There's something about enormous caverns that captures humanity's imagination, and Devils Hole in Death Valley National Park is one of the strangest natural formations in the world. Devils Hole has a unique natural ecosystem and is home to an isolated fish species which doesn't exist anywhere else. Its waters also act like a natural earthquake sensor that can detect vibrations from as far away as Japan, Chile, and Indonesia.
But it wouldn't be called Devils Hole if there weren't creepy national park stories inspired by the mysterious depths. Despite thorough studies, nobody seems to know exactly how big the cavern is, with estimates ranging from around 500 to 900 feet. In 1965 two divers went missing in the hole and were never found. The cavern's ominous reputation was sealed when Charles Manson selected the Hole as his potential refuge during the end times.
Though researchers and explorers have studied the waters of Devils Hole for decades, the full extent of the water system is still a mystery. The opening is about 8 feet wide and 60 feet long and feeds into a wider body of water known as Acree's Chasm. Narrow waterways feed into caverns and pockets of air including Brown's Room, a 50-foot-tall cave buried underground that's only accessible through Devils Hole.
Divers have explored as far as 436 feet down and could see another 150 feet below them, and experts suspect it could go 900 feet down or more. They don't know for sure because there hasn't been an expedition to reach the bottom. Some suspect the water connects with locations across the world, due to how Devils Hole reacts to seismic events in other countries.
The Devils Hole pupfish is the rarest fish on Earth and can only be found in the waters of Devils Hole. Devils Hole is in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, which also has many other springs housing rare fish and plant life. Thousands of years ago, the entire Ash Meadows area was underwater, but climate change caused the water level to fall and create separate ecosystems. The Devils Hole pupfish evolved based on the unique conditions inside its habitat.
The Hole's layout creates the ideal balance for the pupfish to survive. Sunlight keeps the water warm, and a shelf near the water system's entrance helps algae form on the limestone walls. The pupfish thrives in this shallow shelf because it can feed on the algae. The population fluctuates from about 100 to 500 fish throughout the year. They don't have to worry about cramped conditions because each pupfish is less than 1-inch long.
You don't usually expect to see tsunamis in the middle of a desert, but that's what researchers recorded in Devils Hole on March 20, 2012. Researchers monitoring the Devils Hole pupfish observed water levels repeatedly rising and falling, almost entirely draining the shelf area where the pupfish population lived before returning to normal.
Baffled at the time, the scientists later learned there was an earthquake more than 2,000 miles to the south in Mexico that created an underground tsunami in Devils Hole. Scientists suspect this behavior means the water system beneath the Hole may extend thousands of miles to other parts of the world.
In 1965 two amateur divers, David Rose and Paul Giancontieri, snuck into Devils Hole with friends to go skin diving. Rose and Giancontieri went down to explore underwater caverns, but never came back up. Their friends alerted the authorities, who compiled a search team led by experienced diver Jim Houtz.
The search team explored as far down as they could, hoping the pair found a pocket of air to survive. Rescuers were only able to recover a mask, a snorkel, and a flashlight tied to a rock, presumably as a marker. Since no one knows the full extent of the underground waters, their bodies may have ended up hundreds of feet deeper than the rescuers could dive.