by David Michael McKinney

Over the years the story of Mel’s Hole has been largely relegated to the trash-bin of ‘urban legend,’ written-off as ‘wacko-conspiracy’ propagated by aluminum foil-helmeted crack-pots with too much free-time and overwrought imaginations. But this cynical version only emerged since the government stepped-in and took over the story.

Before that happened, Mel’s Hole was common knowledge among the locals. Many knew they could discreetly dump their trash there. It used to be the towns best-kept secret before Mel Waters, believing he was the first to discover it, obsessed about it to everyone he met. Some feel that is why the government shut it down. It was simply getting too much attention and too much attention is a bad thing when it involves unnatural phenomena. I am one of the relatively few still alive to have actually seen Mel’s Hole with my own eyes and possibly the only one to have any idea what potential danger it presents.

My name is Mike McKinney. Forty-some years ago, when I was just in my mid-twenties, I was part of a post-grad geological research team summoned late one night to investigate “the hole”, a mysterious anomaly discovered on a forested piece of property in eastern Washington. As promised, I haven’t spoken about it in all these years but it was only after me and the other members of my team were coerced by the government to sign NDAs which bound us to absolute secrecy about what we had experienced. But as my days on Earth appear to be drawing to a close, and I am the last alive to remember—there’s a true-life story that needs to be told. A story deliberately hidden from the public for decades and if it’s the last thing I do, I need to get the information into the hands of future generations of knowledge-seekers in the hope they will learn about its existence and get to the bottom of it.

Ellensburg, Washington, a quiet town nestled within the foothills of the Cascade Range, borders an enigmatic plot of land purchased by Melvin “Mel” Waters in 1979. Mel gave-up his promising career at a pharmaceutical lab to become a wildlife biologist, living a tranquil life far from the bustling city lights. His days were spent in peaceful solitude, tending to his garden and exploring the ancient forest surrounding his property. He is well-liked at the local watering-hole but pretty-much keeps to himself most of the time.

Early one morning, wandering deeper into the woods than usual, he came upon something peculiar. At the edge of a small clearing, obscured by a tangle of overgrown shrubs, was what appeared to be a sinkhole. But this was no ordinary sinkhole. It was perfectly round with smooth, stone retaining walls that descended into nothing but dark emptiness. Curious, Mel tossed a rock to test its depth. Straining to hear its impact when it hit ground, he was all the more curious when none could be heard. Intrigued, he looked about for larger and larger objects to drop into the hole; larger stones, a fallen tree, even a rusted butane tank were tossed, shoved, dragged and pushed over the edge but nothing gave any evidence of ever hitting bottom.

Over the weeks, Mel began using his pickup truck to bring things he’d been meaning to get rid of to toss into the hole. He cleared clutter from around his property, everything from used tires to worn out appliances and drove them out to what he considered a convenient dumpsite. He would always listen carefully to discern if anything hit bottom, yet nothing he disposed of ever made a sound. It was almost as if the hole was a vortex to nowhere. Long after he’d cleared all the debris from his property, his curiosity continued to grow. He was particularly curious why Max, his German Shepard, who was used to going everywhere with him, avoided going anywhere near the edge as if some strange energy was causing him to be unusually wary.

Mel’s discovery consumed him. He got to where he would offer to dispose of neighbors junk just for the thrill of dumping it, regaling their imaginations with stories of the mysterious anomaly. He dropped countless items over the following months, each time waiting for a sound that never came, the story fascinated everyone who heard it. That…or they were the first ones to rumor he was crazy. Mel began to pride himself on having the power to maintain such a tidy town. There wasn’t one piece of junk or dilapidated car within a five mile radius.

The hole seemed to defy the laws of physics, and Mel couldn’t shake the feeling that it was more than just a geological anomaly, eventually leading to why my associates and I became involved.

The Mel I came to know was a level-headed guy, not given to flights of fantasy, but he is quick to tell the story about the night he had a vivid dream. In it, he saw ancient symbols surrounding the hole and a deep, resonant voice echoing from its depths. He said it was uttering a language he couldn’t understand. The dream left him with an uneasy sense of foreboding. The clarity with which he described the dream was indeed compelling. He was hard-pressed to recall anything in his life that afforded him more intrigue. Listening, one could get the impression, the hole had become Mel’s reason for living.

Determined to uncover the truth, both about his dream and the hole’s unfathomable depth, Mel contacted a former colleague, a lady-friend for whom he remembered having fond memories. This woman happened to be my mentor at Washington State—Dr. Eleanor Ross, professor of anthropology, specializing in the study of obscure languages. She too was intrigued by Mel’s story, and warmed by hearing from her old friend, she agreed to make the two hour drive from Seattle to surmise the situation.

