History of Devil's Cave

1584

Cowherd Jox Mellmann is said to have discovered what would become to be known as Devil's Cave after one of his animals fell through the roof (No written record).

1830

Paper maker Walther, who worked for the Dummler paper mill, is lowered into 'Devil's Hole' with the help of a few friends.

1862 (27th April)

Possibly as a test of courage, 16 intrepid young men from Schlüchtern are lowered into the cave, where they discover nocturnal animals, such as bats and owls.

Around 1897

Master road builder Adam Lüders expresses interest in opening up the cave and contacts the town of Steinau an der Straße for this purpose.

1898

Adam Lüders begins the systematic exploration of the cave.

1898 (14th June)

With the help of river attendant Methfessel and master roofer Scheer, Lüders descends into Devil's Hole.

1908

Lüders is transferred to Schlüchtern. Here he forms the 'Society for the Opening of Devil's Cave near Steinau'.

1908 (Autumn)

The society begins with the first earthworks necessary for the opening of the cave (with the cooperation of three Polish miners and the firm Oberhäuser from Steinau).

1911 (Spring)

After much troublesome and arduous work, the 'Cathedral' is reached through a newly-constructed tunnel.

1911 (Summer)

A humanoid skull is discovered in the silt of the cave. It immediately gains the attention of leading scientists.

1912

It takes just one year for the truth about this curious find to emerge. Gradually, the mystery surrounding the discovery of the skull is solved: The skull turns out to be a forgery by the pharmacist Wilhelm Rappe.

1913 (11th November)

Adam Lüders resigns as chairman of the society due to the problems of financing the project. His successor, Philipp Romeiser, has the 'Society for the Opening of Devil's Cave' entered into the Association and Club Register at the royal magistrates court in Steinau.

1914 (12th May)

World War One breaks out. The project 'Devil's Cave' is laid to rest for a number of years.

1914

Once again, Devil's Cave becomes an object of interest. Dr. Hans Karl Becker commences a more exact study of the cave and its environs.

1921

Man interessiert sich allmählich wieder für die Teufelshöhle. Dr. Hans Karl Becker beginnt mit genaueren Untersuchungen in der Höhle und deren Umgebung.

1925

After a motion put forward to the government in Kassel by Dr. Becker, Devil's Cave is recognized as the first nature reserve in the province of Hesse-Nassau and becomes a protected area.

1926

Amateur geologist Georg Kraft becomes mayor in Steinau. Shortly afterwards, he forms the Tourist Promotion Agency and is elected its first chairman.

1926

The development of the cave recommences with the help of municipal workers, unemployed people, voluntary members of the agency and the firm Oberhäuser.

1927 (Beginning)

The agency experiences financial difficulties once again. A lottery generates 500 Reichsmark. Sister Luise from the Social Welfare Organisation of the Protestant Church donates her main prize (100 Reichsmark). With this money a further tunnel can be bored, which is named the 'Sister Elise Tunnel' (today the Climate Chamber) in honour of her donation. In May the newly developed cave system is made accessible to visitors.

1928

An underground pond is discovered.

1929

In Spring, the entire cave is presented to the public. Hesse's state president, Dr. Friedensburg falls under the spell of the cave on a visit on 1st May. Articles written by accompanying reporters from large magazine publishing houses make Devil's Cave well known throughout Germany. A generator produces electricity for the electric illuminations (replacing the carbide lamps). On 30th June Devil's Cave is officially opened by the town of Steinau (coupled with a choir festival hosted by the Workers' Choir Association).

1930

Publication of the leaflet 'Steinau and its Dripstone Cave.

1933

Many visitors come to the cave, such as clubs, school classes, fraternities and leading figures from Nazi circles.

1935

The entrance tunnel partially collapses after the winter break. The cave is able to reopen in the summer after much hard work by all concerned.

1939

With the start of the Second World War, the cave is no longer of public interest.

1953 (23rd August)

A fair is held at the 'Mooshecke' (the site of the cave; lit. 'moss hedge') on the occasion of the reopening of the dripstone cave, in cooperation with the music club Germania, the choir 'Vorwärts' (Lit. Forward!) and the choir from Steinau. The festive inauguration is carried out by Mayor Dr. Werner Oertel and local politician Walter Jansen. Headmaster Bernhard Romeiser from Steinau Secondary School talks to the visitors about the history of Devil's Cave.

1962

A search for further connecting caves brings nothing new to light.

1970

The long and hard winter causes a major landslide, burying parts of the cave. It is only after much great effort that the cave is made accessible again.

1972

Drill tests above Devil's Hole prove moderately successful.

1977

The entrance tunnel to the cave is clad with metal. Acting on advice from the mining authority, the roof of the 'Cathedral' is reinforced with concrete.

1978

New drill tests are carried out in cooperation with the Hessian Agency for Soil Research (State geological service).

1980

New bore holes are drilled above Devil´s Cave to a depth of 38 metres.

1983 (23rd August)

The area 'Devil's Cave and the Alms Meadows near Steinau' (Teufelsloch und Almosenwiesen bei Steinau) is declared a nature reserve in the Hessian State Adviser, a status which it still holds today.

1998

There are renewed attempts to find further caverns by the speleological team under the leadership of Bernd Pfanzelder. A sinkhole is discovered in a stream bed about 200m lower down from the cave.

1999

The 'Small Cathedral' is uncovered with the help of various organizations (for example, the Technical Relief Organisation (German: Technisches Hilfswerk [THW]). In the same year, newer, more environmentally-friendly illuminations are installed.

2012

Illuminations with LED lighting, plus a sound system are installed in the 'Cathedral'.


This tabular chronicle was taken from the paper of the former mayor of Steinau, Hans-Joachim Knobeloch: "The History of Devil's Cave in Steinau an der Straße" from 2012.


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Please be aware that the following rules must be observed in the cave:

Helmpflicht A hard hat must be worn in the cave at all times.
Fotografierverbot Photography and filming are not permitted in the cave.
Tierverbot Pets (above all dogs) must be left outside the cave.
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