I write this to share with you a very peculiar discovery. It was a steamy April morning. The ground was still wet from last night’s rainstorm and I had set out along the local nature trail to do some hiking, maybe even some bird watching. I was out a good bit into the woods when I chanced upon a wide clearing with an excellent view of rolling green hills dotted with budding dogwoods. I had dug my camera out of my bag when I noticed a tall, curious shape standing dark and still upon the soft grassy hill. From where I stood, it looked very much like an old church tower that you’d see in the moors of old Ireland. It was a weekend and I had time to kill so I decided I might as well investigate, if nothing else it would provide good material for my blog.
As I climbed up the deceptively steep hill, I had noticed a nearby shack, long abandoned and rotted to pieces, farther up was the tower, a gray, two-story building with the stones laid in such an odd way that I couldn’t quite figure where one stone ended and the one below it began. The front of the tower was marked by a plain cast-iron door that had suffered several decades’ worth of rust and was lying open. I stood there for a bit, trying to see anything in the murky dark behind the old door. After a minute or so, I summoned up the courage to step inside.
The tower interior was as base as the rest of it, with gray stone walls and a hard floor. Further into the room was an incline that steadily drew down into pitch black. I didn’t venture very far down, that was something for braver souls than I, but at the head of the incline was a very dusty old book. I picked it up off the cold stone floor and stepped back outside to get a good look at it in the light of day.
It was a worn, filthy thing, but underneath the dust I could tell that it used to be a very nice book. Moleskin binding with a brass clasp on the front, copper inlay on the spine… It would have been quite lovely if it was in better shape. I shoved the thing into my bag and headed back home; I’d had enough adventure for one day. At home, I opened up the journal to find a name on the first page:
Never heard of him. Flipping through the pages, I discovered that Mr. Boling had managed to fill roughly one-fourth of the pages with his writing before abandoning it at that dismal old tower.
In the interest of posterity, I’m going to transcribe the journal here as best as I can manage. The years and the weather hasn’t done any favors for the book, and a lot of the pages are either smudged and illegible or outright destroyed.
Sunday: May 15th, 1976
Mick and I have scouted a good place for our next expedition. There’s an old tower out in the countryside near Oxhead Trail. He says it’s an old church tower but it doesn’t look much like one to me.
We drove out there in his van this evening. Things were peaceful. The only sound in those hills were the crickets and us, the sky was clear and black. We could see just about every star out there. The tower interior was bigger than its outside suggested, the one room was wide and empty with the only thing of note being a doorway that leads down into a set of tunnels. Things were much too dark for us to explore at that time but Mick and I drew a map of the area and we made plans to come back this coming Saturday with our equipment and see where it leads.
Saturday: May 21st, 1976
We packed up and set out this morning. It was very early, the sun hadn’t risen yet. Things were very quiet on that hill, so quiet that the whole area felt empty, dead. The overcast sky was pale and gray like sleet on a driveway. Mick had a feeling it was going to rain on us so he and I ducked into the tower to set everything up. We got out our lamps; we tied ropes around our waists and tethered the other end to iron tent-pegs we pounded into the ground to serve as anchors.
If anything goes wrong, we can just follow the rope out of here. In case that should fail us, I’ve brought flares and some white chalk. We checked our gear and double-checked, and then we headed down into the tunnels. Our lamp light fell on a stone ramp that led down, down into blackness. The ramp leads down some ten feet into a great stone antechamber, wide and round, with doorways leading into other tunnels aligned in a circle like the spokes of a wheel.
Shining our lights on the ceiling revealed very old metal pipes running along the ceiling, caked in rust and cobwebs. Mick turned to me and said. “This isn’t a cave. Somebody built this.” I scanned the chamber and glanced over at him and asked “Which way do we go next?” At random, I pointed at a chamber on the far left. Ten paces into that tunnel, we came across a dead end. The passage went on, but it had abruptly narrowed down into a slit far too thin for me or Mick to fit through. We turned and headed out of that tunnel and I marked the opening in chalk. The passage to the right of it was better. It was a straight hallway that terminated in another round chamber; this one had nothing but a stone altar. Mick waved for me to come closer and get a good look at it. Our lamp light revealed the altar to be covered in these weird symbols. They weren’t part of any language we had seen, the top of the altar had a dark stain on it that we couldn’t identify even with the help of our light.
