The idea that the Earth might be hollow has a long and fanciful history in mythology, pseudo-scientific circles, and science-fiction and fantasy writers alike.
The Greeks believed the land of the dead could be found deep within the center of the Earth, and in some rare cases, could be visited by the living. The Celts believed that it was home to the fairy realm. Some of North America’s native peoples believed that their ancestors had emerged from deep within the Earth.
In the 19th century, Americans John Cleves Symmes, and Jeremiah Reynolds, both proposed that the Earth was hollow. Reynolds came to gain the support of President John Quincy Adams, who nearly succeeded in funding an expedition to the antarctic to discover its opening.
While the scientific community eventually abandoned the theories of Symmes, Reynolds, and other hollow earth proponents, fiction writers were inspired by them to write fanciful tales of dinosaurs and ancient civilizations beneath the Earth’s crust. Thus, the hollow earth subgenre was born. Looking for a place to start? Here are five books that could be your tickets to the depths of the Earth.
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
by Jules Verne
Originally published in 1864, Jules Vernes’ Journey to the Center of the Earth is really the book that popularized the subgenre, and is just as entertaining now as it was at the turn of the century. Inspire by the discovery of a mysterious old map, a group of scientists and adventurers pass through a volcano and into a savage world of dinosaurs, prehistoric giants, and mastodons.
At the Earth’s Core
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs, creator of Tarzan, and John Carter of Mars, takes readers on a journey hundreds of miles beneath the Earth’s surface to a realm known as Pellucidar. Lit by a miniature sun this beautiful but dangerous land is home to a primitive society of humans enslaved by reptile people. Come for the ingenious burrowing machine, and stay for the dinosaurs, psychic pterosaurs, and — of course — ape-men.
The Hollow Earth
by Rudy Rucker
A man wanted for a murder he didn’t commit and literary sensation Edgar Allan Poe sign on for a journey into the center of the Earth. Upon arrival, they discover a society of psychic god-beings, weird alien life, and of course, a stranded flying saucer. Heavy on the gonzo end of the hollow earth literary spectrum, Rucker’s novel is a loving satire of the subgenre.
by Jeff Long
Michael Crichton meets Dante’s Inferno in this imaginative novel take on the hollow earth subgenre. Deep beneath the surface of the world lives the Hadals: a vicious race of proto-humans who are the inspiration for Christianity’s demons. When a research team descends into the Hadal’s realm, they rouse the interest of one of them who may be Satan himself.
The White Darkness
by Geraldine McCaughrean
Believe it or not, there are still people today who are all but convinced that the Earth is hollow. The eccentric Victor Briggs is one of them. Inspired by the writings of 19th century hollow earther John Cleves Symmes, Briggs heads out to the antarctic with his foster daughter Symone in tow. Madness and horror quickly ensues.