The no-man's land of the underground has always fascinated and terrified mankind. Most of the time when people are consumed by their daily errands they do not give it much thought. Some places are created by the earth itself such as caves and sinkholes, but others were purposely made by people to enhance their daily existence. Tunnels, subways and sewer systems are some of these. However in these places where sunlight seldomly invades it, many of the sightings of things that exist here inspire the utmost terror.
These are the places that create innumerable tales of strange creatures. But are all these stories just the product of vivid imaginations?
The Lizard People of Los Angeles
In January 1934, the Los Angeles Times printed an article detailing where a geophysical mining engineer, G. Warren Shufelt sunk a shaft under Fort Moore Hill in an attempt to find the Lizard People and their priceless treasures.
He believed that a maze of catacombs were beneath Los Angeles, and the shaft was sunk 250 feet into what was then known as the old Banning property on North Hill Street, overlooking Sunset Blvd., Spring Street and North Broadway. He hoped to dig the shaft down to 1000 feet.
He visited Little Chief Greenleaf (AKA L. Macklin) of the medicine lodge of the Hopi Indians in Arizona. He told Shufelt the tunnels he located were part of three lost cities on the Pacific coast. The one in LA was dug by the Lizard people, approximately 5000 years before after a "great catastrophe" described as a "huge tongue of fire which came out of the Southwest, destroying all life in its path." The tunnels were a means of escape.
The Lizard people used chemicals instead of shovels to dig the tunnels, which started at the coast, and were made to drain into the ocean. The motion of the tides provided ventilation into the shafts.
Large rooms located in the domes of the hills above the city provided housing for more than 1000 families. They also stored herbs in the catacombs as food.
These people regarded the lizard as a symbol of long life, and they fashioned their city in this form. The tail is to the southwest "below Fifth and Hope streets, its head to the northeast, at Lookout and Marda streets." The most important place is a room directly under South Broadway near Second street.
Here they kept tablets documenting history including that of the Mayans, and another tablet records the "origins of the human race".
Shufelt said that he had taken pictures of 37 of these tablets with his "radio x-ray" machine.
Macklin said the Lizard people were more intelligent then modern humans.
Shufelt's pursuit of the proof of the lizard people perhaps brought a stint of bad luck to his personal life. In November 1935, his wife Mildred died from the effects of drinking an indigestion remedy made from flouride-contaminated soda. In total 3 persons died, and another 20 became ill from the poisoning. Perhaps because of this event, Shufelt and his two partners gave up on locating the catacombs, stating that they were probably deeper then they originally anticipated.
Another attempt was made in 1938 by Frank Carlson who requested a permit to dig 15 feet where he expected to find gold and silver nuggets. He agreed to give the county 25% of what he found. He didn't have any better luck than Shufelt.
Another story is that bullion was buried in this place. It was brought down from Northern California by a George Whiteman during the Gold Rush days. He was a soldier who became a wagon-train operator. Instead of digging for gold he got into the business of transporting food which the miners paid for in the form of gold nuggets. During those days, the safest place to keep this treasure was in the ground. Some say he buried it at Ft. Moore Hill, others claim he had exchanged the nuggets for Spanish coins.
Whiteman never took anyone into his confidence, and he died with the secret.
Another story involves a cache of Spanish doubloons hidden near the entrance of the Hollywood Bowl, with a whispered curse of a violent death for anyone who hunts it or has anything to do with it.
Alligators in the Sewers
Sewers have many strange things in them, but none stranger than alligators which are said to roam New York City's. These stories go far back into the 1930s when families bought baby alligators and then flushed them down the toilet or released them into the sewer system when they got too big to care for them. These animals ate trash and rats, survived and grew.
Throughout the years sewer workers told of coming across alligators. Some were described as albinos or mutants with weird coloring and larger then normal size.
Robert Daley, the author of The World Beneath the City written in 1959 had a chapter dedicated to these sightings. He interviewed Teddy May, Commissioner of Sewers in New York. According to May sightings of alligators dated back to 1935. So many reports from workers came to his desk that he personally inspected the sewers and was surprised to come across these creatures which averaged two feet in length. By 1937 they were cleaned out after an effort was made to poison or kill them.