On her arrival, Mel welcomed her with open arms, Eleanor, still somewhat at a loss, brought nothing but a tape-recorder and a few modest research books referencing the area. They relaxed with some tea and caught-up on old news but Mel was eager to get to the point and soon thereafter, they drove to the location of the hole. Together they walked the circumference as closely as they dared, Max at a guarded distance. Eleanor couldn’t resist the temptation to find a hefty stone and toss it over the edge. She listened intently for the sound of it hitting bottom. Just at that moment, Max started barking ferociously as a guttural-vibration began to reverberate from the dark-depths.

Mel wanted to hear it and hollered—Max,hush! But to no avail. Eleanor, on the other hand, keenly focused on her mission, ran over to the truck, grabbed her tape-recorder and turned it on. Stepping gingerly, she got as close as to the edge as she could. Unfortunately, she was only able to capture a few seconds of the noise before it went silent.

“I wasn’t ready for this”, Eleanor whispered in a trembling voice.

They couldn’t get into the truck fast enough and they returned to the house much faster than when they left. Mel made a nervous meal, opened a bottle of shaky-wine and stoked the fading embers in the fireplace. Mutually intrigued by the mystery they had just witnessed, clueless as to what they had just experienced, their conversation shifted nonetheless toward the other great elephant in the room—why the two of them never got together when it was their chance.

Eleanor had ended-up marring a business man, raising two boys, both of whom are now professionals living in Spokane, each married with children of their own. Her husband and she divorced after 26 years, a long story apparently, one she only alludes to with resignation. Mel solemnly admitted he had married a girl he knew from High School but she died several years ago from cancer. The reason, he explains, why he retired, left the city and moved to the country where he could live-out his days in genteel grace.

Ellie and Mel found feelings for each other had not wained. They became so engaged in conversation they lost all track of time. The sun had set too quickly and it was too dark to drive to the hotel in town. On Mel’s insistence, Ellie agreed to spend the night. But first—she needed to make an important call. That’s where I come in.

She promised I would not be disappointed by what she had to show me. She even told me to extend the invitation to any of my nerd-friends in the department who may be available…but to only come if they wanted a life-changing experience.

10:30 the next morning, Aaron, Philip, Charles and I were knocking on Mel’s front door. We came equipped with sophisticated sonar and a half-ton of surveyor-equipment we borrowed from the university. Mel & company lead the four of us to the site. Using sonar-technology we pinched from the science department, we immediately began setting-up detection devices around the perimeter of the enigmatic-orifice. It’s seems no one was convinced what they were dealing with until they had personally found the biggest stone they could lift and toss over the edge, always listening but never hearing the “plop”.

We discovered the hole was not just deep but seemed to extend infinitely. According to our graphs, it extended well beyond our equipment’s capacity to measure. One might have thought it was a portal to a parallel universe—but I’m getting ahead of myself.

That afternoon, while reviewing the data we had collected earlier that day, Eleanor noticed strange electromagnetic fluctuations in the readings, and noted how they were corresponding with an eerie-hum now audibly emanating from the hole. As we investigated further, we heard variations in the tonality that seemed to be a language coming from the blackness itself.

Once again, Mel felt obliged to share the details of his dream.

Indeed, Eleanor said, it all seems so real now. Just standing on the threshold of something so vast has a transformational effect on one’s being.

We inhaled the etherial sounds of garbled-gobble-gook, uttered with the strain of deep emotion. Our tents, tables and equipment began to appear distorted as a Dali painting. It seemed as if reality itself was warping. We found this sensation disturbing and questioned if perhaps we were breathing something toxic.

Knowing it would go against everyone’s better judgment, I volunteered to explore the hole personally. But after heated debate, they convinced me otherwise, deciding instead to devise a crane capable of lowering a 3D video camera into the abyss which frankly, is all I was really hoping to do. I’m no hero.

In the time it took Mel to drive back to the house, make several sandwiches, grab some warm sodas and get back to the site, we had completed our DIY spy-camera. It was so funky one might have thought it built by the Flintstones…but we were proud of our resourcefulness. We used an exceptionally long branch, counter-balanced on a tripod of sturdy-sticks, attaching several spools of 50+ pound filament-line totaling 26-hundred feet in length to the camera. We hoped this would give us some idea of what was going-on.

As the make-shift capsule descended, the video-feed showed the walls of the hole glowing eerily with bioluminescent patterns, patterns Mel instantly recognized as similar to the ones in his dream, hinting at an undeniable connection between the hole and an unknown past.

Mel is astonished at what he sees. He is not familiar with the language of lucid-dreaming nor has he ever been prone to believe in paranormal happenings. He is first and last…a practical man and he is definitely out of his element.

Suddenly, the feed cut-out. The ground beneath our feet began to tremble. Mel and Eleanor are shaken to their knees. They exchange worried glances as a low, guttural growl reverberates from the depths of the Earth.

