You may distantly remember a quick mention of Stull Cemetery during our Sallie House series. Tonight, I wanted to bring you more than a mention of this strange place that simply adds to the strangeness of this part of Kansas (it is only an hour away from the Sallie House).
You’ve visited graveyards before with Astonishing Legends, like Resurrection Cemetery and Greyfriars Kirkyard, but Stull Cemetery stands apart from these others for one reason: it is said to be a gateway to hell.
But, before we get to that part of the story let’s take a step back and a learn a little bit about the history Stull Cemetery. Stull, Kansas is located in Douglas County. During the mid-19th century, Stull was founded and settled by Pennsylvania Dutch immigrants. As the community settled and continued to grow they raised the funds for a church. The Evangelical Emmanuel Church was completed in the 1860s and parts of it remain to this day. And, like with many churches, the Evangelical Emmanuel Church also had a graveyard.
Interestingly enough there is a rumor that the original town’s name was ‘Skull’ and later changed to Stull in order to obscure the town’s relation to black magic and the paranormal.
Stories, urban legends, and myths have swirled around this particular church for over one hundred years. Many of them come from the tragedies the small town suffered such as a boy who was burned, accidentally, to death by his own father and several suicides with bodies found in public places. However, despite these tragedies and a strange road named Devil’s Road (before it was renamed in the 1990s) Stull Cemetery did not make it into print until the 1970s when one intrepid University of Kansas student told the story.
In 1974 in an article in the University of Kansas student newspaper examined several strange experiences in Stull Cemetery. The article goes on to say that Stull, and the cemetery especially, is haunted by legends of the supernatural, paranormal, and even diabolical. Furthermore, it reported on the legends that claim Stull Cemetery is one of the Seven Gateways of Hell where the devil appears in person. Specifically, he appears two times a year in the flesh.
However, many residents of Stull claimed they had never heard of the stories or dark associations the town had.
How did a small community in Kansas become a doorway for the devil? Well, there are a few reasons. Some believe that there was something evil about Stull long before the cemetery was even created, as suggested by the tragedies that befell Stull and even the reason behind naming Devil’s Road. Others claim that when the church fell into disuse witches, devil worshippers, and those who used ritual magic took it over and began to summon him and create the gateway for him. However, local lore has a specific story, that of the ‘Wittich’ grave.
In the cemetery, there was once a grave that had the word ‘Wittich’ engraved upon it. This grave stood close to the alleged hanging tree, a tall pine said to have hung more than one witch in its life. Furthermore, the bones in the ‘Wittich’ grave are said to be that of Satan’s own child conceived with a mortal witch. It is for this reason that the Devil visits each year to spend some time at his child’s grave.
There is a grain of truth in these legends, or at least one thing that can be proven. There was a hanging tree...but it was cut down in 1998 to deter legend trippers. Furthermore, it is clear that this legend had reach. In 1993 Pope John Paul II had his flight rerouted so he would not have to fly over the cemetery.
The church itself is also a strange building….It is said that it never rains within the church. In fact, there are hundreds of eye witness accounts that purport that even if it is raining in the cemetery or elsewhere in town if you stand in the crumbling church’s walls you’ll remain dry, even without a roof. It has been vacant since 1922 and was destroyed in many ways by vandals and when the lightning struck the church and cleaved a huge crack in its stone walls. The church was bulldozed in 2003 to prevent legend trippers as well and, as mentioned earlier, the hanging tree was cut down.
Today, Stull is largely abandoned and has a population of roughly 20. Its homes and businesses are largely vacant and most who visit come only for the cemetery. However, these tourists are not welcome. The cemetery and remains of the church are owned by Major Weiss and Harvest Hills LLC who was shocked as he had not approved the razing of the church.
The above image is entitled “An image of Stull Cemetery, KS, looking northeast during the day.” It was taken by Ayleen Gaspar and is licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.