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The Gateway to Hell
Nestled deep within the heartland of America, this cemetery is believed to hold one of the seven gateways to Hell which opens only on Halloween night. Whatever your plans for Halloween are this year, one place you'd be wise to avoid is Stull Cemetery.
by Tom Crawford
October 31, 2009
Halloween has arrived and whatever your plans for this night might be, one place you'll certainly want to avoid is Stull Cemetery in Stull, Kansas. That's because, according to local legends, this cemetery is one of the seven gateways to Hell and Halloween night is one of the only times it opens.
Stull, a small Kansas town, was founded in the mid 1800s and named after Sylvester S. Stull, the town's postmaster in the early 20th century. Since its first settling, Stull has remained a very small community consisting of only a few homes, a couple of farms and, of course, Stull Cemetery.
The cemetery itself doesn't look too threatening. Situated on a rolling hill, it contains an old church which is believed to have been build around 1867, a pine tree that was (until it was cut down in 1998) over 150 years old, and scattered plots from the town's previous inhabitants. Looking at this cemetery from a distance, it’s hard to imagine it being anything close to frightening. But after hearing some of the local folklore associated with the cemetery, you begin to realize why few people would be caught anywhere near the cemetery at night - especially on Halloween night.
One of the first legends focuses specifically on the pine tree that is located in the cemetery. In the early 1900s, a local man in Stull was reported missing. He was later found hanged from the cemetery's pine tree. This occurrence attached much fear to the cemetery and many townspeople began to claim that on certain nights, a coven of witches would encircle this tree and perform various rituals. The witches' focus on this particular tree might be attributed to another town legend that says this tree was once used, in the town's early days, to hang those suspected of performing witchcraft. These legends have caused many people to fear the sight of tree. Could this fear possibly have been what motivated the cemetery caretakers to cut it down just days before Halloween in 1998?
The bulk of the other legends focus on the old church that is located on the top of the cemetery's hill. The old church, as previously mentioned was believed to have been built in 1867. Sometime during the early 1900s, it fell victim to a mysterious fire. All that remains today is a charred exoskeleton and a handful of legends explaining this mysterious fire.
While the legends vary in detail, the consensus among all of them is that the church contains a gateway to Hell. The gateway is a stairway that is located just outside of the church beneath a platform that is covered with thick grass. Lifting this platform reveals a stairway that goes down to an unknown destination. Many believe that descending these stairs will lead you straight into Hell. According to legend, shortly after you begin your descent down the stairs, you will begin to feel an unknown force tug at you, trying to pull you to the bottom of the stairway. If you turn around to return, you will find that your ascent will take much longer (typically two weeks or more), even though it feels as if only a few seconds have passed.
In some legends, this gateway is said to be constantly open. But in most of the other legends, the gateway only opens during the fall and spring equinox and on Halloween night at midnight. In the legends where this gateway opens on Halloween, it is believed that Satan climbs the stairway on Halloween night to visit the cemetery to visit the grave of his child who is buried somewhere in the cemetery.
Having read these legends, you are probably wondering which ones have any truth to them. To be honest, no one really knows. That’s because the cemetery's caretakers and the local police will not let anyone near the cemetery, especially on Halloween. They justify their actions as a collective, and perfectly understandable, effort to curtail the vandalism that occurs in the cemetery.
But what is not clearly understandable is the cemetery caretakers' efforts to keep everyone away from the cemetery, even when they are clearly not committing acts of vandalism. For example, on Halloween night in 1999, a group of local reporters went to the cemetery with the police to record the happenings in the cemetery at midnight. All went well until around 11:30pm when the cemetery caretakers came and ordered all of the reporters away. The reporters complied with their request and moved to a parking lot that was located across from the cemetery. The caretakers then came and told them that they must move from there as well. The reporters were then told that they were no longer allowed to videotape the cemetery.
This was an odd thing for the caretakers to do. They have indicated that their main concern is to reduce the cemetery's publicity so vandals will not be attracted to the grounds. If nothing really occurs, having the reporters videotape the cemetery at midnight would prove the legends false, thus aiding in the elimination of much of the curiosity surrounding Stull Cemetery. Why then were they so insistent that everyone leave? Furthermore, why were they even more insistent that no one videotape the cemetery, especially at midnight?
While, as of yet, these questions cannot be answered, it is certain that all eyes in Stull will be on Stull Cemetery this Halloween. Regardless of whether or not you believe these legends to be true, Stull Cemetery is definitely one place you’d be wise to avoid October 31st.
Photograph courtesy of Adam Schafer. Photograph Copyright © Adam Schafer.