Hellmouth in the Heartland

Micah Campbell

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A First-Hand Encounter with One of the 7 Gateways to Hell

Stull, Kansas

3:05 am — The witching hour on the morning of the spring equinox.

5 best friends in a borrowed minivan gaze down the grim and eerily quiet road leading to Stull, Ks.

Even in the dead of night, they expected maybe a late-night/or early morning 9–5’er or the blue and green flicker of television light bouncing off eggshell-white living room walls, creeping out of drawn plastic blinds… but there was nothing.

On the south side of the aptly named Stull Road are 3 occupied homes, quaint and inviting, followed by the Stull United Methodist Church, the Stull post office, and the church pantry. There is a dirt road that splits the small town here and winds its way deeper into the rolling fields of central Kansas. After that, there are 2 more “turn-of-the-century” type homes, complete with old wooden and rotting wrap-around porches and decorative columns chipping and peeling yellow-stained white paint.

That’s it. That is the entire town of Stull, Kansas.

To the right, occupying exactly half of this unincorporated community, surrounded by a 6ft chain link fence and patrolled by county deputies and a K-9 unit, is the Stull Cemetery.

Ghostly wisps of dense fog blanket the road, making it seem an almost pulsing, living thing. Sentient and eager for visitors, it slithers in anticipation. The hazy brume, wafting from right to left, wraps itself protectively around the homes and buildings while at the same time drawing attention to the Cemetary gates and the ruins of the Evangelical Emmanuel Church; the crumbled nidus of this rumored gateway to hell.

Fancying themselves amateur Ghost Hunters — at least for this, their latest attempt to quell the post-college, pre-adult continuum that they had found themselves loathing and yet thriving in — they sit at the zenith of Stull road plotting their infiltration.

Minutes pass as they get their timing down on the patrol and work up the nerve to scale the fence. It is agreed that there will be no vandalism or tomfoolery here, this was a serious and somber quest to uncover the mysteries of a local legend that had garnered worldwide interest and fame.

With deep breaths, dirty jokes, and excuses out of the way and nothing else to stall them, the quintet poured out the sliding side door, having covered the dome light with an old handkerchief (yes, they had thought of everything), and stealthily made their way along the eastern fence approx 200 yards behind the guard as he made rounds.

Dead trees and decorative stone works lined the approach.

Cobwebs, overgrown vines and hedge-works, and an owl’s cryptic questions of “hoo…hooo” greeted them as they neared. This had once been a lovely place of solitude, rest, and remembrance, but that was a long time ago.

Now it is a haunted and broken place that even the pope dares not tread.

Stairway to Perdition

Tales tell that there are 7 gateways to the netherworld:

  1. The Cape Matapan Caves in Greece — Home of Hades, god of the dead.
  2. The Hekla Volcano in Iceland where covens gather to commune with their underlord.
  3. The bottomless and insatiable chasm known as Lacus Curtius in Rome.
  4. The Ploutonion at Hierapolis in Greece where to this day birds still drop dead if their flight takes them too near to the noxious vapors that permeate from the portal there.
  5. The Fengdu City of Ghosts in Chongqing, China where 2 imperial officials Yin and Wang wandered in their quest to become immortal — Their names together “yinwang” actually means “King of Hell”.
  6. St Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg, Ireland where sojourners would find the end, or rather the beginning of their eternal pilgrimage.
  7. Stull Cemetery in Stull, Ks where a wayward priest killed his forbidden lover and their unborn child.

It’s said that twice a year, on Halloween and again on the Spring Equinox, a seal is lifted from a stairway in a well somewhere in Stull Cemetery and from 3 am to 4 am, the fabric separating our world from the netherworld is so thin that if one would dare descend the steps, they would be drawn into the land of the dead.

The stairway is not long, only a few hundred feet, but once at the bottom, it would take someone 2 weeks or more to return to the top — If they were able -though it would only seem like a few minutes to them.

There have been those brave enough (or foolish enough) to descend the steps in the past, only to disappear and be considered missing — and often reported as such — returning weeks later wondering why all the commotion and worry; because to them no time had passed.

