THE STORY BEHIND WALT DISNEY'S DECISION TO FILM RUDYARD KIPLING'S JUNGLE
BOOK MOVIE AT LOST CREEK CAVE AND WATERFALL
A PERSONAL RECOLLECTION BY DAVID STARNES RETIRED PRINCIPAL PLANNER LOCAL
PLANNING ASSISTANCE OFFICE TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMIC AND COMMUNITY
Around 1991, Dancy Jones, the Tennessee Film Commission Director at that time, came to our office and explained the importance of the community planners and film commission as a state agency. She concluded her interesting talk in about an hour, and when she was ready to leave, someone in my office mentioned that if she ever needed a cave location for a movie, she should contact me. She wrote my name down and said her department would contact me if that were the case. I gave her my name and said I would help, but I thought I would never hear from her again, or her department for that matter.
I was an active caver in the 1960s through the 1980s, but there are still cavers in Tennessee who participated in this adventure sport more than I have. At 65, I consider myself retired from the sport, although I like to keep up with current caving such as new caving discoveries and for my data research. During my undergraduate at Tennessee Tech, I majored in geography with minors in geology and history. I was also a member of the local caving club, the Upper Cumberland Grotto (UCG), and the Tennessee Cave Survey (TCS). My interest in the TCS is the cave data pertaining to the geographic location of caves, specifically rock strata and physiographic provinces in Tennessee. Through T.C. Barr’s Caves of Tennessee, I, like many cavers at the time,was intimately familiar with the notable caves in the state, such as Lost Creek. For years, cavers considered this book a Bible for Tennessee Caves.
In the mid-1970s, I visited Lost Creek Cave for the first time with the late Art Bosnak, a well-known local caver who photographed cave formations. Some cavers, in a light-hearted way, thought Art was not suited for caving, especially in caves with tight constrictions, withArt being almost seven feet tall- probably the tallest basketball player to ever play for Tennessee Tech. Professionally, Art was a rural school teacher; however, he also had an academic background in biology. He sampled water in caves to determine the water quality's impact on cave life and published at least one professional paper on this topic.On this first trip to Lost Creek, Art and I were going for water samples.
We first stopped to visit his friend in Sparta, Ross Cardwell. Ross did not cave that day, but cautioned us about rattlesnakes and copperheads being in the sink on such a warm day. After arriving at the sink, we accessed the cave by parking on the sink's north side, which is no longer used because of the larger developed parking area on the southern side of the sink. On our trip back into the cave, we went as far as the 40-foot underground waterfall, a well-known feature. Art retrieved water samples from Lost Creek that day and samples at the entrance of nearby Merrybranch Cave, although we did not explore this one.
To my surprise, in late 1993 or early 1994, the Tennessee Film Commissioncontacted me through the Local Planning Assistance Office. A movie company filming in Tennessee needed a cave entrance in the Cookeville area that could be used for the positioning of wolves. The movie company, Walt Disney, was filmingThe Jungle Book,released in December 1994.The location manager for the movie was Edward Bowen, or “Eddie” as we called him, and he was coming to Cookeville so I could take him to a cave that could be used in the movie. I was known to have knowledge of area caves, so they thought I would help find them a cave. I knew exactly what they were looking for: a cave to have an entrance that (1) they could position wolves for a young boy (Mowgli) to encounter after becoming lost in the jungle; (2) did not have cave formations, as these could be a distraction; (3) has a relatively level floor for cameras; and (4) could be readily accessed from a nearby road and be fairly easy to walk to with the movie equipment.
Eddie arrived at the Local Planning Assistance Office and I explained I knew of two caves in the area that might fit their purpose. One was Kuykendall Cave, in Putnam County, which we visited first, it being less than five miles north of the planning office on East 15th Street. The second was Lost Creek, which was much further out, in a rural area of southeastern White County. Both caves were generally described to him, and we would visit the smaller Kuykendall Cave in the morning, and then the much larger, remote Lost Creek Cave in the afternoon.
Joining on the the trip to the caves was an assistant from the Tennessee Film Commission and Kay Detwiler another staff planner at LPAO. Kay was helpful to the film company in the local logistics of having a base of operation in the Cookeville area.
