Notes on Subterranean Shafts

By Vincent H. Gaddis

"There are sacraments of evil as well as of good about us, and we live and move to my belief in an unknown world, a place where there are caves and shadows and dwellers in twilight. It is possible that man may sometimes return on the track of evolution, and it is my belief that an awful love is not yet dead." — Arthur Machen

THROUGHOUT the world there are mysterious shafts, caves and tunnels built or inhabited by unknown beings who have vanished into the mists of pre-history. These visible links with a puzzling antiquity present problems to the modern world that are bewildering and baffling.

In Tibet there is a secret city, hidden in the world's highest mountains, and built at the top of a pit that drops deep into the earth; in Nova Scotia there is a strange underground chamber protected by ancient engineering so ingenious that it has baffled the best salvage experts; in Mexico the prehistoric Acapulco tunnel and the padre-protected and sealed opening at Xilitla remain unexplored.

South America, too, has its underground passages, linked with the long-lost and archaic Golden City at Manoa and the disappearance of the explorer Col. Percy Fawcett. In the Dark Mountains of our country there is the story of the "devil pit" concealed by rugged cliffs, while on the coast of India, covered by the sea so long ago that not even the incredibly aged records of that hoary country contain reference to them, are cities that apparently have been visited in modern times by mysterious constructions unknown to earth.

Behind these reports are implications and correlations of data that point to startling suggestions. There are spots on and under this planet that present profound enigmas — the gravity-defying vortexes in Oregon and California, for example, that may well be caused by buried machinery of ancient or extra-terrestrial origin — and the writer feels certain that we are on the verge of making some remarkable discoveries. Extensive correspondence with well-known authorities and explorers in America and England in recent months has produced a wealth of astonishing information that would fill a book. As my time permits, the material that can safely be made public will be released.

The Tibetan Shaft

IN A remote region of northern Tibet, Theodore Illion, playwright and world-traveler, found a mysterious shaft and an underground city devoted to evil. He tells the story in his book, Darkness Over Tibet (Rider and Co., London), which contains a detailed account of his observations and his almost-miraculous escape.

"The existence of an underground city in Tibet," he writes, "is occasionally hinted at by well-informed people in the forbidden country, although the stories are often extravagant and turn the city, which I succeeded in entering, into a 'Mighty Underground Empire inhabited by millions of people.' Tibet becomes somewhat more accessible as the years roll by, and I am confident that eventually other explorers will confirm my description of . . . (this) city."

After receiving a letter of introduction and directions from a native Tibetan occultist, Illion found the city near the Sangpo Valley, twenty miles from the nearest village. It is known as the "City of the Initiates," and consists of seven underground buildings that drop at least fourteen stories below the surface, the tops of these sub-surface constructions being level with the ground. They are built around a shaft, the top of which is surrounded by a wall four feet high and ten yards in diameter.

The top of each building consists of a large glass skylight that is level with the surface and can be quickly covered. In front of each is a narrow staircase going down to a heavy door. The buildings are connected by tunnels, are easily kept warm, and practically earthquake-proof. Several hundred inhabitants are under the rule of a Prince Mani Rimpotche, a tall, aged Tibetan with a white beard who speaks six languages, including English, and is remarkably well-informed about world affairs.

Illion learned that only one other westerner had ever visited the city, and he had lived and died there under a Tibetan name. Life in the city resembles that of an ant-hill under the absolute control of its ruler. No one is permitted to leave the city without permission, and every action of its dwellers is rigidly regulated.

The shaft itself appeared incredibly aged and very deep. Stones weighing up to twenty pounds were thrown in, but no sound reached Illion's ears. His inquiries revealed that only a few of the highest initiates knew what was at the bottom, and any other person who found out would die — "there are such secrets" — with death automatically following the discovery.

This city is apparently the headquarters of a widespread secret organization with agents scattered throughout the Orient — perhaps even in the west, according to additional information reaching the writer recently. Illion's discovery of the concealed evil nature of this city which poses as good, his refusal to become an agent, his escape and the uncanny nature of his pursuit are details that will be found in his book.

It is hoped that additional observations may be made by travelers in future years. The fact that possession of this mysterious shaft is in evil hands is very suggestive, and it is one of the reasons why I feel that stories and doctrines coming out of Tibet and apparently devoted to mankind's best interests must be carefully considered before they are blindly accepted as truth.

The Oak Island Pit

SEVERAL months ago I wrote an article on the famous so-called "money pit" on Oak Island in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. It has been generally believed that this amazing shaft and underground chamber is the work of pirates, and that it contains a treasure of fabulous value. The story of how this shaft was accidentally discovered in 1795 by three young men, and the long tale of repeated attempts by salvage companies to solve the problem of the sea-water tunnel system that protects the chamber will be found in my original article.

Briefly, here are the facts: At some remote period a small army of workmen and a number of vessels arrived at this small island in the bay. No one knows who they were, where they came from, how long ago they arrived, or what they placed in the shaft. They sunk a shaft thirteen feet in diameter and at a depth of 150 feet built a large chamber of cement, iron and oak beams, at least forty feet in height, on a seven-inch concrete floor.

Something was placed in the chamber, which was then sealed. In the meantime other workmen were constructing a series of twisting tunnels to the shaft from the sea. At least two tunnels are definitely known to exist; there are likely others. One of the tunnels was run to an inlet where a huge artificial beach was made with tons and tons of unidentified fiber, covered with gravel and soil, so that it served as a vast sponge forcing water into the tunnel regardless of low tides.

As the shaft was filled, obstructions of various kinds — planks, fiber, concrete, putty, even charcoal — were placed every ten feet. When the shaft was filled, the tunnels were opened, and the unknown workmen left the island never to return. All attempts to sink shafts, therefore, and recover the buried objects are frustrated by the water coming in from the sea. There is no way to hold back the flood of water that comes in faster than pumps can operate. No concealed shut-off valves for the tunnels can be located. The best salvage experts and engineers of modern times have been unable to solve the problem.

After writing the article it occurred to me that here was a mystery that went beyond the mere attempt of pirates to conceal some stolen gold. The matter of the inscribed stone found at the 90-foot level, for example. It was a flat piece of quarried basalt, about three feet long by 16 inches wide, covered with "peculiar characters which nobody could decipher." Doubtless this inscription was the key to the mystery, but it has disappeared, and no copy of the characters was ever made. Pirates did not inscribe stones, mix concrete, build artificial beaches or sink shafts to such incredible depths.

Then came a letter to the writer from Harold T. Wilkins, world-famous authority on pirate lore and prehistoric history (See Who's Who). Mr. Wilkins wrote: "I have long theorised that the so-called money pit in Nova Scotia is far from any pirate-made pit, as no pirates, even if they were military engineers, would excavate a pit over a hundred feet deep. In Nova Scotia, at one or more points, there are also the phenomena of mysterious footprints in stone — in one case leading across what is now a swamp to a very queer elevation."

After receiving this letter, I decided to make further inquiries, and learned that other writers suspect the prehistoric construction of this shaft and chamber. Charles Driscoll, for example, in his book Doubloons, suggests that it may date back to an early and unknown colony of Scandinavians who buried their accumulated wealth, attempted to return to Europe, and Were all lost at sea. Realizing that his idea is far-fetched, he challenges the reader to think up a better explanation. On the other hand, Dr. A. Hyatt Verrill (Lost Treasure) writes: "It is obvious that whoever placed the treasure at the bottom of that deep pit on Oak Island, and deliberately flooded the shaft, had no intentions of ever recovering it. Whoever buried it there buried it for all time, to be utterly beyond reach, and so far their efforts have met with entire success."

There are other mysterious factors; in fact the entire matter is utterly baffling and without a clue. In 1894 the chamber was penetrated by a drill, and when the drill was brought to the surface a scrap of parchment the size of a pea, torn from a large sheet, was found clinging to it. In India ink were the characters "WI" or "VI" which, as Driscoll remarks, "may be almost anything in almost any language."

