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According to a W W McCormick of Abilene (Texas, USA), his grandfather Atlas Almon Mathis had worked in a coal mine at Heavener (Oklahoma, USA), where a stone block wall was found in 1928. The published account states that the discovery was made in Room 24 of Mine number 5, two miles north of the town, said to have been some two miles deep. On the day following blasting in this room, a number of cubic blocks of ‘concrete’ measuring about 305 mm (12 inches) square were found. Their six faces were all polished smooth to the point that they gave mirror-quality reflections; when broken, they proved to be filled with gravelly concrete. The room is supposed to have collapsed before any further work could be done on shoring it up. The collapse revealed an entire wall made from the same type of blocks and a similar wall was exposed some 91 to 137 m (100 to 150 yards) farther into the mine. The source claims that as soon as it learned about the discoveries, the mine company immediately ordered the workers from the shaft and forbade them to talk about what they had found. Mathis also claimed to have spoken to miners at Wilburton who had found a solid block of barrel shaped silver, with the imprints of individual staves still visible in it.

It is difficult to deal with this type of personal testimony. We don’t know who W W McCormick is or was, and there are a lot of McCormicks in Abilene: the best known is perhaps Wayne McCormick, a television newsreader. As for Atlas Mathis, we know that he had a long life (11 Oct 1892 to 15 Oct 1977) and that he was a resident of Heavener in the 1920s, so he was in the right place at the right time (I am grateful to the commenter Loyolalaw98 for pointing this out). One blogger, White Rabbit (from Missouri, USA), claims to have spoken to a grandson who was raised by Mathis (the post, hosted at Underground Ozarks’s forum, which is moderated by White Rabbit, was taken down some time after this page was first published in July 2007), but claims of this sort are not unusual in the blogosphere and must be treated with scepticism.

The story, which was first reported by Brad Steiger in Worlds before Our Own, has every appearance of a hoax. We do not have the testimony of Atlas Mathis himself, just the unsupported story related by a grandson, so it’s not even an eyewitness account. Given the alleged importance of the discovery, it shows a lack of curiosity on the part of Brad Steiger, who published Worlds before our own in 1978 and must have been researching it before Mr Mathis’s death, not to have interviewed Atlas Mathis in person. Why rely on the retelling by a grandson? The story crumbles under a lack of evidence: it is reported third hand, nobody else reported it and there is no contemporary documentation.

36 Responses to A wall in a coal mine

  • Radomire says:

    Why does the story crumble? Is it solely due to the lack of evidence? Or is there counter-evidence proving the story is false? That’s the part I’m interested in, its very easy it one organized group wanted to, to erase this discovery from the history books, thus your lack of evidence.
    This story rings truth to me and I don’t think you should dismiss it just because your google search for corroborating evidence turned up nothing. Yes its easy to get information on just about anything online these days, but its rarely very solid information, I’ve seen this over and over again, for the good info, you still have to get off the couch and get to a library, or open a book or two.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Yes, it’s the lack of evidence that causes the story to crumble. And you have the problem that it’s impossible to prove a negative: it’s the claim about the wall that requires evidence (proof is something that can only be found in abstractions such as maths).

      The problem is that we are reliant on one single source – the Brad Steiger book to which I refer – and that source cites only the personal testimony of a man who alleged that his grandfather was present at the discovery. It’s not a good chain of evidence and I don’t follow your reasoning that because the story “rings true” to you, it should not be dismissed.

      Why do you think that I rely on Google for my information? I don’t; it helps in many ways (particularly in speeding up research), but it’s “rarely very solid information”, as you correctly point out. Real research usually takes place away from the computer screen.

  • Arch says:

    Lack of evidence doesn’t make a story crumble.

    There was lack of evidence for many many things over the years that have since turned out to be true. At the time of the original reports, iran contra, watergate, the rediscovery of the cealocanthe, the greek clock, Silkwood, etc. etc. ad nauseum there are hundreds of these, the original reporters were laughed and and called nut jobs. Lack of evidence means nothing when powerful forces can cover things up, governments and big corporations do it everyday.

