On February 21, 1997, a man who identified himself as “Mel Waters” called into the wildly popular Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell. The show discussed conspiracies, and Mel Waters had an intriguing one. He claimed he’d found a bottomless pit 9 miles west of Ellensburg in Washington State.
Even more incredibly, he said the hole had paranormal properties with objects thrown in it seemingly coming back to life, and later maintained these paranormal incidents led to the government seizing his property.
It’s an intriguing story, so you might wonder whether Mel’s Hole is real, what became of Mel Waters, and whether there are any deep holes in the Ellensburg area. Let’s dive deep into the urban legend of Mel’s Hole!
The Background on Art Bell
To understand why the story of Mel’s Hole has been so enduring, you first have to understand the popularity of Art Bell. At its peak, the show claimed a nightly listenership of 15 million people, which is higher than today’s most popular TV show.
(If you’re curious, that’s Yellowstone which averaged 11.5 million viewers per episode in its 2023 season.)
As noted earlier, Art Bell’s show delved into a mixture of supernatural and conspiratorial themes. Tune in for a night and you could expect to hear anything from Bigfoot sightings to secret government programs to discussion on UFOs. It was a call-in show where listeners could share bizarre tales.
The most hair-raising segments, such as a frantic caller claiming to reveal the secrets of Area 51 became iconic and obsessed over by Bell’s legions of fans. If callers revealed outrageous tales and sounded believable, their stories often seeped into the broader culture beyond Bell’s devoted fan base.
Mel Waters First Appears on Art Bell
The first appearance with Mel Waters took place on February 21, 1997. The full show is archived here if you want to give it a listen. Bell talks to Mel Waters for about 10 to 15 minutes before listener questions start. The key points from the segment are:
- Mel claimed he used to be “close to a professional shark fisherman” and had dropped enough 5,000-yard fishing spools down the hole that he estimated the hole was at least 80,000 feet deep.
- The hole has no echo and his pets were afraid to approach it.
- He also claimed they were in talks with Central Washington University to study the hole.
- It was said that neighbors used to throw garbage down the hole and after a neighbor threw his deceased dog down the hole and it was later spotted alive nearby. (Although, it’s worth noting even Waters cast doubt on that story being true in his first call into Bell.)
- Waters claimed the hole had a steel door they’d installed and a retaining wall surrounding it.
- Mel also said it was in his will that he wanted to be thrown down the well if he were to pass away.
Listening to the segment, the person claiming to be “Mel” was incredibly well-spoken, which is part of what added to the allure of the story. He was cautious about some of the supposed supernatural elements of the hole while expressing amazement when told his measurements would make it the deepest hole in the world. Simply put, the person calling in as “Mel Waters” was a great story teller.
However, follow-up calls would veer more into the paranormal. In another call to Bell just a few days later, Mel claimed the military had blocked off the access road to the hole and offered him a “generous offer” for his property.
Waters Appears Again and Goes Into Hiding
Mel ended up calling back into Art Bell’s show three different times in 2000 and twice in 2002. He claimed that he’d accepted the “generous offer” from the U.S. government and was paid $250,000 per month for the government to lease his land, at which time he moved to Australia.
However, from this point on his stories became even more fantastic. Waters told an elaborate tale of government abduction, said his wife disappeared, claimed the government removed his land from satellite images, and insisted he was invited to a second hole in Nevada. This second hole had the ability to transform creatures and Waters told a long story about a sheep entering the hole and producing a strange creature with paranormal healing activity.
As I said, his follow-up calls got a bit out there.
You can read an archived summary here if you’re interested. After Mel’s second call in 2002, he was never heard from again.
Did Mel Waters Exist?
The short answer is that there is no record of Mel Waters having lived in the area near Ellensburg, Washington. There is also no record of his wife having worked at the nearby University, Central Washington.
Of course, the name “Mel Waters” could have been a pseudonym. Whoever was calling Art Bell expressed clear knowledge of the area and was likely a local. There may be a hole in the area that spawned the original story whereas follow-up tales that became more fantastic in nature became increasingly fabricated (more on this in a moment).
Expeditions to Mel’s Hole
After the appearances on Art Bell, a team of enthusiasts held annual expeditions searching for Mel’s Hole. While they’ve searched for many years, there have never been any documented sightings of a hole that matches the description of Mel’s Hole.
Beyond enthusiasts, several TV crews have searched for Mel’s Hole and have documented little. Experts say a hole even a fraction as deep as Mel’s Hole would be geologically impossible.
Where is Mel’s Hole Located?
Mel’s Hole is located on the Manastash Ridge, which is approximately at the coordinates 46.857778, -120.347778. It’s about 9 miles west of the city of Ellensburg, Washington.
Now, I need to once again note that no one has actually identified Mel’s Hole, and this location is approximately from descriptions where Mel Waters identified it on his appearances on Art Bell.
However, there might be one hole that could be the inspiration for Mel’s Hole. A geologist from the Department of Natural Resources in Washington State believes a now abandoned gold mine shaft could have been the inspiration for Mel’s Hole. It sits near where the description of Mel’s Hole was on Art Bell and is a circular hole that goes deep into the Earth. Unfortunately, this hole is fairly ordinary for mining holes and is less than 300 feet deep. That’s certainly deep enough to be a point of curiosity, but it’s nothing like the incredible bottomless pit described on the Art Bell show.
Other Washington State Urban Legends
Washington sits in a remote corner of the United States covered in mountains and forests, so it’s not surprising it’s also a hotbed for reported paranormal activity. For example, Washington State ranks third in U.S. states for UFO sightings. Let’s look at a few of the most famous urban legends in the Evergreen state.
- Bigfoot: While Washington State is third in UFO sightings, it’s first in Bigfoot sightings. According to the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization Washington saw 710 reports of Bigfoot and the highest reported sightings per 100,000 residents at 9.12.
- UFOs By Mount Rainier: A June 1947 UFO sighting near Mount Rainier was the first post-WW II UFO sighting to draw nationwide interest. The event coined the term “flying saucer.”
- D.B. Cooper: While D.B. Cooper isn’t paranormal in the same sense as Lochness monsters or UFOs, his disappearance has attracted no shortage of theories and sightings. Cooper jumped out of his hijacked plane somewhere between Portland and Seattle and has never been located. Speculation about his identity still attracts significant interest today.