America has no shortage of haunted graveyards dotted across the country, but none of them are quite as legendary as Kansas’ Stull Cemetery, an infamous “doorway to hell” with a reputation so big that even the pope himself is said to make his plane fly around it. With legends that involve human sacrifice, occult rituals, and even a yearly visit from the devil himself, Stull has gained an over-the-top reputation that has landed it in countless books, most haunted top ten lists, and even appearances on Supernatural, but is there any truth to the rumors swirling around America’s “most evil” graveyard?
When you’re a long-time paranormal adventurer like me, Stull Cemetery has been on your haunted hot-spot bucket list since it rose to internet prominence in the 90s, but its out-of-the-way location always made a late-night adventure prohibitive. Hidden away in rural Kansas, Stull’s inaccessibility remains one of the biggest reasons that good information (and good photos) of the legendary graveyard are so hard to find. Fortunately, while driving from Ohio to present The Traveling Museum of the Paranormal & Occult at the Colorado’s Stanley Hotel, I finally came within an hour of Stull, and wasn’t going to pass up the chance to visit. It was much weirder than I expected – the most evil cemetery in the world, the portal to hell, was actually on fire when I arrived.
For over a century, Stull Cemetery has been linked to countless legends involving witchcraft, satanic cults, and of course, the infamous gateway to hell. According to the legends, Lucifer once used the abandoned (now destroyed) church at the center of the cemetery as his own personal doorway from the netherworld. It was in Stull where he would rouse the spirits who had been buried inside the gates of the most evil cemetery in existence, but he’s only able to pass through the gateway twice a year, at midnight on the Spring Equinox and, of course, on Halloween.
I’m sure you’re probably wondering why, of all places, the devil would choose a small, relatively unknown place like Stull as his connection to the Earthly realm, but the reason dates back to 1850. The most widely-accepted theory behind the origins of Stull’s evil reputation is tied to both a large tree that once stood in the cemetery and an old tombstone inscribed with the word “Wittich”. The tree, it’s said, was the “hanging-tree” for condemned witches, who were put to death by the torch-wielding townspeople. And the grave? None other than the final resting place for the bones of Satan’s child, who the legend says was born deformed and covered in wolf hair.
According to the legends, hundreds of eye-witnesses have claimed that, even though the church had been missing its roof since the 1920s, rain refused to land inside the building. Awe-struck visitors would report that the tiny church would stay bone dry no matter what time of year or weather conditions, and it was because of these supernatural attributes that the town finally gathered to tear the church down. This destruction of the building made the spirits angry, and rumor has it, the hauntings in the graveyard flared up something fierce.
Out of all the larger-than-life legends that surround Stull, the most famous story associated with the cemetery reportedly happened in 1993, when Pope John Paul II was flying to Colorado for a public appearance. According to the legend, the pope declared that the ground in Stull Cemetery was so unholy, that he forced his private plane to re-route his flight around the graveyard because even the air above it was tainted by evil.
Paranormal investigator Greg Newkirk stands in the center of Stull, Kansas
All great tales of monsters and mysteries come from some kind of truth, but how many of Stull’s legends are true? What is it about Stull Cemetery that made it such an infamous piece of American legend? Were there ever really occult rituals performed in the abandoned church? Were witches once hung from the graveyard’s withered old tree? Is the tiny rural cemetery even haunted?
While it’s easy to dismiss the more fantastic tales of satanic elevators to hell and undocumented witch trials in Kansas, discovering whether or not Stull Cemetery is haunted by restless spirits is a lot harder. You might think that such a legendary location would be great fodder for paranormal television, but not a single ghost hunting reality show has ever made its way to Stull Cemetery. No, it’s not the ghosts or Satan keeping them away – it’s the town itself.
By 1988, the frightening legends of the cemetery had grown to a fever pitch, and on October 31, nearly five-hundred people gathered at the graveyard gates to wait for the devil’s scheduled appearance, causing so much damage that the local Sheriff’s department has posted deputies on the property every Halloween since. The new police presence actually had the opposite effect than was intended: now, Stull wasn’t just legendary – it was part of an occult conspiracy.
To make matters worse, on Halloween of 1999, local reporters made a trip to Stull Cemetery to put the legend to rest once and for all. They were hoping to document Satan’s failure to appear in the graveyard at 12:00am, but were mysteriously turned away by the property owners just half an hour shy of midnight. Since then, it’s been absolutely impossible to obtain permission to actually investigate the property, especially on two particular dates. You know the ones.
During my visit, I counted at least half a dozen signs warning visitors that trespassers would be prosecuted, even though the front gate was wide open and fresh flowers were propped up against shiny new graves. The warnings were clearly for anyone who’d made a detour to the tiny town of Stull for an after-dark rendevous with the devil.
To be perfectly honest, even if a lucky ghost hunting reality show was able to pull off a miracle and get permission to visit Stull Cemetery, it would probably make a pretty horrible episode of television. The small graveyard sits right on the edge of Stull’s busy highway, across from which a row of tiny houses sit, each one with its own disgruntled local staring disapprovingly from the porch. It’s a far cry from the spooky image painted in books or the desolate location of Supernatural‘s final showdown with Satan.
Despite the fact that Stull doesn’t quite live up to its internet reputation in real life, my own visit to America’s legendary portal to hell was so weird that I had to take pause. Within minutes of entering Stull Cemetery’s gates, I noticed dozens of flames forming small rings in each corner of the graveyard. There were no burn piles, no visitors throwing cigarettes into the grass, and it was a cool spring day – a far cry from a fire hazard. Maybe the devil forgot to close the door on his way back to hell.
Mysterious fires rage in all four corners of Stull Cemetery, April 2016 | Via Planet Weird
While there’s hundreds, if not thousands of allegedly cursed, evil, and otherwise damned places all over America, Stull Cemetery will always sit near the top of the pile, if for no other reason than its inaccessibility. While ghost hunters can stake their claim to exorcising demonic spirits from the world’s most famous haunted houses, Stull is immune to their cleansings. Television crews are turned away and skeptics can’t be bothered with driving to the middle of Kansas to debunk an over-the-top legend (much less crawl out of their comfy armchairs), so the Portal to Hell endures.
Stull Cemetery remains steeped in mystery, as it always has been. And that’s just the way I like it.