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The Inside of the Earth by Edward Page Mitchell

A Big Hole Through the Planet from Pole to Pole


He was an elderly man with a beard of grizzled gray unkempt hair, light eyes that shot quick, furtive glances, pale lips that trembled often with weak, uneasy smiles, and hands that restlessly rubbed each other, or else groped unconsciously for some missing tool. His clothes were coarse and in rags, and as he sat on a low upturned box, close before a half-warm stove, he shivered sometimes when a fierce gust of freezing wind rattled the patched and dingy windows. Behind him was a carpenter's bench, with a rack of neatly kept woodworking tools above it; a lathe and a small stock of very handsomely finished library stepladders. A great pile of black walnut chips and lathe dust lay on the floor, and the air was full of the clean, fresh smell of the wood. The room in which he sat was a garret, at the top of two eroded flights of steep and rickety stairs, in a building within three blocks of the southernmost extremity of that Lilliputian railway on which Saratoga trunks, fitted up as horse cars, are run from Fulton ferry to Hamilton ferry.

"Don't mention my name at all, sir," said he to the SUN reporter, who perched upon an unsteady box before him, "nor don't give them the exact place, please, for there are lots about who know me, and who'd be bothering me, and maybe laughing at me. Call me John Claltus. That's the name I was known by down in Charleston and all down South, and it did very well while I was working there, so you can put it in that."

"But why, having a grand scientific idea, and being the originator of novel and bold theories, do you shrink so modestly from public recognition and admiration?"

"I don't want any glory. I've thought out what I have because I felt I had a mission to do it, and maybe mightn't be let live if I didn't; but I'm done now. I can't last much longer. I'm old and poor, and I don't care to have folks bothering me and maybe laughing at me; and you see my brother, my cousins, and sometimes some sailor friends come to see me, and I'd rather you'd let it go as Claltus, sir."

"And as Claltus it shall go. But about your discovery. Was it not Symmes's theory of a hole through the globe that first gave you the idea?"


"Oh, not at all! I was shown it all in a vision years before I ever heard of him. It was more than thirty-eight years ago. I was only a twelve-year-old boy. I was greatly afraid when I saw it; it was so terrible to me. I really think, from what I saw, that the earth was all in a sort of mist or fog once. I felt that I must go to sea and try to find out what I could about it as a poor man; so as a sailor I went for years, always thinking about it and inquiring when I could of them that might have had a chance to know something. About two years ago I went South and tried to establish myself there, and then I saw the vision again, not so terrible as before, and I could understand it better. It came to me like a globe, about two feet through, and a hole through it one third of its diameter in bigness. I told it to people there and they said I was crazy. I told it to two men I was working for--brothers they were and Frenchmen. I built an extension table and raised the roof of their house for them, and they said, 'How can it be that you do our work so well and yet are not in your right mind?' So I quit saying anything about it. This is a model of like what I saw in the vision."

The model of the vision as produced is a ball of black walnut wood, four and a half inches in diameter, traversed by a round aperture whose diameter seemed to be about one third the diameter of the ball or globe. Around the exterior, lines have been traced by a lathe tool, the spaces between them representing ten degrees each. A chalk mark on one side represents New York. This ball is mounted between the points of an inverted U of strong wire, so based upon a little board as to admit of being tipped to change the angle at which the ball is poised. The points of the wire are fastened near the edges of the ends of the hole at opposite sides of the little globe, so as to admit of its turning, and thus alternately raising and depressing, with reference to the false poles, the ends of the hole. As the thing stood on a little stand, where he placed it very carefully, the sunlight poured through the hole, and as he turned it the area covered in the interior of the ball by the sun's direct rays was gradually narrowed, shortened, and finally so diminished as to extend inward only a very little way; then, as he continued turning it, the patch of light once more widened and lengthened until the sun again shone all the way through.


"There," said he, "that represents a day and a night for the people in the inside of the earth. I'm perfectly satisfied in my own mind that the turn is made on about ten degrees, and about ten degrees from the outside rim of it; them that goes there would get to the flat part on the inside. When they get to the ninetieth degree that's the pole they've always been trying to make. They'll be turning into the inside. Eighty degrees is the furthest they've ever got yet, at least that's the furthest for anyone that has come back to tell about it. Perry's Point is the furthest land northward on this continent that has ever been reached, and Spitsbergen is about as far on the other side. The furtherst they have gone south is Victoria Island, opposite Cape Horn, maybe a thousand miles away from the Cape, and that's only about eighty degrees. I've got a bit of stone here that came from Victoria Island that a sailor man gave me, thinkin', maybe, I might find out something about it from somebody that knew."

