City Laid Out Like Lizard

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Last week, Josh Williams, formerly of Curbed LA, emailed with an amazing link to an article, reportedly published back in 1934 by the L.A. Times, about a race of “lizard people” who once lived beneath the city.

“Did strange people live under site of Los Angeles 5000 years ago?” the article asks, supplying a bizarre treasure map through the city’s undersides in the process.

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Although you can read the article in full through these links, I wanted to give you a taste of the story’s strange mix of gonzo archaeology, Poltergeist-like pre-Columbian cultural anxiety, and start-up geophysical investigation squad:

So firmly does [a “geophysical mining engineer” named G. Warren Shufelt] believe that a maze of catacombs and priceless golden tablets are to be found beneath downtown Los Angeles that the engineer and his aides have already driven a shaft 250 feet into the ground, the mouth of the shaft behind on the the old Banning property on North Hill Street overlooking Sunset Boulevard, Spring Street and North Broadway.
And so convinced is the engineer of the infallibility of a radio X-ray perfected by him for detecting the presence of minerals and tunnels below the surface of the ground, an apparatus with which he says he has traced a pattern of catacombs and vaults forming the lost city, that he plans to continue sending his shaft downward until he has reached a depth of 1000 feet before discontinuing operations.

The article goes on to suggest that this ancient subterranean city was “laid out like [a] lizard”; we visit a Hopi “medicine lodge,” wherein geophysical secrets are told; there are lost gold hoards; and, all along, the engineer’s “radio X-ray” apparatus continues to detect inhabitable voids beneath the metropolis.

“I knew I was over a pattern of tunnels,” Shufelt is quoted, “and I had mapped out the course of the tunnels, the position of large rooms scattered along the tunnel route, as well as the position of the deposits of gold, but I couldn’t understand the meaning of it.”

Perhaps this is what we’d get if Steven Spielberg hired Mike Mignola to write the next installment of Indiana Jones.

(Thanks to Josh Williams, and to vokoban, who originally uploaded the scan. Vaguely related: The Hollow Hills and Mysterious Chinese Tunnels).

7 thoughts on “City Laid Out Like Lizard”

  1. Hi great blog you have here, seriosuly good stuff –

    one thing – something that seems a bit fishy about this article is the spelling in the title – surely the LA Times wouldn't be that bad not to notice such a massivly glaring error??? Ive certainly never seen such a bad spelling mistake in a newspaper headline

  2. Oh man this article has the scientist in me twisted up in knots.

    "radio x-ray" wow what a buzz-word.

    x-rays – visible light – microwaves – radio waves

    There is a vast gulf of waves separating x-rays from radio waves.

    Also, I am studying electron microscopy (which was *barely* invented by the publication date of this article), a part of which is the characterization of materials via X-ray spectrography. While it is true that X-rays go through just about everything (I only hope and pray my generative organs are shielded from the ancient student machines we get to use) they're not much use for characterizing materials – unless you've shot an electron beam into that material, then they can identify what lies within a micron or so of the surface, by generating a characteristic x-ray when the e-beam interacts with the electron orbitals.

    Just shooting an x-ray at something will either A) go through it or B) diffract around it. Will not, to my knowledge, identify gold.

    If you have a particle accelerator, you can generate enough x-rays to pass through a Van Gogh painting and see what he painted over. But not hundreds of feet below a city.

    I love "science" from the early 20th century. It makes me look forward to how laughably quaint iPhones and 20 petaflop supercomputers are going to look in about 50 years.

  3. And I, for one, welcome the return of our Sleestak overlords. I'd like to
    remind them that as a trusted TV personality, I can be helpful
    in rounding up others to toil in their underground Altrusian moth

  4. I'm the one who originally posted that on my flickr page and it is misspelled on the original. I do a lot of research using the Historical LA Times database, which can be accessed through the LAPL website if you have a library card, and there are tons of spelling errors that made it into print back then. The page which you can see in full size on the vokoban link on my flickr page is unretouched.

  5. anyone down for an indiana jones mission… i wonder what I can find down there.. then again theres nothing up here…

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