Caves, Gas, & The Great Transfer Theory
by Todd Rutt & Arn McConnell (Wold Atlas vol.1, no.2)
Over the years, and especially in the past century, there have been a number of strange disappearances that have been chalked up as fiction. Let us quickly peruse some of the more documented cases and see if we can draw any conclusions.
Circa 1305: Dante, an Italian author, while poking around in a cave, walks into Hell (The Divine Comedy).
1876: John Carter and Rhett Butler (William K. Powell), while trying to escape from a murderous band of Apaches, take refuge in an Arizona cavern. Butler is apparently mortally wounded, but this is never fully substantiated. Although the chronicler of this event, Edgar Rice Burroughs, is mysteriously vague about this incident, it would appear that something about this cavern causes Carter to undergo an astral experience that takes him to the weird world of Barsoom, known to us as Mars. The fate of Butler/Powell is never mentioned (Burroughs, A Princess of Mars).
1903: Young heir David Innes and that pious genius, Abner Perry, undertake a subterranean journey in Perry's "Iron Mole." The site chosen for this odyssey is an area in Connecticut that is apparently a rich mining area. (David's inherited wealth came from his father's mining operations in that vicinity.) Something happened in the earth's crust, though, and instead of acting as a mechanical prospector as it was meant to, the Iron Mole transports David and Abner to the supposedly earth's-core world of Pellucidar (Burroughs, At the Earth's Core).
1903-04: Gullivar Jones, late of the U.S. Army, is suddenly whisked from New York City to the planet Mars, where he encounters a River of Death and many other "Barsoomian" elements.
1926: Young mining engineer, Anthony "Buck" Rogers, is exploring a Pennsylvania mine when an avalanche entraps him in a pocket of "radioactive gas." This gas seemingly keeps him in a state of suspended animation until the year 2419 A.D., when a shift in the stratum clears the atmosphere in the mine and awakens him (Philip Nowlan, Armageddon 2419 A.D.).
1929: Alan Kane and Theodore Dolliver are sent from the cavern laboratory of Dr. Ignatius Lazar to Mars (Carl H. Claudy, The Mystery Men of Mars).
November 4, 1948: Dr. Clark Savage, Jr., encounters what seem to be denizens of Hell in a Maine cavern. Dr. Karl Lenningen, a noted psychiatrist who accompanies Doc on this adventure, suggests that the experience was prompted by a subterranean hallucinogenic gas, but this does not seem tenable (Kenneth Robeson (Lester Dent), Up From Earth's Center).
March, 1969: Jon Dark, an adventurer in Cambodia, stumbles upon the lost city of Arangkor, where he falls into a dark and mysterious well. The well transports him to a world that he believes to be Callisto, one of Jupiter's moons (Lin Carter, Jandar of Callisto).
June 16, 1969: Lt. Col. Travis Morgan, while on an aerial spy mission for the USAF, flies over the North Pole, and is forced to jettison himself over what he believes to be Yukon territory. Instead, he lands in the supposedly subterranean world known as Skartaris (Mike Grell, First Issue Special #7, DC Comics).
September, 1970: Author Lin Carter, while looking for Jon Dark, also stumbles into the strange well of Arangkor. He too is transported to the world Shondakor, which both Dark and Carter believe is Callisto (Lin Carter, Lankar of Callisto).
On the surface, perhaps, these events have little in common with each other, but notice the use of subterranean "transfer points" for most of them. With the exceptions of Travis and Jones, all were involved with caves, mines, or wells when they mysteriously entered another world. Twice gas is mentioned. It is our hypothesis that there are, located all over the world, underground pockets of gas that somehow, in a way unbeknownst to science, cause an interdimensional mass-transfer. It is our belief that John Carter, David Innes, Abner Perry, Buck Rogers, Alan Kane, Theodore Dolliver, Doc Savage, Monk Mayfair, Karl Lenningen, Jon Dark, and Lin Carter (who is possibly related to the heroic Virginia family of that name), have all undergone a "world-transfer" by means of this gas. We also feel that Lt. Jones and Travis Morgan were victims of this "gas," due to the fact that Jones' Mars and Morgan's Skartaris are too remarkably similar to Barsoom and Pellucidar to be coincidental.
It should be noted that this theory fits in perfectly with John Flint Roy's view of Barsoom as put forth in his excellent Guide to Barsoom.
In conclusion, one can only wonder if Rhett Butler did not undergo a world-transfer himself. The world will never know for sure.
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All rights reserved. The text of this article is copyright 2000 by the authors, Todd Rutt and Arn McConnell. No copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted without prior written permission and consent of the authors.