Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Ancient City Buried Under Moberly, Missouri?

The newspaper story was sensational – in all sense of the word. The tale is incredible and written in the era when journalism meant whatever sold papers, truth be damned.

But the story is about an underground city and giants in the Midwest, so it’s worth telling again.

It happened on the pages of the April 9, 1885 edition of The New York Times in a story entitled: “Missouri’s buried city: A strange discovery in a coal mine near Moberly.” Moberly, the largest city in Randolph County, had a population of 6,108 in the 1880s.

Coal miners, sinking a shaft 360 feet deep, broke into a cavern revealing “a wonderful buried city,” the article claimed. Lava arches stretched across the roof of the cavern, looming over the streets of an ancient city “which are regularly laid out and enclosed by walls of stone, which is cut and dressed in a fairly good, although rude style of masonry.”

Workers, along with Moberly city recorder David Coates and Moberly city marshal George Keating, inspected the site, found a 30-by-100-feet hall in the cavern filled with stone benches and hand tools.

“Further search disclosed statues and images made of a composition closely resembling bronze, lacking luster,” the article read.

Explorers discovered a stone fountain in a wide court, still pouring “perfectly pure water” into its basin. But it was what lay beside the fountain that interested the people exploring the site.

“Lying beside the foundation (of the fountain) were portions of the skeleton of a human being,” according to the article. “The bones of the leg measured, the femur four and one-half feet, the tibia four feet and three inches, showing that when alive the figure was three times the size of an ordinary man, and possessed of a wonderful muscular power and quickness.”

Its skull, the story reported, was shattered; bronze tools, granite hammers, metallic saws and flint knives were scattered all around. “They are not so highly polished, nor so accurately made as those now finished by our best mechanics, but they show skill and an evidence of an advanced civilization that are very wonderful,” according to the article.

Explorers spent 12 hours in the buried city and resurfaced only after the oil in their lamps burned low.

“No end to the wonders of the discovery was reached,” the article stated. “A further extended search will be made in a day or two.”

No record of the extended search could be found.

Dr. Tom Spencer, a professor in the department of History, Humanities, Philosophy and Political Science at Northwest Missouri State University, said that’s because after printing the story, the newspapers tried to forget it.

“A lot of the time I think these stories were written based entirely off hearsay and little or no direct on-site reporting,” he said. “As the story grew, the details got more and more outrageous.”

He equates it to a childhood game where children sit in a circle and one child whispers a story into another’s ear and by the time the story completes the circle, it was completely different.

“The point of this exercise was to try to see what would happen when the story had made it all the way around the circle,” he said. “If you recall, sometimes the ‘finished story’ bore little resemblance to the original story. My guess is one element of this story is factual – like the strange shaft formation or a long femur was found – and it became more and more embellished as it went around the journalistic circle at the time.”

So what happened to the fabulous buried city under Moberly, Mo.?

“There were stories like this periodically at the time and they usually disappear quietly because someone goes to investigate and there’s nothing to it,” Spencer said. “In order to avoid the embarrassment the newspapers just don’t say anything else about it.”

Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is here. Order online at:,, or visit Jason’s Web site at


Julie Ferguson said...

It would be cool if someone would try investigating it again to see if the story is true. Very interesting story indeed.

Anonymous said...

Crap. Excuse me, nonsense.

Even at least as early as the Civil War there was the same sort of flying saucery/Atlantis fascination that we have today (Don't get me wrong; I too think UFOs are real, for the same reason Hermann Oberth did). A Union regiment taking over a Confederate position was plagued by buried shells set by the Rebs to go off. A Federal soldier sardonically referred to these IEDs as "artifacts of an advanced civilization."

I've also read a 19th century newspaper account of someone discovering a crashed alien flying machine. The dead occupants were human-looking but of gigantic size, and dressed in toga-like garments.

Unknown said...

I was born and raised in Moberly and I have never even heard this story. Like they said in the article some part of the original article was probably true, I'm curious to know what part.

Richqw said...

The NY Times article was printed on April 9. It was most likely reprinting an April Fools' joke from Missouri

Jules Verne said...

Were the miners named Pat Boone and James Mason by any chance. Any goose bones lying around?

UniqueNurseGranny said...

Fascinating.Would be fun to explore.

Jon Smart said...

