Rising up from the wilderness of Queensland, Australia, is an eerie sight that stands in stark contrast to the brush and eucalyptus trees around it. Looming over the surrounding green sea of trees is a colossal, blackened jumble of enormous boulders that looks less like a natural formation than something that was intentionally dumped here by giant hands. This is the place known as the Black Mountain. Long heavily associated with bizarre unexplained phenomena and intertwined with dark folklore, it is a strange place long shunned and feared by the indigenous people, and the region is made no less ominous by sightings of strange creatures, unexplained lights, and the numerous people who have come here never to return.
Black Mountain is located in the Black Mountain National Park in Queensland, Australia, which is located around 25km (16 miles) south of Cooktown. The nature of the bizarre mound certainly makes its appearance conducive to scary stories and myths. From a distance, Black Mountain looks like a solid monolith of black looming over the primeval forest around it, but on closer inspection one can see it is in fact composed of gigantic, granite boulders, many of which measure up to 20 feet long, and soars up 900 feet over the surrounding landscape. These boulders were formed from solidifying magma around 250 million years ago, lack any trace of surface soil and have a distinct black coloration caused by a thin coating of iron and manganese oxides, as well as a film of blue-green algae covering the exposed surfaces.
This black coloration gives the boulders a sinister, forbidding appearance, as if they have been scorched by the fires of hell itself. The rocks are jumbled upon one another, forming labyrinths of mazes and passages penetrating within the mountain which belch forward gusts of hot air accumulated from the daytime heat. This heat lends the rocks other odd properties. The boulders become hot in the sun, and when cold rain falls on them they slowly fracture and disintegrate over time, occasionally in a violent, explosive manner, only adding to the ominous, intimidating atmosphere pervading the place. In addition, the hot air moving through underground passages and abysses creates eerie sounds that have variously been described as sounding like moaning, screaming, crying, wailing, and deep hissing. A rotten stench also reportedly seeps from somewhere far below the surface from time to time.
With such a creepy appearance and demeanor, perhaps it is no surprise that Black Mountain has a long history of dark legends and myths. The Kuku Nyungkal people of the region have long shunned the mountain, calling it Kalkajaka, meaning “the place of the spear” and sometimes translated simply as “The Mountain of Death.” Aboriginal tales tell of the mountain as a haunted place, home to various evil spirits and demons lurking within, which are said to hunger for human souls, one of which is the spirit of a wicked medicine man called the Eater of Flesh. Stories tell of any unfortunate to approach the mountain being dragged to their deaths within its bowels by spectral hands, and shadowy ghosts are often allegedly seen here. Adding to this atmosphere of dread is the brutal massacre of Aboriginal people at the hands of early European settlers that supposedly took place in a nearby ravine, the ghosts of which are said to still dwell here screaming for revenge. Although there are several other rocks and caves in the vicinity that hold religious significance and are considered to be sacred by the Aborigines, to this day they refuse to go near Kallkajaka.
Indeed, well into modern times Black Mountain has been ground zero for a wide variety of high strangeness. It is said that animals are spooked by the mountain, and that it exudes some evil force that has been reported to disrupt the navigational equipment of airplanes flying nearby. In fact, planes mostly avoid flying near the mountain due to these unexplained anomalies as well as the strange air turbulence that is experienced within the vicinity. A 1991 aerial survey conducted by the Bureau of Mineral Resources to test for magnetic disturbances and radiation levels on the mountain turned up nothing unusual, yet the reports of these phenomena from pilots persist. It may not be so surprising that Black Mountain is also home to a good amount of UFO activity and reports of strange lights.
Black Mountain is also said to have cavernous underground chambers that are purported to hold everything from alien bases to lost civilizations, ancient tombs and priceless lost treasures. Some of the treasures said to reside within the depths of the many caves are lost stockpiles of gold, historic artifacts, and ancient texts. One of the stranger things said to lie under the mountain is a secret alien base from which UFOs emerge and which is inhabited by a race of reptilian alien humanoids that keep human slaves. Those who buy this far out idea further explain that the arrangement of the boulders is obviously artificial and that the entire mountain was built by the aliens themselves. Others speculate that the boulders were laid down by some ancient lost civilization millennia ago, and that this society thrived deep under the mountain in an enormous hollowed out domain. Some think such a civilization is still there.
Other bizarre tales revolve around the strange beasts said to inhabit the mountain. Although it is true that the area is home to many unique and endemic species, there are tales of creatures lurking here that are far weirder than one might imagine. Within the craggy maze of intertwined boulders are said to lurk enormous pythons that are not shy about attacking human beings. There is also an enigmatic large, cat-like predator known as the Queensland tiger that is thought to prowl the area and has been blamed for cattle mauling and mutilations that have occurred in the surrounding area. Occasional reports of large, reptilian humanoids emerging from the underground tunnels and crevices have also surfaced from the mountain. Additionally, there are numerous stories of fleeting, shadowy shapes that stalk the mountain, but it is unclear whether these represent some type of real animal, a more supernatural phenomenon, or merely a trick of shadow and light upon the black boulders.
Perhaps the most well-known and indeed scariest phenomenon related to Black Mountain is the multitude of mysterious disappearances that have taken place here. There are numerous stories of horses and even whole herds of cattle vanishing here as if swallowed by the mountain itself, but even more menacing are the stories of the many people who have allegedly come here and disappeared without a trace.
