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 Kola 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.