In February 1935, an article appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, where little boys found an 8-foot alligator in a Manhattan sewer. It was under a snow-stuffed manhole. It died and was cremated at the Barren Island incinerator. No explanation was made how it ended up at this place.
In 2010, an alligator measuring 2 feet long was found under a car near a sewer opening at Newton Avenue and 29th Street, in the heart of Queens, New York. Surrounded by startled onlookers, an Emergency Service Unit used a long pole and a noose to corral the creature into a cage and capture it. The animal was handed over to City Animal Care & Control officers, who sent it to a wildlife sanctuary. In an perhaps ominous addition to the story, in the wake of the baby alligator’s capture, Animal Care and Control spokesman Richard Gentles stated that between two to four alligators or crocodiles are rescued in the city by his agency every year. It is not known how many of those statistical alligators were recovered from sewers.
In 2017, a 45 inch alligator was captured in the Tioughnioga River near Whitney Point (upstate New York), where the river crosses beneath Interstate 81. A week before a slightly smaller one was captured a quarter mile downstream. Both of them were taken to Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville.
Whether the reports of mutant, albino gator existing in the sewers of New York is true or not, there is evidence that regular ones have flourished in the dank tunnels beneath the city.
In 2008, The Daily Mail reported where crews at Southern Water's treatment plan in Eastbourne, East Sussex claimed to see a "humanoid figure" that followed them around in the underground tunnels. There were so many reports that they a hired a parapsychologist Michael Kingscote, who is also a clairvoyant who found areas where he sensed unusual activity took place, and it coincided where workers felt uneasy. There are also reports of voices being heard in the distant reaches of the tunnels.
Another worker said: "I believe in ghosts and I'm sure there's something in there. I dread doing the night shift".
Is this creature real or just a lost soul haunting the place where perhaps it met its end?
Creature in the Mine
In 1875, a silver-bearing mine called The Little Emma, about 6 miles southeast from Helena, was believed to be haunted. A 125-foot shaft was sunk on the lode, with several tunnels running along it. Twelve miners were working it on both day and night shifts.
A water-filled shaft was regularly emptied out by a horse-driven pump. One night a beam fell on the horse and killed it.
The next night, at the breast of the tunnel, about 70 feet from the shaft the workers heard an unearthly voice. The sound echoed around them. They were so fearful they went to the shaft and even a man at the top had heard the weird yelling, and asked the group at the bottom what was causing it.
They were an hour shy of quitting time, so they went back to work. However they were so unnerved they left two lookouts to keep an eye out through the gloom of the drift.
Every now and then the call would be repeated, starting out loud and piercing then dying out with with a wail.
The following days and nights the calls were repeated. The miners were so convinced the tunnels were haunted that some of them proposed to quit and return to Helena.
None could explain how the death of the horse triggered a creature that moaned incessantly in the bowels of the earth. Was it a ghost, a hobgoblin or a malevolent tommy-knocker?
The Van Meter Bat Creature
In 1903, a small Iowa town reported an encounter with a strange monster. It was described as a bat-like creature that came out of an abandoned mine.
The sighting had several witnesses including many of the town's well-respected citizens. which described it as half-human with enormous bat wings flying about. It presence was announced by a disagreeable stink, it traveled at high speed and a blinding light shot from its horned head.
The citizens of Van Meter shot at the creature as it flew across building tops, but with no effect. The town doctor and Peter Dunn, a bank worker saw it and took a plaster cast of its "great three-toed tracks".
The third night, it perched on top of a telephone pole. Residents said it hopped about and a school teacher described it as a "devil".
The townsfolk decided to follow it into an abandoned coal mine near a brickyard where they heard strange noises.
On October 3, 1903, the Des Moines Daily News reported, "Presently the noise opened up again, as though Satan and a regiment of imps were coming forth for battle".
Just when the town thought it couldn't get any worse, the bat creature appeared with a smaller one next to it. Both flew away but returned in the morning. The men of the town were armed and ready to kill them, but this was the last seen of these creatures as they returned back into the shaft of the old mine.
Despite the passage of time, over a hundred years, the residents of Van Meter still pass down the story of the strange creature sighted in their town.
Humans always suspect strange things lurk in the darkness, but there is no gloom more impenetrable then that found underground. Is it any wonder that monsters or never before seen beings call tunnels, sewers and caves their homes?
What else exists underneath our feet as we go about our daily lives?
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer