Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Missouri & The Gateway to Hell (Part 2)

Part 2: The Gateway to Hell Now, I told you that last story about Quantrill's raid in order to tell you this one! If you haven't read the last post, go back now and do so. This post will make a little more sense if you do. Some of what I am about to relate to you readers is very true. Some, maybe not so much. I'll let you readers decide what you want to believe or what not to. But this post is my effort at a faithful rendition of the events on Halloween night in 1976. A few miles west of Lawrence there is a very quaint little village known as Stull, Kansas lying in an idyllic little valley. It is a very small town, unincorporated, consisting of just a couple of churches, a handful of homes and a few other buildings. It lies on a county road between Topeka and Lawrence. There is a cemetary on the north side of the road and the church and other buildings sit on the south side of the road. A shot of the valley in which Stull, Kansas sits. It turns out that I and a few of my college friends may be partly responsible for possibly creating, certainly perpetuating and probably embellishing a local Halloween legend that involves a cemetary near this little town of Stull. This is a shot of the cemetary on the north side of the road.
Here's a link to a recent article regarding this cemetary and the curse surrounding it. I suggest you check it out before you go on with this post. You don't need to read the whole article If you don't want to, but it will provide a little bit of background for this post.
Another shot of the cemetary described in the link.
It seems that the cemetary at Stull Kansas is one of the Seven Gateways to Hell. At least that is what the more current local legend says.
But they got it wrong.
I and my college friends know the true story.
Through word of mouth, the legends seem to have changed a bit over time. Sometimes people see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear and remember what they want to remember.
They even got the location of the cemetary wrong. It's not the cemetary on the north side of the road as described in the link.
There is another very small cemetary about two miles south of town on a hill. Local legend, as I understood it, said that on Halloween night, at the stroke of midnight, the ghost of William Quantrill and his raiders ride upon the cemetary and surrounding area, killing and burning as they ride on their horses.
The reason that the ghosts of Quantrill and his raiders appear here, at this particular cemetary, on Halloween night is unknown. But the memory and reputation of Quantrill is strong in these parts. Who knows, maybe the legend is true. We were hell bent to discover the truth!
This is the real cemetary!
Now you and I know that a legend like that was probably dreamed up by intoxicated college students. But just for fun one Halloween, while I was at KU, we did visit this cemetary late one Halloween evening. A friend of ours, also a student at KU, had been renting a house in Stull and he invited us to a Halloween party at his house. It was a sort of usual college student party with lots of beer and other various vices. (Just to make it clear, we didn't inhale, as far as you know.) There was much drinking, however. Lots of loud rock and roll music as well. Later on that night, about 10:30, one of us suggested going to the cemetary. Some of the women were hesitant, and others balked a bit, but eventually we all decided to go. It was a cloudy and dark night. It was not cold but there was a very cool breeze from the north. It was a night with a full moon, but the moon was behind the clouds and not always visible. Wisps of clouds proceeded across the skies above us. We got into cars and drove south of the town for a bit and then stopped near a very rough dirt road that led up the hill to the cemetary. We decided to park the cars and walk up the short way to the top of the hill because the little access road was overgrown with weeds, had lots of ruts and generally looked a bit difficult to navigate. A couple of the ladies said they were not going up there. Our reply was, "Are you just going to sit here in the car? Remember there is safety in numbers!" some others were a little bit leery to go also, but the group mentality took over and we all went. It was only a few hundred feet up the hill to the cemetary. As we walked along we noticed how eerie it was. How secluded it was. If you screamed, nobody would have heard you. We were seemingly quite alone in the world. As we approached the cemetary we noticed that there were about 30 graves. All were marked with a stone of some sort. As we looked at some of the markers we noticed that many of them had dates back into the 1860's. (very old for Kansas) The names didn't mean anything to us. Some of the markers were very weathered and hard to read. A couple of them were cracked or broken. We wondered about the lives these people led when they were among the living. The grass was a bit long, but looked like the grounds had at least had some regular maintenance. Piles of leaves were scattered around the area. There were rows of bushes circling around the cemetary. There were lots of trees near the cemetary, and two very large trees on the very top of the hill in the cemetary itself. They looked like they had seen some better days as there were some broken branches. The trees had lost a lot of their leaves, but some remained on the trees. The rest of the leaves were scattered on the ground and gently blew around as the wind blew. Off into the valley there was some fields and more trees. It was a nice view from the top of the hill. But it was difficult to see too far because of the darkness of the sky. After we had explored the cemetary for awhile, we eventally all sat down on the grass beneath a tree that had some broken branches. The wind was blowing the few remaining leaves on the trees surrounding us making some nice rustling noises. The tree we sat under would creak a bit as the wind blew. We were surrounded by absolute quiet except for the sounds of our voices and the rustling of the leaves. It was almost pitch black. The full moon would try to peek out occasionally behind the clouds providing some additional light upon the area at times, but only briefly and not often. Ominous it was!

