Extracted from Nexus Magazine
Volume 13, Number 4 (June - July
A system of tunnels and caves beneath Ecuador and Peru is reputed to
hold an ancient treasure-house of artifacts including two libraries,
one containing inscribed metal books and the other storing tablets
It's not what you know, but who you know. In 1973,
Erich von Däniken,
at the height of his fame following the success of Chariots of the
Gods?, claimed that he had entered into a gigantic subterranean
tunnel system in Ecuador, which he was told spanned the length of
the continent—surely evidence that our ancestors were highly
advanced, if not extraterrestrial?
The structure was believed to
house a library in which books were made out of metal—this in an
area where today there is nothing but "primitive" Indian tribes with
no written language. Evidence of a lost civilization? It was a major
claim, and it did not go unchallenged.
The story centered around Janos "Juan" Moricz, an aristocratic
Argentinian-Hungarian entrepreneur who claimed that he had
discovered a series of tunnels in Ecuador that contained a "Metal
Library". In a signed affidavit dated 8 July 1969, he spoke about
his meeting with the Ecuadorian president, where he received a
concession that allowed him total control over this
discovery—provided he could produce photographic evidence and an
independent witness that corroborated the discovery of the
underground network. Newspapers reported on the expedition that Moricz had
In 1972, Moricz met with von Däniken and took him to a secret
side-entrance through which they could enter into a large hall
within the labyrinth. Apparently von Däniken never got to see the
library itself, just the tunnel system.
Von Däniken included the
event in his book The Gold of the Gods:
"The passages all form perfect right angles. Sometimes they are
narrow, sometimes wide. The walls are smooth and often seem to be
polished. The ceilings are flat and at times look as if they were
covered with a kind of glaze… My doubts about the existence of the
underground tunnels vanished as if by magic and I felt tremendously
happy. Moricz said that passages like those through which we were
going extended for hundreds of miles under the soil of Ecuador and
However, one of the world's potentially biggest discoveries soon
turned sour. Journalists from the German publications Der Spiegel
and Stern interviewed Moricz, who now denied ever having been in the
cave with von Däniken. It undermined von Däniken's credibility
(though some would argue he had none to begin with), branding him a
For many, the incident proved that von Däniken was a fabricator of
lies—a much more damaging assertion than being known to make
outlandish claims that the gods were ancient astronauts. No one
pointed out that if von Däniken had been lying, he would not have
left such an easy trail to Moricz. He could have claimed that he
could not reveal his source, and Der Spiegel and Stern would have
been none the wiser. Instead, it seemed that something was amiss
with Moricz, who had landed von Däniken in an international
controversy from which his career never really recovered.
There are several oddities with this story. First, Moricz merely
denied having taken von Däniken there; the existence of the network
itself he did not deny. In Der Spiegel, 19 March 1973, we can read:
Der Spiegel: "How did you discover the [metal] library?"
Moricz: "Somebody took me there."
Der Spiegel: "Who was this guide?"
Moricz: "I can't tell you."
Moricz further stated that the library was guarded by a tribe.
So, in short, Moricz claimed to von Däniken that he had discovered
caves, and he showed these to him. Now he claimed to have seen the
caves, led there by a guide whom he could not identify, but denied
having taken von Däniken there.
The logical conclusion seemed to be that Moricz had shown something
to von Däniken, was now caught by the fact that everyone seemed to
know that he had done so, and had to make sure that whoever had
shown him did not bear any grudges against Moricz, no doubt because
Moricz himself would most likely have been asked not to show anyone
else the site.
A small step for Armstrong, a major step for mankind
By 1975, the story had killed the career of one notorious author, so
who would dare to tread in his footsteps? The answer: Neil
Armstrong, the first man on the Moon—or rather, a Scotsman who
wanted to change the precarious status quo in which the Metal
Library controversy had found itself.
Stanley ("Stan") Hall had read von Däniken's book and subsequently
befriended Moricz. The latter confirmed that he had met von Däniken
in 1972 and had taken the Swiss author from Guayaquil to Cuenca,
where they met Padre Carlos Crespi and saw his collection of
enigmatic artifacts. There was insufficient time to take von Däniken
to the "true location", so instead they decided to show him a small
cave some 30 minutes from Cuenca, claiming it connected to the
network. This seemed to clear up the von Däniken–Moricz controversy,
but not the Metal Library itself.
