Deep and Dark

Creepy holes and scary caves. They’re usually deep. And they’re usually dark.

The “Well to Hell” is a popular urban legend: Hard-working men dig a very deep hole. Not satisfied, they lower a microphone down… and a chorus of screams emits from the speaker.

Eh, not bad.

Not great either though. “They drilled to HELL” feels more like a punch line than a conclusion. Plus, notably, cavernous voids tend to be more gripping when you can’t see the bottom.

Here are a few of my favorite Internet scares on the deep and dark.

Got your own favorites? FEED ME: Comments are welcome. Nothing like getting lost in the dark with no end in sight…

(1) Mel’s Hole

Mel Waters calls into Art Bell’s radio show. It’s the early 1990s.

Mel starts with a simple premise: He’s got a hole on his property. A really deep hole. Looks a bit like a well… but it’s not a well. He doesn’t know what it is, in fact, or where it came from. It’s been there as long as he’s owned the land.

Mel used to fish for sharks. He’s used to dealing with monsters that live in deep, dark worlds. Yet Mel can’t figure out this hole.

He’s set up a reel to let fishing line down into it, but the line just keeps sinking: He can’t seem to reach the bottom.

Whether the recordings of Mel’s story are a lonely man’s ramblings or brilliantly crafted nonsense, they entertain.

The hole’s bizarre properties unfold slowly.

There’s no water down there: Clever old Mel reels down a pack of Lifesavers, and the sugary candies come up un-melted, dry as a bone. What a great visual: a cheerful little roll of rainbow packaging suspended, spinning on a thin fishing line in the murky, claustrophobic darkness.

Mel dumps a television, a refrigerator, down the hole. But he never hears them hit bottom. In fact, he doesn’t hear anything. The hole swallows sound. It swallows everything.

Each time Mel calls in again, it’s predictable that things have escalated. But it’s never predictable how.

(2) Ted the Caver

It’s an internet classic: Go re-read if it’s been a while, because it’s as good as you remember.

Ted finds a cave. It’s a “virgin” cave, unexplored, and he and his two friends set about drilling and hammering their way into it. Passages are narrow, even after days of chiseling. The log entries share breathtaking photos of the cavers’ feet, the full-grown men jammed into tunnels so tight that shimmying forward is the only option.

This layout naturally makes for agonizing escapes. Ted finds his elbows grinding against the rock walls, his back scraping the stone as flees, squirming desperately away from the innermost room.

Ted the Caver is special partly because it feels really, really… real.

The moment the world got internet, the world got internet urban legends. But Ted the Caver, so far as I know, marked a brilliant first venture into this particular kind of multimedia storytelling: an unyieldingly genuine first-person perspective, with “evidence” to back up the “truth.”

(3) The Enigma of Amigara Fault

After an earthquake, a mountain splits. It exposes a cliff face perforated with hundreds of human-shaped holes. People begin to flock the cliff, drawn by some mysterious compulsion to find their hole.

Junji Ito is a Japanese manga artist who specializes in horror. His work is deliciously disturbing, often manifesting dark whispers in human psychology in the form of fantastical events.

The Enigma of Amigara Fault isn’t nearly his best or most shocking work. Notwithstanding, it’s an excellent of example of how you can make fear concrete. In this case, what does the call of the void physically look like?

(4) The Cave in the Lake

A divorced man takes up scuba diving again. For years, he abstained to perform the role of dutiful husband, devoted father. But now, free of this burden, he begins exploring the lake behind his new home.

One of the greatest strengths of this short story is author Max Lobdell’s skill in creating eldritch horrors.

The dreams emitting from the cave in the lake, and what lurks within the cave itself, are excellent vessels for Lobdell’s degeneration of reality into fluid nightmare.

His website, Unsettling Stories, is a joy to have free access to. But if you want the full experience, voice artist Kristin Holland performed his piece for the Nocturnal Transmissions podcast:

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