There were about 12 of us there that night. We sat fairly close together. I don't know If we sat that way by conscious decision or not. Someone wondered what would happen If we were attacked by wolves or some other dreaded creature. We decided that if that happened, then the ones of us on the outside of our circle might be killed, but the rest of us would probably survive. Subconsciously, maybe we just felt safer being closer together.

We sat huddled together, like this for awhile. We talked a bit. Laughed and joked around a bit. But as time went on we talked quieter and quieter. We began to listen to the surroundings a bit more. The rustle of the leaves. The creaking of the trees.

Occasionally, one of us would try and scare one of the women.

"Did you see that, Sally? I thought I saw something over there in the bushes! Maybe it was something evil?"

Sally just laughed and remained calm. She was unfazed.

Or later on...

"Did you hear that, Susan? I think I heard a noise! What in God's name was that!"

Susan just smiled a week little smile for a brief moment, but then got a more serious look on her face and said: "I am not sure I am liking this very much anymore!"

The rest of us just laughed.

Susan was easy to pick on.

But as the night wore on and the midnight hour approached, we noticed that the breeze had stopped. The air became very still. The clouds were still slowly rolling across the sky but the area around the cemetary became very quiet.

Our conversations soon were in whispers. It seemed to become very eerie. It became very easy to start to imagine things. Maybe there were beasts around. Were the ghosts of Quantrill approaching? Some of us talked quietly about what we knew about Quantrill and the raid on Lawrence in 1863.

We became mostly silent as a group and any conversations we had were brief and quiet.

Nobody was laughing much anymore.

Midnight was nearing.

Then somebody farted!

Everybody heard it. And it wasn't a small fart. It was a real Horatio Hornblower type of fart.

Raucous laughter ensued!

We laughed and giggled for a bit. There was a brief discussion about who did it. Some of us thought it was Susan, but she denied it and even got a bit mad when we didn't let up on her.

There were a few moments of laughter after that, but they eventually came fewer and farther between. Soon it was quiet again and we felt like we were very alone at the top of that hill shrouded in darkness.

Suddenly, the moon peeked out as a hole in the clouds opened up in the sky. We were suddenly bathed in a soft moonlight. It wasn't bright, but it took us by surprise. We were able to see much better now, but it wasn't exactly a comfort because the surroundings took on a new and somewhat scarier pall.

We were very quiet again as a group now as we surveyed the surrounding area in the new light. Someone said it was just a few minutes to midnight.

A moment later we heard some rustling in the grass off to the south side of the cemetary. It almost sounded like it could be the hooves of a horse. Maybe two horses.

We all heard it. We all listened intently. We all wondered If Quantrill was really going to arrive. This was just for fun wasn't it? For most of us it was starting to not be fun anymore.

The rustling continued. We couldn't see anything that might be the cause of the noise, but it seemed to be getting closer. We were very quiet and breathing heavily. There was much tension in the air. A sense of dread.

Without warning, two deer suddenly appeared running quickly along the south fence. The deer jumped the fence and ran directly toward us. Susan screamed! Others of us gasped and ducked instinctively. The deer charged right by us, then eventually jumped the fence on the north side of the cemetary and disappeared into the trees.

Nobody moved or said anything for a moment.

Finally someone said: "Far Out, Man!"

Someone else said "Damn!"

