The lock on the outside of the iron door would allow for someone to lock something (or someone) inside the cave by sliding a heavy bolt into place. Strange, right? Why not put the lock on the inside? Or use a padlock if you want to lock it from the outside so others can't get in? While people seem to agree that Bill Keys (of Keys Ranch fame... see my Keys Family Graveyard post) was very likely the builder of the cave, there are two urban legends as to why this cave was built. Rumor #1: Bill Keys stored his dynamite here. Bill Keys was, among other things, a miner so this would certainly make sense. Rumor #2, and the more bizarre and disturbing of the legends: Bill Keys had a child with mental illness that he, at least occasionally, kept locked up in the cave. Given the remoteness of the location (no medical facilities for hundreds of miles) and the deplorable way people with mental illness were treated back in the day, this rumor is at least within the realm of possibility. Where these rumors started I have no idea, but I've found three web sites that all share these same two rumors. The web sites say that Bill Keys may in fact have used the cave for both purposes (hopefully not at the same time!).
So let me get to the point. A reader of my blog posted about Iron Door Cave on his blog a while back. I contacted him and asked if he would be kind enough to give me some hints about finding the legendary cave. Heck, just tell me something that would give me better than a "needle in a haystack" chance of finding the cave. To my surprise, he did even better and gave me the exact coordinates! I owe him big time!!
Some beautiful desert scenery on my hike to find the Iron Door Cave.
|See the lizard on the rock?|
Dropping down over the the rocks guarding the entrance, you can see rock and mortar steps and the heavy iron door. Bill Keys put a lot of work into building this cave!!
The masonry work around the door frame is impressive.
Graffiti, or modern-day pictographs? Either way, the inside of the Iron Door Cave is heavily marked up, which is too bad.
The inside of the cave was very dark, but the cave floor appears to be concrete.
The cave has an opening built into it at the far side. I wonder what it was for? Perhaps simple air exchange, or perhaps to pass things in and out of the cave? Probably a mystery that will never be solved.
View from inside the cave looking out. The slide bolt lock has been removed (probably by the Park Service for safety reasons).
I hope you enjoyed the Iron Door Cave mystery. Makes me wonder how many caves and other mysteries I've walked right by during my hikes in Joshua Tree!!
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Thanks for stopping by!
Thanks for stopping by!