Where was it? Moricz's 1969 expedition had ventured into the Cueva
de los Tayos, which Moricz identified as the cave that led into the
Metal Library. But in 1969, no Metal Library had been uncovered. So
Hall decided to organize an Ecuadorian–British expedition that would
explore the Cueva de los Tayos; it would be a purely scientific
I had met Stan Hall a few times over the course of a decade, without
knowing that the person I was speaking to was Stan Hall. He was a
member of the audience at the Scottish Saunière Society conferences.
Stan blends into the background and is unlikely, if not unwilling,
to stand out. It's by pure accident that I found out I knew Stan
Hall—the Stan Hall, who furthermore lives nearby… It provided me
with an opportunity to get a personal perspective on this story, and
one I was willing to take with both hands.
Originally set up to take place in 1977, the 1976 expedition
occurred at a time when von Däniken's public profile had been
damaged by Moricz—and Hall was apparently about to endorse Moricz's
claim. It left von Däniken feeling wary about Hall for more than 20
years, until both men realized they were kindred spirits rather than
Why did he do it? Hall wanted to create a framework: if there was
indeed a Metal Library of a lost civilization, the first step would
be to map the site. That was the main and only goal of the
expedition; there was no treasure-seeking. Hall used his
professional expertise to create a three-week exploration of this
famous cave: a joint venture of the British and Ecuadorian armies,
supported by a team of geologists, botanists and other specialists.
How did Neil Armstrong get involved?
"The expedition needed an honorary figurehead,"
Stan Hall said. "The
name of Prince Charles, who had recently received a degree in
archaeology, was proposed, but I knew Neil Armstrong had Scottish
connections. My mother was an Armstrong and via another Armstrong in Langholm, where
Neil Armstrong had been made an honorary citizen, I
made contact. Months later, I got a reply that Neil Armstrong was
more than willing to join us on this mission. It's when the
expedition suddenly became a life's challenge."
On 3 August 1976, when the expedition was winding down,
entered the tunnel system. Even though they were not looking for it,
the team members did not stumble upon a Metal Library. Had they done
so, the discovery would have altered mankind's perspective on our
history and origins.
For Amstrong, it could have been his second
great contribution to mankind's exploration. However, the team did
catalogue 400 new plant species as well as a burial chamber inside
the cave, in which a seated body was found. The chamber was later
dated to 1500 BC, and it was believed that at the time of the summer
solstice the sun illuminated this tomb.
The story had gone from ancient astronauts to astronaut par
excellence, but what would be the next step?
The third man
Everyone and everything had revolved around Juan Moricz, but in
retrospect he was the wrong centre of the universe. From 1969 until
1991, the year he died, the Metal Library eluded him. So what next?
That Moricz was not the originator of the story was clear, as von
Däniken himself noted on page 53 of his book. In the 1973 interview
with Der Spiegel, Moricz confirmed that an unnamed person had shown
him the cave. But who was this person?
After Moricz died, Hall decided to track down this "third man", who
had disappeared into the shadows. Hall had a name—Petronio
Jaramillo—but nothing more.
"Moricz died in February 1991," said Hall. "I had a name and a
telephone directory. But there were an awful lot of Jaramillos in
Quito. Finally, I found him—or, rather, his mother. It was September
1991 when she gave me the phone number of her son. I phoned him. He
told me that it had taken 16 years before our paths crossed. He was
willing to meet me, and stated that he needed three days to fill me
Jaramillo confirmed that when Moricz arrived in Guayaquil in 1964,
he teamed up with lawyer Dr Gerardo Peña Matheus. Moricz told
Matheus of his theory about how Hungarian people have been at the
root of practically every civilization. Through acquaintances,
Andres Fernandez-Salvador Zaldumbide and Alfredo Moebius, Moricz met
Jaramillo in Moebius's house, and from there Moricz ran with
Jaramillo's story. Hall was annoyed with himself, for various people
had tried to direct him towards Jaramillo as early as 1975, but it
took until 1991 before the two met.
