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Penteli cave, 2009.

The Penteli Cave Enigma – A Place of Unexplained Phenomena Since Ancient Times

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Mount Pentelicus, a mountain near Athens, Greece, has been an important area for thousands of years. It is the location of the ancient quarry from which marble was cut to build the Parthenon and other great structures in the city of Athens during its golden age. Marble, however, is not all there is to the mountain. The mountain also has many mysteries, mostly surrounding a certain cave which has gained the nickname ‘Davelis Cave.’

Where is Davelis Cave?

Davelis Cave, or Penteli Cave, as it is more commonly called, is a cave historically hidden by pine forests. At the back of the 60 meters (197 feet) long and 20 meters (66 feet) high cave is a network of tunnels, one of which leads to an underground pond. Another tunnel, according to one tradition, leads to Hell. Although the cave does not look too mysterious from the outside, the cave has been the location of many strange events such as sightings of shadowy ghost-like apparitions, UFOs, and other paranormal entities.

Penteli mountain Athens Greece. (Christos / Adobe)

Penteli mountain Athens Greece. (Christos / Adobe)

Ancient History of the Cave

The cave has been considered an otherworldly place since antiquity. In ancient times, it was a sacred site to the nature god Pan and his nymphs, a place known as a panaipolion. Artifacts have been found in the cave depicting the god, niches have been cut into the walls and there is an alcove with a pool of water for some unknown purpose. After the arrival of Christianity, it continued to be a place of spiritual significance and was used as a hideout by Christian hermits and solitary, eremitic monks.

According to some accounts, the church at the entrance to the cave was built in the 11th century. It was built as two connected chapels. Within one of the chapels are some unusual glyphs which have been attributed to anchorite monks. The unusual design of the church has led to speculation that the church was actually built very early in Christian history by Gnostics or another offshoot of Christianity.

Church at the entrance of Penteli Cave. (NikosFF / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Church at the entrance of Penteli Cave. (NikosFF / CC BY-SA 4.0)

During the 19th century, the cave also gained notoriety. It was said to be used as a base by Davelis, an infamous outlaw who was known for stealing from the wealthy. It is also claimed that he had an affair with a French noblewoman who happened to live nearby during that time. It is this association that earned the cave the nickname, Davelis Cave.

Increased Interest in Paranormal Activity

The cave has always been the site of strange phenomena. In the 19th century, people claimed to hear mysterious voices coming from the far corridors of the cave. Some people would also hear music that didn’t appear to have a source. The strangeness of the cave was also reinforced by its environment, being located on an isolated mountain slope surrounded by a potentially ominous pine forest.

In the 1960s and 1970s, paranormal investigators gained an interest in the cave and began looking into it. By the mid-20th century, with the dawn of the Space Age, UFO sightings had also been added to the strange stories associated with the cave. One of the main investigators was a man named George Balanos. The investigation continued for years without progress. These investigations were hindered by malfunctions in technological devices, such as cameras and flashlights, as well as peculiar behavior on the part of the investigators.

A ghost hunter taking an EMF reading - Electro Magnetic Field, which proponents claim may be connected to paranormal activity. (LuckyLouie / CC BY-SA 3.0)

A ghost hunter taking an EMF reading - Electro Magnetic Field, which proponents claim may be connected to paranormal activity. ( LuckyLouie / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Government Involvement?

The story of Penteli Cave got even stranger when, in 1977, a group of workers and technicians claiming to be from an unknown organization put up barbed wire around the cave and began to do work on the cave with dynamite and bulldozers. When people tried to go into the cave, they would be turned away by guards posted by the organization. Popular theories of their identity included NATO, the U.S. government, and the Greek military. Many people speculated that they were building some sort of nuclear bunker or nuclear weapons storage facility. Wilder theories included the opening of extradimensional portals and manipulation of a magnetic channel connecting the cave to Langley, West Virginia, USA.

What is also strange about the work done by the mysterious organization is that, after a while, they stopped reinforcing restricted access to the cave and holes were cut through barbed wire.