    So the story does NOT crumble.

    There are simply rumors of an underground wall, and there is some evidence, albiet very little, that it may be a fact. It warrants further investigation. It should be no trouble to find this mine. Perhaps interested party will drill a few test holes.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Lack of evidence doesn’t exactly help the case for its existence, either. Stories like this, that appear in poorly referenced sources, that are effectively unattributable, that rely on the reporting of second-hand anecdotes, are hardly good evidence. What would be the point of sinking expensive boreholes to find out whether or not the report has and validity? How many boreholes would it take? How much would it all cost?

      There is ONE rumour, reported in a “friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend” manner that doesn’t inspire confidence.

  • Loyolalaw98 says:

    A search for “Atlas Almon Mathis” at ancestry.com turns up multiple hits. Leaving aside the validity of his reported “find,” your post states that there are “no records” of his birth or death… He does appear in the US census records.

  • Loyolalaw98 says:

    Atlas Almon Mathis
    Birth – 11 Oct 1892 in Banner, Calhoun, Mississippi
    Death – 15 Oct 1977 in Milledgeville, Baldwin, Georgia, USA

    His younger brother Elton Mathis
    Birth – 13 Mar 1895 in Mississippi
    Death – 17 Oct 1963 in Lafayette, Mississippi, United States

    Elton Mathis is listed in the 1920 US census as living with cousins in the town of Heavener, County of Le Flere, State of Oklahoma. The cousins have the family name Costner. Both Atlas and Elton’s mother was Ada E. Costner.

  • Stephen Perino says:

    Well thank you Loyolalaw 98 for dis-proving the “facts” that Mr. Fitzpatrick-Matthews relies so heavily upon..that is the the witness-Atlas Mathis did infact reside the very same county in Oklahoma as the mine is located at about the same as the discovery of wall was said to have been made. Thus Mr. Mr. Fitzpatrick-Matthews has been left with having “proved” or “dis-proved” nothing regarding this event.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I am always very happy to be corrected. That’s the nature of archaeology: when additional data turns up, it gets incorporated.

      The story still rests on unsupported testimony. Why is there nothing from the time of the alleged discovery?

  • Stephen Perino says:

    How would you know if there is “something” or “nothing”. An absense of “something” does not disprove the what the eyewitnesses had seen.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      That’s not the point. We emphatically do not have an eyewitness account. We have an account by Brad Steiger of what someone who said he was Atlas Mathis’s grandson said that his grandfather had told him. It may be reported as direct speech, but that’s a journalistic convention: it was W W McCormick, not Atlas Mathis, who gave the story to Steiger. Think of the game of “Chinese whispers”, where an original message becomes completely garbled through repetition. We really don’t know what, if anything, Atlas Mathis saw. We don’t know what he told his grandson (in fact, we don’t actually know that he told his grandson anything: it could have come down through the grandson’s mother, it could have been a family tradition, it could have been a tall tale… anything). We don’t know what W W McCormick told Brad Steiger, or where Brad Steiger got the information. It’s unreliable “evidence”, to say the least.

  • Stephen Perino says:

    ..”The published account states that the discovery was made in Room 24 of Mine number 5, two miles north of the town, said to have been some two miles deep. On the day following blasting in this room, a number of cubic blocks of ‘concrete’ measuring about 305 mm (12 inches) square were found. Their six faces were all polished smooth to the point that they gave mirror-quality reflections; when broken, they proved to be filled with gravelly concrete. The room is supposed to have collapsed before any further work could be done on shoring it up. The collapse revealed an entire wall made from the same type of blocks and a similar wall was exposed some 91 to 137 m (100 to 150 yards) farther into the mine…”

    May I point out there is alot of exacting details and specific information from “published accounts” !!
    Perhaps contained in the mine superintendent’s journal.
    These are details that a reasonable person would not expect to find in hearsay passed on for generations.

