Sprawled out over an expanse of withered parched desert in western New Mexico, in the Southwestern United States, is the El Malpais National Monument. Known for the dramatic volcanic field covered with a barren moonscape of treacherous sharp-edged rubble, tangled lava flows, cinder cones, pressure ridges, complex lava tube systems, caves, caverns, and other volcanic features and formations that cover much of the park’s total area, all surrounded by sandstone bluffs and mesas, the name “Malpais” itself means “badlands” in Spanish, and it is popular with hikers and cavers. It is also known for being one of the eight candidate sites considered by the Manhattan Project to test detonate the first atomic bomb, as well as for its important archeological sites surrounding the various peoples who have inhabited the area for thousands of years, to whom it was a sacred place full of spirits and magic. A lesser known and more sinister aspect of the park is that it has also had its share of strangeness surrounding it, and may possibly be hungry in a sense, drawing people in to vanish off the face of the earth.
In June of 2002, James Chatman, 46, and his daughter Crystal Tuggle, 20, came to El Malpais for a day hike among the rugged lava beds. A National Park Service archaeological team saw them late on the afternoon of June 20 going off along a simple half-mile walk that would take them from the parking area to an attraction called Big Tubes, which is composed of around 17 miles of tunnels and troughs created by the lava. It was thought to be pretty odd that they were going out there into the perilous unstable terrain without hiking boots or gear, but the trail was well worn and the destination close and so nothing much was thought of it at the time. Little did they know that this would be the last time anyone would see Chatman and Tuggle alive.