Return to Mel's Hole

Mel's Hole Seal
Art by Chris Holm
Continued from our previous tale of high strangeness.

In December of 1999, Mel Waters returned to the United States after two years of running a wombat rescue in Australia. He'd intended to visit friends and family for the holidays, but the government had other plans. They served Mel with papers claiming he'd made illegal developments near the site of the original hole and seized his land. The once-regular lease payments immediately stopped, and Mel found his bank accounts empty. The wombat rescue was shut down by parties unknown. His already frayed marriage bonds finally snapped, and his wife left him.

Mel boarded a bus bound for Olympia to visit his nephew. A fight broke out between two other passengers. The driver stopped the bus and called the police, who asked Mel for a statement. When he declined due to pressing family business, the cops offered to drive him to Olympia.

That conversation with the police was the last thing Mel remembered before he woke up badly beaten in an alley in San Francisco. To Mel's dismay, his handmade belt buckle containing one of the 1943 Roosevelt dimes from the hole was missing. So were his back teeth. Needle marks pocked his arms. Upon staggering to the street corner and consulting a newspaper, he learned his missing time encompassed twelve days.

But the worst blow would come soon thereafter, when Mel received a diagnosis of advanced esophageal cancer.

With six months to live and nothing left to lose, Mel threw himself into researching the hole that had turned his life upside down. Serendipitously, it was his parallel research into natural remedies that brought him into contact with an obscure Indian tribe from Nevada. The Indians claimed to have a peculiar plant on their reservation with potent medicinal properties. They said it grew in the vicinity of a curious hole.

Mel spent most of his meager remaining funds on a ticket to Nevada. His Indian hosts told him they'd long ago vacated the area around the hole, but a clan of Basque settlers had built a village there in the 1800s.

The Basque shepherds welcomed Mel and didn't seem perturbed at all by his strange story. They led him to their hole, which seemed to suddenly appear like a mirage when they neared it. Like the hole in Ellensburg, the Nevada hole measured nine feet across. Unlike Mel's original hole with its stone-clad sides, the Basque's hole had a metal rim two feet wide which rose two feet out of the ground. The metal lining descended as far as the eye could see, and the collar bore guide notches as if a great metal lid had once been fitted over it.

That was only the beginning of the Nevada hole's strangeness. Like Mel's original hole, it had sound-cancelling properties. Shouting down the hole produced no echo. Furthermore, the metal collar cancelled all sound within its circumference. Even when struck with a wrench, it remained silent.

Mel questioned the Basques about the hole, but they knew little more than him. It had been there when they'd arrived, they said, and it had probably been there for a long time before them. The metal collar gave off a pleasant amount of heat, and they grazed their flocks around it in winter.

After exchanging hole stories, Mel and the Basques decided to perform a series of tests. They bought two bags of party ice, each of which they poured into a separate bucket. They lowered one bucket into the hole while the other remained topside as a control.

When they'd reached the end of their 1500-foot line, they waited for half the control ice to melt and hauled the test ice back up.

The test ice hadn't melted at all.

Not only that, it felt warm and dry to the touch--like silica.

Mel and the Basques next tried to melt the ice over a campfire. The solid cubes kindled into flickering, shimmery flames. The flames didn't seem to consume the ice, and they never went out.

One of the Basques took the bucket of burning ice home and put it in his wood stove to heat his cabin. The ice kept him toasty all winter, but not without side effects. He was always thirsty, and his skin began to crack and peel. What startled him most was that the stove began sinking into the floor. One day, he returned home to find his cabin reduced to fine wood powder and the stove sunk five feet into the ground. Men claiming to be from the National Park Service came to remove the sunken stove, repeatedly failing despite bringing in heavier and heavier equipment. They finally raised it after filling the hole with water and chaining the stove to a crane. Of course, the bizarre artifact was immediately hauled off to parts unknown.