The discoverer arose and walked slowly to the further end of his garret, where he took from a shelf a little piece of stone, about three inches in length, two in width, and three quarters in thickness, soft as rotten stone almost, light brown and looking like a bit of petrified wood.

"I don't know what it is. There isn't much curious about it. I've seen bits of stone from the Central Park that looked much like it, but not just the same. I tried to make a whetstone of it, but it was too soft; it wouldn't take any polish."

"In your long sea service did you ever get far enough toward the poles to find anything corroborative of your theories?"

"Not myself, though I've noticed things that confirmed me. Now, there's the Gulf Stream, for instance. They say there's a current from the Gulf of Mexico that goes across to Europe; but I've seen enough myself, in the Indian Ocean, that I've crossed many a time and often, and round to Cape Horn, that I'm convinced it's the polar stream and the action of the sun on the narrow part of the rim there causes it. I studied it in the Gulf of Mexico. They thought the pressure of them big rivers flowing into the gulf made it. Now if that was so it would make a great pressure where it rushes through the narrow place between Florida and the West Indies that would set the stream going away to the other side of the ocean, but I couldn't see any such pressure greater there than anywhere else. Them rivers has no more effect there than a bucket of water poured into the bay down beyond. It's the great heat of the sun at the narrow rim melting the ice, and the current pouring out of that hole, that makes what they call the Gulf Stream in the part of it they've observed."


"Have you ever met any sailors who knew anything more about it than you did yourself?"

"Yes," the discoverer answered quickly, ceasing to bore bits from the soft stone with his thick thumbnail and looking up with an eager smile, "I met a sailor man in Charleston--Tola or Toland his name was--and he said he had been far enough to see a great, bright arch that rose out of the water like, and I said, 'That's my arch; that's the rim of the hole to the inside of the earth.' He was there in Charleston waiting for a ship, and I was making patterns. We used to meet every night to talk about the thing, for he was a knowledgeable man, and took an interest in it, the same as I did. He saw that arch every night for two weeks while the privateer he was on was in them waters, and all that was with him saw it, but they couldn't make it out. Then they got frightened of it, beating about in strange waters, and at last they got back to parts of the ocean they knew, and so came away as fast as they could. Well," sighing as he spoke, "sailors sometimes make a heap of brag about what they've seen and possibly there's nothing in it, but there may be. I know it's there all the same, for I've seen it in the vision and it stands to reason. I asked him if he could see anything in the daytime, and he said no--nothing, only clouds and mists about him. And that stands to reason, for in the night, you see, the reflected light would shine up the arch and show it, but in daytime it would be so high and so far off that it could not be seen. I had some hopes that he might have got the color of land, but he didn't."

"What do you suppose is the character of the country in there?"

"Oh! I don't know, but it's likely there are mountains and rivers in there. I think it's most likely they have most water in there, but maybe a good deal of land, too; and maybe gold and various kinds of things that's scarce on the outside."

"And people, too?"

"I shouldn't wonder at all if there was people there, driven in there by the storms, and that couldn't find their way out again." "And how do you suppose they support life?"

"Why shouldn't they the same as people on the outside? Haven't they got air and light and heat and the change of seasons, and water and soil, the same as there is outside? It's a big place in there. The open polar circle, I calculate, is in circumference about the diameter of the earth, and that would give one third of the earth open inside. They get light and heat from the sun, and maybe a good deal of reflected light and heat all the way through from the south end of the hole. That's where it all goes in at."


"And what sort of folks do you suppose are in there?"

"Ah! I don't know. There may be Irishmen there, and there may be Dutch there, and there may be Malays there, and other kinds of people, and there may be Danes there, too--they were good smart sailor people, too, in their time, always beating about the waters and they might have got drifted in there and couldn't get out."

"How do you mean 'couldn't get out'?"

"Couldn't find their way. There's no charts of them waters, and maybe the needle won't work the same there, and the place is so big they may go on sailing there and never going straight or finding their way back. Maybe they've been wrecked, and had no means of coming away. Sure there must be mighty storms in there. Great storms come out of that hole in the south. 'Great storms come out of the South,' the Scriptures say. You'll find that in the Book of Job, that and lots more about the earth. He talks about it as if he knew all about it. He knew all about that hole in the inside of the earth, and as he wasn't with the Creator when He made it, he must have seen it to know so much about it as he shows he did.