“Reckon it’s some kind of Native American thing?” Mick said; his eyes were wide open and reflecting the lamp glow like a deer in headlights.
“Nah.” I said. “They couldn’t build something like this…” I glance up at the ceiling and I see brown, Leather brown. I dismissed it as a trick of the eyes, even with our lanterns, it was still quite dark. The flicker of the lamplight made the shadows of the chamber dance and shift and it set us both on edge.
I heard a click and saw a flash of light as Mick snapped a photo of the strange glyphs on the gunmetal altar. The other tunnels weren’t much more interesting, save for one.
The hall snaked on through cold rock and opened up in another wide open chamber. This one was covered in markings and symbols. They were blocky, angular, kind of like Mayan or Aztec carvings. They were carved deep in the stone and very precisely etched, all of them uniform in shape and size. As I ran my fingers over the glyphs, I could only imagine the time and the skill it took to make this. Mick was especially impressed, he was snapping picture after picture. He ran up to me, eyes wide like a kid in Disneyland.
“Do you know what this is?”
I told him I didn’t.
“This is a bona fide ruin! This is huge! Can you imagine how famous we’ll be if we tell people about this?”
I didn’t say anything...
“We’ll be friggin’ celebrities! An ancient ruin out in the middle of nowhere and we’re the first to discover it!”
We took more pictures. Many more. Until Mick’s camera ran out of film. We sat in the cave by the light of our lamps discussing what to do next. Mick suggested we map out the entire cavern and call the Society for American Archaeology; they’d surely want to check this place for relics. We made our plans and we went home. Mick was going to call the SAA. As for me, I went home to get some sleep.
May 27th, 1976
Things had started out very well for us. A man from the SAA met us outside the tower. He was a twiggy little man with thinning salt-and-pepper hair and thick-rimmed bifocals resting on his hook nose. He introduced himself as Mr. Dumont and shook my hand with a surprisingly firm grip.
“So what sort of thing are we looking at here?” He questioned us, adjusting his glasses with his thumb.
We told him about the altar, the glyphs, he stood and listened intently, with a look in his eyes like that of a hungry cat watching a beached fish. Mike handed him the photos of the cave he spent days developing and his eyes lit up.
He was very enthusiastic when we went down into the caves. He very nearly went in without us, in fact. He was beside himself when we took into the chamber. As our lamps lit up the walls, he traced the glyphs with his finger, gleefully muttering something under his breath as the light from the lamps flashed off his glasses like the headlights of a car.
“This is unlike any of the glyphs I’ve ever seen”
He turned to us.
“This may be the remains of a lost language. It’s organized, there’s definitely a structure in the carvings that implies a sort of written language…”
His voice trailed off as he began copying the marks down in a notepad, we could hear him mumbling. He was musing on the possible grammatical structure of this ancient mystery language. Neither Mick nor I got much out of it.
We headed back out the tunnel; Mick was telling Dumont all about the altar as we walked. The three of us fell deadly silent when we stopped and looked up and realized that the hallway had led us right back into the room we came from. Mick let out a nervous chuckle and took us down a side tunnel. This one also led us back. We’ll have to take a look at our map. Will write more later, when we get ourselves out of this godforsaken loop.
The good news is that we’re out of the loop. The bad news is that we took a nasty spill down a shaft.
None of us saw it coming. Mick should have, being that he was in front. We all stepped forward and a part of the floor gave way to this step incline and then a sharp, straight drop down into another wide-open chamber. Mick and I were alright, shaken, but unharmed. Mr. Dumont bruised his ankle and spent the rest of the day out of commission. Curiously, the floor of the chamber is soft, leathery… None of us are thinking about the SAA or fame anymore. If we do not find a way out of here, we are going to die. All is not lost. Mick says he sees another shaft leading up, with light beaming down from a translucent sheet.
Luckily, we thought to bring alone knives and climbing equipment. The three of us worked out a good plan. Climb up, cut that sheet blocking the light, and work our way out.
And the sooner we’re gone, the better. Running along the length of the ceiling of this chamber is a long, fleshy tube-like structure with deep folds and creases on its surface. It pulses and contracts as if alive. Perhaps tricks of the light; or maybe our minds are playing a trick on us. The air down here is terrible. It’s stuffy and hot and I am sweating at the moment. Making matters worse, there is this awful smell coming down from the shaft we fell down. It’s sour and bacterial. Dear God, let us get out of here.
