Friday, August 17, 2012


On February 26, 1956, my mother Ginger and father George got hitched and, seeing as my older brother Art's birthday is a suspicious eight months after the date, apparently got right to work on the first of seven offspring. Together they spent their honeymoon not in Europe or Hawai'i or the South Seas or some other far-flung, exotic locale, but an hour west of Cleveland at a roadside attraction in Castalia, Ohio, known as The Blue Hole. The infamous, mysterious, supposedly fathomless Blue Hole.

From about 1925 to when it closed in the early 1990s, The Blue Hole was supposedly a well-known and very popular tourist attraction, drawing 150,000 or so newlyweds, vacationers, families, adventurers and good old-fashioned gawkers every year. "Ohio's Greatest Natural Wonder" it was touted: 75 or so feet in diameter, ringed with a wooden walkway, and reportedly - here's where it gets good - bottomless.

We grew up every so often hearing stories about the Blue Hole: mom and dad's honeymoon; the legendary crystalline water clarity and ethereal blue color; the strange absence of fish; the unknown depths that might, in the wisdom of the time, reach all the way to China; even an urban legend about a man who drowned in Lake Erie but whose corpse was found floating, days later, in the Blue Hole. As a young boy the image made my skin crawl, and the mere thought of the place filled my tender, developing mind with terror, with the stuff of nightmares. I would never visit The Blue Hole, and to this day still haven't, but back then whenever I contemplated the enigma I could feel the force of it sucking me down into the earth. Since then I've spent a whole bunch of time in the water - in lakes, in streams and in the ocean - and my imagination still gets the best of me. I prefer to see "the bottom."

Recently I found myself sitting around the kitchen table in Ohio with my mother and some assorted siblings, discussing the highlights from my first trip to Niagara Falls (awesome!), another popular honeymoon spot. I was in town for our annual family reunion, and as the chit-chat ping-ponged from the Falls to road trips to Lake Erie to honeymoons I remembered my parents and The Blue Hole. 

"So what's the deal?" I asked. "Nobody's ever measured how deep the damned thing is?" Decades of reported mystery and not one scientist or marine biologist or thrill-seeker has ever tried to plumb it's turquoise maw?

Shrugs all around, so I grabbed my iPhone and logged on to Wikipedia. The rest of the gang returned their attention to the bowl of Peter's chocolate and game of Quiddler we were enjoying. "There's got to be some sort of information online," I muttered.

Well, there sure was.

The Blue Hole is fed from and underground spring (surprise, surprise), thus the crystal clear hue and anoxic (oxygen-free) water that supports no fish life, and that spring issues forth an amazing 450,000 gallons of water per hour. The mesmerizing color comes from a mix of minerals, and sure enough early in it's history a swim was thought to have all sorts of curative powers. (Swim? I can feel my testicles withdraw and my skin erupt in goosebumps.) And now from the Wikipedia site: "Contrary to prevalent belief, the depth of the Blue Hole is not unknown, but has been sounded and found to be about forty-three to forty-five feet deep."

Can you hear the chirp of crickets?

Forty-five lousy feet! I have no idea what the survey cost once someone actually decided to measure the unmeasurable (perhaps the owners knew all along). I do, however, have two nephews currently enrolled in the Navy Seals program in San Diego, so my first thought was, and I said this aloud: "Hell you could have told Niko to dive in there, swim to the bottom and find out!"

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and now The Blue Hole.

What's next?

Peter J. Palmer