By Tim Binnall
The keepers of a cave in England were astonished to discover that what they thought had been graffiti at the site was actually hundreds of centuries-old markings designed to ward off evil spirits. The creepy cavern is reportedly part of limestone gorge known as Creswell Crags in the county of Nottinghamshire. Until recently, tour guides at the location had presumed that the litany of symbols scrawled on the walls of the cave was merely the work of ne'er-do-wells trying to leave their mark at the cave.
However, a pair of explorers visiting the site last year spotted something peculiar about the writing and suggested that they were apotropaic marks. Known colloquially as 'witches' marks,' these symbols and letters were used during the 17th and 18th century by people hoping to ward off evil spirits. The cavers' suspicions were subsequently confirmed by experts who visited the site and were gobsmacked by the sheer number of markings found there.
All told, they counted nearly 1,000 letters and symbols carved into the walls and ceiling of the cave and it is believed to be the largest such collection of apotropaic marks ever found at a location in Britain. Why, exactly, the residents of that time were so fearful of this particular site is a mystery, but local historians observed that such cavernous locations were seen as particularly "monstrous" to those fearful of supernatural forces. While the administrators of the Creswell Crags conceded that they were embarrassed to have overlooked the markings for so long, they now hope to find a way to properly showcase the history-making cave.