Since time unremembered, throughout history and cultures, there have always been tales of mystical, magical places lying lost out over the horizon. We as a species seem to innately love such lore, that idea of some lost civilization or wondrous city hidden away from us beyond the fringes of what we know, and such stories appear in the legends of cultures across geographical divides. The idea that some wondrous place could be hiding out past the periphery of what we know has drawn in explorers and adventurers for centuries, and has inspired the imagination. One such story that has persisted for quite some time is that of a fantastical city hidden away within the wilds of California's Mt. Shasta, which is said to be populated by a race of mysterious, magical beings with fantastical machines.

There can be no doubt that Mt. Shasta casts a rather startling, formidable presence for those who first lay eyes upon it. Lying within the southern end of the Cascade Range in Siskiyou County, California, Mt. Shasta is a now dormant volcano which soars 14,179 feet (4,322 m) over the surrounding forested valley, making it the second highest peak of the Cascade Range and the fifth highest mountain in all of California. Since Mt. Shasta is not connected to any other surrounding nearby mountains, it stands alone, bursting abruptly and steeply from the ground like some mystical solitary giant to loom over the majestic valleys of green around it and completely dominate the landscape of Northern California. It is said that the massive, rather intimidating lone mountain can be seen from up to 140 miles (230km) away on a clear day, making it a striking natural monolith which has captured the admiration and imagination of mankind for centuries. There might be no surprise that the mountain has attracted to it all manner of legends and strange stories, with the Natives of the area weaving all manner of myths and magic about it, and one of the strange stories that has surrounded this peak is the idea that it houses a mysterious ancient civilization of mystical refugees from a sunken lost continent.

MtShasta aerial
Mt. Shasta

Perhaps one of the most enduring, well-known, and indeed most bizarre tales of Mt. Shasta is that the mountain harbors an ancient, secret city inhabited by the descendants of what are called the Lemurians, which are the supposedly highly technologically advanced people who are said to have been the first humans on Earth and lived on a lost sunken continent known as Lemuria. The name Lemuria was coined in the mid-19th century to denote a hypothetical sunken continent that once bridged the Indian Ocean, and was so named because it was speculated that it was through this mysterious continent that the animals called lemurs had migrated from Madagascar to India. The story goes that as their continent sank due to some unspecified apocalyptic, cataclysmic event, which some circles say was the very same that sunk the more well-known Atlantis, and as their civilization lay in ruin, a number of Lemurians managed to escape over the sea to Mt. Shasta to establish the city of Telos somewhere under the mountain, where they recreated their once great society and purportedly continue to live to this day.

The Lemurians are typically described as being tall, graceful, and thin ethereal beings who stand up to seven feet in height, with fair, almost luminescent skin, long luxurious hair, and abnormally long necks which they are said to decorate with collars made of beads, gold, or precious stones. The strange beings are usually clad in flowing white robes and sandals, although they are sometimes said to wear tunics or even walk about nude. They are said to have mastered various advanced technologies, such as atomic energy, magnetism, electronics, and some say even the ability to alter space-time itself thousands of years ago, and they are believed to possess great levitating airships which they use for transport. It is even claimed that they illuminate their subterranean realm with an artificial miniature sun powered by some unknown powerful energy source beyond anything we know. The Lemurians are also purported to have a walnut sized organ of some sort which protrudes from their foreheads and supposedly imbues them with vast psychic powers such as ESP, telekinesis, telepathy, the ability to appear and disappear at will, and the power to influence the minds of others.

The theory of Lemurians living within Mt. Shasta has a history almost as odd as the purported beings themselves. The whole tale can probably best trace its beginnings back to a book called A Dweller on Two Planets, which was written by a Frederick S. Oliver in 1899. In the summer of 1883, a teenaged Oliver had been helping his family mark the boundaries of their mining claim, which entailed driving wooden stakes into the ground and then marking their location in a notebook. At some point during this arduous task, Oliver’s hand allegedly began to shake and convulse uncontrollably, and started to write down things seemingly of its own volition. The boy ran home in a panic, his hand continuing to act of its own accord, writing feverishly the entire way as if with a mind of its own, and as soon as he arrived his mother gave him more paper to write on. He would continue to write, and write, and write, scrawling page after page across the paper. This initial mysterious seizure would stop shortly after, revealing the beginnings of a text. Over the next three years, Oliver’s hand would occasionally be overcome by this mysterious force, writing several pages here and there, until finally in 1895 he had completed an entire book which chronicled and described the existence of a secret Lemurian city at Mt. Shasta and their history. Oliver would go on to claim that he had been chosen by the Lemurians as their secretary of sorts, and that the whole book had been telepathically channeled through him and onto the page via automatic writing.

