Urban Legends

Gates of Hell

As discussed in several blog posts and, of course, our Jersey Devil series...a lot of weird things are happening in New Jersey. In addition to witches and time machines being built in the Pine Barrens, there is also the Clifton Gate. These gates are rumored to be the very gates of hell. 

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Calling the Clifton Gate a gate is a bit misleading, as it is really a series of drains. What makes this drain system different than any other in America or the world at large? Well, they are said to go on for an unfathomable amount of distance and are said to be layered seven times, mirroring the seven circles of hell. The deeper you go it is said you will find bones, decay, and other terrifying images.

This particular tunnel system was originally built as a drainage run-off for Weasel Brook, a stream. Likely one of the reasons it got its terrifying names is that during times of heavy rain the usual trickle of water throughout the tunnel becomes a raging torrent instantaneously.

It is said the intensely private and winding corridors of this system have led to it be a gathering place for alleged rituals, KKK meetings, and other untoward activities. In fact, so much evil and debauchery are said to have happened here that the devil himself has made himself a regular guest in the deepest, darkest, most difficult to find room in the system. 

Even if you’re hell-bent on meeting the devil, you still might not get an audience with him. This room can only be found and accessed by the devil’s chosen ones. There are several trials you must go through before meeting, including lifting giant axes that block the door. Once you enter the antechamber, there would be a glowing human skull. Then, you would descend even further (which would seem impossible) until you met the room where the devil waited for you. Now, if you want to meet a devil it seems like it’d be much easier to make a deal with him at a crossroads...but hey, who doesn’t like feeling like a chosen one?

In addition to a meeting place with a devil, the Gates of Hell also includes its very own guard. Nicknamed Red Eyed Mike, it is unclear if this creature’s goal is to keep people out or to keep those who enter safe. It is said if you knock on the railroad ties located above the entrance three times, you will hear a horn sound from somewhere within the tunnel. Once you know his presence is there, you may feel safer upon entering. However, you should respect the space because Red Eyed Mike can soon turn mischievous and hurl rocks at you, create strange noises, mimic others in your group, and generally freak you out.

While this story is likely an interesting urban legend it is interesting that it has such staying power. Does your small town have a meeting place with the devil? How does it differ from this story?

The header image of this post is not related to the tunnel and is an image of ‘greenwich foot tunnel... cold, wet and creepy‘ by flickr user jo.sau and is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).

The Silver Arrow

Through the Resurrection Mary series we’ve explored haunted roads...but what about haunted vehicles? In Stockholm, Sweden, there is a phantom train said to pull in every so often into active stations. It's called the Silverpilen, or The Silver Arrow.

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I found the link between the Silver Arrow and Women in White that haunt highways incredibly interesting. Similar to the Women in White, the Silver Arrow is a ghostly silver color and haunts common subway lines. There is, seemingly, no rhyme or reason as to when the Silver Arrow decides to show itself. In fact, you could ride the same lines hundreds of times before ever getting a glimpse of this strange train. But, those who do witness it have stories to tell.

The stories gained traction beginning around 1965. It was during this year that the Stockholm metro added eight unpainted, silver aluminum train cares. Standing apart from the regular green trains, the unpainted silver trains were met to be a test to check performance and if all trains should lose the paint to save money.

However, these silver trains were not popular among commuters. They were spartan test models, rarely seen and often avoided. The doors slid open on the outside of the train unlike others and inside it was sparse of ads, decorations, or even a little bit of human flourish. Thus, they proved fertile grounds for the rumor of a ghost train.

Similar to the Women in White the Silver Arrow also seems to enjoy appearing at night, rather than the middle of the day. According to some versions of the legend, it is only seen after midnight and before dawn.

The train is usually seen completely empty, or sometimes sparsely filled with ghostly passengers. One should never dare to board the Silver Arrow, unless you want to join its passengers for eternity or, perhaps even worse, arrive at Kymilinge which is rumored to be the station of the dead.

According to Urban Legend scholar Bengt af Klintberg, “The passengers in the train seem to be living dead, with expressionless, vacant looks. A very common detail is that a person who just wanted to travel to the next station remained seated for one week in the Silverpilen. Many girls dared not enter trains which they believed could be Silverpilen”

Going back briefly to the station of the dead, Kymlinge, it is important to note that this is a real station. Well, kind of real. The death of Kymlinge wasn’t due to anything paranormal but rather a lack of demand for the station lead the structure to never fully open to commuters. Thus, the Silver Arrow had its stop - the abandoned station, Kymlinge. Like the strange silver trains, Kymlinge lacked any human touch or flourish and felt strange and uncomfortable for those who did glimpse it.

There are some people who claimed to have survived the Silver Arrow. One commonality amongst those who do make their way off this strange train is a loss of time. Some travelers mention just a few hours of lost time after getting off, but others claim weeks or even months had passed before they were let off the Silver Arrow. Another commonality is the fact that many of these travelers claim that when they finally deboard the Silver Arrow they are released at Kymlinge.

