Post details: Baptist Bible Camp

04/27/07

Permalink 05:52:25 pm, Categories: Urban Exploration, 1213 words   English (US)

Baptist Bible Camp

A few weeks ago, Redox and I decided to take a roadtrip to the Joplin area to see if we could witness the famous Hornet Spook Light. For those of you who haven't heard of it, the Spook Light is a bright luminescent ball that appears almost nightly in a specific area in southwest Missouri. It is known to dance around all crazy-like, and is still unexplained.

To sum up that part of the trip: The Spook Light is an ass, and apparently doesn't like to appear when it's pouring down rain all night. Stupid Spook Light. But I'm not bitter. Luckily, earlier in the evening Redox and I explored an "abandoned" bible camp that we'd been tipped off to. It apparently even had a cave on site where we had heard that the KKK used to hold meetings (we later found out that this was a different cave, not the one at the bible camp). It alone turned out to be worth the trip, in my opinion.

Although we had a pretty good idea of where this bible camp was supposed to be, it still took Redox and I almost three hours to find it, mainly due to some confusion over the fact that there are 17 different Highway 71s in Joplin. I'm not kidding, either. We had no idea what this place looked like, so a few times we asked each other things like "Do you think that's it?" When we finally pulled up to it, though, we knew we were there. The place looks like a spectacular hunting lodge perched atop a cliff that rises above a spring-fed lake. I know that's a mouthful, but it really is beautiful.

As we wandered around the camp, I became fairly certain that it hadn't been used in a number of years. The site looked pretty run down, especially the pool and baseball field area. It didn't seem like the place was in any shape to have kids staying there and using the facilities.

I was especially amazed at one of the things that I found near the swimming pool. There was what appeared to be an old well, but upon furthur inspection turned out to be a water spigot made to look like a well. What surprised me, though, was the fact that the "well" was clearly labeled. It claimed that it was the "Purest Water Known." This piqued my interest, so I made sure to take a sample of this "Purest Water Known." I have since sent said sample to a lab, and the test results have proven without a doubt that this water is not, as stated on the well, the purest water known. That title is still awarded to Aquafina. This only proves my long-held theory: You can't trust Baptists when it comes to their claims about the purity of their water!!! They're full of crap!

After wandering the lower portions of the complex, Redox and I trekked up the hill to the main buildings. Redox found an open window almost immediately, allowing us to explore the basement of one of the buildings. It was apparently used to house campers, as it was crammed with more bunk beds than I would have ever thought would fit in such a space. After trying one of the light switches, I was given my first hint that this place was not really "abandoned." All the electricity and plumbing in the buildings was working perfectly. This turned out to be in my favor, as the long drive from St. Louis had left me with needing to make a massive boom-boom. There was even toilet paper!

After searching this basement, we realized that there was no connection to the floors above. This turned out to be a recurring theme at the camp: Redox and I would find another entrance only to learn that it didn't really go anywhere but into that room. Everything was either locked up tight or just didn't have any connection to the rest of the building it was in. We were able to get into the uppermost floor of the other main building, which turned out to be in an awful state of disrepair complete with mold and decay. Hopefully, no campers had used this area in some time. I fould a weight bench and took the oppertunity to get my swoll on, as they say.

We also were able to get into what looked to be the "great hall." It was a large octagonal room with windows on almost all sides and a beautiful fireplace. This too, though, was only connected to doors leading back outside, not the rest of the buildings. The only door leading furthur into the building was crammed with beds stacked six feet high. I do mean crammed, too. I was unable to open the door more than a few inches. It was in this building that I found a program from when the camp was active. It outlined the schedule of events for the summer of 2006! The fact that this place had been used the previous summer was amazing to me, considering the poor state of most of the facilities. It stands to reason that it will probably be used again this summer. I certainly hope that some work is put into before the campers arrive again.

The most exciting part of the trip was definately the cave at the bottom of the cliff. I really just don't know what to make of it. It is just a doorway into the hillside with a large metal bear head mounted above it. What the? The inside of the cave was even more interesting. Redox found a turned on a light switch, and the entire cave lit up! The cave didn't retain it's natural features, as stone walls and steps had be built in most of the areas. A large meeting-type room opened up at the end of the passage. Redox found a shaft leading up into the buildings above with a fan at the top. Apparently, this is one of the ways the buildings are cooled during the summer: Cool air is circulated up from the cave through the shaft and into the buildings.

Aside from the cooling system, I just don't understand what the cave was used for. It had obviously had a lot of work put into it, and I know for a fact that the camp is not currently using, as the rules in the program I found clearly state "No playing around on the cliff or in the cave!" But why was it hollowed out into a large room, and why was it wired for lights? I really don't think that the camp buildings were built with the idea of using them for a camp in mind. The stone work is too nice. Redox seemed to think that it was some sort of lodge or retreat for wealthy folks, and was subsequently sold to the Baptists who then turned it into a summer bible camp. I just can't say. I do have some advice for the campers who will arrive this summer, though: Don't listen to the rule about the cave...it's super cool and you have to check it out! While you're at it, go ahead and climb the cliffs too!