Oliver further even went so far as to claim that he had been taken astrally to the city itself and had seen it with his own eyes, describing it as being deep within the mountain and comprised of vast warrens of illuminated tunnels with secret automatic doors, elegant architecture, and apartments plated with gold and carpeted with a luxurious fleecy substance. Indeed, the entire city was said by Oliver to be generously decked out in glittering crystals, gold, silver, bronze and precious stones, the whole of which was powered by crystal energies, brightly illuminated, and was inaccessible to outsiders without the expressed invitation of the Lemurians themselves. High technology was said to abound in this fantastical city, with numerous mentions of various incredible gadgets and vehicles employed by the city’s residents, including large cigar-shaped airships which zoomed about and hovered overhead. The book was quite groundbreaking and ahead of its time when it was released, making detailed mention of such high concept notions as quantum mechanics, antigravity, mass transit, and zero-point energy, which he called “dark-side energy,” all of which were extremely unique concepts at the time.

Although Oliver died in 1899 at the age of 33, his bizarre book was finally published in 1905 by his mother, Mary Elizabeth Manley-Oliver. At the time of the publication of Oliver’s book, it became an instant occult classic and an openly acknowledged source for many New Age belief systems, sects, and cults. It would even spawn a sequel entitled An Earth Dweller’s Return, but it would certainly not be the last literary mention of the strange lost city of the Lemurians on Mt. Shasta. In fact, in 1931, Harvey Spencer Lewis, using the pseudonym Wisar Spenle Cerve, also wrote a whole book on the phenomenon which further launched the popularity of the idea of lost cities and societies lurking within the depths of the mountain. From here the accounts of this strange race of powerful beings and their magnificent, highly sophisticated city of Telos really took off.

Many more accounts concerning the purported Lemurian civilization of Mt. Shasta would surface over the years. In the May 22, 1932 edition of The Los Angeles Times there appears the odd account of a Mr. Edward Lanser, who had been passing Mt. Shasta on a train when he claimed to have seen the whole southern side of the mountain blaze to life with a brilliant, almost blinding strange reddish-green illumination. When he asked the train conductor what it was he had seen he was assured that it had been the work of the Lemurians. The perplexed Lanser later went to investigate the strange light further and purportedly asked locals from the area’s towns about what he had seen, to which they replied that there was a mysterious community of people living within the mountain who were known to perform rituals in the early morning and the evening, which made use of strange sources of brilliant light that could have explained his sighting. This ceremony was allegedly known as the “Ceremony of Adoration to Guatama,” with “Guatama” supposedly being the Lemurian word for “America,” and the ceremony celebrating their ancestors’ arrival on the continent after their own had tragically been swallowed beneath the waves. It was explained that these ceremonies used extremely bright sources of mysterious light which were known to light up the whole side of the mountain.

The locals also said that the Lemurians were known to come down from their secretive mountain realm into town from time to time, towering, odd looking folk clad in their white robes and barefoot, who would buy huge amounts of sulphur, salt, and lard, which they would always pay for in gold nuggets that far exceeded the value of the merchandise. When Lanser made known his intentions to go up the mountain and find these Lemurians and the source of light he had seen, Lanser lamented that the local officials and ranchers “freely ridiculed my avowed trek into the sacred precincts assuring me that an entrance was as difficult and forbidden as an entrance into Tibet.” His hopes of ever finding the city dashed, Lanser seemingly gave up on his quest and it is unknown what exactly became of him or whether he ever finally found what he was searching for or merely faded into obscurity.

In the June 27, 1940 edition of the Mount Shasta Herald, William Bridge Cooke wrote of a Professor Edward L. Larkin of the Mt. Lowe Observatory, who claimed to have observed the mystical city at great length through his telescope on several occasions. Larkin had allegedly discovered the city by accident as he was calibrating his telescope and spied something shining anomalously on the mountain. Finding this to be peculiar, he then focused on the object and found it to be an enormous “oriental style” temple which he described as “a marvellous work of carved marble and onyx rivalling in architectural splendour the magnificence of the temples of Yucatan.” Larkin would go on to claim to have seen other temples on the mountainside as well, including ones in an apparent Greek style, decked out with magnificent shining white marble columns.