After arriving at Kuykendall Cave, located about 100 yards east of Free Hill Road on the northern edge of Cookeville, we proceeded into the cave with flashlights. Eddie Bowen took several photos inside the cave of a sizable room, as well as the entrance itself. Although it might be useful for a minor shooting location, as opposed to a principal location site, I think Eddie's opinion was that he would like to see the Lost Creek Cave, in order to see if its larger cave entrance could better accommodate a film crew. Kuykendall's location and accessibility to Free Hill Road were good, but the twenty-foot wide but only seven-foot high entrance could be restrictive in getting movie cameras into the cave. In addition, ledges suitable for positioning the wolves seemed to be few and too small.
After Kuykendall Cave, we had lunch at a now defunct steakhouse, Quincy’s on South JeffersonAvenue in Cookeville. During lunch, Eddie mentioned we could not talk to anyone about a film company coming to the area to make a movie. Any leak out may make Disney move to another location. Eddie also planned Fall Creek Falls State Park as a principal location. Since he earned fame for his Oscar nomination “Silence of the Lambs”, Eddie told us Disney was trying to get Anthony Hopkins to be in the movie, either as Colonel Geoffrey Brydon (Kitty's father), or the physician Dr. Julius Plumford. This fell through and Sam Neil or John Cleese took the role meant for him.
On the drive to Lost Creek Cave, I told Eddie that "Lost Creek Cave, as well as having a large entrance, is situated in a large sink, with a 60-foot waterfall that is considered to be quite scenic". He politely but firmly responded, "well, we are not interested in any waterfalls or the sinkhole itself, just a cave entrance to position wolves for a filming shot". I responded by saying, "okay, and I do hope this large cave entrance could be what you are looking for". We arrived at the small, gravel parking area on the north side of the sink. A major ice storm hit this part of the state a few days after our visit, so if we had not visited when we did, we likely would not have been able to.The storm caused considerable damage in the Upper Cumberland including downed power lines and road closures due to fallen trees.
Eddie took photos of the steep walls on the walk into the sink and of the large cave entrance on our left. Unfortunately, someone parked directly above the cave and threw a dead goat, which was now lying at the entrance on a rock slab. We Walked to the 60-foot waterfall where Eddie took more photos. It was a dreary, overcast day and the green foliage that covers the sink in spring and summer was notably absent, leaving this karst feature with a brownish-grayish appearance. Fortunately, the lack of foliage allowed us to see how big the sink was. Since Eddie was obviously photographing features other than the cave entrance, I approached him to ask what he thought about this place. Eddie let us know he was impressed with Lost Creek Sink, not only the large cave entrance, but also the 60-foot waterfall and the sink itself. He was so impressed he was to meet with the movie director, Stephen Sommers,who was flying into Atlanta from India, after likely filming there. Eddie was going to try to convince Sommers to rewrite the script to accommodate, what he thought, was a very beautiful and exotic place.When we returned to the planning office, Eddie thanked us for a great tour of the area.
At the Atlanta meeting, the men decided that what was supposed to be a minor would now be a principal location. In the script rewrite, the wolves that were supposed to be in a cave entrance, were relocated to the grotto-like base of the Lost Creek Waterfall. They built a monorail on the south-side of the steep sink slope for Mowgli to slide in down into a dark and scary forest. The Lost Creek Cave only appeared at the end of the movie when Mowgli and Kitty are fleeing Monkey City. As they leave the dark cave into sunlight, they immediately have a dramatic confrontation with Shere Khan the Tiger. At the end, Disney used the waterfall as a backdrop for a romantic scene between Mowgli and Kitty and the credit’s backdrop. It is likely more movie scenes involve Lost Creek Sink, but these are the most prominent.
Disney likely secured the right to film in Lost Creek through longtime owner, James Rylander, since at the time it was not a state natural area. According to Larry Matthews's book, Caves of Fall Creek Falls, Rylander deeded the cave and surrounding property to the state as a part of Fall Creek Falls State Park. I believe this took place sometime around 2004, but the state website says that it was designated a state natural area in 2012. Fall Creek Falls State Park, not far from Lost Creek, may have influenced Disney to consider it as a principal location. Fall Creek Falls seemed to serve as a primary base of field operations for the filming in the area. Several scenes in the movie were filmed at the state park. These include the crossing at the top of Fall Creek Falls by Captain William Boone and his men on the way to Monkey City, and the dramatic jump of Mowgli off a high cliff into the large pool at the base of Cane Creek Falls. There were also scenes involving the swinging bridge over Cane Creek Cascades and the gorge area downstream of the cascades.
