Stull is an unincorporated community in Douglas County, Kansas, United States. Founded in 1857, the settlement was initially known as Deer Creek until it was renamed after its only postmaster, Sylvester Stull. As of 2018, only a handful of structures remain in the area.
Since the 1970s, the town has become infamous due to an apocryphal legend that claims the nearby Stull Cemetery is possessed by demonic forces. Despite its falsity, this legend has also become a facet of American popular culture, and has been referenced in numerous forms of media.
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.
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.
Whatever truth really lies behind the scary stories have been lost to time itself. But the legend lives on! I’d keep my distance if you’re superstitious at all. No denying the many strange experiences had by those who visit America’s most diabolical cemetery.
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