; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The 'Mountain of Death'

South of Cooktown, North Queensland is the 1000 foot tall "Black Mountain"...also known by the Aborigine's as "Kalcajagga" (meaning the place of the spear or more loosely translated as mountains of death). The mountain is a huge pile of dark boulders 2 miles long and part of the Black Trevethen Range. Aborigines avoid the mountain, as well as birds and other animals. Three men with horses vanished years ago at the mountain, where chasms of unsounded depth penetrate the mountain. Later two young men intent on solving earlier disappearances vanished, as well as two trackers who tried to find them.

The first "recorded" disappearance was that of a carrier named Grayner who disappeared along with his horse and bullocks in 1877. 13 years later a Constable Ryan disappeared after tracking a wanted man to the base of the mountain, and neither were ever seen again. Then a gold prospector named Renn vanished and could not be found by police teams who combed the area for weeks. Harry Owens, a station owner from Oakley Creek, disappeared at the mountain while searching for stray cattle, as did his partner George Hawkins who went to search for him after alerting police. Two police trackers entered the caves but only one came out, and he was so shaken by an experience that terrified him so much that he could give no clear account of what happened.

The Aboriginal belief is that the mountain originated in the dreamtime with a man, being similar to a medicine man and also a chameleon, who had the taste for human flesh. He killed and ate a young chief and so was banished and fled to the mountains, occasionally surfacing to eat a human or two from his own tribe. On his last venture out of the mountains he turned into a goanna to escape his angry fellow tribe members and had the misfortune of being struck by lightening. Being no ordinary goanna he exploded and left large piles of charred rock everywhere. Another belief of how the mountain became is that two brothers were fighting over a girl and were attempting to kill each other by rolling these black rocks down from the hills. The rocks eventually piled up as more and more were thrown, creating the Black Mountain. A ravine located near the Black Mountain was the site of a massacre of Aboriginal people by European settlers, maybe the ghost of the murdered Aborigines haunts it, taking revenge on the white man for his atrocities upon them.

The 'Rainbow Serpent' creating Black Mountain

One experienced bushman armed with a revolver and electric torch penetrated the caves, one of which descended and narrowed, and deep within he encountered bats and a sickly, musty stench, then his torch went out. He crawled for 5 hours through stench-filled caverns, encountering deep precipices and black chambers, until he saw a distant light which he climbed towards, until he reached the surface:

I stepped into the opening, like other Black Mountain caves it dipped steeply downwards, narrowing as it went. Suddenly I found myself facing a solid wall of rock, but to the right there was a passageway just large enough for me to enter in a stooping position. I moved along it carefully for several yards. The floor was fairly level, the walls of very smooth granite. The passage twisted and turned this way and that, always sloping deeper into the earth. Presently I began to feel uneasy. A huge bat beat its wings against me as it passed, however I forced myself on, to push further. Soon my nostrils were filled with a sickly musty stench. Then my torch went out. I was in total darkness. From somewhere, that seemed the bowels of the earth I could hear a faint moaning which was then followed by the flapping of wings of thousands of bats. I began to panic as I groped and floundered back the way I thought I had come. My arms and legs were bleeding from bumps with unseen rocks. My outstretched hands clawed at space, I expected solid walls and floors, but could not find it. At one stage where I had wandered into a side passage, I came to the brink of what was undoubtedly a precipice-judging by the echoes. The air was foul and I felt increasing dizziness. Terrifying thoughts were racing through my mind about giant rock-pythons I have seen around this mountain. As I crawled along, getting weaker and loosing hope of ever coming out alive, I saw a tiny streak of light. It gave me super strength to worm my way towards a small cave mouth half a mile from the one I had entered. Reaching the open air I gulped in lungfuls of it and fell down exhausted. I later found that I had been underground for five hours, most of the time on my hands and knees. A King’s ransom would not induce me to enter those caves again.

Ancient alien theorists connect this place with extraterrestrial activity. Although the geological process is a common pattern in the birth of countless mountains throughout the world, Kalkajaka is said to be quite different and some claim it was built by artificial means, and that it is a ruin of an ancient extinct civilization dating back many thousands of years. In 1872 an expedition found massive quantities of gold in a nearby river. Within 20 years, 55 tons of gold have been removed. To some believers, Reptilian extraterrestrials genetically engineered humans in that area, in order to use them as gold miners. These extraterrestrials supposedly stacked the gigantic rocks together in order to cover the gold and erase their tracks.

On the scientific aspect, the following comments come from a member of the staff of the James Cook University of North Queensland, Dept. of Geology, Associate Professor P.J. Stephenson:

I have visited and climbed the mountain concerned. It is composed of huge granite boulders covered with black lichen. The complete black surface coating may be uncommon but the boulder pile is less so. Near Chillagoe and at several other localities in north Queensland similar phenomena exist.

The occurrences are somewhat puzzling because of their relative rarity. However, they must have been produced by rapid erosion of the 'skeletal' soil profile. Many soil profiles contain fresh rock 'kernels' in them and removal of the soil component would produce a boulder pile. But such removal takes place so slowly the 'kernels' also weather completely...'