While Aborigines have stories of their people vanishing at the mountain since long before Europeans arrived, the first modern account of an unexplained disappearance here dates to 1877, when a courier by the name of Grayner went out on horseback looking for a stray calf only for the man, the horse, and the calf to never return. Widespread searches of the mountain turned up no trace of the animals or the courier, and it was assumed that they had fallen into one of the many jagged chasms between the boulders. A few years after this, a notorious criminal known as Sugarfoot Jack and a couple of his accomplices fled to Black Mountain following a shootout. They were never seen again, and despite the exhaustive police search that followed there was no evidence at all to hint at where they had gone. They had simply vanished.
The disappearances only increased in number and weirdness over the years. One of the more well-known tales allegedly occurred 13 years after the disappearance of Sugarfoot Jack. A constable Ryan, who was stationed in nearby Cooktown, tracked a fugitive to Black Mountain along with other trackers only for the trail to abruptly end at the mouth of one of the caves as if the criminal had just stepped off the face of the earth. Ryan entered the cave to see if the fugitive might be hiding inside, but according to those present he never came back out and no one else was willing to risk going in after him. Neither the criminal nor constable Ryan was ever seen again. In another case, a local man by the name of Harry Owens was out looking for stray cattle and when he did not return his partner, George Hawkins, informed the police and went out looking for him. When Hawkins did not return either, the police launched a search of the mountain for the two missing men. According to the account, two police officers ventured into one of the caves and only one of them emerged. When the lone officer came out from the darkness, he was reportedly completely unhinged and so terrified of whatever he had seen that he could not give a coherent report of what had happened. In the 1920s, two professional cave explorers who journeyed to the mountain to try and solve the enigma of these disappearances went missing themselves, as well as some trackers who went looking for them. More recently, in 1932, a backpacker named Harry Page went missing while hiking on Black Mountain and was later found dead from unknown causes. The list goes on.
In all cases except for the body of Page, no evidence was ever found to hint at what had happened to any of these people and extensive police investigation has never been able to come to any conclusion on the causes of their disappearances. It is as if the mountain itself swallowed them, which is actually not far from the official theory concerning the vanishings. It is mostly believed that these people most likely fell into the numerous caves, crevices, and chasms of the mountain or became hopelessly lost when trying to venture into the impenetrably dark passages. Whether this is what actually happened remains unknown. There have also been very few people to brave the mountain’s caves and return to tell the tale. One experienced bushman who penetrated into the mountain armed with a pistol and flashlight gave a harrowing account of his experience within:
I stepped into the opening, like other Black Mountain caves it dipped steeply downwards, narrowing as it went. Suddenly I found myself facing a solid wall of rock, but to the right there was a passageway just large enough for me to enter in a stooping position. I moved along it carefully for several yards. The floor was fairly level, the walls of very smooth granite. The passage twisted and turned this way and that, always sloping deeper into the earth. Presently I began to feel uneasy. A huge bat beat its wings against me as it passed, however I forced myself on, to push further. Soon my nostrils were filled with a sickly musty stench. Then my torch went out. I was in total darkness. From somewhere, that seemed the bowels of the earth I could hear a faint moaning which was then followed by the flapping of wings of thousands of bats. I began to panic as I groped and floundered back the way I thought I had come. My arms and legs were bleeding from bumps with unseen rocks. My outstretched hands clawed at space, I expected solid walls and floors, but could not find it. At one stage where I had wandered into a side passage, I came to the brink of what was undoubtedly a precipice-judging by the echoes. The air was foul and I felt increasing dizziness. Terrifying thoughts were racing through my mind about giant rock-pythons I have seen around this mountain. As I crawled along, getting weaker and loosing hope of ever coming out alive, I saw a tiny streak of light. It gave me super strength to worm my way towards a small cave mouth half a mile from the one I had entered. Reaching the open air I gulped in lungfuls of it and fell down exhausted. I later found that I had been underground for five hours, most of the time on my hands and knees. A King's ransom would not induce me to enter those caves again.
It is a rather frightening glimpse at what can happen to those who dare to venture into the odiferous, hissing caves of Black Mountain, and perhaps a hint at the last things those who vanished here ever saw. It is certainly enough to dissuade most from trying to find out. Did those unfortunate souls merely get lost and die alone in the dark depths of the mountain caves? Or was there something more sinister at work? Perilous crevices, demons, vengeful ghosts, giant snakes, UFOs, aliens, reptilian slave masters, undiscovered predatory cats; the list of supposed culprits is vast. There are few who are willing to investigate further, and many of those who have tried have described feeling hopelessly confused, lost, and beset by a stifling feeling of intangible dread and panic when exploring here. The caves have been described as being complex and highly unpredictable, full of treacherous sudden drops, yawning chasms, shifting, dropping or even exploding rocks and boulders, unsteady footing, and jagged, sharp walls. The brutal heat pervading the confines of the passages, as well as an intermittent foul stench, the wailing and moaning emanating from the darkness, and the hundreds of fluttering bats everywhere only further enhance the sense of danger and disorientation inherit to this place. Many cave explorers have described exploring the caves of Black Mountain as being a singularly unpleasant experience that none wish to ever try again. Most tourists who visit Black Mountain National Park are content to view the foreboding mountain from a safe distance away.
Whether one believes any of the folklore or spooky stories surrounding Black Mountain, it is certainly a harsh, unfriendly place that instills a certain sense of unease and dread in those who see it. There is the sense that this menacing mound of boulders in the middle of the Australian wilderness is a place shunned by the rest of the natural world. An enigmatic place of natural wonder, mystery, and intangible fear, the Black Mountain of Queensland continues to stand tall over the terrain, perhaps just a pile of boulders, or perhaps watching, and maybe even inviting more souls to join its many unfathomable mysteries.