Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: Scientists drilling in Siberia went too far and ended up punching a hole through to Hell, where the screams of the damned drifted up to them.
Example: [Brunvand, 1993]
Origins: This legend is quite popular among Christian groups as it "proves" Hell (and therefore God) exists. Popular endings to the story have it that the scientists ran screaming from the site, or that since the discovery conversions to Christianity are occurring at an unprecedented rate.
If there is a Hell under Siberia, scientists have yet to discover it. What we have here is an enthralling legend that's been spun off an actual event.
In 1984, an article about an experimental well in Russia's Kola Peninsula appeared in Scientific American. The Kola well reached
Those who did the actual drilling of this very real well did not break through to a hollow centre, and certainly no piteous screams of the damned were heard. That part — all of it — was pure embellishment added after this real event was turned into a legend. (Yes, we know that any number of web sites offer audio clips purporting to be the screams of the damned as recorded in the Well to Hell, and all of them sound like they could be the noise from a typical bar on a busy Friday evening.)
The report on the digging of that well and the difficulties encountered during the project were collided with someone's vision of what should have been found down there. A little exaggerating about depth and temperature, some fabrication about hollow centres and screams,
Though it's impossible to pinpoint when the news story about a well in Russia transformed into a story about scientists breaking into Hell or who was responsible for that transformation, we do know that in 1989 the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) aired a "Scientists Discover Hell" story and placed the event as happening in the Kola Peninsula. A Norwegian schoolteacher visiting California heard that broadcast and took the story back to Norway with him. He then mailed it to a Christian magazine in Finland. In the form of a letter from a reader, it reached a Finnish missionaries newsletter. From there it returned to the United States, reaching both the TBN people and other evangelists who then claimed they had gotten it from a respected Finnish scientific journal.
In the spring of 1990, the legend as we now know it appeared in both Praise The Lord (February) and Midnight Cry (April). Debunkings of it showed up in Christianity Today (July) and Biblical Archaeology Review (November). Even so, the Weekly World News ran the story in 1992, this time setting it in Alaska and claiming thirteen oil rig workers were killed when the Devil came roaring up out of the ground.
You can't beat that for embellishment.
Barbara "just a spoonful of auger helps the 'men has sinned' go down" Mikkelson
Last updated: 17 July 2007
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