Bottomless Pits, as the name suggests, are holes in the ground or "pits" that are incredibly deep and appear to be bottomless. Legends of bottomless pits occur internationally. Frequently legends of bottomless pits describe strange phenomena associated with the pit, such as strange voices and creatures emerging.
The Koba Superdeep Borehole in Russia is the deepest vertical point attained by human endeavor on land, while the Challenger Deep, at 36,070 feet, is the deepest known point below sea level.
From a physics perspective a truly bottomless pit connecting two antipodes on terra firma would propel anyone who entered it from end of the earth to the other in an infinite loop, likely causing them to be crushed against the sides of the hole. The term "bottomless" is colloquial, as no living witness exists who has entered one of these pits.
In folklore there are many examples of these and similar phenomena such as Stairways to Hell. Urban legends of Endless Elevators and locations such as Michigan Blue Hell could be said to refer to bottomless pits in urban settings. In fiction bottomless pits appear in two postmodern novels, The Tunnel and House of Leaves.
The phenomenon manifests as a hole in the earth that is abnormally deep. Sometimes these holes are massive and appear to be ancient and artificial such as the famous Mel's Hole, while others are comparatively smaller, appearing in backyards, such as the Californian epidemic of "self-burying hoses" in the 1950s.
Bottomless pits are said to be deeper than any nearby cave systems. Things thrown into the holes are never seen again and no impact thuds or sounds are heard indicating a bottom.
Some pits are made by humans, such as the apocryphal Soviet "Well to Hell" expedition. Stories like these have a clear myhtical-religious dimension. The Well to Hell hoax was in fact propagated by Christian eschatology groups in Russia before being picked up by American tabloids. The punishment of human efforts to transcend earthly boundaries is a common mythological theme, seen in the Biblical account of the Tower of Babel. A popular medieval tradition concerns submariners who descend to forbidden depths of the ocean subjected to horrible visions, and by a voice which booms: "Fathom me and I will swallow you."
The bottomless pit narrative often includes strange sounds, supernatural properties (such as returning dead things to life) and strange creatures, cryptic signs which suggest the hole represents the limits of reality, breaching the boundaries of which would be a severe transgression. In the story of Mel's Hole a sheep lowered into the hole becomes host to a bizarre creature and subsequently dies of cancer. Government agencies seek to obscure Mel's discovery and ultimately force him off his land.
There aren't many explanations as to what the phenomenon could be. Theories include:
- Exaggeration of pit depth
- Openings to unknown cave systems, secret military bases, ancient ruins or even a Hollow Earth.
- An extreme or otherwise paranormal phenomena, such as a wormhole, an entrance into another dimension or reality
- An organic opening implying a subterranean creature or that the earth itself seeks to digest the content sof the surface world through such "mouths", a-la the Keplerian concept of telluris anima.
- Although Mel’s Hole is by far the most well-known, they are not the first, and indeed tales of mysterious pits in the earth have been around for a while. In ancient Rome and Greece tales of sinister bottomless holes with supernatural qualities were all the rage, and were well-witnessed by scores of people. Often there would be actual temples, shrines, and even amphitheaters erected at these “Gates of Hell,” and in many cases animals would be dropped down towards these fissures to suddenly drop dead as if by some evil force. These areas, such as one in Turkey’s ancient city of Hierapolis, would often be considered the realms of the gods of the underworld, and to the people of the time it was all seen as a decidedly supernatural event. It has in recent years been found that these places were constructed over cracks in the earth that seem to vent high concentrations of CO2 gas, which would form a sort of CO2 lake, and that this could have been the reason that these animal sacrifices were snuffed out so quickly. In these cases, the priests and observers are speculated to have been situated high enough to have escaped the lethal effects of the gas, and it all would have seemed like a very mysterious occurrence, with the power of the underworld belching out from beneath the ground.
- One of the oldest and most famous bottomless pits is located beneath Houska Castle in the Czech Republic. Constructed between 1253 and 1278, the majestic castle is said to have been built specifically to cover a hole which led straight to Hell, said to have spontaneously formed in a limestone cliff and to be a bottomless pit full of tormented souls, which would vomit forth all manner of horrific creatures birthed from the underworld. These demonic monstrosities were said to emerge from the hole to fan out across the countryside at night, terrorizing local villages to the point that people were afraid to leave their homes after sunset, and certainly would not go anywhere near the hole even in daylight. Such was the ominous reputation of the hole that prisoners were sometimes thrown into the pit as punishment, with the caveat that they would be released if they could climb back out. Not many did, and even when they did there were strange tales surrounding their reemergence. In one story, a prisoner who had been thrown into the hole began screaming with such abject terror that he was hoisted back out to find that he had aged 30 years within moments.
- In Tacoma, Washington, a man named Johnson discovered a hole in his yard that was about four feet in diameter, with the sides of the top three feet all bricked. The man dropped about fifty feet of rope into the hole but failed to reach the bottom.
- Assuming that it was an abandoned well, he loaded it with old tires and eventually seemed close to being filled. Soon, Johnson saw that the tire level in the hole began dropping, as if it were "digesting the tires". Soon the top of the pile disappeared from sight.
- According to legend, a man in Hannibal, Missouri, decided to climb down into a large pit on his property. He tied a rope to a nearby fence post and slid into the hole. Some friends discovered him shortly after he surfaced. His hair had turned white and he had gone insane.
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