The Writing Traveler: The Lost City of Mystery

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Back in the caves, he found some copper instruments, some war weapons with sharp edges, probably swords, and a big idol that looked a lot like Buddha.

THE GRAND CANYON is a chamber of secrets.

That’s what he told me, and he should know.

Marcus wasn’t nearly as old as he looked, but too many long days in a hot Arizona sun had turned his face to burnt leather.

The broad-brimmed hat tried to help. It failed miserably.

Marcus was thin as rail, and his shoulders were slumped from wandering among the ridges carved eons ago by the waters of the Colorado River.

He had been born not far away in Williams and never saw any reason to leave.

He knew the region as well as anyone.

And I was curious about the Lost City that rumors said lay hidden somewhere in the back reaches of the canyon.

The story first broke in 1909 on the front page of the Phoenix Gazette. An explorer named George Kincaid came wandering into Yuma, said he had rowed down the Green River, then the Colorado River, and found a great underground citadel.

Caleb Pirtle

As the newspaper reported: The discoveries almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited the cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of Oriental origin, possibly from Europe, tracing back to Rameses.

If their theories are born out by the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved. Egypt and the Nile, and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to the ages which stagger the fancy of the fictionist.

“You know anything about the lost city?” I asked Marcus.

“The story’s not a secret.”

“You believed it happened?”

“Don’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t there.”

We were standing on the South Rim, and the canyon seemed to stretch forever, changing from gold to red and finally black as night crept across the landscape and spilled down into the abyss.

“Old George didn’t come alone,” Marcus said. “A professor was with him. Said his name was S. A. Jordan. Said he worked for the Smithsonian. Said the Smithsonian had financed the whole thing.”

“You believe it?”

“Don’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t there.”

I pressed on.

“What did Kincaid and the professor find?”

“A series of tunnels and passageways.”

“How large?”

“Said it would have held a population of fifty thousand people.”

“They leave any traces?”

“George told the newspaper he found some copper instruments, some war weapons with sharp edges, probably swords, a big idol that looked a lot like Buddha, sitting there cross legged with a lotus flower in each hand, a bunch of little statues, some beautiful, some misshapen and distorted that he figured were symbols of good and evil, some copper urns, a few gold ones, and a chamber filled with mummies. All men. No women. No children.”

“Sounds far fetched to me,” I said.

“Could be,” Marcus said. “But if you study Hopi traditions and cultures, they believed their ancestors once lived in an underworld hidden somewhere back there in the Grand Canyon.”

“You think it’s the same place?”

Marcus shrugged.

“Don’t know,” he said. “I wasn’t there.”

“Did Kincaid have a map?”

Marcus shook his head. “The Smithsonian wanted to keep it a secret. That’s what George said. Didn’t want the place to be overrun by hunters looking for curios and relics.”

“Makes sense.”

“Does to me, too.” He paused and watched the shadows come closer. “The professor, at least from the stories I’ve heard, loaded up as much as he could take out of the cave, and transported it all back to the Smithsonian.”

“What happened to it?”

“I don’t know, and the Smithsonian’s not saying.”

“Why not?”

“Kincaid and Jordan may have found some stuff we’re not supposed to know about.”

“You think they did?”

“Don’t know,” Marcus said. “I wasn’t there.”

“You spend a lot of time in the Canyon,” I said.

“I do.”

“You ever look for the lost city?”


“Why not.”

“George Kincaid said he found it.”

I nodded.

“He rode off and nobody ever saw him again.”

Marcus grinned.

“The professor hauled it off,” he said.

I nodded.

“And nobody ever saw him or heard tell of him again.”

Marcus turned and began walking away from the rim of the canyon. “I haven’t looked for the lost city,” he said as he glanced back over his shoulder. “I haven’t found it, and I’m still around.”

“You afraid?”

“Just suspicious,” he said. “A man lives a lot longer out here if he grows up suspicious and never strays far from his raising.”

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