The Symmesonian Letters and Other Tales of the Hollow Earth

This collection of short fiction and satire about “Symmes’ Hole” is intended as a supplement to the archive on the Hollow Earth theories of John Cleves Symmes and includes texts destined for publication in Principles and Explorations of the Mundane System.

  • “Symmesonian,” Cincinnati Literary Gazette (Feb 28, 1824): 66
  • Cincinnati Literary Gazette, Mar 6, 1824. p. 76
  • Cincinnati Literary Gazette, Mar 20, 1824. p. 90
  • W. L. Alden, “Symmes’ Hole,” Stone 17 no. 5 (October, 1898): 343–346.


No. 1

Having been informed, Mr. Editor, that your countrymen always require of every person when first introduced to them, a regular account of himself—including his name, his business, whence he came, where he is going, &c. &c. I shall commence this communication by informing you that I am desirous of concealing my name, and that all other matters concerning myself will be revealed to you in the course of several communications which I intend making. At present, I shall merely inform you whence I came, and my business here.

My country is that part of the concave surface of this sphere lately discovered by Capt. Symmes of this city, and named by him Symmesonia. I have been induced to undertake the dangerous and fatigueing journey from thence to this city, in consequence of a report by some of the red men of the north, (who have, as they say, been driven quite into the concave regions by your encroachments on their territory,) that an expedition was fitting out here under the command of Capt. Symmes for the purpose of visiting my country. From the character given of you by your red neighbours and their accounts of your conduct toward them, very great alarm has been excited in Symmesonia; and I have been deputed to undertake the journey to this place, in order to ascertain whether the character that has been given of you is correct, and if it be, what measures can be adopted to prevent the threatened expedition of Capt. Symmes; or if this cannot be done, what will be the most judicious course for the Symmesonians to adopt in order to ward themselves from the evils with which it threatens them.

The most difficult as well as the most important part of my business is to acquire a knowledge of the character of the Americans. Of this difficulty the contradictory opinions I have formed at different times on the same subjects may serve as exemplifications. Previous to my departure from Symmesonia, I was informed & believed that the most striking characteristic of your countrymen, was the desire of possessing lands; but long before I reached your city, I found that you I owned immense tracts of which no use whatever was made, and therefore, concluded that my information in this respect was entirely erroneous; in which conclusion I was confirmed by seeing how very small a part was cultivated of that which is settled. I was, however, soon driven back to my original opinions upon learning (soon after my arrival here,) that it is customary with your citizens, to buy and sell not only large tracts of land which they cannot possibly use, on earth, but also quite as large quantities in the moon, and these being more distant and not so valuable as those in Symmesonia, my fears were excited anew.

I was informed by your red neighbours that your government was in the habit of buying their lands, and paying for them principally by treaties,—things that they have no use for and know very little about, but which they consider as very dangerous articles, being liable to get broken; and when this happens, they say that you immediately send out armies to mend them by cutting the throats of those to whom they were given—a course of proceeding which altho’ of a very quieting and composing nature, would not suit the taste of the Symmesonians. Since I have been among you, however, I have heard that your practice of exterminating your neighbours is a trouble you take merely from benevolence and humanity,—which is a thing I cannot yet comprehend.

I was told that attempt had been made, at a place called Zanesville, to dig a passage to Symmesonia through the earth, and first directed my course towards that place in order to ascertain whether they were likely to succeed; but before I arrived there, I was told that they were merely digging for silver,—since I arrived here, however, I have been informed that this could not have been the case, as it was impossible that so many people as live there should be ignorant that silver is never found in such places as that where they were seeking it. Thus I am kept in a state of doubt and uncertainty, and cannot acquire the knowledge respecting your country, which I am seeking, as fast as Capt. Symmes acquires knowledge of Symmesonia, although so far distant from it. This is the reason of my opening a correspondence with you, (for I consider it necessary to keep myself concealed, lest I should be seized upon and compelled to guide those invaders to my country, whom I am endeavouring to discover the means of keeping from it); I hope that you will enable me to obtain correct information, without wasting too much of my time in search of it.