    Unless you expect us to believe that the specific details “published accounts” were really verbally “un-published accounts” transmiited by word of mouth? But as with the Art Of Archeaology i such events are wide open for artistic interpertation and personal taste

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Look, we have only one source for this statement, which is Brad Steiger’s book. He doesn’t say that he’s quoting “the mine superintendent’s journal’: he says that he’s quoting W W McCormick’s account of a letter by Atlas Mathis. That’s it.

      Yes, they are “details that a reasonable person would not expect to find in hearsay passed on for generations”, which is what makes them so suspicious! If we had contemporary documentation, such as “the mine superintendent’s journal’ or even a local newspaper story, that would be a lot better. We don’t. We have a story rich in circumstantial detail and it’s the detail that makes me suspicious. If there was a collapse that prevented further exploration, how were such detailed notes made? The initial discovery was of blocks, not a wall; the wall was only discovered following the collapse and a second found farther into the mine. There are inconsistencies in the detail and a sense that no-one at the time was interested in investigating a wall composed of artificial blocks found two miles underground or in reporting to the press. That is simply inconceivable!

  • Stephen Perino says:

    How is it you are certain that the mine supertindent’s journal does not contain these specific details?
    Have you personally seen the superintendent’s journal?
    If you re-read Atlas Mathis account he clearly indicates that he was -, “strictly forbidden (as with the other miners) from discussing the incident by the mine officers.”
    It is then very likely that some written details were in fact made and someone (perhaps not the miners themselves) conducted a more extensive investigation.
    We cannot be certain if the incident was reported to the local newspapers, and then suppressed (as the miners who had seen the original blocks were suppressed).

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      You are the one who invented the “superintendent’s journal”, not I. I haven’t seen it and I’m willing to hazard a guess that neither have you. Neither of us knows whether or not it exists, so it’s idle to speculate about what it may or may not contain. If Mr Mathis was “forbidden from discussing the incident”, then it wouldn’t ever have got into the “superintendent’s journal” anyway, would it?

      Why would local newspapers suppress news of the discovery? There are plenty of local papers from the early twentieth century USA where other such discoveries are reported: why not in this case? Or are you suggesting that the story was suppressed after reaching the newspapers? If so, by what mechanism? Were all copies of the issue recalled from purchasers and pulped? Did some mine official lean on the editor to persuade him not to print? By what authority and using what sanctions?

      This is beginning to sound like a full-blown conspiracy to prevent the poor, duped public from knowing That Which Must Never Be Revealed. If the mine owners were so all-powerful as to prevent contemporary reporting of the discovery, why were they then not able use these awesome powers to prevent Brad Steiger from publishing details?

      We still have no evidence whatsoever beyond what Mr Steiger chose to reveal.

  • Stephen Perino says:

    I am not suggesting there was a conspiracy behind the suppresion of the incident.

    From the other details that were made public– there was said to have been found a substantial amount of a precious metal found- a rather large amount of silver in the shape of a keg or barrel.
    If there was some large amount of precous metal found that would certainly explain the existence of the detailed notes that remain, and provide ample motive for the mine officers to suppress the story.

    At first you personally attempted to discredit the reports of the incidence by citing spurious “facts” ..,
    stating with rather a high degree of certainty that- Atlas Mathis never resided in Oklahoma at the period of time in which the incidence was said to have occured.
    Now you have retreated from that argument as it was discredited by the US Census Bureau, as it was factually established by the cenus that in fact Atlas Mathis had lived in the vicinity of the mine at the time of the incident.

    A FACT you failed to research!
    SO how can you say with any degree of certainty that the superintendent’s journal does not exist?

    You cannot say one way or another with any certainty, instead relying on your hyperbole and Artist’s interpepation of what has been revealed regarding the incident.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Oh please! You’re wilfully distorting what I wrote. I suggested that “[n]either of us knows whether or not it exists”, which is about as far as you can get from “any degree of certainty that the superintendent’s journal does not exist”.

      Nor did I state “with rather a high degree of certainty that- Atlas Mathis never resided in Oklahoma at the period of time in which the incidence was said to have occured”: I said that I had not been able to find a record of his existence. As soon as someone came up with the evidence, I accepted it gratefully and moved on. I am quite happy that Mr Mathis worked in the mine at the relevant date. Is that good enough?

