Underground caves are a key element of many of Mark Twain's books, but most especially The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Imagineers saw fit to include such settings on the various Tom Sawyer Islands at Disney Parks in Florida, Anaheim and Tokyo. The inspiration behind those dark enclosed mazes, where youngsters scamper happily while their adult counterparts frequently slide, trip and bump their heads, lies within Missouri, a state already quite rich in Disney history and theme park relevance.
Visiting the Mark Twain Cave in Hannibal, Missouri is like traveling back in time. It retains a mid-twentieth century roadside attraction ambiance that stands in stark contrast to the slick, polished presentation of a Disney theme park attraction, an observation ironic in both context and history. But the cave is indeed the place that inspired the literary McDougal's Cave, where Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher are terrorized by the actions of the villainous Injun Joe. The Hannibal attraction's website provides the following brief history of the "real" cave:
It is most certainly quite fun to occasionally bump into the rough-edged reality behind the carefully crafted and idealized Disney-created fantasy.Earliest documentation says the cave was discovered in the winter of 1819-1820 when Jack Simms and his dog when on a hunting trip. His dog chased a panther, which a sport in those days, into a small opening on the side of a hill. Since it was late in the day, he blocked the entrance, came back with his brother and torches the next day. They had to be awestruck upon what they discovered once inside. From that time on the cave has been rediscovered everyday by someone. This fabulous cave was written about in five of Mark Twain's books. The cave has been seen by millions of people since that time which includes, presidents, villains, heroes and most important those of us who are interested in history, literature and science.
|From Tom Sawyer Island at Walt Disney World|