John Jones Nutty Putty Cave

History Uncovered Episode 74:
The Harrowing Death Of John Jones Inside Nutty Putty Cave

Published September 29, 2023

Just before Thanksgiving 2009, John Jones and his family went exploring in Utah's Nutty Putty Cave — but their adventure ended in tragedy after he became trapped inside.

Just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, there lies a vast labyrinth of underground tunnels that have been sealed shut for nearly 15 years. Once a popular attraction for cave explorers and thrill-seekers, Nutty Putty Cave is now only a tomb, the grave of a doomed explorer named John Edward Jones who got trapped inside and died in 2009.

Nutty Putty Cave was documented for the first time in 1960 by a caver named Dale Green. The cave soon began drawing thousands of adventurers each year. However, it quickly proved treacherous. It contained several extremely tight passageways, which were given ominous names like “The Helmet Eater,” “The Scout Eater,” and “The Birth Canal.”

On November 24, 2009, 26-year-old John Jones visited Nutty Putty Cave with friends and family members as part of a pre-Thanksgiving adventure. They entered the cave in high spirits around 8 p.m., looking forward to exploring its famous tunnels — but Jones would never make it out.

The young medical student was determined to explore one of Nutty Putty’s most infamous passageways: the Birth Canal.

This was an exceptionally narrow tunnel that required spelunkers to crawl through with the utmost care and precision — if they dared enter at all. Not long after his descent began, Jones came across a passage that seemingly fit the description of the Birth Canal and made his way into the small opening head first, inching steadily along.

John Edward Jones

Jones family via Deseret NewsJohn Edward Jones, the man who died inside Nutty Putty Cave in 2009.

A few minutes later, Jones realized he had made a terrible mistake. He had not, in fact, found the Birth Canal, but had instead wedged himself into another narrow passage — and now, he had no way out.

He had no room to turn around. He couldn’t even wriggle out backwards. His only option, it seemed, was to press forward. Jones tried to squeeze through the tiny opening in front of him, but it was no use. He was stuck.

Trapped 400 feet from the cave’s entrance and 100 feet beneath the earth, Jones’ every little move only made his predicament worse. He hung helplessly upside-down at a 70-degree angle, a position that put great stress on his body and made every rescue attempt all the more urgent.

“I really, really want to get out,” Jones told the rescuers who flocked to the scene. But their succession of ideas — from using vegetable oil to ease him out of the cave to detonating explosives to blow their way through the cave wall — came to naught. Twenty-seven excruciating hours later, Jones died. The stress on his body was too much, and he suffered cardiac arrest.

The cave was then sealed up with his body still inside, right where he’d perished — and it hasn’t been opened to this day.

Go inside the full story of Nutty Putty Cave and the horrific death of John Edward Jones.

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