I perceive that I have little time to lose, for the expedition to the moon which is fitting out at Lexington, is an additional subject of apprehension with me. I suppose the object of that expedition must be to look after the lands that have been purchased in that quarter; if I am correctly informed, all that are contained in that planet, will not be sufficient to fulfil the contracts that have been made for them; those, therefore, who are disappointed in getting their supply, will naturally turn their attention to Symmesonia; the course to which country they will perceive on their route homeward.

The only circumstance that affords me any consolation is the indifference towards Capt. Symmes and his project that prevails among all classes; should this continue, I shall consider my country safe, but if otherwise; I dread the fate prepared for her.

No. 2.

To The Symmesonian.

As you seem desirous of concealing your name, and announcing only the country or nation from which you came, I am under the necessity of addressing you by the vague appellation which you have assumed. The primary object of your visit to these upper regions appears to be, to determine the truth or falsity of certain flying reports amongst the northern aborigines prejudicial to our character as honest men and good Christians; and moreover, the probability or improbability of our furnishing Captain Symmes with an outfit sufficient to enable him to pay your country a visit. This information you suppose may be obtained from the editor of this paper. Here you are probably mistaken; as this gentleman, having acquired his knowledge principally from colleges and books, must necessarily be imperfectly acquainted with the true genius, principles, and usages of his own countrymen; while I, on the contrary, having read a little and travelled much, am consequently somewhat better qualified than him to set you right (as your information has been egregiously incorrect) on the important objects for which you visited our country.

The report spread abroad by our tawny neighbours of the north, that the government of the United States are in the habit of paying them for their lands in treaties, or, which is the same thing, cheating them out of them altogether, is totally incorrect. It is well known that they receive from our government a stipend annually, for a given number of years, as full satisfaction for the soil, even admitting they had a good title to it. Either a blanket, a cotton shawl, or a butcher knife, though not of the most superfine kind, is surely adequate remuneration for a million of acres over which a plough has never passed. Besides, we occasionally give them a little cash for pocket money, out of pure good nature; and if they pay it back to traders authorized by the government, for whiskey at a dollar per gallon, why that is their own look-out; and if they get drunk on the aforesaid liquor, and commit assault and battery on the whites, they ought not to think hard when an army is sent out with orders to extirpate whole tribes. The evil is of their own seeking.

But I lay down the position that the aborigines of this country, have no just right to the soil. We have a book amongst us called the Bible, of great antiquity and much value, and by the precepts of which, some of the knowing ones have clearly proven (to themselves at least) that the natives, being heathens, and consequently excluded from heaven, may of right be expelled from this continent—nay, from the whole earth, by us who are the chosen favorites of heaven, and who of course are alone worthy to possess the fat things of the earth. We have moreover another book, written by one Knickerbocker of standard value, which though composed in a more recent period of time, is much more valued, and referred by our Scavans. In this invaluable work a vast body of irrefutable arguments are adduced, all which go to prove conclusively that the aborigines of this continent have (a the lawyers say) “No claim, right, no title whatever to the premises abovementioned.” I regret that my present limit will not permit me to marshal before you this host of circumstances and arguments in order to convince you that the native have not, nor ever had, the shadow of claim to the soil of this continent—that therefore the government is not bound in duty to give them any thing in exchange for it—that they ought to consider all that we have given them, or agreed to give the in our treaties, as so many donations—and that we are perfectly justifiable in driving them whenever we choose to do so, not only from their present locations, but from the whole American continent. So much for the base aspersions on our character by you informants, the Arctic red men.

As to our purchasing and selling land which do not exist any where, or lands in the moon—the fact we do not pretend to deny; but clearly justify our conduct on the score, that we pay for them in funds that also have no existence—according to the old adage, “come easy go easy.” If you have come amongst us a little earlier, you would have seen that all our land speculation were bottomed on Bank notes, which were any thing but money, and cost us nothing. This was appropriately denominated moonshine, and was therefore a currency well adapted to pay for lands in the moon; and such traders might well be termed lunatics. This term, however, is not now used among us as one of reproach; as all our poets and lovers, to say nothing of millions besides, admit its applicability to them, and boast of the honor.

