The Hellfire Caves – also known as the Hell-Fire Caves and West Wycombe Caves – are a network of man-made chalk and flint caverns that extend a quarter of a mile (500 metres) underground. They are situated nearby the village of West Wycombe, in Buckinghamshire, England.
The caverns were excavated between 1748 and 1752 for Francis Dashwood, co-founder of the infamous Hellfire Club, whose meetings were held underground. Many rumours of black magic, satanic rituals and orgies circulated during the life of the club. Dashwood’s club meetings often included erotic rituals, much drinking, wenching and banqueting.
There has been much paranormal interest and many ghost stories about the caves. In 2004 and 2007 they were visited by British and American paranormal reality TV shows Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters. Ghost Adventures visited the site in 2012 as part of the episode, “Hellfire Cave.” The caves were also featured on Great British Ghosts in January 2012.
Among the ghosts said to haunt the caves is that of Paul Whitehead, a close friend of Sir Francis Dashwood, who had been the Secretary and Steward to the Hellfire Club. When he died in 1774, as his will requested, his heart was placed in an elegant marble urn. It was sometimes taken out to display to visitors, but was allegedly stolen in 1829 by an Australian soldier. Legend holds that the ghost of Whitehead haunts the caves, searching for his heart. Numerous visitors and staff have reported seeing a man in old-fashioned clothing wandering the passageways.
The striking entrance to the caves is designed as the façade of a mock gothic church and built from flint and chalk mortar. Since 1951, they have been operating as a tourist attraction.