Few people beyond the Haute Razes are aware of the strange affair of Daniel Bettex and the web of rumor and increasingly wild conjecture that has been spun about his passing. Bettex was a former security officer at Geneva airport and amateur spelunker who first became fascinated with the story of the Cathars in the early nineteen-seventies. He embarked on a long running correspondence with Deodat Roche - Rudolph Steiner's principal disciple and the guiding light behind the modern neo-Cathar movement. Bettex wanted to know about remote, unexplored areas where he could conduct his own research and further the overall knowledge of the seemingly vanished faith. Roche pointed him towards the densely wooded area surrounding the volcanic caldera of Mount Bugarach which had played an important role in the survival of the faith after the fall of Montsegur but remains largely unsurveyed by conventional archeologists.


Bettex studied local registers of mining activity in the area and after Roche's death became a close confident of Lucienne Julien the subsequent secretary general of the 'Societe du Souvenir et des Etudes Cathares' – the French Society of Cathar Research whose local standing enabled the Swiss investigator to gain access to records and archives that might otherwise have remained closed to him. Bettex became increasingly obsessed with a mysterious anonymous document known as mémoire sur la mythologie appliquée au Pech de Thauze (memory of the mythology of the Pech the Thauze, the old name for Bugarach) a putative overview of the legends and mythical writings concerning the dormant volcano drawn from long lost 15th century sources. Many of the legends, like the story of Agartha, dealt with the labyrinthine cave system that honeycombs the mountain. The caverns are commonly associated in song and story with the domain of the 'White Lady' who is herself alternatively described as the 'Queen of the Faeries' or the Comte de Foix's bastard daughter, Esclarmonde, the immortal guardian of the mythic 'Book of the Seven Seals'. Others, including the French pseudohistorian Michelle Lamy go as far as to suggest a blood link between the de Foix clan and the famous VoiVoida of Wallachia, Vlad Dracule, positioning the mountain as a gateway to another world of atavistic shapeshifters and soul sucking 'pseudolamias'. According to popular tradition unwary ramblers who became lost in the caves over the years either seemed to disappear without trace or return to the surface with their memories a blank, their heads aspin and their skin and hair bleached white or even blonde. Allusions to Bugarach, the folkloric 'crossroads of the four winds' and the fabled entrance to the subterranean world below can be found in the work of Maurice Leblanc, Gaston Leroux, George Sand, Andre Malraux, Louis Fédié, Daniel Réju, Serge Hutin, Luc Alberny, Jules Verne and the Abbe Henri Boudet among others. Bettex was intrigued by the many similarities in stories old and new by these disparate authors, many of whom were members of secret Rosicrucianist societies. Increasingly caught up in his studies he began to search in earnest for an entrance to this mythical subterranean kingdom.

Bettex never disclosed where exactly he did his research. Allegedly as a pretense to gather the necessary equipment he excavated the old castle of Bugarach. After his passing, the floors of the castle were filled with rubble and sealed with concrete. He appears to have found cavities in the mountain in which he fastidiously documented what he claimed were examples of 13th century 'Cathar' graffiti. The photographs and notes he made during this period have survived in the hands of his family and his friend Lucienne Julian. It was whispered by some that Bettex was on the verge of locating the Ark of the Covenant itself and had been personally briefed by the Israeli general Moshe Dayan. Some believe Bettex was a member of a secret society or that his work in the Razes was part funded by the Israeli intelligence - a proposition I find about as far fetched as the notion of Otto Rahn's initial enquiries being directly funded by Himmler and the Nazi party. Either way over the subsequent decades Monsieur Bettex's diligent work lead to the discovery of a hitherto blocked man made tunnel leading to a subterranean river and more mysteriously what would appear to be an ancient stone quay or L-shaped landing from whence Bettex believed it might be possible to penetrate further into the mountain.

The last time Julien met Bettex in the summer of 1988 the normally taciturn and methodical security officer seemed unusually excited, insisting he was only four or five days away from his goal and that they would soon both be rich...

Three days later the former Swiss security officer's body was recovered from a field on the outskirts of the village of Bugarach. According to contemporary reports his remains were 'inexplicably dehydrated' although typically the exact cause of death was never established. Some say he was caught in a subterranean subsidence but somehow managed to escape and drag himself back to the village. Others believe his body was carried out of the cave after he was already lifeless or that he was simply struck down where he stood. He was no longer a young man and its possible his exertions in the hot Pyrenean sunshine took an undue toll on his heart...

Not only does the place have a long history phantom airships, earth lights and apparitions of the 'White Lady' but now it seems it has its very own version of Otto Rahn - the determined amateur researcher whose mysterious death ( inevitably on the brink of a major discovery ) continues to cast a long shadow over the community. Extraordinary how the classic patterns seem to repeat themselves. I mean you couldn't make it up...