Then there is the fiber found in the shaft and used in the artificial beach. According to T. D. Barrett (True Tales of Buried Treasure), no botanist has ever been able to identify it. It resembles cocoanut fiber, and is apparently of tropical origin. Nevertheless, thousands of tons of this substance, shipload after shipload, was brought here centuries ago to form a beach 150 feet long to act as permanent protective reservoir.

The island itself is a mystery. It is one of over 300 islands in the bay, yet it alone possesses oak trees, red clover, and several other plants. In early days the settlers believed it was haunted, and there were many tales of strange lights, mysterious sounds, and even the disappearance of several explorers. Today the island is riddled with shafts, torn from dynamite explosions, and the chamber, penetrated many times by drills, is flooded with water. The latest idea is to excavate the entire center of the island with modern machinery. It will cost $250,000, but a company will probably be formed within the next few years to make the attempt. Perhaps, then, Oak Island will give up its long-held secret.

Mystery In Mexico

RISING above the Pacific near Acapulco, Mexico, is a sheer rocky cliff, protected from the sea by jagged boulders that make a landing possible only by native canoe. In the face of this cliff is an artificial tunnel, regarded with superstitious dread by the natives. Known as the "Cave of the Pirates," it was obviously made by a pre-historic, patient race, and since there are no safe anchorage spots nearby it is doubtful that pirates ever used it.

It has never been fully explored, and it apparently goes back into the earth for an incredible distance. The walls are remarkably smooth and decorated with untranslated inscriptions and figures. Long delayed echoes reveal its astonishing depth. It has been known to the Indians for some years, but they avoid it and tell of strange lights that they have observed near its mouth. Although access to it is difficult, this man-made, vast and unexplored ancient tunnel deserves investigation. Why it was constructed in such a treacherous spot on a barren cliff is itself a mystery.

On the road from Mexico City to Laredo, down the Montezuma river valley, is the Indian town of Tamazunchale. Twenty-five miles from this town, on a rough side road, is Xilitla, where the ruins of an old Spanish monastery lie surrounded by a wall of masonry. On one side this wall is built against the side of a cliff.

Some years ago an earthquake shook the village and part of the ancient wall collapsed revealing a tunnel cut into the cliff. The sides of the tunnel bore mysterious inscriptions and figures of birds, snakes and curious unknown mussels. The local Indians kept away from the passage, but one day two Americans who were passing through the village decided to explore it. Hours later they emerged greatly excited and left the town, stating that they would return. But they never came back.

No one knows who these Americans were or what they found. The padres, for reasons known only to themselves, sealed the tunnel again by rebuilding the wall. In more recent years they have absolutely refused to permit exploration, although they state that they have no knowledge of what lies within — which is probably true. Only time will reveal the answer.

The Ozark Legend

SINCE the Ozark region has already been referred to as the site of an underground shaft, it is of interest to note that there exists an old legend in various parts of Missouri and Arkansas of a great hole in the ground, surrounded by great cliffs, from which strange sounds, lights and odors emerge. Known as the "devil pit," its location is not known, although men of previous generations claimed to have visited the place years ago. According to Vance Randolph (Ozark Ghost Stories), these old accounts state that "strange people live on the escarpments, throw odd things into the bottomless pit at night, particularly when the moon it full . . . (and) there are tales of dark-visaged foreigners traveling at night, who make regular pilgrimage to the place from distant parts of the country."

Fred Allsopp, in his Folklore of Romantic Arkansas, also refers to this story. Although there is a deep canyon with high walls called the "devil's half acre" near Mena, Ark, the legend is not known to the local inhabitants. It may be added that Breadtray Mountain in Stone County, Mo., is the scene of many reports of mysterious phenomena, and Otto Rayburn (Ozark Country) writes that "Breadtray has a legendary reputation seldom paralleled." Judge Tom Moore (Mysterious Tales and Legends of the Ozarks) states that persons who visit the mountain at night hear sobs, groans and screams, and that his report "does not come from second-hand information, nor is it based on hearsay."

