Editor's Note: the Almanac includes the following as legend and folklore - not history. Although some elements of the story may indeed be historical fact, we offer these stories, along with other stories in Mysterious L.A., as a part of the cultural fabric of Los Angeles County.
In the 1933, mining engineer George Warren Shufeld related stories, told to him, of Hopi legends describing a race of "Lizard People" (not reptilian, but so-named for their reverence of the lizard) who, 5,000 years ago, built three great underground cities near the Pacific Coast, one of which lay beneath Los Angeles. The cities were said to have been built underground as protection against great cataclysmic fires on the surface.
Shufeld took on the mission to locate the city that lay beneath Los Angeles. He reported the underground city to be laid out in the shape of the revered lizard, extending from its head under northeast Los Angeles to its tail below the downtown Central Library. The ancient builders, said to be more intellectually advanced than modern humans, tunneled through rock using chemicals and constructed huge domed caverns, housing a thousand families. The underground city was further connected by a series of additional tunnels to the ocean where the ebb and flow of sea water forced air into the labyrinths. How their civilization came to an end seemed unclear.
In 1934, Shufeld, who claimed he had developed a device called a "radio X-ray,” announced that he located tunnels and a treasure room beneath Fort Moore Hill in downtown Los Angeles. He claimed that gold objects would be found in the room. After acquiring funds to do excavating, Shufeld obtained permission from authorities (and an agreement to split the value of any finds with the county) to drill a 350-foot shaft. The work, however, was interrupted by cave-in concerns and, by spring, had ground to a halt when funding and media attention ceased. Shortly thereafter, Shufelt disappeared from public view. He died in 1957 and is buried in North Hollywood.
Incidentally, just prior to Shufeld’s 1934 drilling, Pico Rivera resident and psychic Edith Elden Robinson reported a vision of "a vast city...in mammoth tunnels extending to the seashore."
Lizard People's Catacomb City Hunted by Jean Bosquet, Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1934, viewed in ProQuest;
Mysterious California by Mike Marinacci; Panpipes Press, 1988;
The Underground Catacombs of L.A.’s Lizard People by Glen Creason, Los Angeles Magazine, January 22, 2014