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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Decemystery (2023) 13: The Hole to Hell & The Vanishing Hotel


I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: introductions have become a nightmare for me to do. I swear that after I got COVID and the accompanying brain fog, my ability to begin write-ups died. I had an intro written, and it wandered off into a topic that had no relation to the actual story. It was absolutely mesmerizing to behold since it wasn’t intentional; it just happened like it was natural.

Oh well, whatever. My point is that this story had absolutely no right to be as hard to kick off as it was. So, rather than introduce it, I figured I’d complain about it like I was complaining to hotel management about room service not leaving a complimentary Fleshgait in my room. My jokes are as stellar as NASCAR officiating.

Anyway, enough rambling. Today’s Decemystery 2023 entry is one that I debated on covering until a friend of mine encouraged me to use it. So, if you happen to love this story, thank her. This, dear reader, is the tale of The Hole to Hell & The Vanishing Hotel!

“This Could Be Heaven or This Could Be Hell.”

Like a lot of Decemystery entries this month, I came across this story while exploring the archives of About. It was submitted to the site (or at least posted to it) in January 2003 by a man named “Brandon M,” and was titled “Into the Depths of Hell.” That sounds like a horror movie from the 2000s.

Unlike a lot of stories from the site—a fact you’ll see as the month goes on—this one actually gives a date as to when it happened: 1958, nearly half a century prior to when this story was written up. That’s because this incident happened to Brandon’s mother and father, not him. Since it happened to them, I want to say right now that I’ll be referring to Brandon’s parents as Lauren and David as it’s considerably easier than typing “Brandon’s mom” and “Brandon’s dad,” or any such variation.

Back in 1958 (the exact date isn’t given, but I’m willing to let that slide), Laure and David were returning from a visit to some relatives. Where they went isn’t stated, but it was presumably in the southern United States since they resided in Ohio and had to travel through Kentucky. This was a difficult task since the area they went through had a lot of mountain-side roads, which meant they could easily end up careening down and ending up a heap of twisted metal.

As a side note, Brandon wrote that “there were no highways” back when this incident happened to his parents. I decided to check if this was true, and as far as I can tell, it isn’t. The first interstate highway was built in 1940. If you want to look back further, then the first “improved” highway was constructed between 1811 and 1837. If you want to go back even further, the first highway ever in the US, then you have to go all the way back to 1673 when US Route 1 was planned; it was ultimately completed in 1735. It connected Boston, Massachusetts, to Charleston, South Carolina.

My point is that I have no idea what Brandon was talking about unless he meant some interstate highway from wherever his parents were visiting that led to Ohio. Maybe there’s something I’m missing; I have no idea. All I know is that he got the information on the United States’ history of highways very wrong.

Okay, enough of the history lesson on transportation; let’s get back to the story. By the time Lauren and David arrived in Kentucky, they were dead tired. Being responsible individuals of an indeterminate age, they decided to stay at a hotel for the night. Lucky for them, they saw a sign (which appeared handmade) that pointed down ”yet another narrow road,” one that Brandon stated his parents had never been down before. However, the sign was not merely directing them down the road; no, it advertised Mammoth Cave. Now, before I continue, I want to go over Mammoth Cave for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.

Mammoth Cave is one of the most famous caves in the United States—perhaps the world. Its name is by no means hyperbole; it’s the longest cave system on Earth, being a staggering 426 miles (685 kilometers) long. By comparison, the second-longest cave system is Sistema Ox Bel Ha in Mexico, which is 270 miles (435 kilometers). To say that Mammoth Cave lives up to its name would be a gross understatement.

Besides being an absolute behemoth in terms of size, Mammoth Cave also has a lot of mysteries surrounding it: disappearances, hauntings (tuberculosis patients were kept in there in hopes that “fresh air” would help cure them; many ended up dying), and other odd happenings have occurred inside. Nowadays, it’s a national park; the header image shows the entrance to the cave. If you want to learn a bit more about the location itself, Steve Stockton’s YouTube channel Among The Missing did a video on it back in August. It’s a fantastic listen, and it’s why I want to cover the cave down the road.

Getting back on track once again, Lauren and David figured they might as well take the chance and see if they could find a hotel at ye olden Mammoth Cave. So, they went down the dark, winding road, never seeming to end. Oh, how I wish I could say that they eventually reached a dead end and had to turn around, as that would be the funniest thing in the world (to me, at least), but no, they didn’t. After driving for several miles, not once passing another car or house, they arrived at what David described as an “aged, large, colonial style farmhouse.” Outside was another handmade sign that read, “Mammoth Cave and Hotel.” Despite being a hotel, there were no cars outside.

