It was the mid-1980′s, and the Cold War was still going strong. America had won the Space Race with the triumphant moon landings of the sixties and seventies. Now the superpowers competed to pioneer a new space — the one beneath our feet.
To achieve those ends, the Soviet Union commissioned a deep drilling project in the icy wastes of Siberia. A team of geologists drilled about 14.4 kilometers (about 9 miles) beneath the Earth’s surface, when something strange happened — the bit started to spin wildly, and temperature sensors recorded temperatures over 2,000 degrees. No doubt baffled, the scientists lowered a mic down the well shaft to get a better idea of what they were dealing with. What they heard horrified them (the sounds start at about the 2:00 mark) and confirmed people’s worst fears for centuries; that Hell was real, and it lay right beneath our feet!
…er, except not.
This one is pretty classic in terms of urban legends. It isn’t exactly certain where the story began, and it has been elaborated on extensively over time. I remember seeing lurid headlines in the Weekly World News as a kid in the 90′s talking about the Devil coming screaming out of a well to hell drilled in Alaska, incinerating all the unfortunate scientists at the site and spreading doom and gloom all around. The story freaked me out as a kid, as the one-two punch of being A) a kid and B) a Bible literalist tends to make one a bit credulous. Even as a teen, hearing the clip featured in the above video scared the crap out of me.
Evidently a lot of people feel the same way, because this one still makes the rounds on paranormal and religious sites of all kinds. And why not? If Hell really did exist in a real, physical place, that would be a really scary thing. It would confirm many people’s worst anxieties about the after life and their potential place in it. It would also raise some pretty uncomfortable moral and theological implications, which we won’t get into here. The point is that Hell is scary, and that fear is what gives this urban legend (and most others while we’re at it) its staying power.
Needless to say, it isn’t true. The recording is believed to be a looped recording of a scene from the B-grade horror flick Baron Blood. To me it almost sounds like it could be a doctored recording of any public space, looped and made to sound all sinister. There is a small kernel of truth behind this sordid tale, as is the case with most good urban legends. There really was a deep drilling well that reached close to 9 miles underground in Soviet Russia. It was located on the Kola Peninsula, not in Siberia. The drill did hit an empty pocket, but there were no hellish sounds from within. Temperatures reached a toasty 180 degrees, and the geologists found water and natural gas, among other things of scientific interest.
The truth is a whole lot less exciting than a literal gateway to hell, but being the compassionate sort I’d rather that be the fact than to have millions of people suffering and burning forever.