May 26, 2022 I Brent Swancer

The Mysterious Tale of a Lost Subterranean City Beneath the Grand Canyon

There have long been tales of lost cities and civilizations lurking out past the horizon and the boundaries of what we know. Stories of such isolated pockets have come to us from the most remote mountains, jungles, and wild places of our world, many of them lost to the mists of time and leaving us to wonder if they ever existed at all. From the wilds of the U.S. state of Arizona comes one such tale, involving a mysterious explorer who allegedly stumbled upon a lost city beneath the earth the likes of which no one had ever seen. 

In the April 5, 1909 edition of the Arizona Gazette, located among various mundane news of the time there is an article that jumps off the page with its spectacular title of Mysteries of Immense Rich Cavern Being Brought to Light: Remarkable Finds Indicate Ancient People Migrated From Orient. It revolves around an explorer by the name of G.E. Kinkaid, who some time before had been making his way through the Grand Canyon along the Colorado River in a boat looking for minerals, when he noticed some unusual stains in the sedimentary formation about 2000 feet above the river bed. It was unusual enough that he pulled ashore and with great difficulty made his way up the cliffs to find the mouth of a cave meandering off into the dank darkness, as well as some steps that led away from the entrance and some chisel marks on the wall. Intrigued, Kincaid made his way several hundred feet along the main passage into the into dark, coming to a crypt full of mummies and relics. Realizing he had made an extraordinary discovery, Kincaid then reportedly went off back down the river to report what he had found to the Smithsonian Institute.

The Grand Canyon

Under the direction of a professor “S.A. Jordan,” the Smithsonian Institute then allegedly launched a thorough exploration into the cave to find that that the main passageway penetrated nearly a mile underground, about 1480 feet below the surface, where it joined a massive chamber of some sort, from which branched off a series of tunnels “like the spokes of a wheel.” Along these tunnels could be found an array of rooms filled with numerous artifacts and having obviously been once inhabited, as well as some sort of shrine, and Kincaid would describe it all in great detail, saying:

The main passageway is about 12 feet wide, narrowing to 9 feet toward the farther end. About 57 feet from the entrance, the first passages branch off to the right and left, along which, on both sides, are a number of rooms about the size of ordinary living rooms of today, though some are 30 to 40 feet square. These are entered by oval-shaped doors and are ventilated by round air spaces through the walls into the passages. The walls are about 3 feet 6 inches in thickness. The passages are chiseled or hewn as straight as could be laid out by an engineer. The ceilings of many of the rooms converge to a center. The side passages near the entrance run at a sharp angle from the main hall, but toward the rear, they gradually reach a right angle in direction. Over a hundred feet from the entrance is a cross-hall, several hundred feet long, in which was found the idol, or image, of the people’s god, sitting cross-legged, with a Lotus flower or Lily in each hand. The cast of the face is oriental, and the carving shows a skillful hand, and the entire is remarkably well preserved, as is everything in this cavern. The idol most resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. 

Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that the worship most resembles the ancient people of Thibet. Surrounding this idol are smaller images, some beautiful in form, other crooked necked and distorted shapes, symbolical, probably, of good and evil. There are two large cacti with protruding arms, one on each side of the dais on which the god squats. All this is carved out of hard rock resembling marble. In the opposite corner of this cross-hall were found tools of all descriptions, made of copper. These people undoubtedly knew the lost art of hardening this metal, which has been sought by chemists for centuries without results. On a bench running around the workroom was some charcoal and other material probably used in the process. There is also slag and stuff similar to matte, showing that these ancient peoples smelted ores, but so far, no trace of where of how this was done has been discovered, nor the origin of the ore. Among other finds are vases or urns and cups of copper and gold made very artistic in design. The pottery work includes enameled ware and glazed vessels.

