By Melanie Moyer.
America offers a plethora of haunted cemeteries and lays claim to its fair share of legendary portals to hell, but few rank as terrifying as Kansas’s Stull Cemetery. In fact, this cemetery is so infamous that the Pope refused to let his plane fly over its cursed ground and has even been featured in horror fantasy TV show Supernatural. The legends are as colorful as they can get; witchcraft, satanic cults, strange deaths and a staircase that leads straight to Hell. You might be wondering why you haven’t heard of America’s “most evil” graveyard, but its physical inaccessibility has kept much of its horrors a secret.
Hidden away in rural Kansas, the town was founded by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers who headed out west to avoid religious persecution in 1867. They built the old stone church in the center of the cemetery and used it to practice their Anabaptist religion until the start of the 20th century when it was left abandoned after the roof fell in. The church then sat empty, crumbling into ruin as the myths and legends surrounding Stull grew and flourished.
Of the many legends that surround the town, the most famous is that Stull is one of the Seven Gateways to Hell. The story goes that on Halloween night (and on Spring Equinox according to some versions) at the stroke of midnight a hidden stone staircase appears in the cemetery. Descending into the dark depths of the underworld, the gateway is used by the Devil who enters the mortal world to walk the cemetery, rousing spirits and raising the dead from their graves for a night of unholy pleasure.
Why would the devil choose a small cemetery in Kansas? The answer to that question depends on who you ask. Some say the church was used by Satanists and a witches’ covens to worship Satan and summon him to the cemetery. Others claim that origins of Stull’s supernatural reputation go much further back in time, and can be traced back to one grave in particular, and one very evil tree.
According to local lore, there once sat a grave with the epitaph “Wittich” engraved upon it, and a tall pine tree which grew in the cemetery grounds was said to have been used for hangings, specifically the hanging of witches. Of course, the eerie name on the tombstone wasn’t enough. It’s said the bones contained in the grave were that of Satan’s own child. Conceived with a mortal witch, the child was born with horrible deformities and covered in thick wolf-like hair. And it is to the graves of the child and its mother that the Devil visits each year when the portal opens.
While much of this may seem like fanciful folklore the “hanging” tree really did exist, but in 1998, the day before Halloween, it was cut down in the vain hope of deterring tourists. It wasn’t successful. Visitors to Stull cemetery often share strange stories of the church and how rain never falls within its walls, despite the building having no roof and no matter the weather conditions outside. According to hundreds of eye-witness accounts even during a storm, if you were stood in the church you would remain as dry as a bone.
Stull has also witnessed its fair share of strange deaths. In the early 1990s, a boy was accidentally burned to death, a few years later, a man was found hanging from a tree. Both of these events took place near the cemetery, on a stretch of road called the ‘Devil’s Road’, which no longer exists but can still be found on old maps of the area.
The cemetery made national news in 1993 when Pope John Paul II had that his flight rerouted to prevent it from flying directly over the cursed grounds of the cemetery. By this time, stories of Stull had spread far and wide, attracting plenty of eager thrill seekers and paranormal enthusiasts. On Halloween night huge crowds of curious tourists would line up at the gate, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Devil as he walked between the rows of graves.
After a local TV station was kicked out of the cemetery in 1999, all requests to investigate the cemetery have been denied by owners and the local authorities. Signs now adorn this rumored portal to hell, warning many to keep away after dark or risk charges. Concerned locals also patrol the area, warning would-be visitors to stay away. As a further deterrence, in 2002, the remaining ruins of the church were torn down, leaving the cemetery and those who rest within it to do so in peace.
Whatever truth lies behind the spooky stories surrounding the small town of Stull, they have for the most part been lost to time, but the legends persist. And it’s hard to deny the many strange experiences had by those who visit America’s most diabolical cemetery.
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