From what I have said you will perceive we are not that unjust, avaricious, and blood-thirsty people which those we have done so much to benefit have represented; and that therefore, you need not be alarmed for the safety of your nation when we shall have arrived amongst you, which, by the way, will be very shortly. We shall doubtless treat you pretty much in the same fair, humane, and religious manner in which we have treated your brother heathens, who, if different at all, are better than you—being above you on the globe, and therefore your superiors. In the first place, we shall probably offer you a few blankets, looking glasses, penknives, jews-harps, &c. &c in exchange for whole islands and continents, and if you do not see fit to accept this generous offer for lands to which, as I have shown above, you have no reasonable claim, we shall drive you from the whole at the point of the bayonet, an instrument with which you are probably yet unacquainted, but to which we shall introduce you in good time Meanwhile, as we shall be kindly packing you off very liberally to “another and a better world,” we shall send a large supply of missionaries to convert you to the “true faith,” (as yours is doubtless not orthodox) before giving you “the world to come” in exchange for a few dirty acres in this. This being the course we have pursued on similar occasions, we shall most likely pursue the same with you—a course in justification of which my reasoning has, I hope, convinced even yourself.

A consideration of the manner in which Capt. Symmes intends to discover your concave region—the way in which the means are to be raised—the correctness of his facts and reasoning, and the weakness of those of his opponents—together with sundry other relevant matters, I must postpone to another time, after barely premising that I am a true devotee to his theory, and the possibility of testing it by actual observations. S. R.



No. 3.[3]


The reasonings of S. R. in your last, could not fail to convince me of the justice of the course adopted with respect to your Indian neighbours, and the propriety as well as probability of the same course being pursued towards the Symmesonians. I was aware that, in “extinguishing the Indian title” to lands, you always found it expedient to extinguish the Indians also; and expected no other course to be pursued towards us. But however just and proper this might be, we could never be brought to relish it heartily, and I have been endeavouring to devise some plan to avoid it. I could not discover any place to which we could make our escape, except the midplane space, where we might be employed at the blacksmith’s business, at the forges of which your volcanoes are the chimnies—but this being not suited to our taste, I have relinquished the idea of it and have since discovered a plan of safety for my country, which I think will prevent the necessity of our emigration.

I observe that the British are fitting out an expedition by sea and another by land, which will undoubtedly penetrate to Symmesonia, and tho’ at first I was led to fear them as enemies, I have since discovered the means of making them our friends and protectors.

I have learnt that when these people visit any foreign country, their minds are sure to be out of health and require the discharge of a great deal of ill humour before they can be recovered; this discharge generally commences by cursing the country they are in, for a d——d outlandish place, where nothing can be got fit to eat or drink, and where they have no respect shown them, on account of their being Englishmen. This checked, as it is very apt to be in this country by the resentment it excites; prevents their restoration to health and (very properly) makes them your irreconcilable enemies. But if it be encouraged by submission and flattery,—if you allow them to boast as much as they please, to tell how they have beaten the French and Spaniards at all times, and every other nation when they pleased, if in addition to this, you drink the porter they bring with them and declare it the best in the world—if you suffer them to show you how to cook your victuals, and after it is done, agree that it is the best possible mode—if you then acknowledge them to be the richest people in the world and ask to negotiate a loan from them, you will make them your firm friends, and if you wish to carry on a war against any other country they will furnish you with ships, armies, and every thing necessary, and money to pay your expenses, and if you want any thing belonging to any other people, they will rob them in order to give it to you.

I have therefore, only to instruct my countrymen as to the course they are to pursue on the arrival of the British expeditions, and after adopting it, we shall be so far from fearing any thing from this country, that we shall require of you such a course e conduct as we may please to dictate: as by stating it to be necessary to keep up the “balance of power” between the concave and convex surfaces of the globe, and by sending Symmesonian stocks to the British exchange for sale, we can not only get Great Britain, but all Europe to take up arms, and compel you to allow us whatever we please to demand.

