The Stairway to Hell

Welcome to Freaky Friday. Our topic today is paranormal. We’ll be discussing urban legends associated with Stull, Kansas–which is said to be a gateway to hell.

Let me start by admitting I’ve never been to Stull or any other place in Kansas. I stumbled upon this topic through a link Rhonda Hopkins sent me.

I got so interested in the urban legends surrounding Stull, Kansas that I had to write about it. (And because I had wasted too much time reading about Stull to create another blog topic.)

The Legend

Urban legends claim that Stull, Kansas is one of two—or six or seven, depending on who is telling the tale—portals to hell.

Stull had me at hello.

A Brief History of Stull

Stull is an unincorporated township is Douglas County, Kansas. It is 10 miles west of Lawrence and 13 miles east of Topeka.

The area was originally called Deer Creek Community. It was settled by people of German ancestry, predominately the Pennsylvania Dutch.

The urban legends about Stull revolve around the Evangelical Emmanuel Church and the Stull Cemetery.  Let’s discuss those two places.

The Evangelical Emmanuel Church

The Evangelical Emmanuel Church was organized in 1859, but it wasn’t until 1867 that they built the church. The church was constructed of limestone and was really neat looking.

By 1922, the church sat unused. In the years between 1922 and 2002, the church became a haven for legend trippers.  Rumors exist that it was used by witches and satantists to conduct rituals, but that’s pretty run of the mill.  The remains of the church were razed in March of 2002.

Let’s talk about some of the legends associated with the church. After that, we’ll move further into the cemetery.

[Note: If you’re interested in seeing pictures of the church, please peruse my sources. It is worth the click.]

The Invisible Roof

Though the church had no roof, legend has it that no rain would fall inside the church.

The Unbreakable Bottle

This legend claims it was impossible break a bottle on the walls of the church.

A popular test for this claim was to throw a beer bottle against the walls of the church. According to many legend trippers, the bottle would not break no matter how hard it was thrown.

Another version of this legend told legend trippers to hold the bottles in the shape of an inverted cross in order for them not to break.  I’m not really sure how this would play out in terms of real action, but we’re talking legends here.

Stull Cemetery

There are two main legends associated with the cemetery.  One has to do with a hard to find staircase.  The other has to do with a gravestone.

The Stairway to Hell

Somewhere near the church is a stairway descending into the ground. Legends claim the stairway is behind and to the right of the church ruins.

The stairway is hard to find because it has some sort of covering over it on which grass has been allowed to grow.

This stairway is supposed to lead to a portal to Hell.

Let’s break talk about the legends associated with the stairway.

Tales from the Stairway to Hell

These accounts are from legend trippers, so keep that in mind as you read.

  • A bottle dropped down these steps never hit bottom.
  • Visitors who descend the stairs are unable to reach the bottom no matter how long they walk. Those who had stopwatches say they descended stairs for ridiculous amounts of time, like two hours.
  • Visitors entered an alternate universe where it seemed they were alone on the stairs, even though other people claimed to have been climbing the staircase at the same time.
  • Visitors complain about losing time both on the stairway to hell and in the cemetery.  They say they stayed what seemed like half an hour but emerged and learned hours had passed.

Note: I am aware this could also be caused by finding a patch of magic mushrooms, but these are fascinating stories.

How the Devil Uses the Stairs

On Halloween and the Spring Equinox, Old Scratch (AKA the devil) ascends the stairs.  Once on the earthly realm, he visits the grave of a witch with whom he had a child.

In some versions of this story, the progeny of the Satan and the witch is a werewolf.  While the the devil visits the witch, the child’s werewolf apparition martializes in the woods.

The Tombstone and the Tree

Remember where I mentioned the devil having a child with a witch?  This is a continuation of that legend.

In Stull Cemetery was a tombstone that had been split by a tree growing through it.

In some versions of the legend, the witch was hung from that tree.  Other legends claim the tree was regularly used for hanging witches.

Stull Cemetery and Batteries

Visitors are advised to bring plenty of batteries.  Something about the atmosphere in Stull Cemetery drains batteries.

The Truth

In all my research, I was able to find three things that sounded true:

  1. The people who have relatives buried at the cemetery are tired of legend trippers vandalizing their relatives’ graves.
  2. The Douglas County Sheriff’s office is very serious about prosecuting trespassers. The fine for people found trespassing is a maximum of $1000.
  3. The final confrontation of the CW’s Supernatural Season 5 Finale took place in a set designed to look like Stull Cemetery.