The silver cars were retired in the mid 1990s, but the sightings of the Silver Arrow have not slowed. In fact, even Stockholm’s young people who certainly did not experience the trains back in the 1960s know to avoid any silver cars that pull into the station.

The above image is of Kymlinge Subway Station taken April 1, 2014. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The Devil’s Toy Box

What buildings come to mind when you think of places you might be driven mad by purely existing in them? Perhaps the post office, the doctor’s office, the DMV. Or, maybe something more sinister comes to mind like an abandoned building or a sanitarium. According to those in the know, none of these places can compare to the Devil’s Toy Box.

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It is not entirely clear if the The Devil’s Toy Box is all urban legend, creepypasta, hints at truth, or is completely true. For the purposes of this post, I am going to go with the middle option - that there is something about this story, this type of place, that gets at truth.

Now, where is this alleged evil place? Northern Louisiana. In fact,  its creation was inspired by the Clive Barker Hellraiser movies. Although some debate remains about its creation and location, the most accepted explanation is that it was an attraction set up in the annual halloween attraction, Farmer Grave’s haunted Orchard.

Unlike the movies, however, this toy box is not something you can fit in your hand or even a room.

The Devil’s Toy Box is described as a shack. From the outside, it is unappealing and average. But the interior of the Devil’s Toy Box is what gives this strange room its lasting reputation. According to several sources, the inside of the shack consists of floor-to-ceiling mirrors, including the walls.

No one can last more than five minutes in this room.

People who have been unlucky enough to stumble upon this room have been hospitalized, driven mad, and run out screaming.

The man alleged to last the longest was Roger Heltz, who lasted four minutes and 37 seconds. Heltz was, by all accounts, fairly normal. He was a 52-year-old family man and father of three. Sadly, his experience in the room severely damaged him and, since that day, he has been unable to speak. Heltz’s is only one of the tales of madness and terror. Dozens of teenagers have been seriously disturbed, horrified at what lay inside, or otherwise unable to last more than just a few seconds inside the attraction.

So what happens in the room? ThoughtCatalog reports  “According to the legend, if you stood inside this mirror-room alone for too long, supposedly the devil would show up and steal your soul. In most versions of this story, he did so by flaying you alive. I mention all of this because about two weeks ago, I got an email from an 18-year-old girl located in Northern Louisiana who we’ll call “Erin” (the specific town where Erin lived shall go unnamed for reasons that will soon become clear).”

The rumor mill was spinning so local law enforcement quickly stepped in and closed down the attraction. Even after it was shut down, several teens attempted to visit the property (accessible by a two-lane road near the Sawyers’ property), but it has never been discovered again.


The above image is unrelated to the story and was taken by Paulo Valdivieso, entitled
Dirt Road #1. It liscensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). 

Where does the Legend of Friday the 13th Come From?

In American culture, Friday the 13th is a notorious day...but do we know why? Like any legendary day...how the date became infamous is a little hard to track down. 

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First, let's dive a little into 13. Like 666, 13 also seems to be a number mired in bad luck ad mystery. In fact, according to refinery29, 13 has "countless malevolent origins." Ancient Norse Lore holds that " evil and turmoil were first introduced in the world by the appearance of the treacherous and mischievous god Loki at a dinner party in Valhalla. He was the 13th guest, upsetting the balance of the 12 gods already in attendance." Notably, Judas was the 13th guest at the last supper. It should also be noted that 13 only seems to be a concern in the Western world (in places like ancient Egypt, 13 is lucky and other numbers are evil...like 4 in much of Asia). Finally, in the ancient world 12 was considered a "perfect number." This can be seen today - calendars with 12 months, a day is 2 parts of 12 hours, etc. Because 13 follows this perfect number, it is "found lacking and unusual."

Now that we know a little bit about 13...let's dive deeper into the lore surrounding Friday the 13th. We've established 13 isn't a number held in the highest esteem, likewise neither was Friday. In fact, the literature from the middle ages often linked Friday to meager harvests, bad business, and disastrous travel. Even in the perennial Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer made sure to note, "And on a Friday fell all this mischance."  

So, is Friday the 13th simply the marriage of two unlucky/evil/mysterious things? Maybe, but maybe not. The fear of Friday the 13th is so significant it has a name - paraskevidekatriaphobia. You can also see the effects of it in elevators - although not every building skips a "13" button on the elevator, you may notice that several do...especially older buildings.

Others believe it has a religious origin. As mentioned above, there were 13 guests at Jesus' last supper the night before his death on Good Friday. 

Others believe that popular culture is to blame. For example, Thomas W. Lawson's popular novel Friday, the Thirteenth published in 1907. In the book, a man takes advantage of the superstition of Friday the 13th to create a Wall Street panic.

In more recent times, movies like the Friday the 13th have further popularized and, in a way, normalized the unluckiness and noterity of Friday the 13th.

Snopes has several interesting anecdotes and pull quotes from different historical sources that seem to support that Friday the 13th isn't at the luckiest of days. You can read through them by clicking the third "link" at the top of the page!

In 2018, Friday the 13th will fall on April 13 and July 13.

The above image is liscensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
 and is from Flickr user Frédéric BISSON