Was William Morgan ‘The Man’?

By Bruce Walton 

Few Hollow Earth enthusiasts, I believe, are unfamiliar with the fascinating story of “I Am The Man”, as it appears on John Uri Lloyd’s book Etidorhpa.  The original manuscript was allegedly given to a Cincinnati man named Llewellyn Drury by a mysterious being who materialized in his room on a cold November night in the mid-1800s over 30 years before the volume was eventually published by a friend of his, John Uri Lloyd, also of Cincinnati.

This strange being claimed to have formerly been a freemason who had, through some unusual encounter with destiny, undertook a remarkable journey into the center of the earth and eventually into the hollow interior itself, some 800 miles beneath the outer surface of the earth.  This mysterious being handed Llewellyn a large stack of old, yellowed paper, which he learned recorded the fantastic story of this strange visitor known only as “I Am The Man.”  The story recounted his experiences from his early days as a mortal, and a Mason to his fateful journey into the unknown and eventual transformation into an immortal being.  Llewellyn Drury had promised the visitor that he would hide the manuscript, and as instructed, he would publish the manuscript after an interval of 30 years.  After the agreed upon interval Llewellyn uncovered the manuscript and, evading his responsibility, he gave the manuscript to a friend of his, the author John Uri Lloyd, who, after hearing his story of the visit by the mysterious man, enthusiastically set upon the task at hand.  Also, as the being instructed, he hired an artist, J. Augustus Knapp, to illustrate the volume.

Shortly after the book was first published in 1896, it became quite popular and widely read, as well as highly controversial.  Most people considered, and perhaps still do, that the story was the work of the imaginative mind of John Uri Lloyd.  However, due to the descriptions of the earth’s interior, which parallel so closely with other accounts of the Inner Earth, Lloyd must have either done a great deal of research on the various “hollow earth” theories of the day, or the story of the visitation of “I Am The Man” to Llewellyn Drury was in fact a true occurrence.

Nowhere in the book is there a mention of the true identity of  “I Am The Man” or his hometown or state.  This may lead some readers to wonder whether or not the occurrences which are mentioned in the first few chapters did actually happen.

 I believe that such a man existed, and that the events mentioned in the opening pages are based on fact, and I have good reason to believe that after the readers look at the evidence I am about to present, they will have to admit that this is the case. 

The description of his whereabouts before his adventure begins do not specifically identify his location, but it does provide some clues from which we may be able to determine his hometown.  Page 44 of Etidorpa, first edition states as follows:  “In a section of the state in which I reside, a certain creek forms the boundry line between two townships, and also between two counties.  Crossing this creek, a more traveled road stretches east and west, uniting the extremes of the major state.”

I believe the great state he refers to is the state of New York, and the west-east running road being the one which runs from Buffalo on the shore of Lake Erie to Rochester N.Y. on the shore of Lake Ontario.  On page 72 we find perhaps the most significant clue.  On that page we find a reference to Seneca Lake, which the young man knew quite well.  Seneca Lake is the name of a body of water in northwest New York.  So, we can assume that this was the state where his story begins, although in the manuscript it was “forbidden to give the names of the localities.”

His story begins when he receives a strange letter in the mail.  Previous to this he had done some searching and delving into the mysteries of life and the Masonic science.  A translation of Gerber’s “De Claritate Alchemiae” by chance came into his possession and afterwards an original version from the Latin Boerhaave’s “Elementa Cheniae,” published and translated in 1753 by Peter Shaw.  It was these volumes more than anything else, which introduced him to a brotherhood of adepts, with whom he eventually gained membership through initiation.  But it was before being initiated that “I Am The Man” received the strange letter.  The letter was from an anonymous source who was apparently well-versed in masonry; it carried a history of the secret order from ancient times preceding the days of Hermes Ytismegistus.  The letter began with the following cryptic title;



It set forth instructions for the reader, if he be willing, to become a member of the secret order of masons, if they were not already, and learn it’s most hidden secrets and reveal what they had learned to the world, thereby enlightening mankind to the ancient mysteries which have for so long been guarded by the elect few.  He noticed that the letter had been passed through the hands of many other masons and scholars, but the very fact that the letter was passed on to him made it clear that none who received the letter dared to undertake such a dangerous task.

After contemplation, he made up his mind that he would be the one to undertake this task and immediately began writing an expose on the secret rites of the masons and reveling their inner most secrets.  Shortly after this was begun he found himself being harassed by outside force, and was sent to prison for failing to pay a ridiculously small debt.  When he regained his liberty the persecutions continues.  Page 47 Etidorhpa states:

    “Even arson was resorted to, and the printing offices that held my manuscript was fired last night, that the obnoxious revelation which I persisted in putting in print, must be destroyed.”

