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A typical bottomed sinkhole

The Curious Case of Mel's Hole - Did it Ever Exist?

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In 1997 a resident of Ellensburg, Washington called Mel Waters rang into a local radio station with a fairly outlandish claim. He stated that he’d found a bottomless pit in the region that had a host of outrageous abilities. Over a series of calls his claims only got stranger as he ascribed various magical abilities to the hole and hinted at a government conspiracy. His story quickly became an urban legend and ever since conspiracy theorists have visited the area to search for Mel’s never-ending hole. Despite the fact it’s never been found, and geologists believe it to be completely impossible, the search continues.  

The Search For Mel Waters’ Incredible Hole-The Claims 

The legend of Mel’s Hole began on February 21, 1997, when a man calling himself Mel Water called into the radio show Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. Despite its seemingly innocuous name, the show was a hotspot for local legends and urban myths and Mel had a doozy. 

Mel rang in to claim there was a seemingly bottomless hole on his property. He wouldn’t say exactly where it was, but he said it was roughly nine miles (14 km) west of Ellensburg in Kittitas County, Washington. According to Mel, the hole was an open secret and locals had been dumping their trash there for centuries with the region’s first settlers supposedly calling it “The Devil’s Hole.”  

Ellensburg Washington Yakima River Panorama 

Ellensburg Washington Yakima River Panorama.  (CascadeCreatives/Adobe Stock) 

During his first call to the station, Waters told how his dogs were terrified of the hole and refused to go near it. After becoming curious (who wouldn’t be?) he decided to see how deep the hole was and measured its depth with a fishing line and a weight. Apparently, he got through 79,000 feet (24,000 m) of fishing line without reaching the bottom.  

In subsequent appearances on the show on February 24, 1997, 2000, and 2002 Mel made even stranger claims. For a start, he said the hole had Pet Sematary-style powers (remember that old classic?)  and had brought his neighbor’s dead dog to life. His neighbor had thrown his dead dog into Mel’s hole only to find it wandering the woods shortly afterward. While the dog didn’t seem to recognize its owner, it was wearing the deceased dog’s collar. 

Stranger still, Mel reckoned the hole had a transformative effect on some objects. Metals would change into other metals in the hole’s vicinity and radios would put out strange voices and play music from times gone by. A bucket of ice that was lowered into the hole came back warm but still solid, and, so said Mel, flammable. 

Mel also stated that the gigantic hole produced no echoes and that no matter the size of the object thrown in, no sound of it hitting the bottom could be heard. As the years went by Mel’s claims only became more unhinged. 

In his 2000 call, Mel told listeners that the Federal Government had seized his land, banned him from visiting the hole again, and paid him off. Mel took the money and said he was moving to Australia. When he called again in 2002 Mel told the station how he had returned from Australia only to be kidnapped by the government. He claimed he’d woken up in San Francisco weeks after arriving in the U.S.A. with IV marks on his arms, missing teeth, and memory lapses. Mel’s final claim was that he also found a similar hole in Nevada with equivalent properties. 

Debunking Mel’s Hole 

Unsurprisingly, Mel’s claims encouraged others to come and tell the world about their encounters with the strange hole. With the claims mounting up, in 2002 a group of 30 people descended on the area to look for Mel’s hole. They went home empty-handed.  

Local reporters who decided to look into the story found no records of anyone called Mel Waters having ever lived in the area or having owned property in Kittitas County. Proof of a government coverup? More likely evidence of a hoax. 

Of course, the most damning evidence comes from science. While the Earth’s crust is variable, on land it averages 30 kilometers (19 mi) thick, getting up to 100 kilometers (62.13 mi) thick under certain mountain ranges. In other words, as the United States Geological Survey put it, the hole would reach “about a quarter of the way through the Earth’s crust at its thickest.” 

In the end, the government even had to step in and address the claims directly. Jack Powell, a geologist for the State Department of Natural Resources has said not only does the hole not exist, but it’s also impossible. According to him, the massive pressure and heat from the surrounding strata would cause a hole of that size to collapse in on itself.  

The more likely explanation, he said, was that there was an old abandoned mine shaft in the area that inspired the tales. Sure enough, the region was once home to several gold mines and several shafts have been found that perhaps inspired Mel. Another geologist, Pat Pringle, pointed out that any fishing line that reached 80,000 feet (24,384 m) would be snapped by the extreme heat before getting to such a low depth.  

That’s before one gets to Mel’s most outlandish claims like revived dogs, magic sheep (Mel said a sheep dropped into the hole healed his cancer) and transforming metals - all of which are scientifically impossible. 

Conclusion 

So, if Mel’s hole is utterly impossible (which it is) then what’s the true story? Most likely the person claiming to be Mel was either a fantasist or even more likely, a hoax artist. After their initial story went viral, they were clearly inspired to make ever-more outlandish claims. 

Some may question why calls stopped after 2002, but that should be clear. By disappearing after pointing the finger at the government “Mel” ensured his story would live on forever in the world of strange conspiracy theories. No matter how much one tries to debunk Mel’s hole, people will still keep looking for it. Thankfully, for fans of deep holes, we still have Russia’s Kola Superdeep Borehole, which at 12,262 meters (40,230 ft) is nearly as impressive as Mel’s, even if it lacks the magical properties. 

Top image: A typical bottomed sinkhole. Source: Poliorketes/Adobe Stock 

References 

Felton. J. 2024. Geologically Impossible": The Strange Story Of Mel's Supposedly Bottomless Hole. Available at: https://www.iflscience.com/geologically-impossible-the-strange-story-of-mels-supposedly-bottomless-hole-72417 

Gentry. J. 2022. 10 Unbelievable Facts About Mel’s Hole. Available at: https://listverse.com/2022/12/26/10-unbelievable-facts-about-mels-hole/ 

Zebrowski. J. 2022. Expedition seeks paranormal pit. Available at: https://archive.seattletimes.com/archive/?date=20020414&slug=melshole14m 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

The legend of Mel's Hole revolves around a series of calls made by a man named Mel Waters to the radio show Coast to Coast AM in 1997. Mel claimed to have discovered a bottomless pit on his property near Ellensburg, Washington. He described the hole as having extraordinary and supernatural properties, such as reviving dead animals, transforming metals, and emitting strange sounds. Mel also suggested a government conspiracy to cover up the hole's existence, claiming he was paid off and later kidnapped.  

According to Mel Waters' claims, during his first call to the radio show Coast to Coast AM, he stated that he lowered a fishing line with a weight down the hole and let out approximately 79,000 feet (24,000 meters) of line without reaching the bottom. This depth is significantly beyond the limits of what is geologically possible, as the Earth's crust on land is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) thick on average. Therefore, the alleged depth of Mel's Hole is widely considered to be a fabrication. 

Despite extensive searches and scientific debunking, the mysterious pit has never been found, turning Mel's Hole into an enduring urban legend and a favorite topic among conspiracy theorists. 

Robbie Mitchell's picture

Robbie

I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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