My mind being now relieved from the fears and cares that have oppressed it ever since left home, I shall spend some time in your country, and make observations respecting such of your manners and customs as I may have opportunities of seeing, and perhaps may communicate some of them to you. I may also want some information, which I trust that you or some of your correspondents will furnish me: in return for which I shall communicate such information respecting the concave as I may think it safe to entrust you with.


Letter from a gentleman now travelling in the interior of the earth to the editor of the Watchman.

City of Reileptnom,

June 22d, 1826.

Dear Sir,—I hasten to fulfil my engagement to send you, from time to time, an account of my adventures and discoveries. Capt. Symmes is right with respect to the polar openings, and the populous condition of the internal, or concave, surface of the earth. We entered without difficulty at the 68th deg. and, sailing south, arrived at a small seaport, which I find, by observing the latitude and longitude, to be exactly opposite to Montpelier; so that you and I are standing feet to feet. The attention of people here is, at present, considerably engrossed by the ridiculous light in which a certain editor has, for some time past, presented himself before the publick. I call no names; I hate calling names; for that leaves one nothing to presume. You will see at once, however, that affairs are conducted here very much as they are on that side of the world where the moon can shine. The editor alluded to is one of those unfortunate beings, who are often compelled by “circumstances beyond their control”—circumstances which “render it inexpedient” for them to act honestly and sincerely—to be sometimes one thing, and sometimes another. Some years since, the people of this country were divided into two parties, corresponding to the old democratick and federal parties among the people of Vermont. The former party fought long and manfully for their principles, till, at length, the contest was bro’t to a close, and all became “of one heart and one mind.” During the whole conflict, however, the aforesaid editor was a high ultra-federalist—all for argument’s sake to be sure—and exerted himself stoutly to encourage and dissuade his fellow-citizens from doing their duty to their country. Of late he has repented of his evil deeds, or rather, in the very teeth and eyes of multitudes who know better, has declared, that he never committed a political transgression; and has instigated the establishment of a republican paper—there being, as he would intimate, no such paper before published in this place—out of pure good-will to the democratick desire to aid them in the dissemination of republican principles. This party became predominant so long ago, that crowing time is past, animosities have subsided, assistance in doing nothing is not asked for, and so our editor gets nothing from his old friends—if those could be called his friends who were always ashamed of him—but a look of contempt, and from his new ones, only a sharp rebuke for his officiousness. Yet the more he is despised the more despicable he aims to render himself, and, as if it were not enough to have acknowledged the practice of political hypocrisy, he has also avowed himself to have been a hypocrite in religion. He speaks sneeringly of a religious institution, whose officers and students hold the same sentiments as the church to which he himself belongs, and, while in one number of his paper he affects to feel much indignation at the wrongs which, he says, the Methodists have sustained, in another he inserts a borrowed article, throwing upon this same Methodism all the odium of getting up a sham earthquake. But the Methodists have too much good sense and christian feeling to be dragged into a quarrel by a renegade from another denomination, and he is likely to meet from the different religious sects the same pity and contempt with which the politicians great him.

I have said so much on this subject, because I know, that, being an editor yourself, you will be pleased to hear something respecting the editors in this inner world. I may in a future letter give some farther particulars concerning the life and character of this singular man.

Your, &c.

P. S.—Among other absurdities committed by our editor here of whom I have been speaking, is that of abusing every body; whilst, if one of those whom he abuses happens to call him unmannerly and illiberal, he immediately raises the hue and cry of persecution, federalist, corruption, and loudest of all—amalgamation.

Symmes’s Hole.

I was sitting in the smoking room of the hotel one afternoon. I was not quite alone, for on the opposite side of the room, reclining in a rocking-chair, was a small, sharp-featured man, who was smoking cigarettes. His eyes were fixed on the ceiling, and he was drumming on the arms of his chair with the fingers of both hands. Suddenly he turned and said to me:

“Great thing, electricity! The day is coming, sir, when we shall do everything by electricity.”