The well is said to be nearly impossible to find and even if found would be so nondescript that it would easily be disregarded as just another broken bit of stonework littering the cemetery.

First-hand accounts of this well and stairway ever being found are nearly impossible to find, but I believe — I truly and honestly believe — that I did just that.

You see, the fearless 5 mentioned at the beginning of this tale were me and my 4 best friends!

But let’s not get back to that just yet…

As one might suspect, you wouldn’t have this kind of portal on the mortal plane without some level of residual effect.

Much of the flora and fauna surrounding the area is in a year-round withered state. Dead trees and bare shrubbery evidence the poison that seems to seep out of the gateway. At the vertex of the cemetery lies the crumbled ruins of the Evangelical Emmanuel Church. The epicenter of all evil can be traced back to this church, or really the practices of a priest who presided there.

Priestly Duties

It is said that long ago a priest had a verboten tryst with a parishioner.

Theirs was a taboo affair, not only because of the sacred vows taken by the priest to remain celibate but also because the woman was rumored to be a witch. Though no one had come right out and accused her of such things, it was a well-circulating whisper that drifted in and out of the societies and cliques of the congregation.

The priest and his mistress attempted to keep their illicit sins secret, but as such things of a forbidden and carnal nature as this often do, what was to be kept unseen soon became all too visible as the woman discovered that she was with child.

Weeks went by as the priest tried to find some way out of this most damning predicament (some way to avoid the inevitable) but he was running out of time as his lover had begun to show visible signs of carrying a child… his child.

The church began to distance themselves not only from her but from him as well, as the small community started to put things together.

Seeing no other choice, the priest bade his followers gather behind the church after Sunday service and confessed his sins… he confessed that he had been seduced by a witch and that this witch was with them even now!

With hatred in his eyes, he pointed a crooked and cloaked finger toward his lover and condemned her to death.

It didn’t take long for the congregation to devolve into a mob. Cursing and shouting, they dragged the poor woman off to the west side of the church to a towering pine to be hanged.

Long and slender shadows danced about like maddened, macabre marionettes across the cemetery grounds as the sun, just starting to set, cast them about. This only heightened the frenzy and chaos of the fanatical multitude. Accusations and damnations were flung at the helpless woman as she was manhandled and bound with rope.

Before nightfall of that very same day, the woman was hanged.

Her body was left lifeless and swinging as the men dug a shallow grave next to an old well. The women and children went about preparing themselves and their homes for a peaceful night’s sleep, secure, confident, and at ease as if nothing at all peculiar had happened.

Just before 3 in the morning, it was done.

The woman was buried. The child still in her womb, having been robbed of life by the lies of its father, buried with her.

A stone was placed on the grave that simply read: WITTCH.

2 weeks later, on the spring equinox, some nefarious, necromantic power seeped into that shallow grave and called to the child. The child was born in the dark and dirt of that shallow grave and clawed its way down, down, down… far below, leaving behind it a cursed stairway formed of its pain.

Today the stone that reads WITTCH can still be found if you look hard enough, but it is now split in two, having been sundered the night that the child was born unto death. WIT TCH.

Celebrity and Seance

This is a pretty dark story and one that has caught the attention of more than a few noted celebrities.

Kurt Cobain made it a mission to visit Stull Cemetery whenever Nirvana played in Lawrence, Ks.

Ariana Grande claims to have visited and left in a rush, frightened by her experiences, with the smell of sulfur still burning in her nostrils.

Slash (Guns n’ Roses) has a production company that produced a film called “Nothing Left to Fear” based on Stull.

Also, one of my favorite shows, Supernatural, ended season 5 with a battle between the Archangel Micheal and Lucifer in Stull Cemetery… although I hear it was actually filmed in Vancouver, so that kind of ruins it a little…

Is a story itself enough to garner the kind of worldwide notoriety that Stull Cemetery has…

Maybe, but I think there’s a little more to it and I can personally attest that there are at least some weird and unexplainable phenomena that occur there.