In addition to mentioning the opulent architecture, Larkin also claimed that the vicinity of the temples would often be beset by mysterious bright lights in the evening hours, and claimed that the temples and lights were from the descendants of the Lemurian people. He said of these lights, "their display of light far excels our modern electrical achievements, and I am, for one, consumed with curiosity to know how these people can produce such amazing light effect.” In an odd twist, Larkin then apparently became sidetracked by other work and was never able to locate the temples he had seen again. Cooke for his part then proceeds to spend most of the rest of the article trying to actively debunk the claim through the standpoint that it would have been physically impossible for Larkin to have seen what he claimed from his particular vantage point, but it is still a curious account nevertheless.

The Lemurians were also claimed to be able to influence their environment and to exhibit extraordinary architectural know-how. A 1962 edition of the Australian Flying Saucer Review mentions in an article by Andrew Tomas the curious case of a forest fire in 1931 which ravaged much of the mountain yet was kept from advancing by the appearance of a mysterious fog which halted the blaze in its tracks. In the aftermath of the fire it was reportedly discovered that there was a perfectly clear and curved demarcation zone remaining between the charred earth and undamaged areas. It was said by locals that this was the work of the Lemurians protecting their domain through some unknown technological wizardry. Likewise, it is said that their city and structures are impervious to the effects of the many earthquakes that ravage the region such is their architectural skill and perhaps even due to their alleged ability to control the earth itself.

These Lemurian people and their strange devices have long been seen in the area right up to the present, with sightings and accounts too numerous to list here. Typically they are seen walking along roads or even city streets of towns on Mt. Shasta only to suddenly disappear as if they were never there at all, presumably due to their psychic abilities and uncanny expert knack for blending into their surroundings. Often they are only glimpsed from the periphery of vision and elude any efforts to spot them straight on. They are sometimes known to appear to help farmers who have fallen on hard times, using some sort of advanced agricultural techniques that revive the soil as if by magic. One account tells of a Lemurian woman who emerged from the forest in full view of a group of people and proceeded to lie down in the frigid water of Panther Springs for a full 5 minutes before silently getting back up and walking back into the wilderness from whence she’d come, all the while dripping wet from the freezing water. There are also numerous sightings of a strange boat which is said to sail as far as the Aleutian Islands and will approach shore only to suddenly hover in the air and make its way to Mt. Shasta. One old account even mentions a visit to San Francisco by a white robed patriarch said to represent the Lemurian community, who was joined by an entourage of younger men and actually supposedly met with city officials to bring a message of greetings and goodwill during World War I.

Tales of people actually entering the wondrous, bejeweled Lemurian city abound as well. A Dr. M. Doreal claimed that he had penetrated into the mountain lair of the Lemurians and saw what he described as an enormous cavern that was an astounding 20 miles long, 15 miles wide, and 2 miles high, which was illuminated by a gigantic, blazing artificial sun right in its center. Yet another account mentions a man who fell asleep on the mountain only to be awakened by a Lemurian who then brought him to a magnificent city paved with gold. One of the strangest stories of finding an underground city within Mt. Shasta comes from a 1904 account which first appeared in the 1934 edition of the Stockton Record concerning a JC Brown, a British prospector who had come to the mountain with The Lord Cowdray Mining Company to prospect for gold. During this expedition, Brown allegedly stumbled across a tunnel in the hillside which led down into the darkness below the mountain.

The prospector decided to venture into the opening and found that it stretched several miles into the murk and ended in a complex of rooms full of ornate statues, crystals, shields, and gold and copper plates. There was also purportedly an enigmatic and extravagantly decorated burial chamber containing at least 27 mummies that were described as being between 6’6” to 10 feet in height, several of which were wrapped in some sort of ornamental robes. The discovery was touted by Brown as being one of the most exciting archeological finds of the century and eventually an expedition led by John C. Root and comprised of 80 members was brought together to further explore the tunnel based on these claims. However, on June 19, 1934, the day the exploration was set to set out from Stockton, California, JC Brown did not show up and in fact he was never seen again. It is a remarkable story to be sure, but seems highly suspicious since the find was made allegedly in 1904, yet the story was not made public until 1934. What happened in the intervening three decades? Although more modern explorers have from time to time claimed to have found JC Brown’s mysterious underground complex, its location, indeed whether it ever even really existed at all, remain a total mystery. Who are these alleged Lemurians? Survivors of a long lost continent? Aliens? Interdimensional beings? A bunch of hippies camped out in the wilderness? Nothing at all? Is there any truth whatsoever to these accounts? Who knows? What we do know is that Mt. Shasta has long been surrounded by myth and legend, an imposing and majestic peak that commands attention and draws strange tales to it. Perhaps this is all just rumors and myth, but it is not hard to imagine that this place dwells in some hazy realm between one realm and the next. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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