - something
which may lie outside our normal appreciation of the cave
environment. I say "may" because supernatural phenomena
are difficult to pin-point to the satisfaction of most of
us, and I have hesitated for a very long time before offering
this unusual anecdote for publication.
Let me tell you about Roy,
a Senior Engineer with whom I worked in the aviation industry
from 1972 to 1979, and with whom I am still in touch. True
to his engineering background, Roy has an analytical approach
to life's problems, and he was both intrigued and supportive
of the powers of extra sensory perception which his wife,
Ann, possessed and put to good use in healing.
One evening in 1978 I paid
a visit to Roy who, I was amused to notice, had been using
a pendulum - a small metal weight on a piece of thread. Apparently,
following some work he'd been doing with the celebrated spiritual
healer Bruce MacManaway, Roy had been experimenting with the
pendulum to detect lines of earth energy ( ley lines ). He
talked of positive and negative lines, and of how the presence
of these could affect the "atmosphere" of certain
Half-jokingly, I asked Roy
if he could work from maps; I had in mind those strange occurrences
of dowsers helping a police enquiry by apparently locating
something or someone, often at a great distance, by swinging
a pendulum over a map.
Anyway, Roy said he would try.
He had a large selection of OS maps and I chose Sheet 165
Weston-Super-Mare (OS one-inch series). Roy was not a caver
and had no detailed knowledge of Mendip. I opened the map
and indicated a point near Priddy, simply asking him to tell
me something about the location.
I picked up a magazine and
let him ponder my question as I read in silence. After a few
minutes, he asked me why I had chosen this site - he was obviously
intrigued. I told him that it was an area which I knew well
and which I thought would interest him. It certainly did because
he identified it as the junction of two very strong negative
lines of energy ("black streams"), with possibly
a third at greater depth.
I then explained that the site
I had chosen was Eastwater Cavern which, alone of all the
caves I had visited, occasionally held for me an oppressive
atmosphere. The fact that a few other cavers had a similar
opinion of Eastwater had always intrigued me. So here, out
of the blue, came a suggestion of why some people experienced
bad vibes in Eastwater.
Roy and Ann took a touring
holiday that summer, around the Brecon Beacons area. Back
in the office we swapped accounts of our holidays; their vacation
had a strange aspect to it.
Part of their itinerary had
taken them to the Mellte valley, and Roy asked me if I knew
the cave into which the river flowed. I said that I did and
told him that it was Porth yr Ogof, sometimes known as White
He asked me if I had been into
the cave - of course, I had - and if there was anything special
about it. I could think of nothing special, except for the
so-called "White Horse" feature provided by a vein
of calcite visible from inside the entrance. I asked if he
had seen this, but apparently neither he nor his wife could
get near the entrance. Roy told me the reason without any
kind of melodrama.
Descending the valley, they
followed the footpath towards the entrance arch, but they
wouldn't approach any nearer than about 50m - on account of
the presence in the cave of a very powerful, malevolent spirit
which Roy said equated with a "troll" in legend.
They had sensed it as they
entered the valley, a forbidding atmosphere of increasing
power which neither he nor Ann could endure, not because they
were afraid but because they couldn't abide the evil, consuming
force which lived in the cave. They left the valley without
further ado, somewhat disturbed by their experience.
I told Roy that, although I
had no personal reason to think that Porth yr Ogof was anything
other than a normal, healthy cave, it did seem to have something
of a reputation for fatal accidents - five at that date. I
explained the physically harmless nature of the cave, but
I think that Roger was more inclined to consider the "troll"
as being at the root of the problem. We discussed the matter
no further then and I have mentioned it only to a few people
Reading Chris Howes' article
citing the current total of nine deaths in Porth yr Ogof,
persuaded me that the time had come to publicise more widely
the possible supernatural aspect of these accidents. I fully
appreciate the enlightened comments which stress the need
for greater vigilance concerning the equipment and conduct
of led parties, the arguments for gating, more warning signs,
etc. However, I feel that these may be the right reactions
to the wrong problem.
I telephoned Roy on 13 January
1993, recalled our conversation on Porth yr Ogof in 1978 and
told him the latest casualty figures, suggesting that maybe
his observations should now be aired. He agreed that things
had gone far enough and asked me for a grid reference so that
he could dowse the site from an OS 1:50,000 map, just to check
the situation again. He did this in close consultation with
It is now, when I describe
the results of this, that I realise how fantastic the situation
is and, if the findings are reasonably accurate, how dangerous
Specifically at the downstream
end of the cave they detected a concentration of five negative
streams and one positive (which actually makes matters worse).
Within the cave were found several other"black streams"
but no more positives.