Filming started in a few weeks, especially at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Along with some dignitaries that included local and state officials, Kay and I were invited to the state park for half-a-day to see filming and to have lunch. After arriving and unsure of where to go, we by chance asked a man where we were expected. Of all people, it was the producer, Edward S. Feldman himself, a very nice and down-to-earth individual. He told us to head on down to the Cane Creek Nature Center where other guests were meeting (Photos 1 and 2). At the center, a group was led into the Cane Creek gorge where a for a filming of a movie scene involving Baloo the Bear (Photos 3 and 4).
Following the shoot, we went to the parking lot, where the tiger from the movie was kept in an open grassy area nearby. Park visitors were not allowed near the animal and it was fenced off by yellow ribbons around trees. A movie assistant walked the lion around and tended to its needs (Photo 5). Kay and I drove a short distance to a large red/white tent that was set up for lunch (Photo 6). The catered lunch was excellent and the movie producer, Edward Feldman sat to my right telling us how niceTennesseans were and how the state park personnel were helpful in their filming. Following lunch, our VIP tour was over and we headed back to the Local Planning Office in Cookeville.
A short time later, Kay and I had supper at Applebee’s in Cookeville with Eddie, where he again thanked us for our help. Our conversation about filming gave me the impression that the monorail didn't really prove that useful. There are only a few seconds in the movie involving it and it was at night when the movie viewer couldn't really see what was going on. I inquired if the crew saw any snakes, especially the poisonous types. He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and muttered something like "oh man!" I took this to mean that they probably had at least one snake encounter while being there.
Although work at the Local Planning Assistance Office is rarely routine, it can be mundane with reviewing subdivision plats, zoning issues, and preparing land use studies and grant applications, etc. I was grateful that the Tennessee Film Commission contacted and involved me in the making of Walt Disney's “The Jungle Book”. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Tennessee has many exotic and reasonably accessible locations for movie crews. I hope movie companies will continue taking advantage of the beautiful natural settings in our state, as well as urban settings that can be found in our major cities such as Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga.
Local dignitaries waiting to walk down into the Cane Creek gorge to see the filming of a bear scene for The Jungle Book movie.
Left to right, David Starnes, Doug McBroom (former county executive of Putnam County), and former state representative Jere Hargrove. Remainder are film crew personnel standing around waiting for the movie scene involving the bear to be set up and filmed.
Film crew personnel standing around waiting for the movie scene involving the bear scene to be set up and filmed
Filming of the bear scene with the bear visible near the middle of the photo. A trainer appears to be giving the bear a treat to make it rise up.
A trainer walking the tiger (in the middle of the photo) in the parking lot at the Cane Creek Nature Center.
Film crew location site that was set up in the park south of the nature center. Large red and white tent is where catered lunch was served.
Another photo of monorail. According to the location manager, this apparatus may not have been used as much as expected by the film crew.
David Starnes standing in front of the entrance to Lost Creek Cave.
Letter From Location Manager
The following photos are courtesy of April Moore.
The Junglebook Watch Guide for Locals
Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book on Amazon Prime Video
Below is a watch guide for Disney’s 1994 live action Jungle Book movie. If you know the Upper Cumberland region, you’ll recognize these iconic locations!
|0:15:50||Lost Creek Falls|
|0:16:27||Lost Creek Falls|
|0:26:16||Cane Creek Cascades|
|0:28:56||Fall Creek Falls|
|1:18:42||Fall Creek Falls|
|1:27:32||Cane Creek Falls|
|1:27:48||Lost Creek Falls|
|1:27:53||Cane Creek Gorge|
|1:28:25||Cane Creek Falls - unsure|
|1:29:42||Cane Creek Cascades jump|
|1:29:44||Cane Creek Falls jump|
|1:43:07||Lost Creek Cave|
|1:44:07||Lost Creek Cave|
|1:46:05||Lost Creek Falls|
While I am by no means the expert at either of the things this blog post is about, I know a little more than the average Joe. I provide this knowledge here to those curious, and for my own records. The information provided here is especially relevant to the southeastern United States. If you are from elsewhere you may find that not all the information I provide suits your environment, the types of petroglyphs you have, or your photography needs.
