In 1997, a caller to Art Bell’s late night Coast to Coast AM shared the astounding story of a bottomless pit on his property near Ellensburg, Washington. After dropping trash into the hole without it filling, then a questionable amount of fishing line without hitting bottom, Mel Waters decided to tell the tale of the mysterious portal with the popular paranormal radio show. The Why Files continue the story and its eventual impact on Waters.

The legend is a reminder that the Pacific Northwest is a pretty weird place, and not just because of the current residents. Mel’s Hole has the right level of strange and creepy to fit in a very tidy spot between Sasquatch in the Cascades and ghosts at Heceta Head. It was, after all, a 1947 siting of “flying saucers” over Mount Rainier that gave the UFOs their popular name. The excellent animated show Gravity Falls has a lot of fun with this odd corner of the country, and used the hole as the framing device for the vignette episode “Bottomless Pit!

Today, it’s easy to forget that there used to be a difference between somewhat harmless urban legends and more insidious conspiracy theories. Mel’s Hole fits in that gap too. Waters’ initial call was a solid, interesting story with just the right spookiness for overnight radio. The later rounds moved past a fun tale and into government plots to steal land and shadowy kidnapping cabals, riding that late 90’s X-Files vibe (notably filmed in Vancouver, BC). Simpler times, alas. Back when there wasn’t a need to parse a good story for whether it was going to spiral into a radicalizing, well, bottomless hole.

Article Author

Ray Dubicki is a stay-at-home dad and parent-on-call for taking care of general school and neighborhood tasks around Ballard. This lets him see how urbanism works (or doesn’t) during the hours most people are locked in their office. He is an attorney and urbanist by training, with soup-to-nuts planning experience from code enforcement to university development to writing zoning ordinances. He enjoys using PowerPoint, but only because it’s no longer a weekly obligation.