May 28th, 1976
Things are looking up. After a few hours after my last entry, Dumont’s ankle was well enough to stand on and Mick had gotten his climbing hook latched on a good hold on the chamber wall. He was the first one up, climbing hand over hand, slowly but surely. He dangled there as I passed my Bowie knife up to him and he stuck it in the translucent, pinkish sheet that kept the light from us. It made a disgusting wet ripping sound as he slashed it open, and then bright yellow light swept into the chamber. I went up after him, with Dumont not far behind.
We found ourselves in a wide room. This one is bright enough that we don’t need to use the lamps. Perhaps we are close to an exit. Curiously, the walls are a faint pinkish hue, and they yield easily to us pushing on them with our hands. The smell is less overpowering, but still very much present. We decided to camp out here for the night. Sleep was short and dreamless. We awoke to find the chamber still bright and wide, but different.
The walls were damp with a warm mist condensed on it. None of us paid any heed to this. We just wanted out of this hole. We headed north through an open hallway, past pale yellow stalagmites set bunched together in cramped rows.
There was this deep, hollow thumping, pulsing, as if some unseen drum was beating along to an unheard tune. It grew steadily louder as we trudged on. The ground made it hard for us. It had become soft, slippery; like walking across a sheet of wet rubber. We were in high spirits for a while, until we had been walking in the same direction for so long that it was clear that we were going nowhere.
I don’t know what day it is anymore. We have been lost for so long. Going in circles. The walls are getting warmer, wetter, closer together. We were caught off guard when the floor gave way. It didn't break or cave in, it just sort of moved. It twisted itself into a steep funnel and we slid down; very far down. It is dark and only Mick is with me. He doesn't know where Dumont went. We hear the beating again. The smell is ungodly awful. Air in here is thick and hard to breath. We called for Dumont, but we received no reply. Nevertheless, Mick is adamant that we push on. I look up with my lamp and I see veins on the ceiling.
Where the hell are we?
Everything is flesh down here. We found Dumont. He was in a side tunnel roughly a few dozen paces due North. He was barely conscious, shaken, but alive. He was bound to this column of smooth pinkish flesh and pearly cartilage. He was so wrapped up in it that we could only see his head and neck peering out of the blanket of meat and sinew. I turn to look at Mick’s face, he is teary-eyed with grief and shaking like a dog in the rain. "Cut him loose. He'll die." He whimpers at me. I took out my knife and set to work, but no matter how much I carve at Dumont's fleshy bindings, each layer gives way to only more sheets of pink flesh and ropes of tendon. I take a close look at his neck poking out, and I see veins coming from the pillar and sinking into him. It wasn't just binding Dumont to the pillar, it was making him part of it.
We couldn't save him. Mick and I agreed to tell his wife and the SAA what happened, if they would believe us. We got rid of the map, the caverns shift and change shape too much for it to be any use. We feel it moving under us.
Mick is hysterical. We are running low on water. No end in sight. Dear God help us. I feel little fleshy stalks brush my pant legs. The walls of this place are alive, shifting. It’s like the story of Jonah and the Whale. Except I don’t think we’re getting out of this alive. We have to keep pressing on. It is imperative. If we stay put, it will consume us. But how long can we keep moving?
Hopeless. Mick's legs gave out on him and he passed out soon afterward. The cave responded by drawing its mass over his body like a burial shroud. His body is lying motionless under the carpet of red tissue. No heartbeat. I must have really lost it. I don't remember exactly what happened after that. I just remember taking my knife and stabbing and stabbing the walls, only to see the wounds pull themselves shut. Now I am alone in the belly of this terrible place.
God help me.
tunnels are growing narrow. ceiling is drawing down. can(illegible)ly stand. legs were caught. had to cut them loose.
tired,no water left.
And that is all the text I could save. I don't know what to think right now. If this diary’s account is indeed factual, and the cavern did indeed devour Henry Boling and his fellow explorers, what was the purpose of the tower? Was it some lure to bring fresh prey into itself? And how did the man’s journal wind up at the very entrance? Was it regurgitated or was it placed there in the tower to further entice future meals? I honestly don’t know. All I know is, I am not going to return to that tower near Oxhead Trail.
I suggest everyone else do the same.