Also, the mysterious lights on a lonely stretch of country road called the "devil's promenade" in northeastern Oklahoma, fourteen miles from Joplin, Mo., and five miles from Highway 66, are famous. Anyone, on any clear night, can see them, and repeated investigations have failed to produce an explanation. Other strange things have happened along this stretch of road, according to Randolph.

The lights resemble automobile headlights with dimmers on, vary from the size of an egg to that of a washtub, and always travel in an easterly direction. They appear in varying colors at varying heights, but never more than a few feet from the road. Old-timers claim they were there fifty years before the road was built and when the area was a woods. When approached they usually vanish or rise high into the air, and they are said to radiate heat. When pursued they often react as if guided intelligently.

The Indian Sea Enigma

SINCE 1750 shipping masters in the Indian Ocean and adjacent waters have been reporting their observations of mysterious huge wheeled constructions, luminous and slowly revolving, under, rising from, or entering the sea. Hundreds of these reports have been published in the Marine Observer, issued by the British Meteorological Office, since 1850. Although nautical journals have discussed the enigma at various times, very little information about these observations has reached the general public.

In 1935, the late Charles Fitzhugh Talman, Chief Meteorologist of the U.S. Weather Bureau, in commenting on the report of the steamer Talma in 1929, wrote: "These tales that come to us year after year from the Indian Ocean of luminous wonders as weird as anything Poe ever imagined" cannot be explained by modern science. "The whole business," he added, "is so astounding that one wonders why no scientific expedition has yet investigated it."

Details on a number of these reports will be found in The Books of Charles Fort. Most significant is the localized nature of these observations. Moreover, a check of records reveals that a large proportion of these appearances, limited as they are to the Indian Ocean area, have been off the western coast of India.

Beneath the sea in this region, according to James Churchward (Children of Mu), lies "a large area of submerged land with structures showing thereon." This submerged land is of an oval shape, with the Lacadive and Maldive Islands lying within its boundaries. At several points both north and south of these islands are regions of very shallow water, crossed by channels of greater depth, and on clear days when the surface of the water is quiet and the sun is in the correct position, the "imposing remains of ancient structures are clearly to be seen."

Obviously this area was once a part of India, but no record of its submergence is mentioned in Hindu history no matter how far one goes back. The structures are of a very large size and indicate a prehistoric civilization highly advanced.

Is there any relationship between these puzzling ocean-dwelling wheels and this long-lost culture of pre-history? Where do these huge circular structures come from, and where do they go? What conceivable purpose do they have in submerging below the Indian Ocean — and only in this — localized area? It is quite possible that the answers to these questions, when they are known, will be as astonishing and incredible as these reports are to us today.


  1. Illion, Theodore. Darkness over Tibet. London: Rider & Co., 1937. Print. <>
  2. Verrill, A H. Lost Treasure: True Tales of Hidden Hoards. New York: D. Appelton and Co, 1930. Print. <>
  3. Barrett, T. D. True Tales of Buried Treasure: Famous, Mysterious, and Fascinating Treasures. Girard, Kan: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1946. Print. <>
  4. Randolph, Vance. Ozark Ghost Stories: Gruesome and Humorous Tales of the Supernatural in the Backwoods of the South. Girard, Kan: Haldeman-Julius Publications, 1944. Print. <>
  5. Allsopp, Frederick W. Folklore of Romantic Arkansas. New York: Grolier Society, 1931. Print. <>
  6. Moore, Tom. Mysterious Tales and Legends of the Ozarks. Philadelphia: Dorrance and Co, 1938. Print. <>
  7. Fort, Charles, and Tiffany Thayer. The Books of Charles Fort. New York: Pub. for the Fortean Society by H. Holt and Co., 1941. Print. <>
  8. Churchward, James. The Lost Continent of Mu. New York: I. Washburn, 1931. Print. <>

As presented in Amazing Stories, June 1947.

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