Electromagnetic field concept. (pixel / Adobe)

Electromagnetic field concept. (pixel / Adobe)

During this period, there were also a lot of weird stories of events surrounding the cave. In one account, a couple going on a hike discovered a car perched on a ledge near the cave in a location which seemed impossible for a car to reach. They came back again multiple times over several days and the car was still there. Finally, they went up to the car and found that, oddly, the car did not have any marks of damage expected of a car driven to that position. When the wife looked into some bushes around the car she started screaming hysterically.

When the husband calmed her down, she said that she had seen a white oval shaped creature that was about 60 cm (24 inches) long with two enormous glowing eyes. The husband did not see the creature, but he did see the bushes rustle as if an animal had just moved through them. Days later, the husband also saw something that appeared to be a spinning black sphere outside his car window which caused him to start screaming and shaking until his wife was able to calm him down and coax him into explaining what he saw.

Suddenly, in 1983, the work crews disappeared almost as mysteriously as they had arrived. They, however, did not leave without a trace, even leaving behind some of their equipment that had just been abandoned. The ancient church and natural cave networks had been severely damaged. Additionally, several artificial concrete corridors had been dug, though some appeared to be only half completed. Whatever the objective was of this organization it is unclear that they reached it.

There was another attempt to continue modifications in 1990, but it was immediately shut down by the Greek ministry of culture to prevent further damage to the important historical and archaeological sites in the cave.

Possible Explanations for the Strange Phenomena

Current explanations for the unusual phenomena in the cave include magnetic channels and disturbances in the local electromagnetic fields. After decades of searching, investigators seem no closer to finding the answer than they were in the 1960s.

One discernible pattern, however, is constant references to electromagnetic disturbances. The work done by the shadowy organization in the 1970s may have been done out of interest in these “electromagnetic disturbances.”

It has been suggested by neuroscientists, such as Michael Persinger of Laurentian University, that pulsed electromagnetic fields can influence perception causing people to feel as if there is an invisible presence in a room. It has also been noted by scientists that places that are claimed to be haunted tend to also be places of unusual electromagnetic activity.

It is also interesting, in light of this, that technology such as cameras and flashlights tend to malfunction in the cave, which also can happen as a result of certain kinds of electromagnetic interference. Could there be an actual connection between local electromagnetic fields, technology malfunctions, the interest of shadowy organizations in the cave and the alleged paranormal activity taking place?

It may be a while before an answer is found, but the connection to electromagnetic fields at least provides a clue for solving the riddle of Penteli Cave.

Little lake at Penteli mountain Athens Greece. (Christos / Adobe)

Little lake at Penteli mountain Athens Greece. (Christos / Adobe)

Top Image: Penteli cave, 2009.   Source: Haridimous / Public Domain

By Caleb Strom


Ferro, Shaunacy. 2018. 6 Scientific Explanations for Ghosts. [Online] Available at:
N.D. The Riddle of Penteli’s Cave: The Never-Ending Saga. [Online] Available at:
Swancer, Brent. 2015. The Ancient Greek Cave of Mysteries. [Online] Available at:



I have lived for some years in an Athens suburb near Penteli, and I have visited the cave on a few occasions, as I have also spoken with locals about the supposedly strange phenomena. The use of the cave as a hideout by the outlaw Davelis is not plausible, because at that time the quarry was still in use and usually the workers were spending the night in the cave. It is true that in the '70s two tunnels were constructed for military purposes, but due to ecologists' reaction and the ending of the cold war they were abadoned. The "antigravity" road nearby, it is proven to be (as in other similar cases) an optical illusion, and recent mesurements using GPS elevation readings have confirmed it. I myself have checked for the presence of ionising radiation in various places in the cave, but there was none. Maybe, natural pressure on the semi-marble walls of the cave could occasionaly create some electric field disturance, but this has yet to be proven. According to locals, many of these myths have originated from illegal marble hunters up to the '80s, to discourage the presence of strangers. It is true though that the cave, because of its reputation, still attracts occult worshipers during the night. Balanos' book in the '80s provoked a wave of interest for the cave, and consequently many fictional tales emerged. There is however something worth seen near the cave, and this is the beginning of the stone paved road used for the transport of the marbles that have built Acropolis in the 5th ce BCE.

Caleb Strom's picture


Caleb Strom is currently a graduate student studying planetary science. He considers himself a writer, scientist, and all-around story teller. His interests include planetary geology, astrobiology, paleontology, archaeology, history, space archaeology, and SETI.

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