Jaramillo and Hall realized that had it not been for Moricz, who
focused attention on the Cueva de los Tayos (which was not the
actual location of the library), the 1976 expedition could have
resulted in the discovery of the century—and what a track record for
Armstrong it would have been! But it's a two-edge sword because, had
it not been for Moricz, the story would never have come about like
this. And today, Hall's biggest desire—if he were able to turn back
time—is to sit down at one table with both Moricz and Jaramillo. At
the same time, he realizes that Moricz had been intent from the
beginning that the Metal Library would be his legacy.
showed Moricz a manuscript about the 1976 expedition, Moricz
point-blank refused to return it. It ended their friendship, but
Hall never understood why until 1991, when he realized that the
manuscript mentioned Jaramillo. It was a name Moricz did not want to
see published—as he had confirmed in the 1973 German newspaper
interview. Moricz was incredibly stubborn and, equally, incredibly
loyal, but obviously was the wrong man and was sadly mistaken if he
thought he could ever pull off the discovery of the century.
Jaramillo and Hall became friends, though both agreed Jaramillo
would not prematurely reveal the location of the site. Still, he was
willing to talk in detail about its contents and any other aspect
Hall wanted to discuss.
From Jaramillo, Hall was able to learn the true story of the Tayos
library—which was not in the Cueva de los Tayos at all! Jaramillo
stated that he had entered the library in 1946, when he was 17 years
old. He was shown it by an uncle, whose name has gone unrecorded but
who was known as "Blanquito Pelado" (a loving description of the
man's appearance). He was apparently on friendly terms with the
local Shuar population, who invited him to see a secret in gratitude
for the kindness and goodness he had shown towards the tribe.
Jaramillo entered the system at least once after that. On that
occasion, he saw a library consisting of thousands of large, metal
books stacked on shelves, each with an average weight of about 20
kilograms, each page impressed from one side with ideographs,
geometric designs and written inscriptions. There was a second
library, consisting of small, hard, smooth, translucent—what seemed
to be crystal—tablets, grooved with parallel encrusted channels,
stacked on sloping shelves of trestled units covered in gold leaf.
There were zoomorphic and human statues (some on heavy column
plinths), metal bars of different shapes, as well as sealed
"doors"—possibly tombs—covered in mixtures of coloured,
semi-precious stones. There was a large sarcophagus, sculpted from
hard, translucent material, containing the gold-leafed skeleton of
large human being. In short, an incredible treasure, stored away as
if hidden in preparation for some upcoming disaster.
On one occasion, Jaramillo took down seven books from the shelves to
study them, but their weight prevented him from replacing them. It
also meant that they were too heavy to remove from the library and
reveal to the world. Jaramillo never produced any physical evidence
for his claims, which may explain why he wanted to live in the
shadows of this story.
Hall did ask him why he never took photographs. "He said that it
would not prove anything."
Other discoveries, such as the infamous
Burrows Cave in the United States, prove that seeing actually isn't
believing. Still, Jaramillo stated that he had left his initials in
these seven books so that, if the library were ever discovered, it
could be proved that it was he who had entered it.
[above] Juan Moricz and Stan Hall,
photographed in 1975 during
preparations for the 1976 expedition
that would have astronaut Neil
Armstrong as honorary president. (Photo © Stan Hall)
Expedition plans and setbacks
Jaramillo and Hall wanted to combine forces to see whether the Metal
Library could be opened; one knew the location, the other had a
proven track record in organizing proper expeditions. It would be
the "expedition of occupation".
First, contact with various ambassadors and politicians was
established; then the scientific community was brought in. The plan
was for Jaramillo to lead the team to the site, where they would
remain for a period of three to four months (during the dry season),
cataloguing the contents of the site and guaranteeing that nothing
went missing. Everything would remain in situ. A report with
recommendations would be the only outcome of this expedition, which
would involve UNESCO. But in 1995, Peruvian jets bombed an
Ecuadorian military base and the project had its first setback.
In 1997, Hall used a major anthropology conference to promote the
idea. Six anthropologists came to meet him, interested in what he
was trying to accomplish. But that same year, Ecuador's political
regime changed (in Hall's opinion, for the worse); Hall felt that
his family could not live in the new political reality, so he moved
back to Scotland with them. (Shortly afterwards, our paths would
cross anonymously). This was nevertheless not a setback; planning
for the expedition continued.
However, it was in 1998 that the expedition had a major setback.
Hall received by telephone the sad news from the mother of Petronio
Jaramillo that he had been assassinated. Was he murdered because of
the plans that were afoot? Life in South America is cheap, as anyone
who has visited or lived there knows. That day, Jaramillo was
carrying a large amount of money on him. It was a street robbery,
close to his home. Random violence stopped one of the world's
biggest discoveries dead in its tracks.
