Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Hollow Earth Theory, or Symmes' Hole

Symmes' Concentric Circles of Hollow Earth
Symmes' Concentric Circles of Hollow Earth
After several posts debating the merits of such theories being connected to Admiral Byrd, I stumbled upon the modern origin of the Hollow Earth Theory or, as it was once called, Symmes' Hole:

John Cleves Symmes, Jr. was a military provisioner and veteran of the War of 1812 who latched onto a popular notion of the era regarding concentric circles and an inner earth.  It appears that these ideas, both in the theoretical and literal, existed prior to Symmes -- Johannes Kepler in 1618, Edmund Halley in 1692, and even Cotton Mather referenced an Inner Earth of concentric circles -- but he somehow came upon the concept independently, perhaps during the War, as Symmes was not a classically educated man likely to have read the likes of Kepler and Halley.

Symmes' Circular Number 1, published on April 10, 1818, begins, "I declare that the earth is hollow and habitable within; containing a number of concentric spheres, one within the other..."  He goes on to give rather precise coordinates to the entrance of this fantastical world before requesting funding for an expedition to validate his claims.  He went on to write many more circulars before taking his theory on the road, speaking to any audience that would have him.

Symmes' Hollow Earth Theory inspired many of his contemporaries, including Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne -- both of whom wrote stories regarding a Hollow Earth -- as well as Edgar Rice Burroughs, and others.  In fact, the public became so intrigued that Congress was forced to vote on the matter in 1822.  James McBride, a supporter, published Symmes's Theory of Concentric Spheres in 1826, bringing the Hollow Earth Theory even more mainstream notice.  Though the expedition was turned down -- many times, actually -- John Symmes' Hole Theory deeply impacted popular culture, resulting in countless sci-fi/fantasy classics of both the 19th and 20th -Century.

© The Weirding, 2017

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