      My point, which you are strenuously avoiding addressing, is that we have one account, in a book published in 1978, that is rich in circumstantial detail but which gives no evidence to back up the rather improbable tale it reports.

      I am not relying on “hyperbole and Artist’s interpretation” to make my case: I’m trying to assess what the evidence, weak as it is, might mean. And I have to say that it appears to mean very little.

      I’m left wondering why you are unwilling to let this subject drop when it’s quite plain that you aren’t listening to a word I say.

  • Stephen Perino says:

    There isn’t anything to “let drop”..I am of the mindset that this incident is at least somewhat more likely to have happened rather than something to be dismissed outright.
    There are anomolies that exist that simply do not fit (or never will fit) into the “western timeline” of human habitation of this planet.
    To say that archaeologists or anthropologists or paleontogistst have any “solid data” to substaniate their claims/theory/hypothsis a far back as they would like to believe -or have faith in– is as much a religoius belief as any Christian or conspiracy nut.

    These modern archaeologists are no closer to understanding human habitation of this planet than they were 150 years ago in time of Charles Darwin. It seems archaeologists rely on the same “solid data” rehashed 100 different ways. And never making any sense of or just outright ignoring the anomolies that they cannot explain.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      You say that you are “of the mindset that this incident is at least somewhat more likely to have happened rather than something to be dismissed outright”, which is making a bold claim for something that is, on the face of it, extremely improbable. Walls and silver barrel-shaped objects are not commonly found at a depth of two miles (indeed, I am not aware of any properly documented examples of such things). It is an extraordinary claim and it demands much more robust evidence than has been presented.

      It is ridiculous of you to assert that those who study the past “have any “solid data” to substaniate their claims/theory/hypothsis a far back as they would like to believe -or have faith in– is as much a religoius belief as any Christian or conspiracy nut”. There are many thousands of tonnes of “solid evidence” that have been recovered under controlled conditions, dated independently using a variety of techniques and are available for reassessment by others. How does this compare with religious beliefs that are determined by authority and never subject to revision (indeed, you criticise me for revising my post in the light of new information)? How does it compare with conspiracy theories that fly in the face of evidence, screaming “cover up!” when the data they need to prove their theories are not available (as you claim happened with this alleged discovery)?

      No, we are much closer to understanding the human story than we were 150 years ago, no matter what you say. We will never have a complete understanding because the evidence is so fragmentary, but we’re doing a lot better than we were in the middle of the nineteenth century.

      Why do you bring up Charles Darwin’s name, when he was a naturalist, not an archaeologist? Just asking.

  • Carmen says:

    To Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, I’m beginning to see Stephen Perino’s point. Since you cannot prove the superintendent’s journal doesn’t exist, you are obviously wrong about this whole thing!!!!

    As a matter of fact, how do you know that this incident isn’t entirely factual, and has been suppressed by the Illuminati, the Freemasons, and the Hashshashin???? That’s right, YOU CAN’T!!!

    I don’t understand why you’re being so difficult about this obvious conspiracy to hide the discovery of the wall. Until you can provide definitive and absolute proof that this incident did not happen, you can’t make any more statements questioning its validity, so I suggest you stop trying. ;-)

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      I know I’m being difficult. I have no evidence, as Stephen points out endlessly on another post.

      • McWaffle says:

        What about the Hip Hop music video the mine superintendent produced? That contains lots of detailed information about this incident. So, obviously, it really happened, thereby proving that modern humans lived 10,000,000 years ago and walked around on their hands instead of their feet. Open your mind, sheeple.