The sight of this totally normal and not at all ominous hotel gave Lauren a “terrible feeling,” and she refused to exit the vehicle. David, on the other hand, was unwilling to turn around after driving for miles down a dark, narrow back road. So, he went inside to see if the hotel was legit or not. After leaving the car, Lauren immediately locked its doors.

Meanwhile, David went up to the front door, which was open. What he found was what I can only describe as an interior decorator’s worst nightmare. The first thing David laid eyes on was a massive hole that was “near the entrance” and had a “velvet rope hanging around it.” This wasn’t a hole made because of work-related excavation; the hole extended hundreds of feet down—or so David believed. His guess was based on how he couldn’t see the bottom. It’s a pretty good way to guess things if I do say so myself.

Additionally, there were “steps that ran the length of its depth.” Now, I have to admit right here that I’m an idiot who doesn’t quite understand the English language, but I’m pretty sure that this means the hole had stairs that led down it. I have no idea if there’s any hole or cave system that has such an installation, but as we’re going to learn soon, this is probably a stairway to Hell. So, who am I to question the design choices of demons? They probably want to make your entrance to Hell as exhausting as possible; it would fit their modus operandi.

The hole wasn’t the only unique aesthetic choice the hotel sported. On another side of the room was a group of 10–12 elderly women in rocking chairs; lanterns helped to illuminate their little corner of the hotel. That’s apparently all they had, though, as David noted that there was no other furnishing over there. Besides that, there was a desk on the other end of the room with a large book on it. 

It’s not clear whether or not David made any effort to go far into the hotel; he did say that you had to “step around” the hole to “keep from falling in,” so I’m guessing that he at least stepped inside and didn’t stand in the doorway the entire time. Regardless, his presence caught the attention of one of the elderly ladies, who informed him that Mammoth Cave was “closed” due to it being late at night. She then said that he could stay for the night if he went over and checked in.

This, along with everything else about the hotel (and presumably the gathering of grandmas), gave David an unbearable sense of fear. Something inside him said that if he stayed any longer, he wouldn’t leave the hotel alive. To make matters even worse, the woman—I’m guessing the one who offered him a room—began to advance toward him.

David believed that he “may not have escaped their clutches” if he hadn’t lied and said that he was going to get his family. I guess that was enough for the old lady to cease her wall to David, and he left to get his family. By which I mean he ran to his car, which Lauren had started once she saw him, and got in. David later said that Lauren appeared scared despite not having gone into the hotel. I’d like to interject and say that if I saw my spouse run out of a building with a terrified look on her face, I would be scared. I just want to say that him rushing out of the hotel looking like he’d seen Satan doing the can-can is why she was scared, along with being in a remote, unknown part of Kentucky.

My tangent aside, David put the car into gear and drove out of there like he was in a Fast & Furious movie, several decades early at that! He didn’t stop until after daybreak and had found civilization. God willing, Lauren and David then found a hotel not being run by the elderly Bender Family.

This next part puzzles me a bit on account of Brendan never giving his age. According to him, his family—which I’m guessing means Lauren, David, and Brendan (along with any siblings he may have)—went looking for the hotel. This makes me wonder if Brendan had been born at the time or if he was born in the years following, and it became a family activity of sorts. Oh well, I digress; despite the family searching as many side roads as they could, they never found any sign of the strange hotel. Or, well, they don’t believe they did.

During one of their expeditions, they found a “burnt down farmhouse,” but it lacked any sign of having had a massive hole that led down to who-knows-where. I want you to remember this because it’s extremely important.

Brendan ends the story of his parents’ encounter with Hotel Kentuckyfornia by saying that, nearly half a century later, they were still seeking answers. Well, Brendan, it’s been 65 years since this happened (as of the time of this writing), and I can’t give you any answers. What I can give you, however, are some theories; now that our story has concluded, let’s dive right into them!


1. A hoax

Our inaugural theory is one that I feel obligated to include for every single story from About. There’s almost no way for me to prove the veracity of a single story on there, given that most, if not all, not the stories have no source outside of there. This one is no different, so I think I’d be an utter moron for not including this as a possibility.

