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When driving Route 66 there’s the occasional barnside billboard advertising “Meramec Caverns.” This was intriguing to me and my wife, Gwynne, because we like to visit caves all over the world, so we made plans to visit. Meramec Caverns are colloquially know as the hiding place of The James Gang after they robbed a mining company. During the Civil War, 18-year old Jesse and his younger brother, Frank, were part of the dreaded Quantrill's Raiders when they attacked the caves because The North was making gunpowder there, so Jesse knew how to escape through them. There’s an exhibit inside the cave with remains of Jesse’s hideout. Movies were also made in the caves: Tom Sawyer in 1961, where he got lost with Becky, was so scary to me as a kid that it stuck with me; and there was an episode of Lassie.
The Theater Room and its audio-visual show was truly spectacular, and in the artificial light the crystal clear underground river we walked along perfectly reflected the stalactites for matching stalagmites. The cave had been famous for two centuries, hosting many events both formal and entertaining, making it the most touristy cave we’ve seen to date, but that didn’t make it any less impressive.
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