  • Stephen Perino says:

    And that is exactly my point regarding the Art Of Archaeology..there isn’t any evidence or “solid data” to support the theory/hypothesis(s) of – archaeology/paleontology/anthropology..All that exists are a objects that have been laying on(or in) the ground.. for how long..no person can be certain..we can make certain assumptions based upon observations, of where the objects were found.., i.e.. a particular soil matrix ..then the discover of the object turns to the geological record to try and calculate the approximate age of the object based upon location of the discovery.
    Then these *observations* somehow become incorporated into a “structured belief system*(aka hypothesis)..
    The question becomes *Who’s* hypothesis/theory(s) does a person accept?
    We are forced to accept the *structured belief system* of the *High Priests* of Archaeology/Palenotology/Anthropology without question.., based upon the formulations of the *High Priests*..and some arbitrary timeline loosely based on some theory of evolution of species…hatched by Charles Darwin about 150 years ago.

    I propose a different hypothesis that is–”modern” Homo Sapiens have been inhabiting this earth for billions of years complete with advanced mathematics, language, alphabet.
    Afterall there is more *scientific evidence* to support my hypothesis in the maternal (Y-chromosone) mitochrondrial DNA of “modern” homo spaiens; than there is to give the slightest credence to the “theory of evolution of species” and the extrapolated “timeline” of the advancement of civilization.
    In modern genetic science the examination of the maternal mitochondrial DNA Y chromosone the genetic markers DO NOT contain any of the genetic markers of primates!
    Modern genetic science demonstrates that we from far distant ancestors have *always* been the same!
    There isn’t any indication anywhere that we are “evolving” into a new species.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Aha! A creationist. That explains the blind unwillingness to face the evidence squarely and the idea that everything derives from authorities.

      You clearly won’t be persuaded by rational argument. This discussion became tedious long ago, so I won’t bother to respond. And you’ll claim victory.

      End of discussion.

    • joey says:

      The Y chromosone is paternal not maternal, and does not contain mitochondrial dna.

  • Stephen Perino says:

    Sir – I am awaiting your presentation of any set of verifiable facts to substaniate the rational thought process for your statements presented on this website.
    I have yet to see any reliable “evidence” contrary to the rampant speculation prevalent here at this website.

    • Carmen says:

      I’m fairly certain that I won’t make any progress here, but I want to point out to Stephen Perino that he is asking the impossible. Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews has expressed his opinion that the story of the wall in the coal mine is dubious at best, mostly due to a lack of proof that it existed beyond a second-hand story from a now deceased individual. He never stated that the wall absolutely did not exist, just that there’s no evidence to substantiate its existence.

      You insist that he provide definitive proof that it is false, which is impossible to do. No one can prove a negative. For example, I can claim to be able to run the mile in 30 seconds. If you don’t believe me, show me the proof that I can’t.

  • Dean Fry says:

    I would say that Brad Steiger could have done more research. The details of mine numbers and room numbers would suggest that surveying was done. It would be advisable to use a registered surveyor, since it would be very inconvenient to be found to be mining where the mineral rights belonged to someone else. Such records should be on file at the county courthouse, if the laws of the time required it.
    If such a wall existed, allowing others to investigate it would slow or stop production, considering the economy was booming at the time. I was once on a highway job when we had to stop for one day until the state dot archaeologist could get to the site, and that was for a basement that got buried 40 years earlier. Think about the delay if it had been a 3000 year old site. Not everyone, but there are those who would go ahead and destroy a site if they thought they could get away with it.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Brad Steiger isn’t exactly known for his accuracy as a researcher.

      The details provided by Mr Mathis suggest one of two things: either he had genuine recall or he was making it up. There may well be records from the mining company that could be checked. Here is a project for an interested party in the area!

  • Hobo says:

    Logically, though people are not logical, any attempt at being famous would have resulted in newspaper reports at the time, so it would be unlikely to have invented this to stir the close relations up.
    Logically the bricks being small would have seen some salvaged for perusal in natural light at least and would have been kept and photographed if remarkable.
    Likely they were found to have been smoothed by water flow possibly and this is not skepticism for skepticisms sake.
    The silver I would be skeptical about as there is no on reason to keep that secret.