Take for example the persistent story that says if you hold 2 glass bottles perpendicular to each other and throw them against where the northwest side of the church would have been (because remember, there are just ruins there now) that no matter how hard you throw them and no matter what you throw them against, they will not break.

I can attest to this one. I’m not proud to say it — no, I guess I am proud to say it because we did pick them up — but the night that we went, we did indeed hold up 2 bottles in the shape of a cross, and then we threw them hard and multiple times against the old fallen stones of the church.

Every single time, we were met with a dull thud instead of a shrill, shattering crash.

We could not get those bottles to break.

I believe this is supposed to be because of the disturbance caused by the two worlds colliding, causing unnatural results from natural actions.

How about back when the four walls of the church were still standing (no roof, though)?

The stories say that one could stand within the walls on a rainy night and not feel the rain.

This was said to have been because of a curse placed on the grounds by the coven that the woman who was hanged had belonged to.

While I can’t actually confirm that one, I can say that when we went, the walls were still there (although not really standing per se) and when we went “inside” we could no longer feel the breeze that was kicking around right “outside”.

Within the area of the church, there was no wind. Yikes!

Let’s talk about the tree. A tall and imposing pine that, until 1998 stood healthy and strong, all except for a single outstretched limb that seemed never to grow at all over the years. This limb was the very limb that the woman and countless other witches had been hanged on.

It still had the indentation of a rope around it until it, along with the rest of the tree, was cut down in ’98 to dissuade ghost-hunters and thrillseekers from climbing it and hurting themselves.

And let’s not forget the prerequisite “strange or unexplained death” stories that seem to go hand-in-hand with any legend worth its weight in blood:

  1. The young boy that was accidentally burned alive by his father on a road aptly named “Devil’s Road”, which can be found on old city maps in the Stull archives, though doesn’t appear to be there any longer.
  2. The old man who hanged himself on the very same pine that hundreds of years ago was used to hang witches…

Needless to say, Stull is steeped in the dark lore of death and evil. But still, does that really mean that it is an extraplanar portal to the Underworld… a Hellmouth in the Heartland?

The Pope certainly thinks so.

It is rumored that when the pope or the “Cittadino Vaticanos” (Vatican citizens) travel within the states, they will ensure that the planes’ flight paths avoid flying over that area. They will not even fly over this hellish portal.

My Personal Experience

Right, ok… so we crept our way up to the church ruins. This was no easy thing. It was creepy out there! And the guard had a dog, a Doberman Pincher!

The muted cast of the moon’s glow filtered everything in a strange silvery dreamscape. We couldn’t help but stifle a laugh at every twig snapped or leaf crunched underfoot, not to mention the subtle, too quiet noises some were making in a faux-attempt to “alert” the guard. We knew good and well that he’d never hear, but that “what if” sensation just added to the adrenaline and “fear factor”.

We had opted for no flashlights, as that would have undoubtedly alerted the patrol to our location, so the moonlight was really it as far as being able to see.

There were no lights inside the cemetery and those on the outside seemed to hold little sway within.

So, giggling like children, with visibility low, a guard about 200 yards in front of us, and adrenaline pumping so hard that we are either on the verge of a laughing fit or a panic attack, we inched forward.

We began investigating the area up on the hill, where the old church used to sit. We were immediately drawn to it as it was the largest structure and easily the most foreboding.

Much to our disappointment, most of the cemetery was in decent shape. Headstones were intact and the lawn and walkways were well-manicured, but the area on the hill was a different story.

Most of the grass and shrubbery here was dead and what wasn’t dead was overgrown and choking in its conquest of dominance — vines and moss, mostly.

I’ve already told you about our experiment with the bottles, how we could not get them to break.

That freaked us out.

So much so that it almost sent us running back to the van right then and there!

But our mission was not to break glass. Our mission was to locate the well. It was not an uncomfortable morning and under any other circumstances would have been fine, bordering on pleasant, but the moisture from the fog seemed to seep into our clothing just a little too much, and the constant vigilance that it took to keep tabs on barney fife made things just a bit cumbrous.

