Sunday, March 1, 2015

Human remains in a Bucks County cave?

Serial killer and Mafia hit man Richard Kuklinski claimed to have murdered a lot of people. To hear him tell it – to the late author Philip Carlo - Kuklinski killed some 200 folks before he was locked up in the 1980s, including Jimmy Hoffa, whose body authorities are trying to find to this day.

Human remains in a Bucks County cave?

Serial killer and Mafia hit man Richard Kuklinski claimed to have murdered a lot of people. To hear him tell it – to the late author Philip Carlo - Kuklinski killed some 200 folks before he was locked up in the 1980s, including Jimmy Hoffa, whose body authorities are trying to find to this day.

Bucks County was apparently where Kuklinski did some of his most gruesome dirty work. Carlo’s book, “The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer,” offers several stories of Kuklinski disposing of a body -- or bodies -- in an unnamed Bucks County cave. Sometimes he left his victims there to be eaten alive by rats.

Or so Kuklinski said. The hit man, who died in prison in 2006, was reportedly a pathological liar.  

Kuklinksi told Carlo he killed a “playboy” who dated a mobster’s teenage daughter (see page 240):  “Within two days Richard snatched the playboy and took him to the caves in Bucks County, where he knew the rats lived.” The rest of the story is too gruesome to tell here.

Another time, Kuklinski said he disposed of the bodies of three men he killed after a bar fight (see page 61): “Richard had an uncanny sense of direction, and without much difficulty he managed to find the caves; one by one he carried the bodies inside and tossed them down a gaping, ominous hole.”     

Kuklinski’s story, depicted in this year’s movie “The Iceman," made me wonder: Are the remains of some of Kuklinski’s victims still hidden away in Bucks County?

Richard Kranzel, who wrote about the county’s caves for the National Speleological Society, told me that the long-closed Durham Mine is the only place large enough to hide human remains. The mine opened during the Revolutionary War, when its iron ore was made into cannon balls and gunshot. It was later used for commercial purposes before closing in 1908.

The thing is, Kranzel said, a lot of people have trekked inside the mine since Kuklinski’s time. And no one has reported coming across human bones.   

Durham Mine, which sits on private property in upper Bucks, has played informal host to spelunkers and party-goers. It also has drawn the interest of biologists and the Heritage Conservancy, which has sought to protect thousands of hibernating bats. (Nearly all of them were found dead in April, victims of a fungal infection).   

In the mid-1990s, police descended 600 feet into the mine after cavers reported seeing the nude body of a decapitated woman at the bottom of the shaft. As The Inquirer reported, the body turned out to be a life-sized mural.

Kranzel said he's skeptical of Kuklinski's claims, especially those of flesh-eating rats.

"The only rats I have encountered in caves are 'cave rats,' and they are reclusive and shy creatures, and definitely not fierce as Kuklinski claims," Kranzel said. "The fact that he states that his cave was in granite does place it on the hills though, as the valley floor is limestone."

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