  • JGrünwaldt says:

    Laplace’s statement: “The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness.” seems to suit even better than Sagan’s.
    The implicit burden of proof is on the person or party asserting a positive claim, and not the opposite.
    Mr. Fitzpatrick-Mattews has nothing to prove.
    Most of us would be excited to learn that either the sapiens-sapiens is actually two, five or fifty millions years old rather than the mere fifty thousands, or that we’ve been visited by highly developed aliens in the remote past who built barrels of solid silver and concrete walls with mirror-like finishings.
    The burden in on the creationists, ancient aliens supporters, sasquatch friends, loch ness monster witnesses, dreamers, or anyone who chooses to believe in tale stories to avoid the painstaking path of scientific investigation.

  • The mirror smooth concrete raises a red flag to me. Also the “barrel” of silver.

  • Ed K says:

    I find it a little disappointing that stories like these are routinely dismissed by academia. To me, there is a hint of truth in these stories that suggest claims like these should be looked into a little more. I am not saying they should be accepted as truth by historians/archaeologists/etc., just that they should be looked into a little more before being disregarded, There was a person by the name mentioned in the story; there could be more “truth of the story” out there. It is sometimes investigation of stories that lead to the most incredible discoveries. The “hint of truth” in this story, to me anyway, is that the miners were told not to talk about it. This probably comes from my own experiences. While it is again a “second-hand” story, my Father told me of a discovery made by a local construction group he was a sub-contractor for back in the 1980′s. On a major construction project, the excavation workers found what appeared to be an old Native American site (referred to then as an “Indian site”, but I hope that term does not offend anyone, just wanted to offer some additional insights into the culture). The foreman disregarded the find and told the workers not to talk about it because if it was made public, the project could be delayed for a significant amount of time as archaeologists would want to search the site in more detail. If the project was delayed, so would the work and thus paychecks. Not a great decision, but I guess we live in a Capitalist society, for better or worse (don’t want to start a political debate) and knowledge, while important, is unfortunately not always viewed as important as money used by a lot of workers to simply live and care for families. If a mining company in the 1920′s invested enough money to dig a mine as deep as approximately 2 miles, build an elevator to take workers down into it, and built an air supply system to get air to the workers, I can imagine such a company or investors would want to make a lot of money on the project and not have any delays. Therefore, the “do not talk about this” makes a ton of sense. Now, I am not saying that there is a super ancient human built wall down there, but in the end, who knows for sure? Maybe there is, or maybe it is the remains of an ancient mud pool when the first amoebas started moving around? There could be some truth to the story told by people who could only describe what they saw, not what it really was/is. To disregard it completely because it is told by surviving family as almost folk lore should not be. There are a lot of hints out there, from the naturally buried bodies of the Moi statues on Easter Island that may suggest a much older creation date to the possibility of water erosion on the body of the great Sphinx in Egypt, hints that seem to offer a glimpse that maybe, just maybe, things are not as we believe.
    Anyways, I tend to ramble at time. My point: never disregard completely stories such as these. While the evidence is not there to make them factual, at least not yet, it does not mean it is not there at all, it just needs to be found (or not if it is only a story). It needs to be investigated and should, at least without additional investigation, be kept as a possibility, even a remote one, but not disregarded completely.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      Stroeis such as these are fascinating, but impossible to check out. What is suspicious—to me, at any rate—is that they are always reported years after the event or are found in nineteenth-century newspaper cuttings, long after there is any possibility of further investigation. Until something like this turns up in the modern world, is documented properly (for goodness’ sake, even a photograph taken on a mobile ’phone would constitute at least some evidence) and subject to scrutiny by disinterested observers, then it is wisest to take them either as tall tales or as misunderstandings of something half seen in near darkness.

  • Dave says:

    Sounds like an old man telling his grandson some tall tales. When I was 4 or 5 my grandfather told me if I ate 2 quarts of blueberries qiuck enough I would turn blue and bears would try and eat me.

    • Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews says:

      My granddad told me that if I stood at the bottom of the church tower in Hitchin and looked up, I would see it falling down. It was only the movement of the clouds, but it was enough to terrify me as a four year old!

Agree or disagree? Please comment!