Marvel Cave is a National Natural Landmark located just west of Branson, Missouri, on top of Roark Mountain in Stone County. The cave was known by the Osage Indians in the early 16th century, after a tribe member fell through the cave's main entrance, a sinkhole. There is evidence that in 1541 the Spanish explored the cave, but the first recorded expedition was in 1869, led by Henry T. Blow. The unofficial Stone County chapter of Bald Knobbers, a local group of vigilantes, were rumored to have taken people to the top of Roark Mountain, and thrown them in the sink hole. Marvel Cave was originally called Marble Cave, after explorers in 1882 saw what they thought was marble on the cave's ceiling. This started the Marble Cave Mining Company, although later it was realized that there was never any marble in the cave. The Marble Cave Mining Company ceased all operations after only four and a half years. William Lynch purchased the cave in 1889, and soon after opened the cave to the public. In 1950, Hugo Herschend leased the cave for 99 years. The Herschends made renovations to the cave, and later opened a theme park, Silver Dollar City, on the surface above the cave. Marvel Cave is known for being one of the largest caves in Missouri, having one of the largest cave entry rooms (the Cathedral Room) of any cave in North America, and for being one of the longest running tourist attractions in the Ozarks.
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