(Image: NASA; Hollow Earth theory)
The idea of something existing deep beneath the bowels of the Earth is certainly nothing new. World mythology and folklore is filled with all manner of stories, from the realm of the dead existing deep underground to vast, subterranean gardens and more.
There have even been monuments and cathedrals built near mythical entrances to the world that exists beneath our planet, like the chapel on Station Island in County Donegal, which according to folklore is a portal to a place of purgatory. There are stories of shadowy underground kingdoms filled with the ancient technology of Atlantis, prophecies that the conformation of a Hollow Earth will change the world, and claims that ancient aliens built their secret bases deep underground.
(Image: John J. Audobon; John Cleves Symmes, Jr.)
During the 19th century, attempts to find these hidden civilisations took on a new urgency which went right to the top of the American government. And according to the Smithsonian, the whole thing started with John Cleves Symmes, Jr. in the 1820s.
The army officer was travelling the country, speaking to anyone who would listen and telling them about his theories of a Hollow Earth. He was so convinced that his theory was right that he even approached Congress in a bid to secure funding for an expedition to the centre of his Hollow Earth. Congress said no, and the matter could have ended there. But it didn’t.
The President of the United States at the time was John Quincy Adams, who approved the funding. Unfortunately, Adams proved to be such an unpopular president that he spent only one term in office. The plan to journey to the centre of the (hollow) Earth was later stopped before it could get off the ground. He did, however, create the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC and laid the groundwork for the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution (which he hoped would help uncover further evidence for the Hollow Earth theory).
(Image: George Peter Alexander Healy; President John Quincy Adams)
Despite the idea of a Hollow Earth being the stuff of science fiction and fantasy even during Adams’ time, the bizarre conspiracy theory has enjoyed a surprisingly long life. After the defeat of the Nazi Germany in World War Two, rumours began circulating that the Third Reich had fled the spotlight to established a secret base elsewhere.
Among the various conspiracy theories were those purporting that senior Nazis had gone to ground within the hollow parts of the planet. Expedition after expedition has tried to find the entrance to the centre of the Hollow Earth over the centuries, and efforts continue to this day. If only they could locate the entrance, some believe, a whole world beneath our feet will be revealed.