Black Mountain, Australia
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Black Mountain, Australia

Excerpt from branton's CAVERNS, DUNGEONS & LABYRINTHS

The 'I.N.F.O. JOURNAL' (box 367., Arlington, VA, 22210), a publication devoted to 'Fortean' research, Vol. IV, No. 2 issue, related one of the most frightening and disturbing accounts of subterranean abduction that we have come across yet. The article, titled 'MOUNTAIN OF DEATH' and written by David D. Browne, originally appeared in the June 1972 issue of WALKABOUT, published in Sydney, Australia:

"Black Mountain comes almost as a shock when you see it first.

"Traveling by bus just south of Cooktown, North Queensland (Australia), a bend in the road suddenly discloses it and the visual impact can bring an involuntary exclamation, as you see it -- black, bare and sinister, a 1,000 ft. high pile of enormous boulders two miles long, rearing out of the rain-forest.

"This is 'the Mountain of Death.' Aborigines will not go near it. An ancient legend warns them of danger. White men fear it too, because of the numbers of men who have gone there and disappeared without a trace, as if the earth -- or the mountain - - had swallowed them. Birds and animals shun the area.

"The rocks give off a curious metallic ring when struck, and the only sound is the croaking of countless frogs sheltered in the depths where the great granite boulders lie against each other.

"In Brisbane's Public Library, a yellowing newspaper cutting tells some of the story:

"'Grim tragedy has been associated with the mountain ever since it has been known to white man.

"'Three men with horses completely disappeared at the mountain. They vanished as if the earth had opened and swallowed them up, for absolutely no trace of them has ever been discovered, although police and backtrackers and hundreds of local residents scoured the mountain and surrounding country.'

"Then following the names and occupations of several others who disappeared, and the dates of their disappearance. The cutting continues:

"'This constitutes one of the most amazing stories in the police history of the far north, for not one of the mysteries has been solved and probably never will be.'

"Another newspaper cutting, signed Nancy Francis, reads:

"'The formation of these mountains is unique; their appearance grotesque. They are mountains of huge boulders full of chasms that go down to unsounded depths. Only a few rock wallabies and a few turkeys live near these grim, forbidding hills. The Aborigines regard the Black Mountains with dread.'

"In the files of the Cooktown police, dating back 25 years, there is a report made by a Sergeant of Police who discussed the mountain with a man whom he refers to as Mac. Mac began:

"'Know anything about Black Mountain, or so-called 'Mountain of Death'? Its aboriginal name is Kalcajagga.'

"'What does it look like at close quarters?' I asked.

"'Just a mass of tumbled granite blocks; hardly any vegetation. The only living things there are black rock wallabies and enormous pythons 16 feet or more long and able to swallow a wallaby whole. The ridge is honeycombed with caves, nearly all unexplored. They dip down below ground level but nobody knows their extent or what they contain.'

"The latest fatalities, he reported, had occurred only a few years earlier when two young men set out to solve the riddle of earlier disappearances in the caves. They were never heard of again. Two black trackers who tried to trace them disappeared too.

"Then Mac went back to the beginning of the mountain's grim story.

"The first-known fatality was that of a carrier named Grayner, in 1977. He had been searching on horseback for strayed bullocks when he, with his horse and bullocks, vanished without a trace. Thirteen years later, Constable Ryan, stationed at Cooktown, tracked a 'wanted' man to the scrub at the foot of the mountain. Other trackers followed his trail to the entrance of one of the caves, but he was never seen again. Nor was the 'wanted' man.

"More recently a gold prospector named Renn was added to the list of mysterious disappearances.

"Well-organized police teams with trackers combed the whole area for weeks without finding him.

"Then there was the case of Harry Owens, a station owner from Oakley Creek. One Sunday morning he rode over towards Black Mountain looking for strayed cattle. When he didn't return on time his partner, George Hawkins, alerted the police then went out to look for him himself. But by the time the police joined in the search, Hawkins had also disappeared. Two of the native police trackers entered one of the caves. ONLY ONE OF THEM CAME OUT. He was so unnerved by what seemed to have been an experience of terror that he could give no clear account of what happened to them both.

"Mac even knew a white men who had penetrated the caves and lived to tell the tale, and produced a newspaper cutting of his story. It read:

"'Armed with a revolver and a strong electric torch I stepped into the opening. Like other Black Mountain caverns it dipped steeply downwards, narrowing as it went.

"'Suddenly I found myself facing a solid wall of rock, but to the right there was a passageway just large enough for me to enter in a stooping position. I moved along it carefully for several yards. The floor was fairly level, the walls of very smooth granite. The passage twisted this way and that, always sloping deeper into the earth.

"'Presently I began to feel uneasy. A huge bat beat its wings against me as it passed, but I forced myself to push on. Soon my nostrils were filled WITH A SICKLY, MUSTY STENCH. THEN MY TORCH WENT OUT.

"'I was in total darkness. It was inky black. From somewhere that seemed like the bowels of the earth I could hear faint moaning of bats.

"'I began to get panicky and I groped and floundered back the way I thought I had come. My arms and legs bleeding from bumps with unseen rocks. My outstretched hands clawed at space where I expected solid wall and floor. At one stage where I wandered into a side passage I came to what was undoubtedly the brink of a precipice, judging by the echoes.

"'The air was FOUL and I felt increasing DIZZINESS.

"'Terrifying thoughts were racing through my mind about giant rock pythons I have often seen around Black Mountain.

"'As I crawled along, getting weaker and losing all hope of ever getting out alive, I saw a tiny streak of light. It gave me super strength to worm my way towards a small cave mouth half a mile from the one I had entered.

"'Reaching the open air, I gulped in lungfulls of it and fell down exhausted.

"'I found I had been underground for five hours, most of the time on my hands and knees. A king's ransom would not induce me to enter those caves again...'

"Such are some of the weird stories told of the mountain.

"These and the extraordinary structure of the mountain itself give rise to many questions, scientific and otherwise.

"On the scientific aspect, the following comments come from a member of the staff of the James Cook University of North Queensland, Dept. of Geology, Associate Professor P.J. Stephenson.

"He says, 'I have visited and climbed the mountain concerned. It is composed of huge granite boulders covered with black lichen. The complete black surface coating may be uncommon but the boulder pile is less so. Near Chillagoe and at several other localities in north Queensland similar phenomena exist.

"'The occurrences are somewhat puzzling because of their relative rarity. However, they must have been produced by rapid erosion of the 'skeletal' soil profile. Many soil profiles contain fresh rock 'kernels' in them and removal of the soil component would produce a boulder pile. But such removal takes place so slowly the 'kernels' also weather completely...'

"There are still some practical questions to ask, however.

"What really did happen to those people who at various times in the last hundred years, have been said to disappear, vanish without a trace?

"...Any party that decides to unravel the mystery of the mountain will need to be very carefully organized and equipped to meet any hazard, likely or unlikely -- not forgetting the possibility of meeting a very real python. CR: Simpson."