I first heard about this story from
people who started calling my radio program to ask about it in the early
1990s. There was such a flurry of calls that I finally promised the
listeners I'd look into it. Most of the callers said they'd heard the
story on Trinity Broadcasting Network, a Christian television network that
originates from Southern California.
I called Trinity
Broadcasting headquarters and asked about the story. I was transferred to
a woman who said, 'Oh yes, it's true all right. We've got documentation.
It's in our latest newsletter.'
I was on the network's mailing list,
so I looked through a pile of recent mail and found the article. The
newsletter said the details had come from the translation of an article in
a Finnish newspaper named 'Ammennusatia'. It claimed:
A geological group who drilled a hole
about 14.4 kilometers deep in the crust of the earth are saying that
they heard human screams. Screams have been heard from the condemned
souls from earth's deepest hole. Terrified scientists are afraid they
have let loose the evil powers of hell up to the earth's surface.
According to the story, the geologists
were dumbfounded. After they had drilled several kilometers through the
earth's crust, the drill bit suddenly began to rotate wildly. 'There is
only one explanation,' said Dr Azzacov. 'The deep center of the earth is
hollow!' The report continued:
'The information we are gathering
is so surprising, that we are sincerely afraid of what we might find
down there,' stated Dr Azzacov, the manager of the project in remote
The second surprise was the high
temperature they discovered in the earth's center. 'The calculations
indicate the given temperature was about 1,100 degrees Celsius, or over
2,000 degrees Fahrenheit,' Azzacov pointed out. 'This is far more then
we expected. It seems almost like an inferno of fire is brutally going
on in the center of the earth.'
'The last discovery was
nevertheless the most shocking to our ears, so much so that the
scientists are afraid to continue the project. We tried to listen to the
earth's movements at certain intervals with supersensitive microphones,
which were let down through the hole. What we heard turned those
logically thinking scientists into a trembling ruins. It was a sometimes
a weak, but high pitched sound which we thought to be coming from our
own equipment,' explained Dr Azzacov.
'But after some adjustments we
comprehended that indeed the sound came from the earth's interior. We
could hardly believe our own ears. We heard a human voice, screaming in
pain. Even though one voice was discernible, we could hear thousands,
perhaps millions, in the background, of suffering souls screaming. After
this ghastly discovery, about half of the scientists quit because of
fear. Hopefully, that which is down there will stay there,' Dr Azzacov
According to the
Trinity Broadcasting Network newsletter, the Finnish article had been
given to them by a Texas evangelist, R.W. Schambach, who was a frequent
guest on their network.
We checked with Schambach's office
and were assured that the story was 'absolutely true' and had been
substantiated. They said they had an article from a 'respected scientific
journal' in Finland, as well as a letter from a Norwegian man, Age
Rendalen, who had confirmed it. Rendalen had sent his letter directly to
Trinity Broadcasting Network and the details he revealed added a new
dimension to the story.
Rendalen told the network that he had
visited United States a few weeks earlier and happened upon their telecast
about the Drilling to Hell story. He wrote:
I must confess that I laughed when I
heard your account... I did not believe one word of it, and commented to
my friend that Americans sure were gullible to believe that hell could
be physically located to a hole in the ground. I cannot even begin to
tell you what a shock it was to me when I returned to Norway and found
the newspapers full of reports about this incident. I knew immediately
that if there was a hell, I for sure would end up in it. A tremendous
fear took hold of me, and for two nights I dreamed about fire and
screams until I surrendered to God and committed my life to his hands
In the letter, Rendalen went on to
encourage the network not to let 'skeptics' interfere with their telling
of the story. He included a copy and translation of what he claimed was an
article from Norway's largest and most reputable newspaper, with more
information about the drilling.