It seems that fate only allowed for Jaramillo and Hall to meet, but
never to work together—as if their combined efforts would break the
spell of the cave and turn a dream into a reality.
Location, location, location
Moricz and Jaramillo had both died. Hall was in his sixties. Would
he go it alone and claim the Metal Library for himself? Hall isn't a
treasure-seeker. He emphasizes that the region is a—if not
the—veritable El Dorado. There is gold everywhere; the roads are
quite literally paved with it. Even if the library books are made
out of gold—though Jaramillo never spoke of gold but of "metal" (in
fact, it seems copper was an ingredient, as Jaramillo had seen a
green colour on the books)—there is more gold outside the library
than inside. The presence of Moricz in the region was because he
held extensive gold concessions; his interest in the library was not
for its monetary value but for its historic importance.
Still, various treasure-hunters in the past had tried to open the
cave. Count Pino Turolla made contact with Jaramillo in the 1960s
through the same channels that later brought Moricz to him. Turolla
was obsessed with Cayce's Hall of Records, and the Metal Library
would be absolute proof of Cayce's prophecies. But Turolla's
attitude and sense of organization meant that the two never got
along. Turolla pressed Jaramillo for details that the latter was
unwilling to offer. So Turolla opted to search around the Cueva de
los Tayos and came up empty-handed.
The most active Indiana Jones today is Stan Grist, who also knew
Juan Moricz as well as his confidante, Zoltan Czellar, also a good
friend of Hall.
In 2005, Grist wrote:
"As I write these words, I am
in negotiations with the native Shuars who live near the Cueva de
los Tayos, whose permission is necessary to enter and explore the
area of the caves.
I plan to mount an expedition in the coming
months to search for the secret entrance to the cave from which the
alleged metallic library can be accessed. Many people have entered
the cave by the well-known, vertical entrance near the top of the
mountain. However, I calculate that it is nearly impossible or is
impossible to reach the metallic library through this well-known
entrance. The secret entrance is only accessed from underwater!"
I confronted Hall with Grist's opinion.
"Jaramillo always said that
the entrance was under the river," he said.
But that river is not
near the Tayos Cave. That river is the Pastaza River.
[Above] Aerial photograph of the area where the real cave is
The marked area is the bend in the Pastaza River,
Hall visited in 2000 and which has all the required characteristics.
Though Hall never learned the location from
himself, after Jaramillo's death in May 1998 Hall organized a trip
with Mario Petronio, Jaramillo's son, in which both combined their
knowledge about the site. The trip had to be abandoned before "point
zero" could be reached.
In May 2000, Hall returned.
"When we were preparing the expedition in the 1990s, whenever diving
equipment was discussed as a necessity Petronio would say that even
though it [the entrance to the cave] was under the river, it did not
mean we would get wet."
Hall showed me aerial maps, pointing out a bend in the river that
meets a fault line, which is known to open up into a cave system
that runs for several miles. His suggestion is that the fault
line—evidence of an ancient earthquake—opened up the underground
network, which someone at some stage in the distant past then
discovered and used as a place to install the metallic library. Hall
had visited this location and deduced that it fits Jaramillo's
The need for cooperation
So, what happened next? Hall was 64 years old when he last travelled
to the region; now he is seventy. When he was 68, he decided that
more than likely he would not see this story come to its conclusion.
However, he does not consider it to be his story, and he does not
want to make the same mistake that Moricz did.
So, on 17 January 2005, Hall informed the Ecuadorian government of
the location of the cave that fits Jaramillo's description, and
which he hopes will become the focus of an expedition.
For anyone who is interested, the location is at 77º 47' 34" west
and 1º 56' 00" south. GoogleEarth brings you very close and can
satisfy any initial curiosity. But knowing the location doesn't mean
it will be easy finding it.
Hall thinks it will take decades or a paradigm shift before people
can work together in a manner that will result in a successful
"occupation". He argues that the 1976 expedition only succeeded
because a military regime was in power; "a democratic bureaucracy
will swamp the expedition before it crosses any swampy river".
What is required is a sense of cooperation and openness. Too many
people have tried to use the library as evidence for their own
theory, whether involving aliens, globe-conquering
Hungarians or Edgar Cayce and his Hall of Records.
Perhaps that is why the missions were doomed. Perhaps we should just
let the library speak for itself.
The answers to questions as to who built
it, where they came from, what they accomplished, etc. may all be
found inside the structure itself. After all, it is a library.