English has given us some great and wonderful words such as ‘pseudo-science’ to describe things that sound plausible as according to science but really are not. This qualifies to things such as Flat Earth Theory and recovered memory, which have been shown time and again, despite some flawed anecdotal and even experimental evidence, to be factually incorrect. There are of course things on which the jury is still out as to whether it is pseudo-science or not. Things that have scientific basis that have yet to be conclusively proven as solid science or nonsense that sounds scientific. One of the concepts in this category, oddly enough is Hollow Earth Theory.

In the beginning

The concept of the core of the Earth being hollow dates back to the Roman Empire in the mythology and legends of various peoples including the Celts and Greeks. These were later combined with pagan and monotheistic religious traditions constituting an afterlife or as origin stories. These include the rather obvious examples of the Christian Hell and the Greek underworld, also known as Hades, though the two have nothing to do with each other despite common misconception. Less well known is the idea of Svartalfaheimr (“home of the black-elves”) in the Nordic tradition.

Great Minds ….

In 1692 a contemporary of Sir Isaac Newton going by the name of Edmond Halley, best known today as the namesake of Halley’s comet for being the first person to accurately calculate its orbit, proposed the idea that the Earth is a hollow sphere. People, having long ago figured out that the Earth was round rather than flat, with two inner shells formed in concentric circles and an inner core. These ‘shells’ were said to be separated by atmospheres, each possessing its own magnetic pole.

Basically, it is the idea of the planet as an apartment building, the level we live on being only one of four floors. Oddly, this idea was not as crazy as it sounds, particularly at the time and still has yet to be officially disproved. More recently in 1818, John Cleves Symmes, Jr. suggested that Earth consisted of a hollow crust with four inner shells, accessible through openings at each of the poles. Though he never produced a book about his ideas, there have been many subsequent scientist who have written about him and his ideas.

Cuckoo for coca-puffs

Among the interpretations of Symmes, Jr. were the fictional works NEQUDA or The Problem of the Ages in 1900 which features characters going in the hollow Earth as described by him and The Phantom of the Poles by a Hollow Earth sympathizer named William Reed as a sort of early attempt at fiction as scientific propaganda. This has lead to all manner of clearly preposterous conspiracies theories, still firmly believed by some.

If the Hollow Earth Theory holds true, what’s in the middle?

The number of things thought to be hiding below the surface are as myriad as they are strange and include everything form giants to aliens to Nazis. Yes, the Nazis are thought to have regrouped in the hollow Earth despite the fact that, here in real life, the majority of their leadership ended up shot, hanged or in prison. These, obviously, represent the more absurd aspects of Hollow Earth Theory and are a large part of the reason that many have rejected the notion out of hand.

While it does indeed sound odd in the context of modern science, to be fair to Halley and Symmes, Jr.the poles are quite large and if the ‘holes’ are found let us keep in mind that such things have happened before. There was, after all, a time when the great scientific minds of the day were sure that there was no such thing as a Panda and meteorites did not exist and there are scientist today who are of the opinion that life in the universe and everything is made up of sub-atomic strings.

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Trevor McNeil
Trevor McNeil spent much of his childhood playing video-games on early-form personal computers back when the disks were literally floppy. He attended the University of Victoria, completing a degree in Social Science with a concentration in Technology In Society, while also writing for the campus newspaper. He has written articles for such diverse publications as Humanity Death Watch, PopMatters and Perfect Sound Forever. He is a veteran of numerous “watershed moments” in the history of technological development and firmly believes that Han shot first.


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