Good question! Take it away Jean Bosquet in the Jan. 29, 1934, Los Angeles Times.
Busy Los Angeles, although little realizing it in the hustle and bustle of modern existence, stands above a lost city of catacombs filled with incalculable treasure and imperishable records of a race of humans further advanced intellectually and scientifically than even the highest type of present day peoples, in the belief of G. Warren Shufelt, geophysical mining engineer now engaged in an attempt to wrest from the lost city deep in the earth below Fort Moore Hill the secrets of the Lizard People of legendary fame in the medicine lodges of the American Indian.
Let me come up for air to ask: Has the L.A. Times run a 94-word lede since 1934? Wow.
So firmly does Shufelt and a little staff of assistants believe that a maze of catacombs and priceless golden tablets are to be found beneath downtown Los Angeles that the engineer and his aides have already driven a shaft 250 feet into the ground, the mouth of the shaft being on the old Banning property on North Hill street overlooking Sunset Boulevard, Spring street and North Broadway.
And so convinced is the engineer of the infallibility of a radio X-ray perfected by him for detecting the presence of minerals and tunnels below the surface of the ground, an apparatus with which he says he has traced a pattern of catacombs and vaults forming the lost city, that he plans to continue sending his shaft downward until he has reached a depth of 1000 feet before discontinuing operations.
The breathless reporter goes on to explain why Shufelt is so convinced: A Hopi chief in Arizona gave him a legend that “according to both men, dovetails exactly with what Shufelt says he has found” using his radio X-ray.
And that brings us to the image above, which is taken from Page 5 — the story started on Page 1. The Times explains that the map was prepared by Shufelt “based on results obtained from a radio X-ray perfected by him.”
You can see on the left edge of the map where North Hill Street ran; toward the bottom is the intersection of North Broadway and Fort Moore Place.
The image inset in the top right of the map is “Times Staff Artist Ewing’s conception of the Lizard People at work.” The photographs in the bottom left show “Shufelt and crew at top of shaft” and “Shufelt operating his radio X-ray device.”
The Times’ Larry Harnisch has looked into the various searches on Fort Moore Hill for buried gold — there were a few in the early ’30s, but they didn’t amount to much. And by May of 1934, The Times reported that authorities had “flatly denied the application of Alfred Scott, old-time prospector, for permission to dig on the hill. Scott refused to state what he expected to find.”
The January 1934 story points out that the Lizard People’s key room was thought to be beneath the intersection of 2nd Street and Broadway. There has been an awful lot of digging in that area lately — a new federal courthouse is under construction; crews are preparing for Metro’s regional connector subway; and workers were recently doing a little digging at the southwest corner of The Times building, where a generator was removed. No word on subterranean civilizations or gold tablets, though.
(For more, Nathan Masters has a great piece about Fort Moore Hill, which isn’t much of a hill anymore, at L.A. As Subject: The Lost Hills of Downtown Los Angeles. The Times wrote about early-20th century tunnels in 2008: Footpaths beneath L.A. echo history. Masters has also written about L.A.’s tunnels: Lost Tunnels of Downtown L.A.)
— Matt Ballinger
Image: Clip of Page 5 of the Jan. 29, 1934, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Los Angeles Times archive