I replied that he was probably right, for it was obviously necessary for me to say something.

The man got up, and crossing the room, sat down in a chair quite close to me, and leaned forward as if to make a confidential communication.

“People think that the electric light is a greet invention,” he remarked. “So it is, but there have been greater inventions that nobody knows anything about.”

“Indeed?” I said coldly, for I was not anxious to be talked to death, and I feared that I had met a man who was entirely capable of committing such a crime.

“I like your looks, sir,” continued the man, “and I’m going to tell you about one of the biggest electrical inventions that has ever been made, or that ever will be made. I’m going to tell you about my electric drill, which I invented three years ago. I can promise you that it will interest you some, and astonish you considerably. However, I don’t want to intrude, and if you’d prefer to have me shut up, all you’ve got to do is to say so.”

I am weakly good-tempered, and I sadly resigned myself to the coming infliction, saying to the man: “Go on! I shall be very glad to hear about it.”

“Three years ago,” he went on, “I was living in Wisconsin, in a farm house that my father had left me, with no neighbors within two miles. I had been educated for an electrician, and had invented two or three little things that weren’t calculated to attract much attention, but were mighty useful in the electric installation business. I had considerable money at the time, and I used to spend most of my time working in a laboratory that I had fitted up in the farmhouse.

“What I was working at especially was an electric drill. Drilling an artesian well, or an oil well, or anything of that sort, is a slow business, and fully half the time is occupied in scooping out dirt that is made by the drill. My idea was to make a drill to be operated by electricity, that would just burn its way down into the earth. You can burn anything provided you can get heat enough, and you can get any amount of heat you may want out of electricity, provided you know how to do it. I wanted to make a drill that would be so hot that it would just sink down into the earth, consuming everything in its way, just as a hot needle sinks into a piece of wax.

“Well! I don’t want to trouble you with all the details of the thing. So I will just say that I invented the drill, and proved to my satisfaction that it would do everything I wanted it to do. It didn’t look much like a drill, for there was no sharp-pointed cutting tool about it. There were just two stout insulated wires, that terminated in a sort of disk that was heated by the electric current hotter than anything was ever heated before on the earth. I had, of course, a dynamo to furnish the electricity, and a donkey-engine to drive it, and also to wind a reel on which the wires were coiled, so that I could lower the disk as it made its way into the earth, and could pull it up again in case I should want to do so.

“I started to drill my hole in the yard back of my house, where what I was doing wouldn’t be noticed by any one who might pass along the road. For that matter there wasn’t very much to be seen; nothing but a small derrick, over which the wires ran, and which stood directly over the place where I was boring. Where I lived you can strike granite rock almost anywhere by digging from one to three feet. I cleared away the earth till I reached the granite, and then I started my drill. Sir! as sure as I’m sitting here, that drill sank into granite as easy as a knife would sink into butter on a hot day. There was no noise about it, nothing except the humming of the dynamo. The drill made a clean hole of four inches in diameter, out of which a thin column of smoke went up. In ten minutes’ time that drill had sunk a hundred feet below the surface, and I saw that I had made the biggest success that an inventor could dream of making. I had started the thing with a thousand feet of wire attached to the drill. It was clear enough that a thousand feet would not last many hours. In fact, it had all been used up long before the morning was over. So I shut off the electricity, and leaving my drill nearly a thousand feet below the surface, I drove into town after a new lot of wire. This time I brought back with me ten thousand feet of steel wire, and ordered two miles more of it to be sent to meat once. I attached my ten thousand feet to the drill, and set it to work again. Everything went as smoothly as possible. There wasn’t the slightest hitch in the drilling apparatus, the engine, or the dynamo. The drill went at a perfectly regular rate, showing that whatever sort of rock or earth met it was all one to it. The only thing that surprised me was that it didn’t appear to meet with water. That is to say, it didn’t strike any stream powerful enough to interfere with its action; though now and then I could see that steam was coming out of the hole as well as smoke.