The Internet is a place where anyone can make something up for clout; it’s been done since day one of its creation. At least, I think it has; I’m not an Internet historian, nor do I wish to be. Regardless, when you can have near-total anonymity, you can get away with making up the stupidest stuff and getting fools to believe it. As a result, this theory is a true blue possibility.

Now, is it likely? I honestly have no idea since I don’t know much about, well, About. I have no idea what the ratio of “true” stories versus fake ones was back then, though this one in particular doesn’t strike me as too outlandish. Creepy roadside motels—along with ones that are tucked away in the woods—do exist, and some are run by less-than-savory individuals. If you wish to see this in action, go watch the masterpiece that is the 1974 horror film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Not everything is against this theory, though. The one major thing it has going for it is the giant hole in the lobby of whatever this building was. What practical purpose it served, if it served any at all, is up for debate. Whether it was a one-way road to Hell or was there to dupe out-of-staters into thinking it led to Mammoth Cave (unless it actually did) is beyond my pea-brain.

There’s also the matter of the dozen or so grandmothers who, for some reason, were chilling in the lobby. While it’s possible they resided nearby (assuming there was a community in that area), I must admit that it’s kind of odd they’d be sitting in a building that would be extremely difficult to get out of. David said that he had to carefully navigate so as to not fall into the hole. Why a group of elderly women would be anywhere in that building is way beyond me.

Of course, David may have overestimated how large the hole was; I have no idea how long it had been since the incident happened when he recounted it. Overall, I’d say that this theory has a nearly equal amount going for and against it. It depends on what way you look at it; time had passed since the event may have caused Lauren and David to misremember some details.

2. It was just a hotel

Before I go into the theory proper, there’s one thing I want to make a note of. Apparently, back in 1916, the Mammoth Cave Hotel burned down. There’s also a Facebook post from Mammoth Cave National Park on the incident. This theory has absolutely nothing to do with that incident; I considered having an offshoot theory that this was some sort of spectral remnant of that hotel or something along those lines, but I have no idea where this story took place, nor do I think there’s a chance in hell that this was a ghost building. Nevertheless, I thought it was worth mentioning, given that this theory is about how Lauren and David came across, well, a hotel.

I want to say right off the bat that I have absolutely no idea if it’s legal to advertise that your farmhouse—or anything, for that matter, is a hotel. I doubt it is, but for all I know, you could do that in the 1950s. I’d also like to say once again that I don’t know where this story took place; I don’t know how close Lauren and David were to Mammoth Cave at the time. For all I know, they were 200 miles from its entrance, or they were right near it. Assuming they were near it, I could see a swindler (or a group of them) making a “hotel,” and digging a deep hole to have guests think that it leads to Mammoth Cave.

The biggest thing going for this theory is the burnt-down farmhouse that Lauren and David found when looking for the building again. Although there was no apparent sign of the ground having once had a large hole in it, I’d assume that it’s possible it’d been filled and, eventually, the ground settled—or something to that effect. Admittedly, I know extremely little about landscaping or anything of that nature. But I would think that signs of a deep hole wouldn’t persist decades after it was filled, assuming that they went looking for it decades after first coming across the place. Alternatively, they may not have noticed where the hole was, or David got the size of the hole wrong and thought it was much bigger than it actually was.

On the flip side, figuring out if that one farmhouse was the one they saw would be absurdly difficult to prove. According to Iowa State University, back in 1950, there were 218,476 farms in Kentucky alone. According to Kentucky’s government website, that number today is 75,966. Unless we were to comb through all 39,732 square miles (102,907 square kilometers) of Kentucky, I think it’s a fool’s task to try and find out if this was a tourist trap masquerading as a hotel or something akin to a rest stop or motel and not a hotel.

3. A Hole to Hell

There are a ton of urban legends about supposed gateways and holes to Hell. I remember one of the earliest stories I found on the ObscUrban Legend Wiki was about one being in Kansas. I recall considering it for Decemystery 2019; I ultimately decided against it since I didn’t really feel like writing about it. If memory serves, it’s because I figured it’d be a bit too much work. Well, at the time, I did; by now, it’d be easy.

That brings us to our third theory, and it’s the one that has the rare honor of having been in the write-up’s name. Whether you want to believe that it was a man-made hole to Hell or that some sort of ritual created it, this theory proposes that what David saw was a one-way ticket to eternal damnation! Who or what the elderly women were, I don’t know. Maybe they were demons in disguise, or maybe they were just a group of old ladies who were chilling next to Hell’s most popular waterslide: Hellfire Palooza.