Somehow, this incident gave Mel and the Basques the bright idea to try a new test--this time with a living subject. One of the Basque men actually volunteered to go down the hole. Thankfully, the others talked him out of it and chose a sheep as their guinea pig instead.

As with the Ellensburg hole, animals feared to approach the metal-clad Nevada pit. It was necessary to stun one of the sheep and place it in a crate to get it near the hole. The subject came to when the crate passed the collar's edge, but the sound-dampening effect prevented Mel and the Basques from hearing its screams.

As with the ice, the sheep was lowered to 1500 feet. When the crate reached that depths, the hole's metal lining began to vibrate at a high frequency. The experimenters waited half an hour before pulling the crate back up. This time, there was no struggling from inside the box.

The crate was opened, and the sheep was found--unmarked but quite dead--inside.

A Basque butcher took it upon himself to perform an autopsy. Upon cutting the sheep open, he found that it had been cooked from the inside. A massive tumor had engulfed all its internal organs.

Someone noticed that the tumor was moving. The butcher cut out the pulsating sac and set it on a nearby table. He steeled himself and cut into the throbbing mass. Viscous gel smelling of ozone poured out.

An unearthly creature wriggled from the incision. It measured eighteen inches from nose to tail and according to Mel resembled a fetal seal with haunting, human-like eyes. Following a compulsion he couldn't name, Mel cut the umbilical cord joining the seal-thing to the tumor and placed the newborn creature on the ground.

The seal creature looked over the gathered humans with a compassion Mel had never before experienced. The stunned men gazed back at the creature from the hole--for two solid hours.

Once again heeding an unspeakable compulsion, Mel picked the creature up and set it on the metal collar's rim. The creature turned back, gave him a slow, knowing nod, and hopped back into the abyss.

The experience had clearly shaken the Basque men. They dumped the sheep carcass and the other remains of their experiment into the hole, thus concluding their research.

Mel sensed it was time to move on. Before he left, the clan elder pressed a thin square object into Mel's palm and told him not to open it until he'd left the reservation.

When he returned home, Mel removed the elder's gift from the pocket he'd stuffed it into. The object turned out to be a red lucky money envelope adorned with golden Chinese characters.

Inside, Mel found a 1943 Roosevelt dime.

Perhaps the envelope really did contain some luck as well, because after his next medical checkup, Mel's doctor declared that his cancer had disappeared.

For more strange and haunting tales, read my award-winning Soul Cycle!

Nethereal - Brian Niemeier


  1. I hope Mr. Niemeier does not mind a friendly announcement. If he does, I apologize and will refrain in the future.

    For any of the Ilk who are interested, Dissident Reads will be tackling G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday next. We’ll be starting next Saturday & reading & discussing 1 or 2 chapters a week. If this sounds interesting, please join us. The more the merrier.

    (I should note that we started with a more controversial book. If you are willing to share the company of a lot such as us, we will be glad to have you. If not, well, enjoy the book on your own. It’s fantastic.)

  2. Brian

    Absolutely fascinating.


  3. Basques.

    The inclusion of Basque shepherds is intriguing. The a Basques are a fascinating people in their own right with a language (Euskera) unrelated to any other known language.

    There are all sorts of crazy legends about them.

    Once again, Brian, thank you. These are always my favorite posts. I get excited whenever I see one.

    1. My pleasure. I'm delighted you enjoyed the story.

      P.S. My high school religion teacher senior year was a priest of Basque extraction.

    2. Emmett
      Agreed. My family name is originally a Basque one from the village we came from. but no one has Basque blood.

      Geneticists seem to have strong evidence they're Nethandral remnants.

  4. Athletic and WhitesplosiveFebruary 13, 2020 at 10:35 AM

    Great stuff, read it a few days ago but forgot to comment. Any chance of some more of the short-storified true accounts of high strangeness in the near future? Can never get enough of them.

    1. Signs point to yes. Thanks for commenting!

      If readers have their own accounts of high strangeness they'd like to share, send me an email.