The Malta Independent 26 September 2023, Tuesday
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The Mystery of the Hypogeum

Malta Independent Sunday, 11 April 2004, 00:00 Last update: about 10 years ago

The burial place known as the “Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni”, was so named after the street under which it was discovered in the early years of the last century. Hypogeum is the Latin name for an underground structure. (Many experts believe it was orginally built as a temple of worship and should be recognised as the eighth wonder of the ancient world.)

Near the floor of the last chamber, in the third and last (officially recognised) sub-level of these ancient catacombs, there are a small number of so-called “burial chambers”. These are only a few feet square and situated right next to the floor. In fact one must get on one’s knees to look into them. These “burial chambers” are just large enough for one to crawl through. It has been rumoured for years that one of these “burial chambers” does not end, but continues into deeper and unexplored caverns beyond.

This, according to certain sources, was the subterranean passage and chamber referred to in an article which appeared in the 1940 August issue of the National Geographic magazine. The article stated the following concerning several people who disappeared in these catacombs without a trace:

“Many subterranean passageways, including ancient catacombs, now are a part of the island’s fortifications and defence system. Supplies are kept in many tunnels; others are bomb shelters. Underneath Valletta, some of the underground areas served as homes for the poor. Prehistoric man built temples and chambers in these vaults. In a pit beside one sacrificial altar thousands of human skeletons were found. Years ago one could walk underground from one end of Malta to the other. The government closed the entrances to these tunnels after schoolchildren and their teachers became lost in the labyrinth while on a study tour and never returned.”

The story, however, goes much “deeper” than the National Geographic article indicates. Other sources say that about 30 children vanished in these catacombs on a study tour, and when the “Hypogeum” was first discovered nearly 30,000 human skeletons of men, women and children (victims of ancient sacrifice to the “underworld gods”, performed by an old Neolithic race) were discovered as well.

One article written by a Lois Jessup, at the time an employee of the British embassy and later secretary of the New York Saucer Information Bureau (better known as NYSIB), appeared in an old issue of Riley Crabb’s Borderland Science magazine, published by the Borderland Sciences Research Foundation (B.S.R.F.) and was later reprinted in full in Dr Allen’s book Enigma Fantastique.

Miss Jessup claimed that she visited Malta and also the Hypogeum – once before the tragic disappearance of the children and shortly after. She described how on her first visit to the catacombs she finally convinced the guide to allow her to investigate one of the so-called “burial chambers” near the floor of the last chamber in the third sub-basement, the supposed “end” of the Hypogeum tour.

He seemed to know something she didn’t, but finally consented and told her that she could enter at “her own risk”. As she did so, candle in hand and her loosed sash used as a guide rope for her friends who followed behind, she crawled through the small passage and eventually emerged into a large cavern, where she found herself on a ledge overlooking a very deep, seemingly bottomless chasm.

Below, and on the other side of the chasm, was another ledge which appeared to lead to a doorway or tunnel in the far wall. We realise that what happened next might sound unbelievable to many who read this, but we ask them to draw their own conclusions as to its validity. Miss Jessup swears that what follows really happened.

She claims that out of this lower tunnel on the far side of the chasm emerged, in single file, several very large creatures of humanoid form but completely covered with hair from head to foot. Noticing her, they raised their arms in her direction, palms out, at which point a violent "wind" began to blow through the cavern, snuffing out her candle. Then, some “thing” wet and slippery (apparently a creature of a different sort) brushed past her.

This all happened just as the person behind her was beginning to come out of the passage and into the cavern. They could not understand her panicked attempts to get back to the “Hypogeum” room, but they consented after she insisted. When they found themselves back in the Hypogeum chamber, the guide saw her expression and gave her a “knowing” look.

About a week afterwards, news about the disappearance of the children and their teacher(s) broke out. On her second visit she saw an entirely new guide who denied that the other guide had ever worked there, and surmised that this new guide was hiding something.

She learned from more cooperative sources however, that this was the tunnel which the children and their teacher(s) and possibly the old guide, had entered. She also learnt that after the last child had made it through, the walls of the small tunnel just “happened” to collapse or cave-in.

Although the official version stated that the walls caved-in on the students, search parties were never able to locate any trace of the teacher(s) or the children, although the rope they had used to fasten themselves to the lower Hypogeum chamber was found to have been cut clean by something sharp (not falling rock).

It was alleged that for weeks afterwards the wailing and screaming of children was heard underground in different parts of the island, but no-one could locate the sources of the cries.

As for the catacombs under Malta itself, there are some ancient accounts which say that deep caverns under the island continue underground beyond the shore, and, according to one source (that is, the ever elusive “Commander-X”), part of this labyrinth stretches hundreds of miles northwards and intersects with catacombs underneath Rome (the hill Vaticanus?) or at least did so in ancient times...

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