12 Bizarre Rooms at Wind Cave National Park


In 1903, Wind Cave—near Hot Springs, South Dakota—was the first cave to be designated a National Park. It’s currently the sixth-longest cave in the world, with more than 140 miles of explored passageways. But with several additional miles being discovered every year, it might not be long before Wind Cave surpasses Optymistychna Cave in the Ukraine (146.6 miles) and Sistema Ox Bel Ha in Mexico (159.8 miles) to reach the top four.

Due to its sheer size, there are a vast number of “rooms” in the cave, many with bizarre names: Andy’s Ice Box, Arm Pit, Bachelors Quarters, and the Bagel Ballroom, just to name a few. There’s a method to the madness, sort of: If you find a new room, you get to name it—and nearly anything goes. Here are the stories behind a few of the most interesting ones:


Discovered on December 15, 1979, by Andy Flurkey, Norm Pace, and John Scheltens, Andy’s Ice Box is full of aragonite frostwork—delicate, needle-like growths of calcite that resemble frost creeping across a window. The room discovered by these three explorers is packed with the stuff, making it resemble a frosty freezer.


If this sounds like a Lil’ Jon lyric to you, you’re absolutely correct. When Jason Walz, Jessie Mann, and Chris Dale found a chasm 30 feet deep, 20 feet wide, and 25 feet long, Lil’ Jon’s exclamations of “What! Yeah!” were the first words that came to mind.


Up until 1996, the place where What the Hell Lake is now had been completely dry. When Stan Allison discovered that the dry passage had suddenly become water-filled, he exclaimed, “What the hell?” The appearance of the lake prevented cavers from exploring significant sections of the passage until the water receded in 2004.


The thin layer of dust and dirt that covers everything in this room resulted in this unflattering nickname.


When cavers found these two large rooms in 1987, they took a break to eat lunch. “To our surprise, everyone on the trip had brought sandwiches for lunch made on bagels (these are tough pieces of bread well suited to the harshness of being carried all day in a caving pack),” Jim Pisarowicz wrote in the official report. “The new rooms were thus named the Bagel Ballroom.” A hole in the floor that led to another room was dubbed “Bagel Hole,” and a large, connected gallery became “Bagel Bowl.”


Dave Schnute was surveying with famous cavers Herb and Jan Conn when they came across a room with a bunch of additional passageways and nooks to explore. Schnute declared that it was "more fun than a mosquito in a nudist colony."


This small crawl space was named after explorer Randy Brown squeezed his way through—and it was such a tight fit, it peeled his pants and underwear down.


This area of the cave contains a red, sandy clay that was sold to women to wear as rouge in the 1890s. The National Park Service believes this room was named by the McDonald family, the family that first started developing the cave for tourism in 1890.


This walking passage was named on November 11, 2000—right in the middle of the Al Gore/George W. Bush election controversy.


In 1989, Rachel Cox, a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) student involved in a mock search-and-rescue mission, actually got lost in Wind Cave. The park received a call from a psychic who said Cox would be found in a room with “Duncan” in the name. When Cox was found, 37 hours after she went missing, she was located in a room that hadn’t been named. To fulfill the psychic’s prediction, they dubbed it Duncan Room.


In 1985, NOLS student Geoff Williams was the first brave soul to lead the expedition into a small, tight spot. They named the area after his mother's womb. Additionally, they named the tight crawl that led to the spot "Mrs. Williams Birth Canal." We're sure Mrs. Williams was flattered.


On October 31, 2000, a group of cavers took an ABC World News Tonight crew on a surveying expedition. During this trip, the crew happened to discover a series of rooms where someone had left an old newspaper many years before. The newspaper was dated October 31, 1897—and the fact that a newspaper from a Halloween over a century prior was found on Halloween seemed pretty spooky.

Also worth mentioning: The Backstreet Boys, Vanilla Ice, NSYNC, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Phish, Darkwing Duck, the pop group Dream, Chris Farley, John Wayne, Pizza Hut, Miller beer, Pee-wee Herman, Yahoo!, and even the Lycos search engine have spots named after them within the cave.

Why Macedonia Is Getting a New Name

For the first time since becoming an independent nation in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia is rebranding itself. As CNN reports, the Balkan nation will soon be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia, a name change that will hopefully help to heal the country's tense relationship with Greece.

Macedonia adopted its former title after gaining independence from Yugoslavia 27 years ago, and the name immediately caused conflict. Its neighbor to the south, Greece has a region of its own called Macedonia. Greece claimed that Macedonia's name suggested a sense of entitlement to territory that belonged to them and took it as an insult.

Even decades later, the bad blood stirred by the decision remained. Greece's issue with the name has even prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO. The new title, which was agreed upon by Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on June 11, is meant to be a step towards better relations between the two countries.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise—Republic of Northern Macedonia," Prime Minister Zaev said at a press conference, as reported by Reuters. Macedonia will hold a popular vote to officially change the name in a referendum later this year.

A country changing its name isn't uncommon, but reasons for the revision vary. In April 2018, the country formerly known Swaziland announced it would be called eSwatini, the name it went by prior to British colonization.

[h/t CNN]

Big Questions
Why Did Russia Sell Alaska to the United States of America?

Adam Weymouth:

America bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, a deal negotiated by William Seward, then US Secretary of State. That Russian heritage is still preserved in Alaska, in the surnames of those that live along the Yukon, names like Demoski and Kozevniko and Shaishniko, and in the onion domes of the Orthodox churches in the villages downriver. The U.S. purchase much derided at the time: the press dubbed it 'Seward’s folly," and the new acquisition as Walrussia.

The Russians had exhausted the fur trade after wiping out most of the sea otters, and they had then lost interest in Alaska, believing it had to have few other natural resources. Not sure what to do with their new half-billion acres, the U.S. governed [it] as a far-flung territory, with all the lawlessness that entailed. Statehood would not come until 1959, with the United States capitalizing on Alaska’s strategic military importance vis-à-vis Japan and Russia. But it was in 1967 that Seward’s folly hit pay dirt: The oilfield discovered on the North Slope would prove to be the largest in the United States.

Who can say what the situation would be if the Russians owned Alaska today? Russia would share a land border with Canada. The Russians would have benefited hugely from the 16 billion barrels of oil that have so far been extracted from Prudhoe Bay. The U.S. would have no claim on the Arctic, a place that will have huge political and economic importance as the icecap thaws during this century. It is quite possible that the world would look very different.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.


More from mental floss studios