Hoaxes & Rumors

Urban Legend: The “Well to Hell”

Urban Legend: The “Well to Hell”

A graphic circulating on social media suggests that a “well to hell” has been found by geologists drilling in Siberia. Today we’ll examine this story.

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The picture is real, but the story is false.

The meme circulating on social media shows a large hole on the edge of a city. It contains a caption which reads, “The well to hell”. Following is the text from the graphic:

While drilling the world’s deepest hole in Siberia, the geologists noticed the drill bit began to rotate abnormally, among other strange happenings, when they reached a depth of ten miles. They measured temperatures up to 2000 degrees at the deepest part, and then lowered microphones into the pit. After hearing the sounds of all the suffering souls in hell, they stopped the project in the hope that what is down there will stay down there.

"Well to Hell" graphic

In reality, this picture is of the Mirny mine (also known as the Mir mine) which is located in Russia within Eastern Siberia. It is an abandoned diamond mine which measures 1,722 feet deep and is 1.5 kilometers wide. Mirny mine is considered to be the second largest man-made hole on the earth. More information and pictures of the mine can be found on the Slate website, a Wikipedia article devoted to the mine, and a BBC photo journal.

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“Well to Hell” History

This graphic is only the latest variation on the longstanding “Well to Hell” urban legend. Skeptoid.com has a fairly comprehensive history of the widely distributed untruth. According to their website, origins of the myth likely predate the rise of the internet, and stem back to the late 1980s or early 1990s.

Allegedly, the story first appeared in a small Finnish religious journal. From there, the unverified story was featured by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) in a 1989 piece entitled “Scientists Discover Hell.” In 1990, several smaller religious newsletters repeated the story as fact, while Christianity Today and Biblical Archaeology Review published articles debunking the tale.

On April 7, 1992, fiction-based tabloid Weekly World News published a new variation of the “Well to Hell” story.  The article was rewritten and republished on their website in 2008.

In 2002, the urban legend was injected with new life when Art Bell of the Coast to Coast AM radio show aired recordings allegedly from the microphone lowered into the pit. These recordings were emailed to Art Bell by an anonymous correspondent. The recording supposedly depicted hellish sounds of tormented souls screaming out in pain. Several debunking websites have reported that the “Sounds of Hell” recording is actually an altered and looped audio clip from a movie called Baron Blood which was released in 1972.

Since 2002, the “Well to Hell” urban legend has continued to circulate on the internet in various forms.  The myth may have been renewed by media coverage detailing a series of large sinkholes discovered in Siberia which were probably caused by melting ice and permafrost.

Google Trends History

The Google Trends graph below shows interest in the search term “well to hell” over time. Although experiencing peaks and valleys, interest has remained fairly consistent since March of 2005. A peak surge in interest appears to currently be underway.

Bottom Line

The enduring “Well to Hell” urban legend has been circulating in various forms for over 25 years. A current variation on the myth uses a picture of the Mirny diamond mine in Russia to depict the “Well to Hell.” An investigation into the myth’s history reveals dubious presentations from stalwarts of reliable reporting such as TBN, Weekly World News, and the Coast to Coast AM radio show.

Updated May 28, 2016
Originally published March 2015

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