I read ‘Ted’s Caving Page‘ back in high school, I guess. What are the dates on there – 2001? It was relatively new at the time. Just a random Angelfire (!) page in the wake of The Blair Witch Project – and I remember reading that same fight about Ted’s Caving Page at the time. Is it real or fake? And who really cares, as long as it’s a good story? In the case of The Blair Witch Project a lot of people cared because a lot of people made a lot of money off of it but in the case of Ted the Caver it didn’t really matter.
Geocities died but somehow Angelfire is still alive and kicking and there’s a certain security in that for me. In this case, the Angelfire aesthetic – Times New Roman, italics, light text on a dark background, tacky blinking banner ads, clicking through to each manually-named HTML file – is what makes the story real. This is what a lot of the internet looked like, even in 2001. This is what my first websites looked like in 1998. The aesthetic is, dare I say, authentic.
Interestingly, you can read the raw text of the story here and I think that it proves how effective the Angelfire layout is. Without the banner ads it’s just this poorly-written horror story.
And yeah, that’s actually all this was, apparently, by some dude named Thomas Lera and a PDF version, maybe the original, is available at the top of the page here. And reading the story in the form is yet another step removed. Most of it is word-for-word, other sections – notably the last seven pages – have been dropped entirely and elements have been added as well. Is this plagiarism? No-one is taking credit for the remake, 10 years later. Even if someone were to claim credit it’s not exactly clear what they’ve done beyond the technicality of an unauthorized reproduction which a lot of us will see as a grey area anyway. And in the tradition of a campfire story, copyright is really beside the point. Whoever built the Angelfire page reclaimed the initial short story as a common myth.
I’m not the only person to try to figure out Ted’s Caving Page: there is this page on Straight Dope and also this on the Internet Archive and then this and it just keeps on going. And the debate in each case is the same – who made this? Was someone ripped off? Is this a hoax? And here is yet another version of the story with yet another title – The Terror in Hupman’s Cave – somewhere between the PDF and Ted’s Caving Page.