Robert B. Stacy Judd, born in 1884, was an English architect and Mayan civilization enthusiast. He is notable for designing Mayan Revival architecture building, the Aztec Hotel, built in 1924 on the U.S. Route 66 in Monrovia, Southern California. He was also an explorer and a writer with many writings to his credit. Architecture, especially Mayan architecture, was the major subject of writings. One of his undated writings titled The Hermit of Loltun narrates his encounter with a mysterious hermit when he and his guides were hopelessly lost in the depths of Loltun caves. The encounter was also later covered by Modesto News-Herald on January 3, 1931, in an article titled Mystery of the Loltun Cave Hermit.
Loltun Cave is located around 5 km south of Oxkutzcab in Yucatán, Mexico, and is a site of Mayan civilization dating back to Late Preclassic Era.
The Loltun cave is about two kilometers long with evidence of habitation going as far back as 10,000 years ago. In Mayan, the word “Lol-Tun” means “flower stone”. It is to this cave that Robert B. Stacy-Judd and his three native Mayan guides, Anton, Tavis, and a vaquero (horse mounted cattle driver or cowboy) reportedly set off to explore. After travelling for a long time, they rested at the hacienda (the house in an estate) of Tabi and went to Loltun the next morning.
According to Stacy-Judd, this was his fifth expedition to attempt the exploration of Loltun. Upon reaching there, they entered a cave which led to a vast cavern full of stalagmites and stalactites.
From the cavern, which Stacy-Judd calls the central cavern, there were many passages leading into further depths. In the area where the sunlight could penetrate, there were also plants and a tree that reached to the roof for the light. He left his equipment in the central cavern and decided to explore the rest of the underground by establishing a series of base points for reference.
After going further into one of the passages, he placed his first guide where a view of the lighted part of the cave can be seen. Going even further, he used his voice to form a second link between him and the first guide, and placed the second guide where the voice could just be heard. He continued much deeper with the third guide, Anton, to another enormous cavern.
As they were inside the cavern, Stacy-Judd had a hunch and was just in time getting himself and Anton to safety when a huge pile of rock fell from the ceiling right where they were before. But the sound caused the first guide to leave his position to rescue them, losing their only way of getting back.
After the collapse, Stacy-Judd and Anton retraced their steps back to the second guide who was scared about what happened to them. As Stacy-Judd was considering which way to go next, they heard the first guide running towards them. To conserve their resources, he extinguished the rush torches the Mayans were carrying and used only his electric torch.
They started retracing their trail as far as possible. After a distance he placed one of the guides at a position with a torch and at further distance placed the other two. Then, he proceeded alone all the while keeping a voice link by calling back and forth to each other. He reached a narrow opening and squeezed through it. This cave, a little beyond where he stood, was around fifty feet high and had indeterminable depth. Just as he was about to go back, he saw something that made him stop.
About twenty-five feet above his level, Stacy-Judd noticed a small point of light, slowly rising from a huge pile of rocks, and to his utter surprise, it was followed by a head and human form.
When the form had fully appeared, he saw that it was a very old man clad in a white robe, a single fabric wrapped like a tunic, and the lower back of his robe brought between his legs and tucked into a girdle. He was also wearing a skull cap made of gourd, out of which his wispy grey hair could be seen. Though he looked very thin with skin loosely hung to his body, he was strong, healthy, and mentally alert. He was also holding an oil lamp made out of double gourd, the light of which frightened Stacy-Judd.
He couldn’t understand how someone could be in an underground cave amidst such uninhabitable jungle, as he later found out, neither the government officials nor his guide had any knowledge of anyone living nearer than Hacienda Tabi. He, then, called out for Anton, who called the others.
His guides were able to talk to the old man and conveyed Stacy-Judd through signs that he was a Mayan priest, over one thousand years old and trusted with guarding the Mayan treasures.
Though Stacy-Judd knew the age was an exaggeration, he felt that the old man must have been over hundred. The old man was almost blind, and he gently stroked Stacy-Judd’s face and clothes with his hands, probably to know how he looked. According to Stacy-Judd, his guide informed him that the old man lived way below the level they walked in. Also, he added that the old man lived on wild nuts, berries, fruit, and herbs that he gathered from the forest.
At this point Stacy-Judd glanced at his watch and found that they had been lost for five and a half hours. Then, the old man began to guide them through more passages and finally into the large cavern the equipment was present in.
Here are some excerpts from the notes of Robert Stacy-Judd.
Whether there is really anything mystical about the encounter or not, Stacy-Judd’s writing and his notes are a thrilling read about an adventure in the caves a celebrated civilization.