john symmes

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Made a trip to Hamilton OH, to see the memorial of Captain John Symmes.

We found it in a rundown park surrounded by boarded-up houses in the middle of a hardscrabble, declining, formerly industrial town. Passed a fresh murder scene being processed by the mobile crime lab on the way in.

John Symmes (1779-1829) was a career officer in the US Army who served the nation in The War of 1812. He was also an ardent student of the natural sciences. Symmes became convinced the world was hollow with openings at the poles and habitable lands on the inside.

Symmes lectured extensively on his theory and repeatedly tried to solicit government support or private funds to mount an expedition to the unknown lands inside the Earth.

Although no expedition was ever mounted, Symmes’ ideas have influenced religious zealots, pseudo-scientists, and authors of fiction up to the present day. Edgar Allan Poe and Edgar Rice Burroughs both drew inspiration from Symmes.

Symmes’ son raised this memorial to his father in the 1840s.

On April 10, 1818, John Cleves Symmes Jr. issued a claim that the earth was hollow and habitable to a number of American colleges:

“To All The World. — I declare the earth to be hollow and habitable within; containing a number of concentric spheres, one within the other, and that their poles are open twelve or sixteen degrees. I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the concave, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.

I ask one hundred brave companions, well equipped, to start from Siberia, in autumn, with reindeer and sledges, on the ice of the Frozen Sea; I engage we find a warm country and rich land, stocked with thrifty vegetables and animals, if not men, on reaching about sixty-nine miles northward of latitude 82; we will return in the succeeding spring.”

‘I declare that the earth is hollow and habitable within; containing a number of solid concentric spheres, one within the other, and that it is open at the poles twelve or sixteen degrees. I pledge my life in support of this truth, and am ready to explore the hollow, if the world will support and aid me in the undertaking.’

-John Cleves Symmes, Jr. (1818)

Illustration of a Citizen of Martinia wearing a wig. From Niels Klim’s 'Journey Under the Ground’, English ed. (1845)