Quest For The Metal Library
A system of tunnels
and caves beneath Ecuador and Peru is reputed to hold an ancient
treasure-house of artefacts including two libraries, one containing
inscribed metal books and the other storing tablets of crystal.
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 civilisation?
It was a major claim, and it did not go unchallenged.
Armstrong, inside the Tayos Cave, 1976
The story centred 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 organised.
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 Peru."
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 liar.
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
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.
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
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 artefacts. 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.
Fernández inside the Tayos Cave, 1969
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 organise an Ecuadorian–British expedition
that would explore the Cueva de los Tayos; it would be a purely
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
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 realised they were kindred spirits
rather than mortal enemies.
Why did he do it? Hall wanted to create a framework: if there
was indeed a Metal Library of a lost civilisation, 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
On 3 August 1976, when the expedition was winding down, Armstrong
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?
Hall with Petronio Jaramillo 1996
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 in."
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 civilisation. 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 realised 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 realises
that Moricz had been intent from the beginning that the Metal
Library would be his legacy. When Hall 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 realised 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.
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.
Stan Hall with Neil Armstrong during the 1976 expedition
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 a 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.
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
organising proper expeditions. It would be the "expedition
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.
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 emphasises 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 organisation 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
photograph of the area where the real cave is located. The marked
area is the bend in the Pastaza River, which Hall visited in 2000
and which has all the required characteristics.
Though Hall never learned the
location from Petronio Jaramillo himself, after Jaramillo's death
in May 1998 Hall organised 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
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 description perfectly.
need for cooperation
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.
article appeared in Nexus Magazine 13. 4 (June-July 2006), World
Explorers Club 4.5 (December 2006) and Ancient American Volume
12, Issue 73 (June 2007). All photographs copyright of Stan Hall.