Rendalen's translation of the article
told of opposition to the drilling by Russian atheists, as well as
government intimidation to keep the scientists from telling the rest of
the world about their discovery. The account, which drew on the eyewitness
testimony of a Mr Nummedal, also added a new detail:
What really unnerved the Soviets,
apart from the voice recordings, was the appearance that same night of a
fountainhead of luminous gas shooting up from the drill site, and out of
the midst of this incandescent cloud pillar a brilliant being with bat
wings revealed itself with the words (in Russian): 'I have conquered,'
emblazoned against the dark Siberian sky.
So we now had not only a story about
drilling into hell, but an additional version with a bat-like creature
making an appearance.
'The incident was absolutely
unreal; the Soviets cried out in terror,' says Mr Nummedal. Later that
night, he saw ambulance crews circulating in the community. A driver he
knew told him that they had been told to sedate everybody with a
medication known to erase short term memory. The Soviets use this drug
in the treatment of shock victims.
My staff and I decided to
roll up our shirt sleeves and trace the story as far as we could,
especially since we had the names of newspapers and at least one
individual who might know the facts.
The Finnish newspaper 'Ammennusastia,'
which is quoted in nearly every account of the story, is located in an
area called Levasjoki. We had a phone conversation with a staff member who
told us the publication is not a 'respected newspaper' or a 'scientific
journal', as we had been told, but a monthly publication of a group of
Finnish Christians. The Drilling to Hell story, he said, had been based on
the word of mouth recollection of another staff member, who had remembered
reading it as a 'major article' in a Finnish daily newspaper called 'Etela
We contacted this newspaper and at
first they couldn't recall or find the story. However, we later received a
call saying they had discovered that the tale had appeared in their paper.
It was not in an article, however, but in a feature section that included
letters from readers who could write about almost anything they wished.
Through the newspaper, we tracked
down the person who wrote the letter with the Drilling to Hell story. He
was a kind, elderly man who, in spite of being reluctant to talk with us
initially, told us through an interpreter that he couldn't vouch for the
credibility of the story. He got it, he said, from a Christian newsletter
called 'Vaeltajat', which was published by a group of Finnish
We next contacted 'Vaeltajat'. The
editor said the story had been printed in their July 1989 issue. Where did
he hear about it? He had received it from one of their readers, who
claimed it had appeared in a newsletter called 'Jewels of Jericho',
published by a group of Jewish Christians in California. And that is where
the Finnish trail came to an end.
One thing was clear at this
point: The Drilling to Hell story was looking and smelling like a pretty
typical urban legend. It was sensational, impossible to document, and only
had life because of all the small publications that were quoting one
another's unsubstantiated stories.
However, there was still the
Norwegian man, Age Rendalen, who had told the story of the ominous,
bat-like creature emerging from the drill-hole. The article in the Trinity
Broadcasting Network newsletter said he lived near Oslo, so we called
directory assistance and found him in about 45 seconds. I talked with him
on the phone myself:
'Are you the one who sent information
to a Christian television network in the United States about scientists
drilling into hell?' I asked.
Rendalen went on to explain that he had
visited the US a few weeks earlier and had seen the host of a Christian
television program enthusiastically relating the Drilling to Hell story.
He told me: 'I couldn't believe that the hosts really thought the story
was true and that they would broadcast it without apparently having
checked it out.'
'Yes,' he said without hesitation.
'Well,' I continued, 'Do you have
any way of knowing whether it is true?'
'Yes I do,' he replied.
'Tell me about it,' I asked.
'None of it is true,' he said. 'I
fabricated every word of it!'
When he returned to Norway, Rendalen
sat down and fabricated the graphic story of the bat-like creature and
sent his letter to the television network. His prediction was that they
would use the story without investigating it. To make an investigation
easy for them, he included his name, address and telephone number on his
letter. He also included what he claimed was an article on the story from
'Norway's largest and most reputable newspaper'. In fact, the article,
which he falsely translated, was a piece in his local community paper
about a building inspector.
Rendalen also included the name and
telephone number of a pastor friend based in Southern California. This
pastor knew about the hoax and was prepared to reveal the truth if someone
called to research it further with him.
