The sound of hell

An urban legend from the late 1980s claimed that Soviet scientists had drilled so far down they hit hell – and brought back an audio recording of the suffering souls. But it was actually Baron Blood.

Tormod Sandtorv, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Soviet scientists sure do love their holes. The image above is the Darvaza Crater (first mentioned in blue lava). It has been on fire since they set it alight in 1970. That same year, Soviet researchers began drilling a hole, trying to get as far down as possible. That hole, the Kola Superdeep Borehole, is now the deepest artificial hole in the world. It reaches more than twelve kilometres down, nearly a third a way through the Earth’s crust. It turns out that there a few surprises that far down: plankton fossils six kilometres down, and water (!) seven kilometres below the surface.

That borehole is very close to the Norwegian border, and not too far north of the Finnish border. In 1989, a small Christian newsletter in Finland published a piece about the borehole. It purported that Soviet scientists had lowered a microphone down into the depths, and the result shocked them to their core. The audio recording was full of screams and shrieks, thousands of humans in agony. The Soviets had found hell.

An urban legend was born. A Finnish newspaper picked up the newsletter piece, a Christian journal picked it up, and soon the article found its way to the United States. Tabloids and the Trinity Broadcasting Network republished, rebroadcast, and embellished the story. At some point the action moved from the Kola Peninsula to Siberia. I assume Siberia made for a more compellingly-desolate location.

Fast forward to 1998. Art Bell’s paranormal radio show Coast to Coast AM broadcast the recording itself:

The recording ran wild on the Internet and really cemented the urban legend. It sounds terrifying. But, of course, it was a glorious hoax. The sounds in the recording are actually taken from a schlocky 1972 horror film called Baron Blood, remixed, looped, and distorted. This video extracts the source:

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