Shortly thereafter he again found himself in prison, separated from his wife and child, due to further minor debts, this time amounting to only $2.00.  This was to be the last time he ever saw his wife and child again.  On august 12th 1826, he was abducted from his jail cell and put into a closed coach.  In answer to his queries as to why he was being abducted he was told:  “Have you not bound yourself by a series of vows that are sacred and should be inviolable, and have you not broken them as no other man before you?  Have you not betrayed your trust, and merited a severe judgment?”

He became aware of a man next to him in the coach, which he soon found to be a corpse, a drowning victim he was told, who was to be used to cover-up his abduction, as that upon it’s discovery all outsiders would believe that the corpse was that of himself, if need be.  He was then taken on a long wide and became totally lost to his surroundings, not knowing whether he was still in his home state, or in another one altogether.  He was taken out of a boat at night onto a river, along with the corpse, which he witnesses being dumped overboard by those with him.  After this he has taken to a secluded cabin and subjected to a fantastic ceremony which suddenly aged the young man into an old, white haired feeble man by the application of a strange liquid which was applied to his skin by a group of masked men in robes.  He was then taken back to his home town by another guide in order to prove to himself that no one could recognize him for who he really was, although he did not convince them that he had been prematurely aged, they just looked at him with strange expressions as though they considered him some kind of lunatic.  His guide then guided “I Am The Man” to his final destination, the Cave of Zoroaster!

Now comes the evidence I mentioned earlier, which I happened to come across just a few days prior to the writing of this article.  I was in the process of glancing through the pages of a book titled No Man Knows My History by Fay M. Brodie.  This boo k is the history of a young man named Joseph Smith, better known as the founder of the Mormons.  On page 63-64 I came upon some paragraphs that hit me out of the blue. They read as follows:

“In 1827 there was no monarchies or dictators threatening American democracy, and no invaders on the borders.  Yet the country was seized by a swiftly spreading fear that the Republic was in danger.  The terror began in western New York in September 1826.”

“In Batavia, on the road to Buffalo, a printing press was burned and it’s owner beaten by a group of masked men.  In the press office were fresh prints of a new book, an expose of the secret rites and oaths of Freemasonry.  The author, William Morgan, was abducted some days later and carried to Canandaigua, nine miles from Joseph Smith’s house, for a mock trial.  He was then taken secretly to Fort Niagara on the Canadian border, where he disappeared.

“Five prominent Masons in Canandaigua were tried for his murder in January 1827.  The whole countryside moved in to hear the proceedings.  When three were acquitted and the other two received sentences of less than a year, the public felt cheated.

“Further trials were held in February and Anti-Masonry spread with each acquittal.  Morgan and the Masons became the standing theme of conversation in the field and tavern.

 “Churches dismissed pastors who would not renounce Masonry, and deacons who would not resign their memberships were forbidden the sacrament. 

“Anti-Jackson politicians saw in the rising fever the makings of a political party.  Although the Palmyra newspapers maintained a measure of objectivity for a time, this eventually broke down and the local lodge was forced to disband.

“In October 1827 a bloated corpse was washed up on the shores of Lake Ontario.  The turf had scarcely been planted on the grave when someone suggested that the corpse was Morgan’s.  “The whole country thereafter,” wrote one observer “rang with the exclamation, “Morgan is found!”  Mrs. Morgan had not a particle of doubt that the identity of the body, fully believing it to be that of her husband.  Only one difficulty remained and that was a mere trifle: there was not a single article of the clothes found upon the deceased that belonged to Morgan.  Since an election was approaching, the funeral show was delayed until shortly before the voting.  Then hundreds of thousands of people poured into Batavia to join the obsequies of the great Masonic martyr.

“The Masons now found evidence in Canada that the corpse was not Morgan’s but that of Timothy Monroe, who had been drowned some weeks earlier.  For the second time the body was disinterred, and Mrs. Morgan positively identified it.”

With outstanding evidence like this, we must assume that the events described in Etidorhpa, at least the first few chapters are true.  But what about the rest of the story?  That the readers must decide for themselves, as further confirmation of facts becomes increasingly difficult as the story progresses.

 It is historical fact that William Morgan lived in Batavia, New York, a town on the road between Buffalo and Rochester, New York, undoubtedly the same road mentioned in Etidorhpa, “a much traveled road stretching east, and west uniting the extremes of the state. 

 It is historical fact that William Morgan was abducted shortly before September 1826, while Etidorhpa gives the exact date of August 12, 1826. 