Associated with the black streams
are several "entities" - ghosts, if you like - which
conform to the "troll" idea of malevolent spirits.
Roy and Ann are of the opinion that the origin of these entities
dates back to the 18th or 19th centuries and that they relate
to the violent deaths of several women, pregnant mothers or
babies conceived out of wedlock. It was felt significant that
all but one of the victims of the cave accidents have been
male; men would probably have had most to gain by suppressing
evidence of illicit liaisons, hence the spiritual aggression
could imply revenge on male targets.
Roy asked if I knew of any
legends which concerned murders or mysterious disappearances
in the area, but I could think of none. After hearing this
information I read through the UBSS publication "Porth
yr Ogof, Breconshire" dated 1970 and was slightly taken
aback to read that the pool in the upstream entrance was known
as Llyn y Baban ( Lake of the Baby ), and that a legend exists
concerning a drowning infant.
Since 1978 Roy and Ann have
responded to more and more requests to clean up the "atmosphere"
in houses, often a factor in many depressive and degenerative
ailments. The "atmosphere" at Porth yr Ogof is the
worst they have encountered in over 200 cases.
It seems that there are two
possible courses of action to avoid further trouble : one
is to avoid the downstream end of the cave ( or not visit
the cave ), the other is to "heal" the "sickness"
of Porth yr Ogof. However, please note that Roy states emphatically
that amateur dabblers in such a venture are at serious risk
of coming to harm. Apparently, it requires a powerful group
of healers, and well-connected ones at that!
Roy did not wish to be identified
in this article but he is willing to consider any request
( initially via the Editor ) for further assistance, but this
should come from the landowner or other responsible source,
for ethical reasons.
I fully understand how many
people feel about paranormal phenomena, so may I conclude
by assuring you that this article is neither a joke nor a
hoax; I am simply passing on for evaluation the views of two
people who are quite unconnected with caving. If nothing else,
it may shed some light from a different direction on the unusual
occurrences at Porth yr Ogof.
Copyright Tony Knibbs, Toulouse 12.02.93
Appendum to 'Fatalities
in Porth yr Ogof'
Porth-yr-Ogof (Eng. Arch Cave)
cave in South Wales is very well known to the cave-exploring
fraternity. It is situated in the Brecon Beacons National
Park. As its name suggests, the cave entrance is quite spectacular;
it is an impressive arch in the limestone cliff which spans
the valley of the river Mellte. The arch is 16ft high and
nearly 60ft wide. The river runs straight into the cave which
soon reduces in size. Within the arch the riverbed consists
mainly of small rocks. Except in time of high water, the river
can be easily followed, passing pools of varying depth and
several incoming passages from other entrances. Finally the
river returns to daylight at a 10ft deep pool where the cave
roof is just high enough to allow a short swim out into the
daylight continuation of the Mellte valley. In effect the
limestone cliff is a very substantial bridge over the valley
and the river. The river runs mostly in total darkness along
a natural tunnel through solid rock.
Remote dowsing of the site
has shown that the ‘entities’ are concentrated
at the point where the deep pool begins at the downstream
end of the cave, i.e. within about 50ft of the exit to daylight.
During the writing of the article,
I completely forgot my own strange experience in Porth-yr-Ogof.
I visited the cave as a passing tourist during a family outing
to South Wales. I thought that a visit to the cave entrance
would interest the two children. Having parked the car in
the nearby car park we walked down the steep path leading
to the cave entrance. While my wife and children waited just
inside the entrance, I walked into the cave, continuing as
far as the penetrating daylight would allow. The river flowed
about a foot deep along the right-hand wall of the cave, so
I had been keeping my feet dry by walking to the left. On
my return I decided to move toward the right-hand wall. Just
visible in the gloom was a small passage in the wall on the
other side of the river. In those days I smoked cigarettes,
and, using my lighter as illumination I stepped across the
river into the gloom of the small passage. It was not quite
high enough to stand up straight in for more than a few feet.
The passage appeared to close down after about 25ft. I was
contemplating where the passage might be leading when I became
aware that I had begun to feel decidedly dizzy. I could think
of no reason for this onset of dizziness, but decided that
it would be prudent to leave these surroundings and exit the
cave. I didn’t mention the incident to anyone, simply
putting it out of my mind.
It has been suggested that
victims of malevolent ‘entities’ simply have their
‘life force’ withdrawn. It occurs to me that I
may have had a lucky escape. However, of the eight cases of
drowning in the cave between 1957 and 1992, all except one
was in the final deep pool, the exception was a cave-diver
elsewhere in the cave. There has been no serious incident
in the cave since 1992. My visit was probably in the 1980s.