It took us a little over an hour to find it.

Not the well, but the stone… split directly in 2 it read WIT on one half and TCH on the other.

This was it!

This was the stone of the woman who had been hanged all those centuries before… and if it was here, the well had to be, too.

Frantically, we all began looking.

Bolstered by our find, and adrenaline somewhat abated at this point, we must have let our guard down because before long we heard a bark. Not the random bark of a domesticated dog gossiping to other domesticated dogs across fences. This was a baying. The trained baying of a dog that had caught a scent… Our scent… we knew it…

Torn between bolting for the van, knowing that we had little to no familiarity with the landscape or any hidden rabbit holes, stumps, or stones that might have been hiding in wait to trip us up, or staying to search for just a few more minutes, we chose to stay.

We had to.

Desperately we searched, whispering excited shouts of “here it is” and “over there”.

Finally, barely audible over the ever-approaching barks, one of our friends (we’ll call him Bob for anonymity) shouted that he had actually found it!

Apparently deciding that the time for stealth was over and that the patrol guard knew at least something was up over here, Bob had decided to go with a shout to ensure that everyone heard him.

We all convened by a large tree stump expectantly and trepidatiously, wide-eyes asking questions that our throats could not as we gasped for breath. And there buried beneath centuries of overgrowth, low to the ground, stones broken and fallen all around, barely visible, like the eyes of a crocodile, just breaching the surface of still waters…

Small and unassuming, but with the promise of a disastrous and violent end… was a stone seal.

It looked like a man-hole cover but was made entirely of stone.

It was besieged by stacks of stone that had been precisely measured and cut. There were no distinct markings on it decrying what it was, yet it couldn’t have been anything else.

We heard a fence slam shut behind us and knew that our time was up.

We darted north and then east around the other side of the ruins in an attempt to create as much distance and as many obstacles between us and the guard… or really between us and the dog.

We ran for all we were worth.

Low hanging limbs and cobwebs decorated our faces with angry red scratches and sticky silks.

We were young and relatively confident that we could outrun the rent-a-cop, but we knew the dog was gaining on us.

None of us were really all that athletic, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a full-on sprint for your life, but let me tell you, your legs stop working the way you want them to REALLY quickly. Each of us took our fair share of tumbles and one of us lost our ball cap.

We kept going.

The fence was in sight and just like that — 1, 2, 3, 4, and all 5 of us were over.

Bob hopped in the driver’s seat as the rest of us dove headfirst through the side door.

Most of us made it through.

One of our buds… uh… was our group’s “Chunk” (from Goonies). Hilarious, lovable, a bit rotund, and clumsy as heck.

So, Chunk, we’ll call him, brought up the rear. He was last to the van. His approach was too fast, too erratic! He leaped more up than forward and slammed his head on the top of the van.

I mean, he just creamed it.

It rocked the whole vehicle.

I hope someone saw it because it had to have looked hilarious! Not one of us was laughing, though.

The dude was out cold. Laid out flat on the street right there in the middle of Stull, Ks.

A few of us leaned down and pulled hard as Bob turned the engine over. We got him in just as Bob punched the gas. I had never had any respect for minivans before that night, but I swear that van peeled out, burning all kinds of rubber, leaving Fido and Barny in a cloud of smoke!

We never got caught or got into any kind of trouble (on that occasion), but we all left Stull, Kansas changed young men.

Is Stull, Kansas really a gateway to hell?

Who knows… but it makes for one heck of a story!

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I am a freelance writer from the midwest. I have 15 years of experience in IT and 25 years of experience writing. I pretend to be an "IT guy". My passion is writing. It's time to quit faking it and bring my writing to the forefront. The spotlight is for passion, not profit. I write long-form and blog content in the areas of faith, mental health, folklore, and local destinations. I have created, hosted, and produced an Apple Top 100 Urban Legend podcast with 4k+ followers and 600 downloads per episode. I walked away from that last year to focus on other projects and I am now able to focus on what is most important to me: writing.

Kingsville, MO

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