FINCHER: Viewers will of course remember the interview I had with Gustafson before he set out last year.

[jump cut to older footage of GUSTAFSON and FINCHER in a studio]

GUSTAFSON: Known as La Ciudad Oscura, The Dark City, people most often dismiss it as a fairy tale comparable to the Seven Cities of Gold, El Dorado, Quivira, or Cíbola. You can imagine how detrimental associations like that are to any kind of legitimate scholarly inquiry! People see it as a time-wasting delusion on par with the Money Pit on Oak Island.

FINCHER: And what about Franklin Shire, the explorer you’re following?

GUSTAFSON: Franklin Shire is an interesting case–fascinating, really, for the number of unanswered questions it raises. He wasn’t a trained explorer but rather a journalist who searched the upper reaches of the Wampá River in Guatemala for the truth behind the legend with a friend and a few guides. He was unusually diligent for someone with no field experience, and tried his best to root out the oral history of the area.

FINCHER: Like what?

GUSTAFSON:Well, for one thing, people who actually live there don’t associate the city with any kind of wealth, as the conquistadors did. Rather, they view it as a decadent and rightfully punished former civilization, and a warning to any who would seek too much influence over nature, hence why the area was swallowed up by the jungle.

FINCHER: So what did Shire find?

GUSTAFSON:It’s one of the great mysterious episodes of amateur archaeology. Shire returned saying that he had found La Ciudad Oscura, but he insisted on calling it the City of the Lizard God because of the giant lizard statuary he claimed was present there. The thing is, Shire and his team brought back over five hundred artifacts to substantiate their claim, but the lack of any photographs, and inconclusive provenance of the things they did bring, led to a lot of ridicule. The whole Lizard God thing probably didn’t help; the press had a field day.

FINCHER: And Shire wasn’t able to appease them by having his discovery confirmed.

GUSTAFSON:Shire never had a chance to return to the area or give more information; he was so stung by the criticism that he committed suicide in 1938, less than a year after he returned. His companion died of dysentery before they even left Guatemala, and their porters were stood up against a wall by General Ubico after Shire’s promised bribes fell through. No one was ever told of the exact location Shire claimed for his find.

FINCHER: But you’ve said that your team, which sets out next month, has some important advantages.

GUSTAFSON:We’ve collated all available sources, including recollections written by the porters before their deaths, Shire’s notes, and extensive tests on the artifacts he brought back. If nothing else, our expedition will be able to show once and for all if there was any merit to Shire’s claims.

[jump cut back to FINCHER]

FINCHER: Authorities in Guatemala and the United States officially declared Gustafson’s team missing today, having had no contact with them since a satellite telephone call nearly six months ago.

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