Mel’s Hole: Fact or Fiction?

Let’s talk about Mel’s Hole, shall we? Before February 21st, 1997, Ellensburg, Washington was pretty much Nowheresville, USA. Apart from being home to Central Washington University and peaceful scenery provided by the foothills of the Cascades, this town wasn’t known for much nationally. On that night, though, a call from an eccentric local to a popular late-night talk radio show changed all that. A bizarre tale told about a yawning chasm in the earth in the wilderness of Central Washington State was told, captivating a nation.

Did this impossibly deep hole, which came to known as Mel’s Hole, actually exist?

The origin story of Mel’s Hole

The story behind Mel’s Hole began one night during an episode of Coast to Coast AM, a late night nationwide radio show dealing with the paranormal, conspiracy theories, and so forth. On February 21st, 1997, a man calling himself Mel Waters phoned up host Art Bell. He claimed to have found a pit with no verifiable bottom on land he used to own near Ellensburg, Washington. He attempted to measure its depth using fishing line and a weight – in doing so, he determined it to be greater than 15 miles deep.

He also stated it had the ability to bring animals back from the dead. He had heard a story from another man who threw his dead dog in the pit, only to find it walking around alive just a few days later.  Shortly afterward, he said federal agents, claiming his land was the site of a downed air force plane, compelled him to surrender his property in exchange for a leasing arrangement, which paid him a fixed amount of money each month. Using these funds, he then moved to Australia, which was where he phoned into the show for the first time. Of course, our friends on Reddit have a few opinions on the matter.

The tale unravels

The legend of Mel’s Hole Washington continued to build over those years, as the syndication of Coast to Coast AM and the inclusion of these calls in The Best of Art Bell clip shows ensured the growth of this urban legend in the imaginations of malleable believers. What’s more, Mel Waters continued to phone into the show, most notably in 2000 and 2002. At these times, he reiterated the story he originally told while adding new details (e.g. some neighbours had seen beams of black ‘anti-light’ shooting out of Mel’s Hole, metals would change, radio broadcasts from the past could be picked up, etc).

However, he refused to confirm the exact location of Mel’s Hole, despite the establishment of search parties by local paranormal enthusiasts. These tales eventually captured the attention of local media, who did some investigative reporting of their own. Their research, more or less, debunked the entire theory of Mel’s Hole; they couldn’t find any evidence that anyone named Mel Waters had lived or owned property in the area, nor proof that his wife, purportedly a professor at Central Washington University, worked there.

Department of Natural Resources geologist Jack Powell then put the final nail in the coffin (or so it seemed). Using basic knowledge of how dirt and rocks behave, he concluded that a chasm matching the description of Mel’s Hole could never exist, as the heat and pressure that far down would cause the walls of the pit to collapse. To give a sense of scale, the deepest naturally occurring cavern on Earth plunges 7,188 feet beneath ground level, while the deepest mine in the world went down to a depth of 12,672 feet.

Taking things further, the Russians drilled the deepest hole in history from 1970 to the early 1990s. Hitting an absurd depth of 40,000 feet below ground, they encountered insane conditions which slowed drilling to crawl. These included rocks which behaved more like plastics rather than the solid rocks we are familiar with, and temperatures pushing 180 degrees Celsius. Extrapolating out from these data points, it is easy to see how the sort of hole Mel Waters described could never exist in reality.

Mel Waters loses his mind

As if reason couldn’t bury this Snopes worthy story, further details shared by Mel Waters in his later calls with Art Bell in 2002 cast further doubt on whether his tales regarding Mel’s Hole could be taken seriously. In these calls, he disclosed he had been arrested by police in Tacoma, Washington, only to black out and wake up in an alley in San Francisco missing all his teeth.

He claimed he came into possession of a dime from 1943 which mysteriously dematerialized on contact. Most alarmingly, he mentioned that he found another bottomless hole in Nevada. This abyss had even stranger powers than the one purportedly on his land: it set ice on fire for months without it ever melting, and when a sheep was lowered into it, it emerged from the chasm with an alien embedded within its chest cavity. He didn’t stop there: he maintained that this alien being was able to communicate via radio waves to a speaker, warning humans to back away from nuclear conflict, as it posed an existential threat to our species.

A rational explanation behind the story of Mel’s Hole

While it should be relatively obvious to any thinking person that the totality of Mel Waters’ story is likely BS, it seems likely it is based on a pit which exists in fact.

Where is Mel’s Hole anyway?

The aforementioned Jack Powell, having grown up in the Kittitas Valley and been employed by the Department of Natural Resources for over 20 years, had a good idea where the Mel’s Hole location was. After all, when you can’t find Mel’s Hole Google Earth, why not ask a geologist?

In the area described by Mel Waters, he knew of an old abandoned mine. Upon examining the area, he found an open pit which fit the description of a hole that either inspired a weaver of tall tales, or bamboozled a village idiot. With a likely present depth of 90 feet deep (with an operating depth of over 300 feet when it was being actively mined), Jack could easily see how lesser educated locals could conclude a hole of this nature would be bottomless. After all, a hole of that depth would have no discernible bottom, especially if it was deeper than the conservative estimate mentioned previously.

The story of Mel’s Hole jumps back to the spotlight

Think the craziness of Mel Waters and the rational undressing of the story behind Mel’s Hole Ellensburg Washington would be enough to put the legend of this chasm to bed for good?

Think again.

In 2008, a local First Nations man going by the name of Red Elk spoke with a great deal of authority of the seemingly magic properties of the hole.  He mirrored Mel Water’s claims by stating that Mel’s Hole set fire to ice lowered into it. However, he went further than that, stating that a sheep lowered into it wasn’t just cooked alive, but Mel’s Hole also implanted a seal fetus inside its uterus, as if by magic. He also claimed Mel’s Hole was the site of a secret base maintained by the United States Army, where they liaised with alien life forms. Humorously, though, he was unable to locate the very hole of which he spoke when he led an expedition of 30 curiosity seekers to the purported site in 2002.

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