The Curious Case of the Explorer Who Met a 1,000-Year-Old Mayan Priest

This strange story appeared in the pages of the Modesto News-Herald back in January 3, 1931. It tells of an explorer’s bizarre encounter with a century-old cave guardian who became known as the Loltun Cave Hermit.

The century-old hermit rescued the lost man from the dark, unexplored depths.

Whether this discovery was a mystical experience or not remains a mystery, as no one since has ever again seen what this explorer saw.

Robert B. Stacy-Judd was an English architect who designed hotels, theaters and other commercial buildings.

His designs were influenced by his great interest in Mayan and Aztec architecture.

Like this Aztec Hotel he built in Monrovia, Southern California.

Apart from his main line of work, he channeled his passion for all things Mayan by exploring their lost civilization and writing about Mayan architecture.

In one of his undated writings, Stacy-Judd narrated exploring the Loltun Cave, a site of Mayan civilization dating back to the Late Pre-classical Era.

The Loltun cave is around 5 kms. south of Oxkutzcab in Yucatan, Mexico.

It is in this very cave, Stacy-Judd wrote a historical account about coming face to face with an ancient Mayan priest who claimed to be 1,000 years old!

The Loltun cave is two-kilometers worth of twists, turns and tunnels with evidence of Mayan habitation that goes back 10,000 years.

Eerily beautiful…but not the ideal place to get lost in.

In Mayan, “Lol-Tun” means “flower stone,” and it is in this convoluted flower stone of a maze where Stacy-Judd and three native Mayan guides encountered a mysterious old hermit living in its unexplored depths.

According to his journals, Stacy-Judd was on his fifth expedition into Loltun. With him were his guides, Anton and Tavis, and an unnamed cattle driver.

The stalagmite and stalactite-filled cave had a vast central cavern which branched out into quite a number of passages leading into the darkness.

Where the sunlight could reach, vegetation grew near the cave’s mouth.

Stacy-Judd left his equipment here, and set off with his guides to explore the underground. He left his first guide near where the sunlight ended.

Then he left his second guide at voice-shouting distance to serve as a message conduit between him and his first guide.

Stacy-Judd proceeded with this third guide towards another huge cavern.

Here, they barely escaped a huge pile of rock that fell on them from the ceiling, and the sound of rock fall brought the first guide running.

Since their first guide served as a conduit to their initial starting point, they lost all direction to get back to the cave’s mouth. They soon joined up with the second guard who was scared, as well.

To conserve the resources they brought with them, they put out their rush torches, and used the electric one Stacy-Judd carried.

They then started to retrace their trail to find the way back, with Stacy-Judd placing the guides at a distance from one another to keep a voice link.

Based on his notes of this expedition, he had just squeezed into a narrow opening leading to another cave fifty feet high when he saw something that startled him thoroughly.

A small point of light rose from a huge pile of rocks…

The light was followed by a person’s form.

As the form came closer, Stacy-Judd saw it was a very old man in a white robe wrapped around him like a tunic. The back of the robe was brought up between his legs and tucked into a girdle.

The old man had wisps of grey hair escaping from his gourd skull cap.

He was thin with lose hanging skin, but appeared strong, healthy and mentally alert. In his hand he held an oil lamp fashioned out of a double gourd.

Based on his accounts, Stacy-Judd wrote:

“I shouted to my nearest guide to follow me – and started forward. My amazement increased. For there arose from the sold rocks, apparently – a human head. Just a head – and it appeared to be saved. Then, inch by inch, the body emerged into view. I was speechless with wonder when finally there stood before me in the arc of my flashlight, a very old man.

But his dark, wrinkled face showed absolutely no expression of surprise at my presence. He stood still, with a peculiar tilt to his figure as I approached him, an uncanny light gleamed from his deep-sunken eyes, a half smile twisted his lips.

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He had a scraggly gray mustache, but was beardless, by which feature I knew him to a full-blood Maya.

What I had first supposed was a shaved head, proved to be a thin half-gourd that he wrote as an improvised skullcap, from beneath the edges of which flared a thatch of course, iron-gray hair. Heavy white eyebrows stood out beneath the gourd. He wore a clean, white shapeless garment that was secured about his spare figure by a twisted vine, with the back of it gathered up loosely between his legs and fastened into the belt of vines.

His bare, shrunken legs had a series of heavy wrinkles beneath the bony knees, and the claw-like hands, gnarled and heavily veined, hung loosely at his sides. he wore sandals with thongs laced criss-cross around his legs, exactly as pictured by the ancient Mayas on the bas reliefs on the walls of ruined buildings.”

Stacy-Judd wrote that it was the “weirdest experience” of his life. He couldn’t understand how a very old person could live in the furthest reaches of a cave in the middle of an uninhabitable jungle.

Later, he learned neither government officials nor his guides knew of anyone living nearer than the nearest civilian outpost, Hacienda Tabi.

In the midst of their unearthly surroundings, his guides began to whisper amongst themselves in a frightened manner as if they had seen a ghost.

The old man began to speak, and Stacy-Judd’s guides translated.

The hermit claimed he was an ancient Maya Hol-Pop, a thousand-year-old Mayan priest who served as a guard to the Mayan’s ancient treasures and sacred relics. After hundreds of years without light, he’d lost his eyesight and was nearly totally blind.

He even felt Stacy-Judd’s face with his hands to “see” how he “looked.”

The old man said he lived in the deepest recesses of the cave’s many caverns, and subsisted on wild nuts, berries, herbs and fruit from the forest.

Five hours after Stacy-Judd and his guides had gotten lost in the Loltun cave, the hermit guided them back to the cave entrance.

Stacy-Judd wrote:

The explorer took a picture of the old man, and even offered the ancient one some silver coins in thanks.

Stacy-Judd’s account as featured in the Modesto News-Herald.

However, the old man was never seen again and the story of their strange encounter will live on in the annals of weird history.

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