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Columnist muses about beach holes on Sanibel

By Staff | Jul 10, 2009

A recent article in the Island Reporter described an insidious problem taking place in Sanibel man-made holes on the beach. The article cited a total of 103 holes that were found on the beach since January alone. These holes can be very dangerous indeed for humans as well as for wildlife. Folks, you don’t know the half of it.

I was taking a walk on the beach not too long ago when I stepped into a hole. This wasn’t just any hole. It was a hole that was so deep that I found myself falling and falling and falling. The hole must have been at least 20 feet deep because I finally landed on soft sand well below the surface.

I wasn’t hurt or anything but I was stunned by this sudden turn of events. Here I was taking a harmless, leisurely walk on the beach to catch a sunset and now found myself in a journey to the center of the earth. I was too far below the surface to find a way to climb back up and did the only sensible thing I could. I yelled for help. Surely, someone else up there would be out walking a dog or catching a beautiful Sanibel sunset.

My voice echoed through the wall of sand above me but there was no response. I began to have a severe anxiety attack and told myself to stay calm, that help would be on its way. All of a sudden I heard a voice right next to me.

“It’s about time someone showed up. I’ve been down here for years.”

I had mixed feelings about hearing the voice of someone else way the hell down here. It was good to have company in this dilemma but it wasn’t a good sign to hear that someone had been down here for years.

I looked around and saw a wiry old guy with a long beard. “Who are you,” I asked. He held his arms out in front of him to demonstrate that he meant no harm. “I’m Ted Smith and I hail from Minneapolis. I’ve been down here for 26 years and have gotten quite used to it.”

I was stunned and dejected. Could I see myself down in this hole for 26 years as well? “Twenty-six years? I can’t believe it. How could that possibly be? Surely, someone must have seen this hole at one time or another and done something about it. How could you not have been found? How do you survive?”

Ted put his arms out again, this time to slow me down. “Patience, friend. I will tell you everything. You’re the first human who’s come to visit me since I had my misfortune. First of all, I didn’t fall down this hole. I made the hole myself. Yes, I violated Sanibel Code section 74-182 26 years ago by digging a large hole.

“I started to dig a hole one day when visiting Sanibel and for whatever reason I wanted to see how far down I could dig. So I dug and dug and dug. I must have dug around five feet when somehow the floor below collapsed and the hole took on a life of its own. I went down and down like Alice in Wonderland.

“The hole finally stopped around here and when I looked up I realized I was in deep trouble. But before my full hysteria set in I heard voices around me and realized that I was looking at a tunnel. I walked through the tunnel and the voices got louder. Finally, I wandered into an underground chamber that had furniture and tables. And to my utter astonishment there sat three people. They told me that they had fallen into an adjoining hole some years earlier and liked what they saw below the surface. They told me that they had decided to make a life for themselves below the beach because life above wasn’t going well for them up above. They said they liked the peace and quiet and now had time to meditate and reflect on world history.”

I looked around and didn’t see a tunnel or underground chamber. “So where are these people now? I asked. “Oh, they won’t make themselves visible until they’re comfortable with you. They see you as an intruder.”

“I’m no intruder. I just happened to fall into this hole. It wasn’t my intention to live down here for the rest of my life. I’d just as soon be back home right now with a glass of wine.”

Suddenly, there was the glare of lights and three Sanibel policemen had hoisted themselves down the hole with ropes. One of them held a document in his hand and said: “I’m placing you both under arrest for violating Sanibel’s strict beach digging codes. Anything you say will be held against you.”

Ted and I were then hoisted up and found ourselves standing on the beach. The police began to fill up the hole. Ted began to rant and rave when he saw what they were doing. “You can’t do that. There are others down there.”

The police paid no attention to Ted as they led us to the police station. At first I thought that Ted had made the whole story up about being down in the hole for 26 years and running into other people. But then shortly after that incident I read an item in the newspaper that said a Minneapolis man who had been missing for 26 years had been found alive and well in Sanibel. Go figure.