There are still some practical questions to ask, however. What really did happen to those people who at various times in the last hundred years, have been said to disappear, vanish without a trace?

Any party that decides to unravel the mystery of the mountain will need to be very carefully organized and equipped to meet any hazard, likely or unlikely -- not forgetting the possibility of meeting a very real python.

Modern-day Czech explorer Ivan Mackerle described his team's descent into, what he refers to as, the 'Mountain of Death':

The intimidating demeanor of the mountain might have ceased to be a mystery, but what is hiding inside has not. What happened to those who at various times during the last hundred years reportedly disappeared without a trace? We had to find the answer inside the mountain. Finding an entry port was simple. The whole place abounded with dark abysses. Some passageways were no more than a few feet long; others went on into an impenetrable darkness. It soon became clear that it would take months to find out which ones lead into the mountain’s core. There was nothing for us to do but take our chances, throw in the rope and climb down one of the larger openings. That's what we did. Inside we found a roomy chamber with corridors running into all directions. We decided to embark on the widest, which lead diagonally downward.

About ten yards later we entered another shadowy chamber. Again, the corridor divided itself into four different directions. David agreed to stay put and be the lookout while Danny and I continued on our quest. The first two paths turned out to be dead ends. They became more and more narrow, until they vanished among tiny openings between boulders, impossible to negotiate. At the beginning of the third path we were forced to crawl but soon hit a crosswise tunnel tall enough to allow us to stand. We turned back to fetch David, but our sense of direction began to betray us. It would be too easy to lose our way in all the possible twists and turns so we thought it best to mark our path. We considered using a nylon fishing line but ended up using our mountain-climbing rope instead. The floor on which we were walking was made up of stones. Some rocked dangerously, perpetually threatening to slip into a crack or an abyss bellow. The narrow tunnel was straight and walking it was no trouble. Nothing but the careful unraveling of the rope was slowing us down now. Then, without any warning, the tunnel took an abrupt turn and the vaults over our heads dipped down dramatically. From here on we had to bend. Suddenly, a huge bat charged out against us. In that narrow corridor he almost hit us and we could feel the wind from his flapping wings in our faces. Of course we were startled but not afraid even though it turned out to be a savage carnivorous Ghost Bat (Macroderma gigas). It feeds on frogs, birds and small rodents but wouldn’t tackle bigger creatures. We saw more bats hanging down from the boulders, rocking in an odd motion. With our flashlights we scanned the walls and ceiling vaults, unexpectedly jutting out and just as quickly disappearing into the as yet unexplored labyrinth. Unfortunately, here the path ended. A huge boulder, which had once fallen off the ceiling, made further passage impossible. As I squeezed through the crack under it, a big flat stone under me moved precariously. I would have been doomed but thanks to the rope I escaped slipping down forever into the abyss of a diagonal shaft, which had so suddenly opened under me. All around me, boulders began to tear down, leaping wildly and hitting the walls on their way, ending in a free fall of a few seconds. The echo told us that the abyss was several yards deep.

In the following days, we returned several times. We tried our luck in different spots and soon realized that an intricate underground web of passages and pathways was underpinning the entire surface of the mountain. Thus we were able to descend further down and explore many narrow stray paths, but in the end Black Mountain was able to preserve its mystery. We never did find a way into its legendary heart. All the trails we embarked on were filled with gravel and sand from disintegrated stone.

It would be hard to state unequivocally whether that heart harbours any mysterious chambers filled with tombs and treasures, or whether it is nothing but solid and untouched rock, as the geologists claim. To reach a conclusion would require a search lasting anywhere from weeks to several months. Yet the assumption that the mountain is either entirely or partially hollow seems reasonable. The locals once observed smoke from a burning bush drifting into the mountain on one side and coming out on the other. That is not to say it is inhabited by monsters (subterranean-dwelling creatures of serpent races), which kidnap or massacre foolish adventurers who come too near.

The mysterious disappearances might have a simpler explanation. Those who don't mark the trail on their way through this horrifying maze might never return. It is not difficult to imagine the agonies of a human being lost in the eternal darkness. The din of falling boulders and unexpected encounters with large bats or snakes could easily bring on panic, loss of orientation and consequent injuries. All you have to do then is trip on one of the thousands of slippery stones. The flashlight can easily fall out of your hand into one of the crevices. The victim of such an unfortunate accident is a goner. He can never again find his way to the light of day.

The mysterious sounds coming from inside the mountain might be caused by wind, by falling rock echoing with a curious metallic sound, as well as by explosions caused by changes in temperature. When the boulders' temperature rises high in the summer, a sudden cool tropical downpour causes them to contract. Occasionally the pressure is so great that a boulder explodes violently.

However, we could not explain away one mystery. Who was walking through the night around our tent? Could it have been the subterranean-dwelling "reptilian" after all?

Info Journal, Vol.4, No.2; Walkabout (Sydney, Australia), June 1972
Unexplained: Exploring the Mysterious
The Grand Deception: They're Already Here, Have Been For A Long Time, And They're Still Coming...

Wise Women of the Dreamtime: Aboriginal Tales of the Ancestral Powers

The Speaking Land: Myth and Story in Aboriginal Australia

Aboriginal Myths, Legends & Fables