Many occult speculations revolve around variant cosmologies
in which the Earth is not simply a solid sphere in a universe
of other celestial bodies. One of them is the idea that the Earth
is to some degree hollow. This theory takes two basic forms.
The first, the cellular cosmogony, proposes that we live on
the inside of a sphere or oval, with sun, moon, and planets in
the center. The second suggests that we live on the outside of
a hollow sphere with a mysterious inner kingdom known only
to a few initiates or intrepid travelers.
An early hollow Earth theory was proposed by the English
astronomer Edmund Halley (of comet fame) in 1692. He suggested
that the Earth is a shell 500 miles thick with two inner
shells and a solid inner sphere, all capable of sustaining life. In
1721 Congregationalist minister Cotton Mather put forward a
In 1818 Captain John Cleves Symmes, a retired army officer,
spent the last years of his life trying to prove that the Earth
consisted of five concentric spheres with holes several thousand
miles in diameter at the poles. His theories are explained in detail
in the books Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres (1826), by
James McBridge, and The Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres
(1878), by Americus Symmes, son of the captain.
In 1820 a writer with the probably pseudonymous name
Captain Seaborn published a fictional narrative about a hollow
Earth under the title Symzonia. In the book Seaborn finds
his steamship drawn by strong currents to a southern polar
opening, where he finds an inner world of happy utopiates.
Edgar Allan Poes Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym develops
a similar theme.
A later development of the Symmes theories was propounded
with messianic zeal by Cyrus Reed Teed (18391908), who
spent 38 years lecturing and writing on the hollow Earth
theme. He had a laboratory for the study of alchemy, and
claimed that in 1869 he had a vision of a beautiful woman who
revealed to him the secret of the hollow Earth. This discovery
was given to the world in a pamphlet titled The Illumination of
Koresh Marvelous Experience of the Great Alchemist at Utica, N.Y.
In 1870 he published The Cellular Cosmogony under his religious
name Koresh (Cyrus) and after many years of enthusiastic
lecturing established a College of Life in Chicago in 1886. This
was the beginning of a communal society called the Koreshan
Unity. By the 1890s this had blossomed into the town of Estero,
near Fort Myers, Florida, under the name The New Jerusalem.
In the 1930s, long after Teeds death and the decline of his
Koreshan communities in the United States, his ideas were
merged with theosophical and occult notions and also became
part of some eccentric Nazi cosmologies. Remnants of the Hohlweltlehre
(hollow Earth teaching) still have some following in
Germany. Teeds ideas were later exploited by two famous occult
swindlers, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Jackson, operating under
the names Theodore and Laura Theodore Horos. The name
Horos was taken from the writings of Cyrus Reed Teed. Mrs.
Jackson (also known as Mrs. Diss Debar, Angel Anna, and
Editha Gilbert Montez) appears to have been born as Editha
Salomon. In addition to representing herself as a founder of
Koreshan Unity, she stole the rituals of the Hermetic Order
of the Golden Dawn.
Another hollow Earth theorist was Marshall B. Gardner, an
Illinois maintenance engineer who worked for a corset manufacturer.
His book Journey to the Earths Interior (1906) might
have been influenced by Jules Vernes story Journey to the Center
of the Earth (1864). It rejects the theory of several concentric
spheres and claims that there is only one hollow Earth and that
we live on the outside of it. Gardners Earth is 800 miles
thick, and the interior has its own sun. There are openings at
the poles, each 1,400 miles wide, through which the mammoths
of Siberia and the Eskimoan people came. An enlarged edition
of Gardners book was published in 1920, with many impressive
illustrations showing the everlasting summer of the interior.
Six years after the publication of the second edition of Gardners
book, Admiral Richard E. Byrd flew over the North Pole.
Three years later Byrd flew over the South Pole, but he found
no holes in either of the poles. Incredibly enough, however, his
statements about his explorations have since been quoted out
of context to make it seem as if he actually endorsed the hollow
Earth myth. Claims that flying saucers really come from inside
the Earth through the polar openings are made by, among others,
Raymond Bernard in his book The Hollow Earth (1969).
A persistent variant of the hollow Earth cosmology is the
idea that the Earth is honeycombed with a network of secret
subterranean cities and caverns, the home of underground
kingdoms. Such notions have been articulated by Richard
Shaver. These are modern versions of older folklore about
fairies and gnomes.
Gardner, Marshall B. A Journey to the Earths Interior; or, Have
the Poles Really Been Discovered Aurora, Ill. The Author, 1913.
Lang, Johannes. Die Hohlwelttheorie. Franfurt am Main, Germany
Goethe Verlag, 1938.
Teed, Cyrus Reed. The Cellular Cosmogony; or, the Earth, a
Concave Sphere. Chicago Guiding Star, 1899.
Walton, Bruce A. A Guide to the Inner Earth. Jane Lew, W. Va.
New Age Books, 1983.