“How deep did I calculate to go? Well! I hadn’t any definite notion. My idea was to keep the drill going as long as my supply of wire. I wanted to find out what there was deep down in the earth. Most folks say that the interior of he earth is melted rocks and such, but I never took much stock in that story. Anyway, I had a fair chance of finding out the truth of it, for so long as my drill kept sinking at a uniform rate, it meant that it was working its way through solid matter, and in case it should stop working, that might mean that it had reached the central fire and been melted, or had nothing more to work on. Of course, I calculated to draw the drill up to the surface and examine it if anything should seem to be going wrong, but I was pretty well convinced that I could drill clean through to China, provided my supply of wire should hold out.

“I kept the drill going night and day, for the only superintending it needed was the feeding of the donkey-engine. In the daytime I used to sit in a chair alongside of the drill and watch the wires descending into the ground, and the smoke curling up out of the hole. All of a sudden the wires stopped. First there was a dead stop. Then I could see a sort of trembling movement in the wires, and then another dead stop. I cut off the electricity, and stopped the engine. The register showed that a mile and a third of wire had been run out, which, of course, gave the depth of the hole. I began to think that I had struck the central fire after all, but then I noticed that there was no more smoke coming out of the hole, which did not look much as if the drill had reached anything that was hotter than itself. I reversed the engine, and started to wind up the wire, and bring the drill to the surface.

“It was slow work, but the inside of the hole was so smooth and true that there was nothing to prevent the drill from being drawn out. I kept the engine steadily at work, and finally it had gathered in all the wire, and I was looking to see the drill reach the surface, when out came the two ends of the wires, with never the trace of the disk. I stopped the engine and examined the wires to see whether the disk had been burned off, or had simply been lost in some other way. What I found was, that the wires had been cut clean across with some sharp instrument, and when I saw that I sat down on the ground, feeling as faint as if I had been hit over the head with a club.

“You see yourself what the cutting of the wires meant. Wires can’t be cut by a sharp instrument unless somebody holds that instrument, or directs the machinery to which it is attached. Down a mile and a third in the bowels of the earth somebody had seized my disk and cut the wires which held it. There was no getting away from that conclusion: You may say that what I took to be a cut made by an instrument might possibly have been a bite made by the teeth of some animal; but it was as easy to suppose that there were men at that depth below the surface as to suppose that there were animals that fed on steel wire. Besides, if animals could live there, why, it followed that men could live there too. Did ever you happen to hear of Symmes’s Hole? Well! Captain Symmes was a fellow-countryman of mine, and he wrote a book to prove that the inside of the earth is hollow, and is inhabited by men; and that there is a hole at each pole which communicates with the place where these men live. Everybody laughed at Symmes’s Hole, and the poor man died brokenhearted, and people have pretty near forgot all about him. But I know now that Symmes was right, for it was nothing more or less than Symme’s identical hole that my drill had dropped into.

“I put my ear to the mouth of the hole I had drilled, but though I fancied I could hear a dull sort of heavy sound, as if there were a lot of heavy traffic, or an enthusiastic political meeting going on below, I couldn’t really say that I could hear anything of consequence. Having made up my mind that there were people below that had caught hold of the idea that I was at the other end of the wires, I went to work to open communication with them. I got a bottle of whiskey that I had in the house, and firstclass whiskey it was, too; the sort of thing that would prove to anybody who opened it that it came from a gentleman, and a man of culture— and I tied the bottle, together with my card, to the end of one of the wires, and lowered it into the hole. I said to myself, that when the people in Symmes’s Hole should get hold of that whiskey they would say to themselves that the man who sent it was worth knowing, and would send back a line of thanks, and a request for further acquaintance.