"And yet--" he murmured in a lower voice, meditatively digging off little bits from a piece of chalk with his fingernails, and touching up the spot representing New York on the wooden ball--"you'll find a good many things in the Scriptures if you search them, about the interior of the earth."

"Have you ever tried to enlist government or private enterprise to prosecute an investigation of the correctness of your theories?"

"No. What could I do? I was always only a poor, hard-working, ignorant man, but I seen it in a vision and I felt it my duty to study on it and make it known. But I think if a good steamship was laid on her course proper from New York, set in the way I know she would have to be, and provided for rightly, in about ten weeks she would get there and into the inside of the earth. Her wheels would never stop until she got there, for there's more than human thought about it. It's Cod's will it should be known, and her machinist couldn't stop her wheels if she was going the right way for it. But she would have to be provided with a good shower bath to keep her wet all the time, for on the rim there, on the narrow part, it will be five times as hot as at the equator. If they get up an expedition to go there, it will have to be well armed, too. If they find them Irish and Danes in there, there will be fighting, for they are hostile people. Yes, and them Malays, too. They know how to navigate ships, too, and they're warlike chaps and they'll give them some trouble. Yes, the expedition will have to be well armed."


"Do the inhabitants of the hole see the moon and the stars?"

"Partly, I conceive. They get the good of the moon about nine days in the month, and can see such parts of the heavens as are visible out of the ends of the hole. That's all; but it would never be real night there, for even when the sun would be off on one side its light would be reflected from the walls of the other side. You see the earth is moving about the sun all the time. Not that I think it goes round in the form them astronomers say it does. I think it goes round on the high and low orbit, that is, one side of the circle is raised in coming down from the sun--and always at the same distance from the sun. Any globe working about the sun must have the same force and the same balance all the time to keep face. The theory of the astronomers is that it goes out many millions of miles at certain times of the year and comes back. Now, there would be no order or regularity about that. It isn't reason. It would make a regular hurly-burly of everything if the earth was allowed to run around in that wild way. And there's another thing that goes to show the world is hollow inside. A solid globe you can't make roll of itself in the sunlight but a hollow one will. You go to work and make a globe of fine silk and fill it with gas, or make it of cork and hollow, and put it into a glass jar in the sun, and pump the air out, and raise it up to a certain temperature--about 180 degrees or maybe 200, I think--and it'll roll in the sun, but a solid one won't do it. So it stands to reason the earth is hollow, so it will roll in the sun. I've tried that experiment in my shop during the war. I made it up nice, but I haven't got it now, for my shop was robbed three years ago, and I lost that and a lot more things, and all my tools. The model I had for the Patent Office was carried away, too."

"But let us get back to our hole. Beyond what the sailor told you, you have nothing more than theory?"

"Not altogether. There are signs of life from further to the south than anybody has ever gone yet that we know of. I read in a paper last August that an English captain went far enough south to get into warm water; and there he picked up a log drifting from still further south, with nails in it and marks of an ax on it, and that log he brought back with him to England, and it's there now. Anyway, I read that in the paper--but," speaking in a tone of regretful sadness, "these newspapers start so many curious things and ideas that you can't always be certain about what they say. But other sailor men than that captain have found the water growing warmer, and had reason to know of open seas at the poles. Besides, there's another thing that goes to show that there's life inside the earth, and that is the great bones and tusks of animals, so big that no animals on the earth now can carry them or have such things, that they find away up in Siberia. Them came from the inside of the earth, I've no doubt, drifted out in the ice that was parted there when the sun cracked the floes and set them drifting out in a polar current."


"You are, of course, aware that many people have a theory that the interior of the earth is in a state of fusion, and others that there are vast internal seas, whose waves act upon chemical substances in the earth, and produce spontaneous combustion and earthquakes and volcanoes?"

"Yes, and what's to hinder. The crust of the earth, between the hole inside and the outside surface, is nearly three thousand miles thick, and surely in all that there's a heap of room for many strange things. But as sure as you live and I live the earth is hollow inside, and there's a great country there where people can live, and where I've no doubt they do live, and some day it will all be found out about it."



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