peace - love - reason

Jill Of All Trades


22.5.07 by literaghost

Much ado has been made about my sideways mentioning of an attempted Urban Exploration stint a while back. Thus, without any further of said ado, I give you...the rest of the story.

LEXINGTON IS BUILT upon the dust of an ancient walled city of vast extent. In 1776 hunters discovered catacombs 300x100 feet, fifteen feet below the surface, in which there were numerous mummies...*

Several years ago while browsing through a library, I chanced upon some poorly-researched book on ancient and paranormal-y sites, of which my city (Lexington) had a passing mention. According to the book, the city as it stands had been built on several underground Native American catacombs. My first thoughts were "Ooh, catacombs!" and "Hey, why haven't I heard of this before?" However, the book was rather vague on both where these supposed catacombs were located and how to access them - and as my research skills were nowhere near where they are today, the matter died.

Two or three months ago, the matter resurfaced (I can't quite remember how), and I returned to the hunt for answers.

My trail led to the accounts of Thomas Ashe, an Irish adventurer/historian of the early 1800's, who quickly gained notoriety as being "a slippery fellow" who told people what they wanted to hear. The story stuck, however, being picked up by the historian George W. Ranck in 1872 ("History of Lexington," pub. Cincinnati, OH). Mentioned also was a Prof. Rafinesque, one-time teacher at Lexington's Transylvania University, and referred to in a 1902 article as "the highest authority on the mounds and reliques [sic] of the Mississippi Valley" - despite the fact that he was a professor of botany, which his career seemed to be limited to.

In 1873, a year after the publication of Ranck's History, William Leavy published his own "Memoir of Lexington," which included a scathing critique of Ranck's inclusion of the catacomb story. However, while Leavy might have made a convincing case by critiquing Ranck's dubious sources, he instead simply lists a bunch of people who were in Lexington at the time of Ashe (not even saying "and they didn't see anything of the sort"). Helpful for genealogists, maybe, but...
Um. Yeah.

And so I continued my search. That's when I started to run into trouble.

My archival resources online were rapidly dwindling, so I decided to enlist the help of a friend and search our main library's Kentucky Room - but, wouldn't you know it, a series of crises threw off my plans.

What happened:

  • Bad weather (after all, this was February).

  • Grandmother being rushed to the hospital (and grandfather, soon after she got out).

  • Exploration partner falling ill, and then just becoming lazy once he realized that we would not actually be digging up graves (keeping in mind that I only recently stopped looking...twelve, and it would be very unwise for me to wander the depths of downtown Lex on my own).

And, the kicker...

  • A pipe burst in the Kentucky Room, damaging quite a few books and temporarily closing it for repairs. If that's not angry Native American spirits wreaking havoc in an attempt to dissuade potential nosy explorers, I'm not sure what is.

All that was coupled with a growing sense that - if the shrines/catacombs even existed - entering them would probably require getting jackhammers and a backhoe in the middle of a busy downtown intersection, or persuading strangers to let us dig up their basements. It didn't help that most of the only recent mentions I've heard of the catacomb legend are coupled with either Illuminati conspiracy theories or internal analyses of the Book of Mormon.

So, that particular plan to go where no girl has gone before (well, at least not recently) has petered out. Unfortunately for those who have to deal with me, the urge to discover and rediscover local treasures has only been stoked.

Me and my army of bird-crafts will find those abandoned buildings yet. You'll see.

Filed under having


Thivai Abhor said...

Wow, I'm intrigued by the notion of underground catacombs waiting for me to wander through them and chart their meandering trails of mysterious origins.

Thanks for this post... hoping the adventure will live on ... at least in our imaginations, if not in reality (sounds like a story waiting to be written?)

Thivai Abhor said...

thanks for the cake :)

you can feel free to call if you want to talk.

peace :)

literaghost said...

Cake? What cake? >> <<

Oh, fine, I've been found out. So how'd you figure it out, hmm?

- L. W.

Erik said...

That was a fun post. I ran across it while searching for people in Lex who do Urban Exploration. Do you know of any?

literaghost said...


I haven't been able to find any UE groups in Lex - at least, none that publicize. I think quite a few people would be interested, though. Maybe we should start one? :)

- Miz L.

Anonymous said...

The first chapter of Ranck's History Of Lexington Kentucky discusses this same catacomb.

Anonymous said...

This link suggests that stories about Short Cave and the mummies found there were transposed to Lexington and formed the basis of Ranck's tale of lost catacombs.