Comments:

Comment from: Kevin Wolf [Visitor]
My church used to have a fall retreat here for junior youth 'Sex-Ed' seminars. The lectures and videos were awkward as hell, but I remember the campground being especially fun in the late fall when the lake would freeze over and we'd go out ice-skating after evening devotions in the 'great hall' area you described. I also recall the 'pure water' well, (we did some sort of hokey cleansing ceremony there) and the basement rooms leading to nowhere which were designed to segregate gender and age groups (though it seemed a bit overdone). Overall the campground was a pretty decent place when it was in use and well maintained. I can't recall the cave with the bear's head above it....was it far away from the rest of the complex?

Thanks for posting another great exploration adventure. It's interesting to come back to these places from my childhood and see what they're like (or how far they have decayed) after so many years.

Also....if you're still interested, I'm still putting together that group art show for abandoned buildings/urban exploration/local history in St. Louis that I emailed you about a few weeks ago. We're still looking for artwork in any medium that relates to these subjects, and would be happy to receive work from you, or anybody you know making artwork along these lines.

So if anyone who reads this would like to take part in regional showcase of said artwork, please email me at kwolf@bust.com with some jpegs of your work. We're looking for videos, photos, found items, sculptures, drawings, and just about anything else.
I'll be putting together packets for galleries at the end of May, so do it now!
-kevin wolf
Permalink 05/08/07 @ 11:20
Comment from: Nathan [Visitor]
Can I be your friend and go to these places with you?
Permalink 05/22/07 @ 22:11
Comment from: squadcar [Visitor]
About 7 or 8 years ago, while this camp was still in operation and with the permission of the caretaker, my buddies and I searched this campground with our metal detectors. We found hundreds of newer coins, but very little old stuff. Anyway, the caretaker told us that the main building was originally a private hunting lodge, and that later it became a hotel, and later still, a camp. There was an old legend about the cave being used as slave quarters, but none of the buildings are anywhere near that old. Perhaps there were older buildings on the same site way back before the Civil War. BTW, the "purest water known" is a Biblical reference, not a scientific claim.
Permalink 07/10/07 @ 15:45
Comment from: moriskod [Visitor]
I went to this camp 30 years ago as a teenager.. not much has changed!! some years that I went there they used the 2 pools as a "girls" and "boys" pool as it was unholy to have "mixed" bathing as they called it.. the pools were fed with cave spring water from the pond.. it was VERY cold as you might expect.. There was a rumor that that cave was a private club during prohibition and there was drinking and ladies of the evening used cabins above for "entertaining".
Permalink 07/26/07 @ 18:08
Comment from: raised in the ozarks [Visitor]
Dear Squadcar, and any one else that knows the location of this church, meeting hall or what ever the function(s) of the big building by the cave: I'd love to know more about where this site is. Maybe someone knows the address? Maybe from the program that was found while exploring it, or any other sorce? It sounds like a place worth visiting. Thanks for sharing your pics, and stories.

raised in the ozarks
Permalink 08/12/07 @ 21:19
Comment from: Hopscotch [Visitor]
this is fantastic, beautiful photos! i'm researching this place right now, hopefully i'll get to see it soon :)
Permalink 08/14/07 @ 23:40
Comment from: Christina [Visitor]
As you already said the camp isnt at all abandoned, but really gets to looking that way. I sorta freaked when you said it was abandoned because attending that was one of the most tramatic experiences of my very shy childhood. The website for that camp shows the pictures of what it gets to looking like during camp times. It was pretty neat to see how it looks in down time, and seeing that I cant help but wonder just how sanitary it really is.

http://www.sagmountcamp.com/

Thanks for the memories!
Permalink 12/05/07 @ 15:32
Comment from: Gerd [Visitor] · http://www.cigland.com
Very nice site!
Permalink 01/29/08 @ 08:49
Comment from: redox [Visitor]
I'd like to go back here sometime. And, I still want to glimpse that damned elusive sopoklight.
Permalink 08/31/08 @ 12:33
Comment from: Mark [Visitor]
Looks like they have fixed things up quite a bit. But it looks like they are using a lot of portable trailers and stuff. Here's their website talking about 2009 activities.
http://www.sagmountcamp.com/
Permalink 01/28/09 @ 10:41
Comment from: jenna [Visitor]
So do you know where the sonrise cave is?
Permalink 05/24/09 @ 13:58
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Permalink 07/28/09 @ 19:22
Comment from: edhardyclub [Visitor] · http://www.edhardyclub.com
Thank you for your help!
Permalink 12/03/09 @ 21:56
Comment from: Stacy [Visitor]
My kids who are now 17 and 14 attended this camp multiple times during grade school. I've been there and been in several of the building and the opening just inside the door to the cave as well. During camps it looks just like your pictures except with kids and their stuff. My kids usually came home sick from camp. Wonder why? The pools were in bad shape and they still had separate pools for boys and girls until one of them was in too bad of shape to let the kids in. Floating moss, green water, etc. I would tell my kids not to swim in the water, but it's so hot down there that it was the only way for them to stay cool. After one pool was closed down, they started letting the boys and girls swim in the same pool. I don't know if they had separate times for Tre genders or not. Different denominations use this camp, not just Baptists. Anyway Nazarenes used it as well.
Permalink 08/05/10 @ 02:43

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