Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

News

Shocktober: Lost Lair of the Lizard People

Before you read this story...
Dear reader, we're asking for your help to keep local reporting available for all. Your financial support keeps stories like this one free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

5b2bcaba4488b3000926ac57-original.jpg

In the summer and fall of 1933, a Los Angeles mining engineer named G.Warren Shufelt was surveying the LA area for deposits of oil, gold and other valuable materials using his new invention, called a radio X-ray. Shufelt claimed he was able to locate gold and other precious resources at great depths using his invention, which operated based on a principle involving electrical similarities between matter, and was said to have worked even at a distance of many miles.

One day, while taking readings near downtown Los Angeles, Shufelt's instruments revealed what seemed to be a pattern of tunnels leading from what is now the Public Library in the heart of downtown to the top of Mount Washington, and then to Pasadena in the north. What he had stumbled upon appeared to be a well-planned underground labyrinth which fed into large rooms located at various points with deposits of gold in the chambers and passages. Some of the tunnels ran west for 20 miles under the Santa Monica Bay, which he believed were used for ventilation.

Shufelt began to research the history of the area; during the course of his investigation, he met a Hopi chief named Little Green Leaf, who told him about the legend of an ancient race of "Lizard People." The legends said that about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, an enormous meteor shower fell on the western coast covering an area hundreds of miles wide. Thousands of people were killed, their crops wiped out, dwellings destroyed and the forests set on fire. Survivors met and began plans for a safe area, to be used as refuge in the event of another catastrophe. The subterranean complex Shufelt had discovered was an emergency shelter, designed to accommodate 5,000 people or less. Valuable personal belongings, utensils and food were stored in the complex, along with historical records and gold treasures. When disaster threatened again, the Lizard People were forced to go underground to save themselves; they survived the meteor shower but were killed by natural gas leaking into their bunkers.

Support for LAist comes from

As a result of the information he recieved from Chief Little Green Leaf, Shufelt believed that the underground complex he had discovered was one of 13 built all over the Southwest. Shufelt's deduction was based on the part of the legend which claimed one of the underground cities was located under a hill, surrounded by a curving ridge of mountains like the middle of a horse's hoof—much like the area that is now the Board of Education, which is built over the ruins of the Willis Estate on Fort Moore Hill.

"Shufelt and his partner Chief Little Green Leaf were both convinced that the ancient legends and the readings from Shufelt's mystery machine were true. They decided to obtain a permit to sink a shaft down into the ruins of the subterranean city. They located a vacant lot at 518 North Hill Street, directly above one of the largest rooms. On 21st February 1933, the County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Rex McCreary, Warren Shufelt and Ray Martin to search for buried treasure there. The permittees were to bear all expenses, to leave the property in its original condition, and to share 50% of all discoveries and treasure with the city of LA.

"The county originally only allowed them to dig up to depths of 50 feet for fear of cave-ins. On 27th March 1933 they requested additional time and depths on their permit, believing that the labyrinth of tunnels was at least 1,900 feet in length, with rooms containing 9,000 square feet which contained valuable gold treasure in at least 16 places. On 10th April 1933 the contract was renewed. By the end of November in 1933, the main shaft was at a depth of 200 feet. Shufelt was determined to drill to a depth of 1,000 feet if necessary. On 29th January 1934, the first stories regarding the leg-end of the 'Lost Land of the Lizard People' made the LA newspapers. By this time, one of the five shafts was already 250 feet deep.

"According to the legend and the radio surveys, the underground city was laid out in the shape of a lizard, with its tail under the Main Library at Fifth and Hope, and the body extending Northeast, with the head being at Lookout and Marda near North Broadway. The key room to the city was located under Second and South Broadway. The leg-ends state that the key room is the directory to the rest of the city, and to the historical gold record tablets. These gold tablets were slabs of gold, 4 feet long and 14 inches wide. The tablets were believed to contain the records of the origins of the human race, and the history of modern man in the Americas, including details regarding the history of the mysterious Mayan people. Shufelt's radio-wave machine mapped the rooms and tunnels as subsurface voids, with the gold slabs as dark areas, showing perfect geometric angles.

"The rooms, seven of which occurred within an area of six square city blocks, varied in size from 23' x 23' to 34' x 42'. The room below the first shaft was 31' x 42', and the key room was the smallest. Water had seeped into some of the tunnels, and several of the rooms including the largest were flooded. Shufelt was prepared to use divers to explore the submerged areas when they finally broke into the subterranean city. By the beginning of February 1934, the first shaft had reached a depth greater than 250 feet and was still being dug, despite difficulty caused by the water encountered in its path. Several newspaper articles featured updates on the project.

"Shortly after all the media attention was focused on this search for the lost city under LA, the project was suddenly stopped and abandoned. On 5th March 1934, the shafts had been filled in and the contract with the city was canceled. Neither gold nor any other treasure was ever turned over to the County of Los Angeles."

[Text quoted from Unicus Magazine.]