“When the bottle reached Symmes’s Hole the wire stopped running out; then it trembled a little, just as it had done at first, and then it hung quiet again. Judging that everything was all right below, I started the engine to haul up the wire, and I was mighty anxious to see the end of it, and to find out what the folks down in the bowels of the earth had to say to first-class whiskey. It seemed to be years before the wire was all reeled in. Then I saw the bottle was gone, and in place of it was a square bit of metal something like bronze, though it was not the kind of bronze that we have here. There was a message of some kind written on the bit of metal, though I couldn’t make head or tail of it, not knowing the letters, let alone the words. Here is the thing, if you’d like to see it. That is, I supposed it was here, for as a general rule I carry it in my pocketbook, but I see that I have left it up in my room. I don’t suppose there is a more interesting curiosity in any museum than that piece of metal. I showed it to a scientific man in Chicago, and I calculated that he’d say it was worth its weight in diamonds; but scientific men are a jealous lot, and never think much of anything that they haven’t done themselves.”

“What did this scientific man say about the piece of metal?” I interrupted.

“He said that I had better see a doctor, and that he hadn’t time to spend in looking at scraps of tin. I told you he was jealous. They all are, and that’s the reason why I never showed the thing to any other scientific man. Though I couldn’t read the message that had been sent to me, I know well enough what it must be. Just put yourself in place of the people that had received that bottle of whiskey, falling, as you might say, from the heavens. What would they naturally do? Why, they’d sample the bottle, and then they’d write a note, expressing their thanks, and asking for more. When I had studied the thing out, and had come to the conclusion that this was what was written on the piece of metal, I felt that it would be only polite to comply with the request, so I got another bottle of the same brand, and sent it with my compliments tied onto the neck of it, down into Symmes’s Hole. It went down all right, but it afterward appeared that there was a misunderstanding about the affair.

‘I let down the second bottle, as I was saying, and in due time I pulled up the wire again. Just as the end of it reached the surface, my cat, who was an inquisitive sort of beast, as most cats are for that matter, went up to the hole and put his nose into it, with a view to finding out if it held out any hopes of mice. Just at that minute something came up that hole and hit that cat on the head, and that was the end of the poor beast.

“Whatever it was, and so far as I could find out, it wasn’t a bullet or anything of that kind, it killed the cat as dead as a door-nail, and there isn’t the least doubt that it was meant to kill me. That taught me two things. One was that the people in Symmes’s Hole hadn’t any manners, or any gratitude; and the other that the neighborhood of the hole I had made wasn’t particularly safe. I hate to slander folk that I have never seen, and especially to slander them behind their backs; but I can’t help believing that the Symmes’s Hole people are no better than so many fanatics. Instead of appreciating good whiskey—and the whiskey I sent them was something that they had never tasted before, and will never taste again—they appear to have got mad, and tried to kill me by sending some sort of deadly vapor up to the surface. If I had been at the mouth of the hole instead of the cat, I shouldn’t be here at this identical moment, but should have been a victim to ingratitude and fanaticism. I had hoped that the people down below would prove to be some superior kind of beings, something in the line of underground angels, you understand; but I was satisfied when I saw my dead cat that they weren’t the sort of folks that I wanted to make friends with.

“I got a couple of buckets full of dirty water and poured it into the hole, just as a sort of hint that I wasn’t the sort of man to be insulted with impunity. Then I drove a big wooden plug into the hole, and covered it over with earth and sod, so that nobody would find it. When the job was finished I went into my house, and sat down to write out a full account of the whole affair, intending to send it to some big society, and make a first-class reputation as a discoverer. But that night I was taken with a sort of fever, and kept my bed for I don’t know how long. When I was well enough to walk around again, the doctor and all my friends said I must travel for my health, but I can’t see as I have got any good by coming away. I have a headache pretty near all the time, and having to be continually on my guard against people that want to poison me, I don’t get my rest as I should get it.”

At that moment a gentleman entered the room. He evidently was quite unconscious of the existence of the discoverer of Symmes’s Hole, but the hitter turned pale when he saw him, and hurriedly whispering to me, “There’s one of them,” left the room. As I afterward ascertained, he left the hotel that night, and I have never seen or heard of him since.—W. L. Alden, in Nickell Magazine.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.