Well to Hell

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The Well to Hell is a hoax which supposedly "proved" the existence of Hell. It would become popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to it being broadcast on the prominent Christian network TBN, even after the tale was subject to exaggeration by a skeptic.

Story

According to the hoax, a team of Soviet engineers, led by a "Mr. Azzacov" (depending on the source, the surname is spelled differently), were drilling a well in Siberia. Upon reaching the depth of nine miles, the team supposedly discovered a previously unknown cavern. Lowering a heat-tolerant microphone into the well, they noted that the temperature exceeded 1,000 degrees Celsius, and heard screaming (purportedly the torture of the damned).

The hoax is based, in part, on an actual event: Soviet engineers DID drill an extremely deep well, but only to a 7.5-mile depth, and not in Siberia, but on the Kola Peninsula, nearer to Norway and Finland. Later supposed "recordings" were taken from horror movies.

Propagation

As far as could be determined, the story originated with a Messianic Jewish newsletter from California, which eventually made its way to several Finnish Christian publications, before returning to the United States via tabloids and the internet.

But the story would enter the broader public eye when TBN broadcast the story as "actual proof" of Hell. This would lead a Norwegian teacher, Åge Rendalen (visiting the US at the time, and disgusted at what he perceived to be "mass gullibility") to enhance the tale at TBN's expense.

Upon returning to Norway, Rendalen would write TBN, claiming that initially he didn't believe the story, but when he returned, he supposedly read an account of the story from a respected publication. Rendalen would enhance the claim, stating that the story noted the existence of bat-like creatures emanating from the hole (demons are often portrayed as such, an example being Michaelangelo's The Torment of Saint Anthony). To perpetuate the hoax, Rendalen deliberately mis-translated an article about a local building inspector, sent both the original publication and his translation to TBN, along with his real name and contact information, and that of a pastor friend who would reveal the hoax if contacted.

However, TBN never bothered to check on Rendalen's story, and proceeded to air his letter as more "proof".

The hoax has led to several low-budget films being made centering around it.