Devil’s Den is an infamous collection of large diabase boulders within the Gettysburg National Battlefield. In 1863, much blood was shed in the low area between this location – where Confederate sharpshooters conveniently hid – and Little Round Top (a Union-held position) that it is called the Valley of Death or the Slaughter Pen. Legends are told that the Susquehannock tribe considered this area haunted long before the battle there. Countless ghost stories are associated with the Gettysburg area related to the Civil War including many supposedly still dwelling in around the Den. People regularly report hearing battle sounds from the Civil War and from Native fighting. While it is clear that tribes camped here and used the ground, it’s not clear if there actually was a skirmish that took place here before the Civil War. Such stories circulate and add to the “evil” nature of the formation. Here is a video of a history explaining where the name may have come from.

The ridges on either side of the Military Park and the hard rock outcrops tend to create odd fogs and sound echoes when dusk falls. The Devil’s Den area was also rumored to be the home of a large snake. This is plausible as snakes like to sun themselves on the rocks. On a warm day, you can find fence lizards in the crevasses of the Den. It is accessible and quite impressive, but slippery when wet, scorching hot in the sun, and all in all, rather spooky in its starkness.

War photographers captured the dead left at Devil’s Den.
Devil’s Den as seen from Little Round Top with the Valley of Death in between.
Devil’s den consists of rounded diabase boulders and is accessible to tourists during daylight hours.

A rock formation and small cave-like opening on the lower slopes of Big Round Top nearby is called the Devil’s Kitchen. There are many other caves and locations called “Devil’s Den” some of which appear to have haunting tales associated with them. I began to get confused about just the locations in New England alone! In New Durham, New Hampshire, is a craggy trail with a cave formed among the boulders. Some refer to the hissing denizen of the cave as the Fell Man. Several stories exist about this cave: it was a burial site for native peoples, used by early travelers as shelter from winter storms and some died there trapped by winter snow. Iron hinges at the entrance held an iron gate perhaps to imprison witches (or for other more mundane purposes, like storage. Imagination will help you hear the voices of the dead as you enter the cave. There are several more of these shallow cave features in Connecticut.

Devil’s Den Preserve, a 1,756-acre nature preserve in Weston and Redding, Connecticut, is the supposed location where women and children hid over 200 years ago during a British invasion. According to local tradition, this place got its name because of a boulder that bears a hoof-shaped imprint – a mark made by the Devil himself. Archaeological evidence shows humans used the area for hunting as much as 5,000 years ago.

Devil’s Den State Park in the Ozarks, Arkansas has caves and crevices in both limestone and sandstone, a rare occurrence. The Devil’s Ice Box, one cave in the park, is named for the cool air that rushes out of the cave as the air enters the cave from a higher elevation and is cooled as it passes through the mountain.

Devil’s Den at Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard is where the giant Wampanoag hero Moshop (or Maushop) sleeps. It is the furthest point out on the Cliffs where Moshop lived with his wife and many children before the European settlers came. When Moshop was hungry, he would wade into the water for a whale and cook it over an open fire. In order to fuel his fire, he pulled up trees by their roots, thus accounting for why the Aquinnah Cliffs are without any big trees today. Aquinnah cliffs have exposures of multicolored upper Cretaceous strata that was interpreted by some to be streaks of blood from the whales that Moshop slaughtered.

Aquinnah cliffs, Wikimedia Commons

The Devil’s Den in Newbury, Massachusetts is an old quarry from around 1697 that contains interesting minerals within the metamorphosed limestone, including chrysotile asbestos (curiously called “salamander cotton” undoubtedly because of its fire-resistant properties). The quarry was abandoned and became overgrown but remained spooky leading to local rumors of it being a place of evil. The earliest published use of the name was in the early 1800s but it probably was in use before that. The reason for the naming is unknown. The location had its charms, especially for the adventurous. The stories of challenges to enter the area, climb the Devil’s Pulpit boulder, and explore the cave resemble modern urban legends.

Devils Den Cave in Williston, Florida is a karst window. A collapse of the surface rock revealed the cave below. Vapor comes out of the hole which looks like steam. It’s said that the vapor prompted it to be named for a Hellish resident. But, in the cave system below is flowing water, not fire, and the site is now a SCUBA training center for divers and open for recreation. Animal and human remains have been found in the cave.

The descent into the beautiful Devils Den in Florida.

1 thought on “Devil’s Den

  1. Gettysburg’s Devil’s Den is given short shrift in movies due to the difficulty of getting more than a tiny portion of the area in frame at a time from ground level – I wish they had gotten an aerial view for the movie Gettysburg so it could have been done justice.

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