Kincaid also describes granaries containing seeds, a large storehouse made from what appeared to be a type of very hard cement of unknown origin, a huge room, about 400 by 700 feet, that was thought to have probably been the main dining hall, and traces of a gray metal that could not be identified but which resembled platinum, as well as numerous yellow stones strewn about all over the floor. The entire cavern and tunnel system was expansive, estimated to have been able to house upwards of 50,000 people comfortably. Throughout the complex were found to be myriad carvings in the walls, doorways, and on artifacts that appeared to be some form of hieroglyphics, of which Kincaid says:

On all the urns, on the walls over the doorways and tablets of stone which were found by the image are mysterious hieroglyphics, the key to which the Smithsonian Institution hopes yet to discover. These writings resemble those found on the rocks about this valley. The engraving on the tablets probably has something to do with the religion of the people, Similar hieroglyphics have been found in the peninsula of Yucatan, but these are not found in the Orient. Some believe that these cave dwellers built the old canals in the Salt River valley. Among the pictorial writings, only two animals are found. One is of prehistoric type.

Perhaps one of the strangest and most exciting of the discoveries was the crypt, which housed several mummies that Kincaid had gotten a glimpse of when he had first furtively ventured ito the dimness, but which upon closer inspection were much weirder than he had thought. Kincaid says of this crypt:

The tomb or crypt in which the mummies are found is one of the largest of the chambers, the walls slanting back at an angle of about 35 degrees. One of these are tiers of mummies, each one occupying a separate hewn shelf. At the head of each is a small bench on which is found copper cups and pieces of broken swords. Some of the mummies are covered with clay and all are wrapped in a bark fabric. The urns or cups on the lower tiers are crudes, while as the higher shelves are reached, the urns are finer in design showing an interstage of civilization. It is worthy of note that all the mummies examined so far have proved to be male, no children or females being buried here. This leads to the belief that this interior section was the warrior’s barracks.

Rather ominously, the oppressive darkness down there is described as being uncommonly dense and impenetrable, as if actively pushing the light away, and some areas of the cave system were inaccessible or unable to be opened, with the whole complex seeming to be sinister, unfriendly, and totally inhospitable to outsiders. There was one passage in particular that was too forbidding to even attempt to enter, and Kincaid would explain of this and the general spooky and vaguely sinister atmosphere of the cavern system in general:

There is one chamber the passageways to which is not ventilated and when we approach it a deadly, snaky smell struck us. Our lights would not penetrate the gloom and until stronger ones are available, we will not know what the chamber contains. Some say snakes, but others boo-hoo this idea and think that it may contain a deadly gas or chemicals used by the ancients. No sounds are heard, but it smells snaky just the same. The whole underground institution gives one of the shaky nerves the creeps. The gloom is like a weight on one’s shoulders and our flashlights and candles only make the darkness blacker. Imagination can revel in conjectures and ungodly day-dreams back through the ages that have elapsed till the mind reels dizzily in space.

Kincaid is very evasive on the exact location of this alleged underground city, and clearly wants to keep it secret, stressing that the cave opening is nearly impossible to access, “almost 1486 feet down a sheer canyon wall,” and that since it is on government land no one will be permitted anywhere near it. And that is pretty much where the article ends. The Arizona Gazette really plays up the sensationalist nature of it all, adding:

The latest news of the progress of the explorations of what is now regarded by scientists as not only the oldest archaeological discovery in the United States, but one of the most valuable in the world, which was mentioned some time ago in the Gazette, was brought to the city yesterday by G.E. Kinkaid, the explorer who found the great underground citadel of the Grand Canyon during a trip from Green River, Wyoming, down Colorado in a wooden boat, to Yuma, several months ago. Mr. Kinkaid, the archaeologist of the Smithsonian Institute, which is financing the explorations, have made discoveries which almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of Oriental origin or possibly from Egypt tracing back to Ramses. If their theories are borne out of the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved. Egypt and the Nile and Arizona and Colorado rivers will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages which staggers the wildest fancy of the fictionist.

What happened next? What other discoveries were made down there in the bowels of the earth? Did this apparent lost subterranean city ever even exist at all? The story has gone on to be discussed ever since, with many theorizing that it was the Egyptians, some forgotten lost civilization, or even reptilian humanoids, but there are plenty of skeptics that point out that it was likely a piece of fake news for a slow news day. For their part, the Smithsonian Institute has denied that such an expedition was ever made or that there is anything there, and they deny having ever had any association with a G.E. Kinkaid at all, who cannot be shown to have ever been a real person. What is going on here and is any of it true? If so, what does it all mean? Whatever the case may be, it certainly is all a very strange tale of a lost city hidden from our view and perhaps never meant to have been found. 

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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