However, as predicted, Trinity
Broadcasting Network ran the story without contacting Renalden or the
Californian pastor, and it appeared on television, radio and in a large
number of publications. None of those who used the story attempted to
research it before going public.
'2000 PEOPLE HAVE FOUND
On 6th February 1990, a
listener of mine sent me a letter. She had videotaped and documented all
three occasions when this story was discussed on the Christian TV show put
out by the network. On 29th January 1990, the show host is documented as
Let me just say, all of you that have
written me all those nasty letters about the 'hole in hell', let me tell
you I finally got the newspaper article which is from 'The World
Weekly'. This is an international newspaper that has been translated
into English from Finnish. 'Scientists fear they've opened gates of
hell! Geologists drilling nine-mile hole hear human shrieks.'
Unfortunately, the investigation by the
show took place too late to prevent the damage of a widely spread rumor in
the Christian community.
I got a letter today from a
geologist in Oklahoma and he's really giving me a rough time. He says
that there isn't anything that could drill that deep. Folks, I'm just
reporting what people have been sending to me and I don't know if this
is true or not. I know one thing, if this is a trick of the Devil, he
sure has blown it, because I know of about 2,000 people that have found
Christ because of it!
True or false, I'll tell you what
I'm doing, though. We're now going to do some investigative reporting of
our own and we're going to check with the Finnish government and the
Department of the Interior and we're really going to follow this up and
see if they really did drill a hole nine miles down there, if they
really did have a microphone down there, if they really did hear human
shrieks of agony and pain as this newspaper article and as did many
letters I have received from over there have indicated to us. If I'm
wrong and they're right, I've got nothing to lose. But if I'm right and
you're wrong, you've got everything to lose.
Rendalen has now issued an official
statement about his actions and the whole incident, which says: 'The story
is nothing more than a Christian "urban legend" without basis in
There are a couple of
postscripts to this incident. One is that the respected magazine,
'Biblical Archaeology Review', printed a story about the Drilling to Hell
story, thinking it was so outrageous that readers would get a kick out of
it. Many of the readers took the article seriously, however, and either
started passing it around as substantiation of the story, or wrote to the
magazine to complain that it shouldn't have given it respectability.
Secondly, in August of 1990, I was
contacted by the pastor of a small church in Flagstaff, Arizona, who
informed me that he had proof that this story was true. Apparently, a man
from his church, who was believed to be a PhD in Physics from MIT, came
forward in private to claim that he was a scientist who had been on a
secret mission in Russia for the past year and had met with Mikhail
Gorbachev several times. He verified that the Drilling to Hell story was
indeed true. He claimed:
A hole was drilled deep into the crust
of the earth in Siberia and a large cavity was found. Unfortunately,
news of this was leaked to the press and was distorted. It is true that
a recording was made of the sounds from deep in the hole, but the
intense heat destroyed the microphone in spite of special cooling
material around it, so that only seventeen seconds of sounds could be
captured. At the present time, scientists are drilling a second hole to
confirm what was found the first time. And a better system is being
developed for cooling the microphone.
The scientist went on to claim that he
was helping to design this microphone and was returning to Siberia shortly
to further document the phenomenon. He planned to return in about a year
with more confirming information on this amazing phenomenon.
Six months later, I got a letter from
another member of the church saying that this man had turned out to be
neither a graduate of MIT nor a scientist. In fact, he had skipped town
with over $20,000 collected from church members who wanted to help finance
How did this story originate? Again,
we will never really know. It is possible that somewhere in the world
there has been a spooky experience during deep drilling operations. I
don't know. According to an August 1989 article in 'Science' magazine,
there is a Russian deep hole drilling project in Kola, near Murmansk,
about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Another German deep drilling
experiment in north-east Bavaria has discovered warmer temperatures than
were expected at certain drilling levels, although nothing even close to
2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Characteristic of many urban legends,
this story was alleged to have occurred in an obscure part of the world
where it would be virtually impossible to track down the facts. And once
the story got started, people began quoting one another's newsletters to
validate their own. This is the stuff of which tabloid newspapers are