Thank you for your interest in this article. I often receive requests for further information on these articles. Please understand my knowledge of this topic is limited to what you’ve read in this article. I have no plans to update or expand these articles. I am currently focusing on my fiction writing career and am no longer writing or researching for non-fiction articles. If you’re interested in seeing what else I write, please check out the My Fiction page on this website or visit my Amazon Author Page on amazon.com. 

Sources:

Pictures of the Church

Weird US: Stull, Kansas—Gateway to Hell 

“Building’s Demolition a Mystery” Myndi Paget

“Hell Hath No Fury” by Richard Gintowt

Stull, Kansas Wiki

Interesting Yahoo Answers conversation about Stull

Strange USA: Stull, Kansas

Supernatural Thursdays: Inside the Mythology of Stull Cemetery 

35 thoughts on “The Stairway to Hell

  1. Being so close to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas State University in Manhattan, and Washburn in Topeka doesn’t hurt either. Every college kid needs a haunted gateway to hell to take their date or a car full of drinking buddies to on a Friday night. Gotta love it.

    • So I’m guessing you visited? That is beyond cool. Did you find the stairwell to hell? And, yes, college students in small towns tend to flock to stuff like this.

      • Heard lots about it but never went to Stull. We did go to Atchison with its Gargoyle house which was supposed to be haunted, but like you I love reading about Stull, and wasn’t Supernatural set in Lawrence, KS in the very first episode? I think Sam was supposed to be a student at KU?

        • I know that the Winchester boys are Kansas natives. And I remember that Sam was in college in the first episode of the series. But I never realized he was in college at KU at Lawrence.

          I think Smallville was also set in Kansas, right? Or am I making that up?

          Either way, great to see you.

  2. This is the first I’ve heard of Stull, Catie. Ingriguing stuff! Thanks for the well-rounded information. It’s amazing how some people’s hot spot is another’s “please get out of my neighborhood.” ;) Happens a lot in Los Angeles.

    Speaking of LA, there’s a huge old cemetery I’ve been meaning to visit. Thanks for the inspiration to make that happen.

    • I can just imagine how I would feel if this cemetery were near my house or if my loved ones were buried there. I bet it does happen a lot in LA. I’ve watched Six Degrees of Charlie Manson. I can just imagine what it would be like to live in one of those houses.

      Oooh, I hope you take some pictures of this cemetery and share them on your blog. :D

  3. Sounds like a very cool place. Did Supernatural really go to Kansas to film or did they stage it? Legends are fascinating, and I think there is probably a nugget of truth in some of them. Thanks for putting this all together for us!

    • I don’t know. I’ve read some accounts that they did film on location, but I’ve read other accounts that indicated it was just a set. So I don’t know.

      But these legends are cool, aren’t they?

    • on ,
      Phillip Mendoza said:

      Filmed on location in Canada.

      • on ,
        Catie Rhodes said:

        Thanks for the clarification, Phillip.

  4. Now this one sounds really “out there”. I’ve never been to a cemetery where anything happened though I’m certainly open to it. I’m always telling my daughter I believe in ghosts but haven’t had the pleasure yet of meeting one. Same goes for this type of experience with stairs leading forever and non-breaking bottles. If I lived near a place like this, I’d surely go there and check it out.

    • When I started reading about this, I thought I’d skim through it for a few minutes. But as I read, I realized how pervasive this legend is in that part of Kansas. It absolutely fascinated me. And I’d go check it out, too, if I lived near it.

  5. Very creepy, Catie. Can you imagine walking down those stairs if you thought it was the gateway to hell? Thanks for the shout out!

    • Even if I found those stairs, I wouldn’t go down. The concept reminded me of the final scene in Angel Heart when the credits are rolling. Mickey Rourke is in an elevator, going down and down and down.

      You’re welcome for the shout out.

  6. I thought Stull Cemetery sounded familiar. I was a huge fan of the first two seasons of Supernatural, and though I think the series took a very shaven chested and angelic nose dive I think I’ve seen through season six now…but I’m pretty sure I know the episode you’re talking about. With Lillith?

    Growing up in Wyoming there were quite a few places like this. Lots of open space, lots of drinking, lots of young imaginative minds out in said spaces doing said drinking…To my knowledge we didn’t have a giant pentagram of train track…

    • I’m going to make a confession you might find amusing. Storylines don’t stay in my memory very long. So the Season 5 finale might have had something to do with Lilith, but I don’t remember.

