An Ohio monument to the originator of the Theory of Concentric Spheres and Polar Voids.

Episode: 20. Site Number: 074. Date Posted: 25 August 1996. Update 12 March 2000. Location: Hamilton, Ohio, USA. Type: Grave.

Symmes Monument--closeup Some time ago Jay Platt of the West Side Bookshop in Ann Arbor told me about a curious stone monument commemorating Capt John Cleves Symmes. I haven't seen it but I did track down a photograph of it on page 41 of J. O. Bailey's Pilgrims Through Space and Time. It certainly is curious (although entirely apt), a stone sphere with a hole on it set atop a three-part base. It's in Hamilton, Ohio, but exactly where I haven't discovered. The inscription reads: West side: "John Cleves Symmes joined the Army of the U.S. as an Ensign, in the year 1802. He afterward performed daring feats of Bravery in the Battles of Lundy's Lane and Sortie from Fort Erie." East side: "Capt. John Cleves Symmes was a Philosopher, and the originator of 'Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres and Polar voids.' He contended that the Earth was hollow and habitable within." Symmes Monument and Surroundings       According to Bailey, "Symmes issued a circular to institutions of learning in Europe and America stating that the earth is hollow and open at the poles. In 1823 he petitioned Congress to send an exploring expedition to test his theory and got twenty-five affirmative votes. With James McBride as collaborator he published in 1826 Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres . . . Symmes believed the earth is composed of five hollow, concentric spheres, with space between each, and habitable upon both convex and concave surfaces. At the North Pole, he supposed an opening four thousand miles in diameter; at the South, six thousand." (p. 40).
      Symmes' theory spawned a number of books including novels. The first was Symzonia (1820), by Captain Adam Seaborn. E. A. Poe's MS Found in a Bottle (1833) and Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym both owe something to Symmes. The theory had its loyal adherents right up until Peary's reported discovery of the North Pole. There are no doubt still some around today!
      For additional information on Symmes and his brother theorists refer to 'The Hollow Earth' web page at

Update 12 March 2000. Since the original posting of this Episode, I've been to Hamilton and tracked down the monument which is a block or two south of the center of town in a flat, square-shaped somewhat untidy park of about two acres, opposite the Elks building, bordered on the north by railroad tracks, on the west by Third Street, on the east by Fourth Street. It is enclosed by a blue six-foot high iron fence. The monument was "restored" and re-dedicated in 1991. The monument's design consists of a stone obelisk with a globe on top which apppropriately has a hole through it. There are new bronze plaques on the new base that duplicate the original carved inscriptions that are now difficult to read:

Facing southwest: "Capt. John Cleves Symmes entered the Army of the U.S. as an Ensign in the year 1802. He afterward rose to the rank of Captain, and performed daring feats of Bravery in the Battles of Lundy's Lane and sortie from Fort Erie."

Facing southeast: "This monument was erected in the mid 1840's by Americus Symmes to mark the grave site of his father, Captain John Cleves Symmes. This restoration is a Bicentennial Gift to the city of Hamilton from Historic Hamilton, Incorporated. Dedicated March 13, 1991. In memory of Dorothy Bronson Beeler, 1912-1989, a founder of Historic Hamilton, Incorporated in 1979. Restoration by Edgar Tafur, Sculptor. MAJOR GIFTS Adeline Zoller in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Zoller. Mr. and Mrs William Beckett in memory of Mary Millikin Beckett. Nancy Iske Tryloff in memory of James Louis Iske. Dr. and Mrs Spencer August in memory of Calvin William Jung. David and Sally Watson. Mrs. Ellsworth A. Wente, Jr., in memory of Ellsworth A. Wente, Jr. Dr. and Mrs. John Antenen Stewart. Bill Wilks in memory of his wife Pat. Dr. Dan Skinner and Dr. Malcolm Bronson Fund."

Facing northeast: "Capt. John Cleves Symmes as a Philosopher, and the originator of 'Symmes Theory of Concentric Spheres and Polar voids.' He contended that the Earth is hollow and habitable within."

Facing northwest: "Capt. JOHN C. SYMMES a Native of New Jersey, died in May 1829 Aged 49 yrs. & 6 months."

Other Symmes-related sites locally are Symmes Road and Symmes Avenue.