 It is historical fact that William Morgan had a wife, which is also confirmed in Etidorhpa

Canadaiqua was probably the city where William Morgan was imprisoned before being abducted.  John Smith, leader of the Mormons, and believed by many researchers to also been an initiate as a Freemason, lived just 9 miles away.  There are unconfirmed reports that the widow of William Morgan, Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris, after her husbands death remarried, first to George Washington Harris, and then to Joseph Smith.  In 1838, becoming one of the Mormon leaders’ first wives, who witnessed the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in 1844.  Ironically, Joseph Smith was a firm believer in “the land beyond the pole” as in one of his first assemblies in Kirkland, Ohio, he gave the whereabouts of the “Lost Ten Tribes, revealing that they lived in a land “contiguous to the north pole, separated from the rest of the world by impassable mountains of ice and snow.”

 It is believed that William Morgan was last seen in Fort Niagara next to the Niagara River on the New York-Canadian border, and just a short ways above that river’s joining of Lake Ontario, the lake which the body of “I Am The Man”, was found. 

 “I Am The Man”, or rather William Morgan mentioned in Etidorhpa the great stir that his disappearance caused throughout the whole area, and also all of the anti-Masonic activity that his disappearance created and it’s effect on the politics of the day, as it was well know that the Democrat Andrew Jackson was a Mason of high rank. 

In Chapter XI of Etidorhpa, “I Am The Man” becomes more specific in naming the route of travel which he and his unusual guide, a mason of extraordinary standing, travel on their way to their final destination in Kentucky.  From the description their starting point would most likely have been in western New York, as was stated previously.  From Fort Niagara he was taken in closed carriage for nearly two days travel, though the exact route here is hard to trace.  He was then subjected to the mysterious ceremony mentioned earlier which caused him to prematurely age, thereby removing all signs of his former identity.

Although he could not recognize the route that was taken because of the windows in the carriage, which were draped to exclude any light, his guide told him that they took a round about route from Fort Niagara to Wheeling Virginia.  From there they went to the Ohio River, where they boarded a keelboat and made their way down to Cincinnati.  They stayed in this city for several days, eventually taking passage on the steamer “George Washington,” leaving Shipping-Port Wednesday, December 13, 1926.  They landed in Smithland, Kentucky and made their way east along the north side of the Cumberland River.  On their way they passed two bluffs on the northern shore of the river, the second one being a large, dark outcropping which was at that time called Bissell’s Hill.  (On topographical maps of the area the name ‘Bissell’ bluff is given to the second hill located on the northern most point of the Cumberland.  It is most likely the same hill).  After passing this second bluff they turned north and headed into the heart of Livingston County, Kentucky.  All along the way they noticed several sinkholes, most of them largely unexplained.  After approximately three days travel on foot northward from the Cumberland River.  Although he is not too specific in his description of the cave through which he enters into the underworld, the descriptions that he does give may be of help in finding it’s general location.  Pages 93-93 of Etidorhpa states the following:

“ … After a few days of uneventful travel, we rested, one afternoon, in a hilly country that before us appeared to be more rugged, even mountainous.  We had wandered leisurely, and were now at a considerable distance from the Cumberland River, the aim of my guide being, as I surmised, to evade a direct approach to some object of interest which I must not locate exactly, and yet which I shall try to describe accurately enough for identification by a person familiar with the topography of that section.  We stood on the side of a stony, sloping hill, back of which spread a wooded valley.

 “”I just remember to have passed along a creek in a valley,” I remarked looking back over our pathway. “It appeared to rise from this direction, but the source ends abruptly in this chain of hills.”” 

“The stream is beneath us,” he answered.  Advancing a few paces, he brought to my attention, on the hillside, an opening in the earth.  This aperture was irregular in form, about the diameter of a well, and descending perpendicularly into the stony crust.  I leaned over the orifice, and heard the gurgle of water beneath,”

It was here that he met a strange being from the earth’s interior, who was to become his new guide.  They went a short ways down the hill until they came to a cave from, which flowed the water of the subterranean stream he had heard beneath the opening higher up the hill.  Here they entered and “I Am The Man, William Morgan, left the world of sunlight for good.  It would not be until many years later that he would see the light of day again.  I will not go into details of his journey into the depths of the earth, but suggest you read the book (Etidorhpa) your self.

[For those interested in seeking the entrance used by William Morgan to go into the underground, Bruce Walton narrows your search area with this information, Look on a Geographical map for the Lola quadrangle of Livingston County, Kentucky.  This is the quadrangle just north of the Burma quadrangle that indicates the location of Bissell bluff and north Cumberland River.  The Lola map shows a large field of sinkholes about where I calculate the entrance to the Cave of Zoroaster to be.  Some investigation of the stream sources and of springs in this area may turn up some very interesting things.  Perhaps one day some young adventurer will discover this cave and follow in the footsteps of William Morgan, The Man Who Did It!

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