I think that if the Bible is true, then when God made Adam and Eve, they had perfect minds until after sin. This would then explain why people could have been so advanced thousands of years ago. If the human mind is following the course of the 3rd law of thermodynamics then people would have been more capable of advancements than what we are today. Also they may have started out growing much bigger too. As I said before: 3rd law of thermodynamics states that everything goes from a state of order to disorder with time. After thousands of years it would make sense that humans started out smart and then with time became dumb. By the way I am a Creationist, and am currently studying Ancient Man as another means of proving creation. I would love to be able to talk to you more on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Show Me

Richard said...

Jon, have you ever checked out Michael Cremo's site or Wyatt Museum?

It's facinating.

Anonymous said...

There's actually a documented case from New York of a tunnel that was discovered beneath Manhattan. It was originally believed to have been built by the Native American's, except the bodies near the tunnel entrance were over 14ft high. No one bothered to do any DNA testing. The final word was that they were native american in origin, despite the fact that they were red-headed, exceptionally tall, dressed in silk and brocades and laid out at the entrance of a tunnel that was so cleanly cut, it looked like a steady machine did it. They even blocked up the tunnel and NEVER explored it! The bodies went guessed it: The Smithsonian. Guess what room they have it in? Oh wait, that's right, they dumped the bodies in the Atlantic. But don't take my word for it.

Jimmy said...

Some of the details of the Moberly story are similar to a later one about a lost city discovered in the Grand Canyon shortly before the area was declared a national park and placed off limits to mining ventures. A prospector named Kincaid discovered it, the Smithsonian became involved, some people disappeared including Kincaid. Several stories were apparently published about the expedition to the site, but of course you can't believe everything you read in the papers.

Jon Smart said...

Anybody who wants to can check out my blog on ancient man and tell me what you think. I am, as I said before, doing a study on ancient man and would love to hear what you would have to say about it. Also if anybody can point me to other websites to study up on it, I would greatly appreciate it. And also I do agree that the Smithsonian Institute is hiding a lot of the information that they have about ancient man because they want to be able to manipulate the information that they present to the public.

Anonymous said...

The large skeletons sound oddly like the beings described by archeologist zecharia sitchen. He claims that before man was created an ancient race of intelligent "aliens" came to earth to mine its vast abundance of precious metals. These beings, "annunaki/nefilim" were later referred to by early man as the ancient gods that we hear stories of now. These tunnels have been found all over the world and highly suggest that ancient man could not have created them, at least not without the help of a higher intelligence.

Beth said...

I'm not from Moberly but live here now. I will ask around to people who pride themselves in historic Moberly and see if I can find anything out. People love to talk about lore.

Unknown said...

Alot of bones found in the 1800s that were supposedly ginats turned out to be other animals

Unknown said...

I was talking to a friend of mine who still lives in Moberly and he reminded me of what exactly they must be talking about. There are catacombs underneath Moberly, with various ways to access them. My friend was telling me (and I'm not sure how much of this is just urban legend) that they are mostly flooded now, and several buildings have/had access to the catacombs. According to the stories he had heard they were used as fall out shelters until they were flooded.

James Patrick Joyce said...

I think Gene Autry found this city, with living (if not giant) inhabitants, beneath his Radio Ranch.

They called the Film Serial, The Phantom Empire.

You can watch the public domain serial, at the above link, to.

Harry Dangler said...

I was also born and raised in Moberly, and subscribe to the April Fool joke gone awry theory. The only people who actually try to advance these silly fables are nutty creationists with an agenda.

Anonymous said...

Here is a site that discusses the coal mines in that area.

State Coal Profiles
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Coal mining is a relatively small industry in Missouri, but ... Missouri's coal production. Most of the early coal mines in Missouri were ...

Anonymous said... Part of the address got cut off....

Anonymous said...

Did it again! Just add '.pdf' to the end of it so the last of it reads:
0576q.pdf Shows mining areas.

Anonymous said...

I am sure anything like these catacombs existed, that the group "Underground Ozarks" would have already been in there trying to find things out. Even with conspiracy theory creationist chasing ghosts.

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Unknown said...

I'm ready to investigate. I live here in moberly and I'm fascinated by its "history".

Anonymous said...

Nice! Let us know what you find!... if youre still around after your investigation that is. Beware the Smithsonian!