Missouri cave provides glimpse of history in a beautiful landscape
COLUMBIA - One of the world's most famous tales is partially set in a Missouri cave, and the spirit of the author is still alive and well there.
A tour of Mark Twain Cave, in Hannibal, features locations from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." Visitors can also hear the words of Mark Twain from Jim Waddell, who performs a 55-minute show as the writer.
Waddell tells stories of Twain when he was a boy and played in the cave with his friends. The show also includes anecdotes from throughout Twain's life.
It has drawn so much attention, the state sent Waddell to perform in Japan. Waddell said this is primarily because of Twain's worldwide popularity.
"Mark Twain is just an international phenomenon," he said. "His writings and his philosophies are still cherished around the world. 'Tom Sawyer' has a lot to do with it because that is the story about childhood, and childhood is equal everywhere."
Waddell has been in tourism since the 70's and said his favorite part of performing is the "instant gradification," he gets from his audience.
"If somebody comes in to see my performance and they're having a good time, then I have a wonderful time," he said.
In addition to seeing the literary features of the cave, visitors can also see where the infamous outlaw Jesse James took shelter after a train robbery in 1879.
Waddell said the cave gets visitors of all kinds, from Mark Twain scholars to school children on a field trip. He said everyone can enjoy the cave because of Twain's relatability.
"He was very poor when he was a child, and struggled very much to become a prominent author," Waddell said. "But he was as comfortable with the king and queen as he was with the guy that was digging the ditch, and got along with everybody the same way. And there's something about that philosophy, that just rings through in all of this works, and he's just a great student of human nature."