Your mileage on this theory will depend on not only your belief in Hell but also your belief that there can be gateways and holes that lead to it on Earth. If you believe that, then you just need an answer to how this hole got there (and why they couldn’t find it after that fateful encounter).

I’ll say right now: I cannot explain how it vanished, but how it got there could be explained by some backwoods Satanic cult having made it. I swear that there are more urban legends and stories about Satanic cults in backwoods parts of America than there are trees on Earth. I have no idea why they’re so prevalent, and if someone from rural America can explain to me why, I would be very grateful.

Assuming that one of these supposed cults made the hotel and hole. one can then go on to assume that, had David not fled, he and Lauren would have been unwilling sacrifices to the devil—or some other malevolent being. I’m not sure how likely this is since I don’t know how many cases of human sacrifice have been reported in the United States (it’s not a topic that appeals to me for a multitude of reasons), but I’m willing to bet it’s not that high. Again, if someone wants to leave a comment telling, by all means, go ahead; I’m all ears. Or eyes, rather, since I’d be reading the comment.

4. Some backwoods family’s murder home

Man, these Wrong Turn movies get weirder and weirder with each new installment.

My Take

This is a bit of a weird one since it doesn’t sound all too odd. I could see someone having set up a hotel near Mammoth Cave to make some money, even if it was out in the middle of nowhere. What I can’t explain is the chasm in the middle of what I assume was the lobby. I have no idea if there are any entrances to it that have stairs leading down; I couldn’t find any if they do exist. I’m pretty sure it would have been preserved if one did exist.

I doubt someone made their own entrance and then built a shoddy hotel to go along with it. Not only do I believe that would have been condemned, but it would also be a well-documented bit of history to go along with the cave’s already extensive history.

I’m also skeptical about whether the hole was man-made and used to scam people into visiting what they’d be duped into believing was Mammoth Cave. Maybe that was the case, but the hole was apparently absurdly deep and, I’m guessing, wide. While I don’t think it’d be impossible to pull off, I have to wonder how nobody outside of Lauren and David came across this place.

There’s also the matter of the group of elderly women, which I find to be equally as hard to explain. Unless there was a retirement home nearby, or they owned the place (which I guess wouldn’t be that weird), it’s odd to me that they would be lounging around in rocking chairs. A part of me wishes David had asked them what they were doing, but I get why he didn’t ask questions. If I walked into a hotel and saw some old folks in rocking chairs, along with a large hole in the middle of the lobby, I’d run away.

Despite all of that, a part of me is way too hesitant to dismiss all of this as a hoax. Something about it doesn’t strike me as utter nonsense—unlike, say, The Bagodemon and stories we’ll be seeing later this month. So, if I had to take a shot in the dark, I’d say it was likely a rest stop or motel; why they had a hole in the ground is beyond me. Maybe there was work being done underground, or maybe it was put there as a bizarre aesthetic choice (I think the former would be far more likely).

As for what happened to the place, I have no idea. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say that the burnt-down farmhouse that Lauren, David, Brendan, and whoever else may have been with them was what they’d come across. The lack of any disturbance in the Earth wasn’t spotted by them. As I said during the second theory, it’d be a fool’s task to try and prove this given the sheer number of farms that were around back then, and who knows if it’s even still standing. It’s likely that it was torn down at some point.

That is if it ever existed at all. So, unless Brendan comes across this write-up and can pin down the area (or give a general idea of said area) where his parents came across the creepy hotel, there’s no concrete way to prove if this happened or not. Though I digress, I’ve started talking in circles, so I’m going to end this section here. Long story short: I think it was a motel. The long shot is that it was a tourist trap. The dark horse possibility is that it was all a hoax.


And so, with that, our story comes to an end. This was quite a bit of fun to write, though I have to admit that once it came time to give my personal thoughts, I was at a near-complete loss. This was one case where I felt like I had idea what to make of anything. This wasn’t overly absurd like The Bagodemon, nor was it clear-cut like The Pennsylvanian Pumpkinhead. This fell into an area where I was left scratching my head. I’m sure that, by the time this story goes up, I’ll still have no solid idea as to what in the world may have happened here.

Because of that, this is one instance where I would really love to hear your thoughts; what do you think Lauren and David came across? Did it happen at all? Also, have you ever experienced anything akin to this? Let me know—and as always, stay happy, stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

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