Others cursed.

Susan said: "Let's get the hell out of here!"

There was no discussion. We left the Stull cemetary never to come back again. Of course we told many people about our experience that night. They probably told their friends, who told their friends, etc.

The legends live on! But we were there at the beginning!

I came back to the scene of this event on my recent trip to the Topeka area. Things had changed a bit. But this cemetary (the real one south of town) still seems to be a very strange and forboding place.

Gateway to Hell? I think not.

Quantrill? Probably not.

But something lurks there!

And it is not friendly!


  1. Dear CPA3485:

    Now let me get this straight... You guys were all sitting in a fairly modern cemetary, and it was so quiet you could hear a deer fart? Were the deer eating burritos? It is a well-known fact that Key West deer toot in musical tones.

    I never saw the "fart" line coming... Good shot. Briefly, this piece was straight out of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. And to think you ride a scooter.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  2. cpa3485:

    now the stories come out. You sure were a Rebel back in those days. You had girls there and just sat around listening to the wind ? Now that isn't very Jack Riepish of you. and where is Susan now ?

    bobskoot: wet coast scootin

  3. Jack,
    Can a deer fart in the woods and stil be wrong?
    I had a lot of fun with this post and the recent ones of my trip. There is yet another Topeka related post coming up in a couple of weeks.
    It's more fun to write with a little creativity than the type of writing I normally do at work which has to be precise and technical sometimes.
    I know I pale in comparison to the writing you are capable of. I bet you would have had fun writing a story like this and I bet it would have been hilarious.
    Thanks for the compliment and take care,

  4. Bobskoot,

    A rebel? Probably not, but maybe a man with a healthy disrespect for authority.

    My good friend and former college roommate Greg was there that night. He was the one I had breakfast with before my trip back from Topeka. We quizzed each other about what we remembered of that night. Not much as it turns out. LOL.

    Greg and I were both expelled from the fraternity we belonged to by an incoming president that was sort of like a Nazi. The reasons for our being kicked out are unimportant, but suffice it to say that the frat we belonged to was sort of like the "Animal House" movie and we decided that the reason we were in college was to study, at least a little bit. Our being expelled did not scar us for life.

    His girlfriend at the time was Sally, they later married, have now divorced and both have remarried. Both are good friends who I remain in contact with regularly.

    Another former roommate present on that fateful evening was Danny Ray and his girlfriend was Susan. They never married. Danny and I used to try and teach each other how to play the guitar, he had an acoustic, I had an electric. Last I knew Danny had married and lived in a town just east of Lawrence, but have largely lost contact with him.

    Now Susan was the sort of mildly neurotic, bubbly and outgoing personality, and generally fun girl that everybody liked to tease. She married and lived in Fort Collins Colorado for a number of years and my wife and I visited her out there a number of years ago. Her hubby unfortunately died (way too young) of a rare form of cancer. Last I knew she was in Russia doing some kind of charitable work. I suspect that she might have become a spy. Who knows?

    Thanks for your interest,

  5. Brilliant. It reminds me of the opening scene of Night of the Living Dead.
    (now I have to go through the endless screens to actually post this long considered comment).

  6. idk about the cemetary your speaking of, never been there, but i did sneak into the church of the other one and i went down those stairs, well as far down as i cared to go haha. and they really seem to go forever i reached a point where i was probably thirty steps down, my flashlight batteries ran out. i went down even further because ive never been a punk, after a few more steps i looked back up towards the top, the top of the stairs looked incredibly far away, almost blurry, as if a haze was in between me and the top, like two different planes of land. at that point i decided to go back up, while on the way back up i felt like i would never reach the top, i got tired and didnt feel like i could continue anymore my legs went weak. i stopped and sat down to smoke a cigarette on the stairs but my lighter wouldnt light, i said fuck it and made my way up, when i reached the top i talked to my friends who said i was only on the stairs for around 2 minutes, to me it seemed like 30

    also.. on the car ride home i flicked my flashlight on and it shone bright as day.... i also smoked a cigarette with the green lighter that i had on me on the stairs.......... i dont believe in god or the devil but somethin was definately weird about that fucking staircase