Startled, Philip, Charles and I began retracting the wire, wrestling with the weight of it as though having caught a mighty Marlin on the other end. We almost lost our balance and the crane. We struggled, but held tight. Having already experienced more drama than we bargained for, once the camera was back in our possession, our terror had only begun. The camera was battered and scorched, with bizarre claw marks scarring the surface of the lens. Max whined painfully. So did I. I only borrowed that camera, never intending to replace it.

We planned-on spending the evening analyzing the damaged camera, while attempting to decipher the symbols sent by the video transmission, looking for patterns, clues as to its origin. Everyone had their ideas. Eleanor suggested the hole might be a gateway to an ancient civilization, one that existed in a subterranean world of its own. She reference ancient tales of there being an actual Middle-Earth. Someone suggested it might be a vortex to another dimension. Pure-apprehension made us interpret the dissident-hum ringing in our ears as a warning, a signal to keep our distance. Only a handful of halfwit enthusiasts would interpret such a vibration to be an invitation to explore. We boldly looked where no man had looked before. It was clear—we were not welcomed here. We learned our lesson but unfortunately, we lost more than we gained.

As we set about striking the camp, we discovered one of our team was missing…Aaron. We called-out to him, thinking he may have stepped into the forest to relieve himself. There was no response. Then Philip found his gear near the hole. The ground around it was charred and disturbed, indicative of a fierce struggle, claw marks like those on the camera left scratch marks on the ground dragging something downward into the abyss.

Unanimously gripped by desperation and fear, realizing we had awakened something we could not control, we decided among ourselves—the hole had to be be sealed…but how?

By evening, after hastily moving our camp closer to Mel’s house which we felt was a much safer distance, we morned the loss of our friend but we were highly motivated to move ahead. There was no body, nothing to prove or defend. How could we report it? How could we explain our hubris?

Life always moves forward and we had to get-on with ours. Dinner conversation was, nonetheless, reverent in tone. Speaking in whispers, we contemplated what we should do and how best to accomplish it. No one slept easy that night. For emotional support, Eleanor, moved into Mel’s bedroom. The rumors are very true—the intensity of the moment made the temporal aspect of our daily existence all the more meaningful. While Mel and Eleanor had each other, we three survivors found loving solace in each others company.

The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we collected vital materials from Max’s storage-shed and with the dogged- determination of a royal executioner, we headed back to the site. Oddly, Max refused to jump in the truck with us. Naturally, we found this troubling. No amount of coaxing would budge him. He knew something was up. Undeterred, we drove ahead leaving him behind.

With heightened anxiety, Max watched us drive away.

Once at the site, we acted-out our plan—systematically rigging explosives around the perimeter and preparing to detonate them, but before we could finish, the ground shook even more violently than the day before, knocking us off our feet. From the depths of the unknown emerged shadowy, enraged figures, with eyes that glowed with an unnatural light. We were defenseless…in awe.

Unimaginable acts of bravery can happen when you least expect. Sensing the immanent danger, Mel wrapped his chest with as many packs of explosives as he could carry then without another word, cast himself into the abyss…holding the detonator firmly in-hand. The next fourteen seconds of horror felt like an eternity. The hole swallowed the explosion and imploded into itself. Mel had sacrificed himself to ensure the portal would be sealed in the hope he would spare our lives.

He did.

The explosion rocked the forest like a sonic boom. The bottomless pit collapsed creating an enormous depression that threatened to swallow us all. Frantic, Eleanor, Charles, Philip and myself managed to stay atop the descending rubble. As the dust began to settle, all that remained was a smoldering crater the size of Candlestick Park and the rumbling-echo we still hear to this day.


Months later, Eleanor and I decided to return to the site, which we heard had recently become designated as a restricted area. We had a good idea why, nevertheless, Ellie felt compelled to place a small memorial plaque for Mel near the crater as a tribute to his courage. The hole might have been sealed, but its mystery still lingered.

It was obvious the government was nervous investigating what they referred to as a “seismic-event”. Stern-officers detained us. Eleanor and I were both interrogated at length about our history with area. We were eventually sworn to secrecy and allowed to leave but were instructed never to return.

That was a long time ago. It’s been over forty-years since we last drove-off that property, agreeing never to mention what we knew. But I will never forget the experience, or Mel’s dream for I can still feel the wind whispering through the trees and the forest humming a faint and eerie refrain, reminding us all—some mysteries are meant to be buried. Others are meant to be found.

If you ever find yourself in Ellensburg, Washington, take a moment to ponder the hidden depths beneath the tranquil surface. Somewhere, out there in the forest, lies the remnants of a hole that defies the laws of physics, a hole that has swallowed not just objects, but the hopes and fears of those who dared confront its secrets—There are truths out-there we aren’t being told and life’s greatest challenge is to find them.