Thursday, August 27, 2015

Page 10: The "Well to Hell" Legend

Welcome to the first urban legend in The Billionth Monkey! Purportedly originating from Finland in the 1980s, this urban legend has it that a ridiculously deep drilling operation in a remote part of the world (Siberia's Kola Peninsula being the prototype) broke through to a hollow underground area that was over 2,000° F. From this well escaped—depending on which version you read—
  • luminous gas, 
  • mournful howls of the damned, and 
  • a deadly creature with bat-like wings. 
Apparently, they had drilled into Hell itself!

In 1989, this story was picked up and reported by the California-based Christian television network, Trinity Broadcasting Network, both on its TV programming and in its newsletter. It was repeated in 1990 in Christian newsletters like Praise the Lord, Midnight Cry and Christianity Today, and even crossed into mainstream media in 1992 when picked up by the Weekly World News (this time set in Alaska).  It has been repeated and retold many times since.

This fanciful image accompanied one version of the Weekly World News story on the Well to Hell.
WWN's reporting--and the source of the above image--can be found here.
My adaptation of this urban legend places the hapless well under a deep water oil rig. Not only are these some of the deepest wells in the world, but this setting also allowed for over-the-top drama upon finally reaching the underworld: a potent and chilling mix of contemporary legend with one of the biggest current events stories of the decade.

For more information:
Rich Buhler, "Scientists Discover Hell In Siberia," Christianity Today, July 16, 1990, 34(10): 28–29.
Jan Harrold Brunvand, The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends (New York: Norton, 1993), 105–8.

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