Archive for November, 2014

Smoke and Mirrors of an Ancient Empire

An unsolved ancient mystery, a concealed entrance to the underworld, and an entranced “sibyl” with the power to influence an empire — these are the elements of an unforgettable  history lesson…


The Unsolved Mystery of the Tunnels at Baiae


Did ancient priests fool visitors to a sulfurous subterranean stream that they had crossed the River Styx and entered Hades?


By Mike Dash (




“There is nothing remotely Elysian about the Phlegræan Fields, which lie on the north shore of the Bay of Naples; nothing sylvan, nothing green. The Fields are part of the caldera of a volcano that is the twin of Mount Vesuvius, a few miles to the east, the destroyer of Pompeii. The volcano is still active–it last erupted in 1538, and once possessed a crater that measured eight miles across–but most of it is underwater now. The portion that is still accessible on land consists of a barren, rubble-strewn plateau. Fire bursts from the rocks in places, and clouds of sulfurous gas snake out of vents leading up from deep underground.


The Fields, in short, are hellish, and it is no surprise that in Greek and Roman myth they were associated with all manner of strange tales. Most interesting, perhaps, is the legend of the Cumæan sibyl, who took her name from the nearby town of Cumæ, a Greek colony dating to about 500 B.C.– a time when the Etruscans still held sway much of central Italy and Rome was nothing but a city-state ruled over by a line of tyrannical kings.


The sibyl, so the story goes, was a woman named Amalthaea who lurked in a cave on the Phlegræan Fields. She had once been young and beautiful–beautiful enough to attract the attentions of the sun god, Apollo, who offered her one wish in exchange for her virginity. Pointing to a heap of dust, Amalthaea asked for a year of life for each particle in the pile, but (as is usually the way in such old tales) failed to allow for the vindictiveness of the gods. Ovid, in Metamorphoses, has her lament that “like a fool, I did not ask that all those years should come with ageless youth, as well.” Instead, she aged but could not die. Virgil depicts her scribbling the future on oak leaves that lay scattered about the entrance to her cave, and states that the cave itself concealed an entrance to the underworld…”


Read more here.



Enter Thy Crypt: The Underground Cemetery

Basements are spooky. Cemeteries are spookier. Put them together and what have you got? Extra spooky. But, beautiful and fascinating, these graves seem particularly safe and sound in their underground lair…


(Halloween is over, but the Halloween posts never really end here at The Museum of Mysteries do they?)





How a Cemetery Ends Up Underground

by Allison Meier (Atlas Obscura)


“There’s no shortage of churches with crypts. However, while these are on the whole designed with the building. there’s one place where something much more unusual happened: the church was built right over a cemetery which it consumed as its crypt.


The Crypt at Center Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut, is situated among three churches on the New Haven Green, a grassy area downtown that was part of colonist John Brockett’s Puritan city planning for an ideal spiritual city. The Green was given the right dimensions to hold 144,000 people — the number they believed would be saved in the Second Coming of Christ. Judgment Day still hasn’t arrived, and an economic downturn of recent years makes this area less divine and more downtrodden. But go back to the 17th century, and it was bustling, including as a burial ground.


Yet in true Poltergeist-fashion, when in the 1820s the graveyard was relocated to the new Grove Street Cemetery, only the headstones were moved. By some estimates there are between 5,000 to 10,000 souls still buried below the Green, although one was disturbed during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy when a tree was dislodged from the ground, and a skeleton was found coiled in the roots. Specifically, a skull was spotted just before Halloween with its jaw swung open as if in a silent howl, while a spine and rib cage remained attached.


This is all to say that the Center Church on the Green crypt is just a section of a secret necropolis that’s mostly forgotten. Recently the New York Obscura Society visited the crypt as part of our road trip to New Haven. Entering the church, you see a blazing white interior with fascinating historic details like the pew used by Eli Whitney. Marble engravings above the entrance hint at something more…”


For the complete piece, and many photos, click here.


Through a wormhole we shall go…



As it turns out, time travel may be possible. But it will require going really really REALLY fast through outer space…How fast? And how possible? The article below from Gizmodo explains…



Yes, Time Travel Is Possible; Here’s How

(Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo)


“Time travel’s been one of man’s wildest fantasies for centuries. It’s long been a popular trend in movies and fiction, inspiring everything from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to the Charlton Heston shrine that is The Planet of the Apes. And with the opening of Interstellar today—n0t to spoil anything—we’re about to fantasize about it even more.


The most fantastic thing? It’s probably possible.


What’s almost impossible –


Let’s start with the bad news. We probably can’t travel back in time and watch the Egyptians build the pyramids. In the last century scientists came up with a number of theories that suggested it is indeed plausible to take a leap into the future; going back in time, unfortunately, is much more complicated. But it’s not necessarily impossible.


Albert Einstein laid the groundwork for much of the theoretical science that governs most time travel research today. Of course, scientists like Galileo and Poincaré that came before him helped, but Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity dramatically changed our understanding of time and space. And it’s because of these well-tested theories that we believe time travel is possible.


One option for would be a wormhole, also known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge. Along with physicist Nathan Rosen, Einstein suggested the existence of wormholes in 1935, and although we’ve yet to discover one, many scientists have contributed their own theories about how wormholes might work. Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne are probably the most well known. Thorne, a theoretical physicist at CalTech, even helped Christopher Nolan with the science behind Interstellar.


So let’s just assume that wormholes do exist. In the late 1980s, Thorne said that a wormhole could be made into a time machine. According to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, a wormhole could act like a bridge though space-time by connecting two distant points with a shortcut. Certain types of wormholes, it’s theorized, could allow for time travel in either direction, if we could accelerate one mouth of the wormhole to near-light speed and then reverse it back to its original position. Meanwhile, the other mouth would remain stationary. The result would be that the moving mouth would age less slowly than the stationary mouth thanks to the effect of time dilation—more on this in a second…”


To find out what’s possible, click here.


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