      The season 5 finale was where Sam went to hell. And he came back the next season as a sociopath. Remember that? I LOVED the first two seasons of Supernatural. After that, it became something I watch out of loyalty (and boredom) more than enjoyment. I suspect we won’t be watching it too many more seasons.

      I get what you’re saying about growing up in Wyoming. States like that intrigue me because they are not quite so populated. Cheyenne, the most populous city, only has 60,000 people living there. The lack of crowding sounds heavenly. If I thought I could stand the cold, I’d move there.

  7. Catie, Stull had me at hello! Awesome. Me too! Those Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, I’m telling you. My whole area of PA is settled by many of them and they are a bevy of bewitching tales. I want to go there just to see if the spirits drain my flashlight batteries …and try out the stairway to hell.

    • Pennsylvania Dutch is an interesting culture. I’ve looked at a couple of books about their folk magic. I’d love to learn more about them.

      I’ve never been anywhere that my flashlight batteries died quickly. I think that would scare the poopy kaka out of me. LOL

  8. on ,
    alandhopewell said:

    I’ve never been to Stull, but I can attest to a phenomena mentioned here; more than once, I’ve seen flashlights with fresh batteries die while on haunted ground, only to come back to life when taken elsewhere.

    Speaking of the Midwest, and the supernatural,perhaps the most famous song about a ghost….

  9. Catie, this was great. I’ve been to a lot of cemeteries and nothing strange ever happened – least not of the spiritual nature. I worked as a mortician assistant – made pick ups – cleaned, sewed and dressed those who couldn’t do it themselves.

    As for gateways to Hell, there’s one about five miles outside Bronson, Michigan on Long Lake. There’s a white cottage where an old woman sits and looks out over the water … no wait, that’s my second ex-mother-in-law. Hey, close enough.
    :)

  10. Catie – Interesting. I grew up in the southeastern part of Kansas and am familiar with the area where Stull is located. The legends/stories surrounding so many of the rural cemeteries and partially torn down or destroyed limestone buildings have been passed on for generations. I’ve never heard of this particular story, but that’s not unusual. Limestone is a natural forming rock in Kansas and many buildings from the 1800s and early 1900s were built from limestone dug by hand from the land. Limestone is still used in building but is very expensive. The bridge at the top of my blog is made of limestone and is known as ‘The Fromm Bridge’ in Cowley County, Kansas. It’s the center of my blog series that I started on Monday of this week titled, ‘Fromm Chronicles.’

  11. Great place for the Winchesters season end to take place (now that I’ve read about the background of Stull in your post). Thanks for sharing :).

  12. I’d head down those stairs, but I might follow the mythological Ariadne’s idea and take a scarlet thread to find my way back! Despite my skepticism, I am fascinated by how such tales develop and take hold, especially the one about Satan and the witch. Also, certain legends are so easily testable–like the “invisible roof” that you would think that one would die out the moment rain puddles formed inside the church. So intriguing, Catie!

  13. Fascinating. I’d like to try walking down those stairs.
    I read the word Stull, but I’m thinking Skull.

  14. Ahh, Catie, I love this kind of stuff. I feel for people that have never experienced anything unexplainable. There is something liberating about the feeling/experience of the outré.

    I have visited places where there is something solemn, heavy, and chilling in the air itself. One of these places is called São Thomé das Letras, Brazil. I lived down there for a while in the early 90′s, and heard rumors about the small city. It was said that it is one of the major energy points of the globe, there was talk about witches and strange beings, strange things seen in the sky, and an endless cave. The city was small, nestled in some rolling hills, surrounded by amazing “jungle”, rivers with waterfall after waterfall, and there was in fact an amazing cave system. Locals told me that the government of Brazil had sent an army expedition into the cave to prove that it did have an end. I was told, with a silent breath that smelled of cachaça (a drink), that the army expedition (supplied with water, food, and oxygen), never returned.

    It is true that nobody has been able to reach the end of the cave. But, back to the point. There WAS a certain feeling that saturated the air of the city, which I felt as soon as I got off the bus. It was memorable, it left me feeling faintly uneasy in places, and will always hold a special place in my heart.

    Zack

    • If I can leave one more thing, I will. The city of São Thomé das Letras is in the state of Minas Gerais, which has a very high percentage of people that practice varying forms of Macumba. Look up Macumba, Candomblé and Santería, and then consider the vibes you might encounter in a place full of that kind of interesting and fun stuff. ;)