The “Well to Hell” urban legend dates back to the early 1990s.

According to legend, a team of Russian geologists drilled an 8.9-mile hole into the permafrost-covered ground of a remote region of Siberia. When they neared the 9-mile point, however, their drill bit began to spin wildly, indicating that it had broken through into a larger area.

A man identified only as Mr. Azzacov was said to be the manager of the project. He made the decision to lower several heat-resistant microphones into the hole, along with an array of other measuring tools.

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To the surprise of the geologists, the temperatures in the hole measured an incredible 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The microphones returned something even more astounding: the sounds of wailing human voices.

That led the scientists to make an uncomfortable hypothesis: The center of the Earth, at least at this point, was partially hollow—and they’d drilled into Hell itself.

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Many of the scientists quit the job site immediately. On-site medics treated the rest with mild sedatives to erase their short-term memories, which helps to explain why this story didn’t instantly become front-page news.

Oh, and those audio recordings are out there, apparently.

In 2002, Art Bell of Coast to Coast AM received a copy of the recordings from one of his listeners, along with a message that read:

“I just recently began listening to your radio show and could not believe it when you talked about the sounds from hell tonight. My uncle had told me this story a couple of years ago, and I didn’t believe him. Like one of your listeners who discounted the story as nothing more than just a religious newspaper fabricated account. The story about the digging, the hearing of the sounds from hell, is very real. It did occur in Siberia.”

“My uncle collected videos on the paranormal and supernatural. He passed away fairly recently… He let me listen to one of the audio tapes that he had on the sounds from hell in Siberia, and I copied it. He received his copy from a friend who worked at the BBC… Attached is that sound from my uncle’s tapes.”

The audio is pretty disturbing, but we’ve linked it above. Turn your headphones down (and try not to listen in an office or public place).

There are, of course, several problems with the story.

For starters, there was never such a geological drilling expedition in Siberia.

There was a similar project in the Kola Peninsula, located in northwestern Russia. That project, accurately titled the Kola Superdeep Borehole, was fairly tame; scientists did drill a deep hole, but they didn’t find anything supernatural. Instead, they examined mineral resources, tested new types of drilling equipment, and won bragging rights for their mother country—after all, every geologist wants to work on the “deepest hole in the world.”

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At some point in 1989 or so, someone wrote the fictionalized version of the “Well to Hell” story, which quickly circulated among Christian publications in the U.S. It eventually reached Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), where editors decided to run the story with the title “Scientists Discover Hell.”

The story was a success, so the network ran a follow-up broadcast with a new wrinkle.

Some of the geologists had apparently seen a Satanic apparition rise from the hole. The network quoted a man named Mr. Nummedal:

“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.”

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TBN cited Ammennusastia, a Finnish newspaper, as their primary source.

Ammennusastia, however, wasn’t actually a newspaper; it was an Evangelical Lutheran magazine. A staff member had written the story from memory after reading it in a newspaper called Etela Soumen.

The story ran in a section of that paper that was purposely unmoderated—readers could submit anything that they liked without any sort of verification whatsoever.

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We know all of this, by the way, thanks to the work of Rich Buhler, a radio host who’d heard the story from some of his callers. Buhler did all of the legwork, tracking the story back through various publications until he eventually found Ammennusastia.

“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,” Buhler wrote on his blog. 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 made.”

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As for the ghastly audio recordings, well, they’re fake. Myth-busting website Skeptoid dug up this YouTube video, which effectively shows that the Well to Hell audio recordings use looped sections of screams.

The sounds probably come from an Italian horror movie called Baron Blood.

Ultimately, the Well to Hell hoax is a great example of how urban legends evolve; a good story starts to spread, and each retelling of the tale adds another element. Hell may be real, but you won’t be able to find it with a team of geologists and a really, really big drill.