Floating through Spook Cave in a boat.

There is something River Styx-like in a tour of Spook Cave in McGregor, Iowa. After coughing up a few drachma (drachmas? drachmi?), you step into a small boat guided by Charon. Well, his name wasn’t actually Charon. He was young man, not an undead ferryman carting newly dead souls to the Greek underworld. But his name did begin with a “Ch.” Instead of a pole or oar, the guide had an electric trolling motor lashed to the bow that pulled us to the cave’s mouth.

Hades, here we come.
Spook Cave was blasted in to existence in 1953 when Gerald Mielke dynamited his way into that had been a small hole — known for years for its spooky noises — in the base of the limestone cliffs abutting Bloody Run Creek. He rigged lights to a water mill that turned by the flow coming out of the cliff and opened what is now one of the two show caves in Iowa.

Although carved up in places, Spook Cave still has some tight squeezes. More than twice, the roof came within a foot of the boat’s gunwales, causing passengers to duck forward to keep from scraping their heads as Charon maneuvered the craft using a series of handles in the ceiling. I opted to lean back into the row behind me. It took abdominal strength to hold the plank, but there was water and there was darkness. I wanted to be able to see what was going on.

The tour floats between manmade and natural passages, showing off a few stalactites, flowstone, popcorn and the lower end of a sinkhole. And unlike the River Styx, passengers return to the surface world, where there is a gift shop.

For more on Spook Cave, go to www.spookcave.com
Check back later for our video.