From Drow elves to the devil himself, we rarely imagine good-natured, caring folks when we imagine secret underground races. Generally speaking, if it comes from the ground, we loathe and despise it. Perhaps we're compensating for some internal self-awareness of our more soil-bound genetic ancestors? Whatever the cause, it makes for some dang fine horror. The tales from the Maltese Catacombs may have more to do with superstition and poor history preservation than secret races, but they still get my imagination piqued.
The Malta Catacombs
"In 1902, in the town of Paola on the island of Malta, workers making way for a new housing development stumbled across a vast subterranean complex that dated back to Malta’s prehistoric period, some 3000 years ago. The sight has since became a UNESCO world Heritage site, and was officially named the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. A more extensive archaeological survey of the site was undertaken, and it became clear that all was not as simple as it seemed. Over 30,000 human skeletons were found in burial chambers dotted across the site, including men, women and children. Many skulls had unusually widened craniums and baffled scientists in terms of ethnic origin. Stories began spreading that it was tangible evidence of a subterranean human species.
"The islands earliest inhabitants engaged in human sacrifice to appease their god of the underworld, who they believed dwelled beneath the island itself. The name they gave to him roughly translates as ‘Serpent’. When Saint Paul was shipwrecked on the island as recorded in the bible, he documented this, and even claimed to have been bitten by the serpent himself. He also spent a great deal of time there converting the people from their primitive worship of a reptilian deity to Catholicism. It is believed, by some scholars, that the human sacrifices were involuntarily cast down into the catacombs, to be devoured by the serpent and prevent the islanders from incurring his wrath.
"Rumors of a cover-up, by the Maltese government and other authorities, are rife with stories including the scrubbing of texts and ancient drawings from the catacomb walls, and the mysterious and sudden death of the sites first head archaeologist. The underground complex still hasn’t been fully explored. A British embassy worker in the 1940’s, gave an account of foraying into the sites lowest room on the last level, after convincing the tour guide to allow her access to an area usually off limits to the public. Upon entering a small portal in the wall she claimed to have seen 20 reptilian beings covered in white hair on a ledge across from her. One raised his palm and subsequently her candle extinguished. She made a quick exit but upon returning some days later she was told that the guide who had shown her the portal had never been employed at the site and no such portal existed."