Early along in my caving career it was shared with me that some of the sites we were visiting had prehistoric records in the form of pictographs and petroglyphs. Pictographs are painted onto the wall with a medium, like charcoal, or red ochre. Petroglyphs, or glyphs, are incised marks on stone. The two are different enough to warrant separate articles on how to photograph and image. If you are interested in photographing pictographs, check out this article I wrote on the subject.
I should note that the techniques I provide here for imaging petroglyphs are also effective for discerning text on old grave markers. It is non-destructive, but should probably be done during hours where sunlight won't interfere with your photography.
What is a petroglyph?
Here's your obligatory definition grabbed directly from Wikipedia:
A petroglyph is an image created by removing part of a rock surface by incising, picking, carving, or abrading, as a form of rock art. Outside North America, scholars often use terms such as "carving", "engraving", or other descriptions of the technique to refer to such images. Petroglyphs are found worldwide, and are often associated with prehistoric peoples. The word comes from the Greek prefix petro-, from πέτρα petra meaning "stone", and γλύφω glýphō meaning "carve", and was originally coined in French as pétroglyphe.
What I often see in the field are two types of petroglyphs. One is a scratched image or writing, and the other is more deeply incised into the parent rock.
In the above two images, the glyphs are both of the sun, and even found in the same cave. The glyph on the left is a simple scratch, and the one on the right is a more time consuming carving into the rock.
Where does one find petroglyphs?
We tend to find these images along dry, flat surfaces, near the entrance of the cave just inside the dark zone, or within the twilight of the cave.
Dry surfaces are important, but as as necessary for glyphs as they are for pictographs. A pictograph will be weathered away quickly on a moist surface. A glyph may be more prone to weathering if it is on a wet surface. Remember that while a surface may not seem like it is weathering away rapidly, it doesn't have to if it has hundreds or thousands of years to work.
Flat surfaces aren't required, but obviously preferable for the same reason that you and I like to write on flat surfaces. It's easier.
How do I look for petroglyphs?
This will accentuate any irregularities in the surface of the rock. Inspect slowly the flat, dry areas near the surface of a cave or rock shelter. Be sure to also be looking for painted surfaces since one finds pictographs in the same places as one finds glyphs.
How do I photograph petroglyphs?
The image above uses the darken image blending mode where it displays the darkest pixel shown from the five stacked images.
Secrecy and Ethics
I want to note that we very rarely every know with certainty most things. What we can do is document the evidence and see where it points us. I should also point out that in modern times leaving a signature or a drawing in caves or on overlooks is not only a criminal act, but an unethical act. The study of how humans have previously marked their landscape is in no way advertising that we should also do the same - in fact the opposite. I will write more on this later, but leave any petty or trifiling argumentation regarding what's historic and acceptible here. The remainder of this article shall be strictly about identification.
Now, imagine that we've been wandering in the woods for hours and come upon a cliff with a signature. We investigate it. I think it's potentially historic. You say, "Any fool can write a date that is incorrect, so how does one authenticate an alleged historic signature?"
Let's explore a few signatures and examine their style, medium, and context.
Disgovered (sic) Riggs & Kino, Mammoth Cave, Mammoth Cave National Park, Edmonson County, Kentucky
Context: Ceiling of Mammoth Cave
Text: Disgovered (sic) / Riggs & Kino / Aug 12th / 1841
It being on the ceiling lends itself to being made from a candle. Also, when you've seen a lot of candle signatures you can just tell by the way it is (I am teasing and I know that isn't terribly helpful!). Here's what I see: candle doesn't lend itself to accuracy. Soot accrues on one side of the line, or the center of the line and wafts back and forth as does the breeze within the cave. It's a wide swath of carbon that it lays down, and tends to work best when used on a ceiling.
Mammoth Cave has been thoroughly explored since well before the alleged date of 1844, and is rife with historic signatures. Early cave owners allowed and encouraged people to leave signatures of their names. Vandalism - modern signatures being left in the cave are much less common and result in criminal charges when people are caught. So the likelihood that this is a modern fake seems unlikely. I'm sure a tour guide would notice someone holding a candle to the ceiling, right?
There are other methods one could pursue to authenticate a signature like this. Who were the people? Were they known? Are there records external which show them in the area? Given that I am less of a historian, and more of a geographer, I'll leave the case where it lies: almost certainly 100% authentic.
Historic signature, Johnson Cave, Putnam County, Tennessee 1
Medium: Pine charcoal
Context: Wall of Johnson Cave
Text: G. L. H? / July / 19 / 1882
This cave was a well known local saltpeter cave which produced for the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. A date of 1882 seems consistent with its well known status and perhaps indicative of ongoing saltpeter mining or recreational use. The darker, thinner line drawn on the wall is consistent with the dark sticky line left by pine charcoal, which is also historically consistent with the alleged date. Also a great candidate for a 100% true historic signature.
"The road to hell - This cave is haunted beware", Newman Cave, White County, Tennessee
Context: Wall of Newman Cave
Text: The road to hell - This cave is haunted beware
Note how strongly the text has faded. The medium for this feels like it could be a water based paint, or something similar. The medium itself suggests something more modern, perhaps in the last 50 - 60 years. The style of print, blocky letters of consistent size and shape is consistent with what I was taught in the 80s as proper print. While this method of writing has been around for a while, it grew in popularity for common use in the modern era. The message also is one that maybe calls to this space's use as a haunted house, a modern attraction. Perhaps teenage boys were trying to scare their dates, but the wiring in the cave also suggests a former landowner's interest in developing the resource into something more. All these signs - converging evidence point towards a modern origin.
Historic red ochre signature, Campbell Cave, Christian County, Kentucky
Medium: Red ochre pen, sanguine, red chalk
Context: Wall of Campbell Cave
Text: James *cannot read*
This is a little more interesting. Red ochre, a basic pigment has been used since times prehistoric over much of the world. Obviously since this is script and in English, we can rule out it being prehistoric, but the medium is certainly not that common, especially in modern use. This would point us towards the historic. The script is also flowery enough to believe it to be historic. Its superposition relative to the painted JA shows us that it's older than whatever JA was painted on with. This is very likely historic.
Sun glyph (composite image)
Style: Print and art
Medium: Etch, petroglyph
Context: Wall of an unnamed cave with associated pictures
Text: AH CC *cannont read* RED
What's really going on here? This is where things get a little fuzzy. The sun and moon look to be prehistoric. They are both common motifs of regional prehistoric petroglyphs. The sun appears to be attached to a handle - perhaps the original artist, or an intervening artist intended to repurpose it as a weapon - a mace of the sun. I can only speculate.
Within and next to the art are modern etches of English letters. We can be certain that at least that much is historic to modern. There appear to be two pairs of initials that have been crossed out, which makes me think there was a couple there who carved their names in the rock. Again, only speculation. But them having been crossed out is significant - it would have been someone local who would have repeatedly visited the site. This is near civilization, so even in times historic this could have been possible, as it is still.
This one is all over. Parts of it could be prehistoric, but we don't know. Parts of it could be historic or modern. Again, we just don't know.
1835 donkey, historic rock art
Style: Print and art
Medium: Etch, petroglyph
Context: Ground at overgrown overlook. Trees blocked the view, and a thick layer of moss was peeled back to expose the petroglyph.
Text: OUT / NORTH / W / 1835 / TAKIR?
This one is a lot of fun, and surely all signs point towards historic. The donkey, the smiling face, that all this was found at an overgrown former-overlook near to several historic roads really provides solid converging evidence to its authenticity as a historic piece.
Burnt Ridge, Rockcastle County, Kentucky
Style: Print (mostly)
Medium: Spray point
I throw in this obviously modern case of abuse to also highlight that these "conversations" people are having with the rock likely go to historic times. It may go back to prehistoric times. Don't cover things with spray paint, you're destroying your own cultural heritage.
Stars, Dunbar Cave, Dunbar Cave State Park, Montgomery County, Tennessee
Medium: Possibly river cane charcoal, pictograph
Context: Wall of the cave
Depictions: Possibly stars or astronomical phenomena
This is an obvious example of prehistoric art. Note the dark medium and note the etchings that are above it, which shows that it predates the etches. That's right, someone thought their name was more important than very rare Native American art from this period. The depictions, the medium, the location within the cave, and the superposition relative to etches all point directly to prehistoric.
This is by no means exhaustive, but should begin to provide some background on identifying historic and prehistoric markings. As a final word, I want to point out that pharmacists are exceptionally good at reading terrible handwriting and can be very useful for discerning hidden text.