|'The Gates of Hell' by Auguste Rodin|
Have you ever wondered if the entrance to Hell could exist on Earth? If so, where would it be, and what would it look like? In this edition of Roots of Horror, I take you through the Seven Gates of Hell…
There are quite a few alleged portals to the underworld; tales are told of mysterious staircases, caves, and volcanoes, but my favorite is that of the Seven Gates.
There are several different legends, but the most popular is set in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania. The story goes that an asylum was hidden deep in the woods, allegedly along Toad Road, or in some cases Trout Run Road, and burnt down in the 19th century. Due to its seclusion, firefighters were not able to get to the scene of the fire until it was too late. Many patients burned to death, while they rest fled into the surrounding woods only to be captured and beaten by the vicious search party. Supposedly, seven barriers were set up leading to the site of the old institution, and have since become known as the Seven Gates of Hell.
Jason Banker incorporated the legend into his 2012 film, Toad Road, obviously taking the name of the fabled road as the title. Toad Road doesn’t actually exist, but Trout Run does, and if you are in the middle of the woods there you might find a few twisted, overgrown iron gates, but if you do, do you dare pass through?
My hometown, the Gateway to the Midwest, could nearly double as the Gateway to the Underworld. Less than an hour away from St. Louis across the great Mississippi is Collinsville, Illinois. A small town quickly becomes a series of twisted roads dotted with isolated farmhouses; running over these dark roads are seven old, overgrown train bridges that are said to open the entrance to Hell is passed through sequentially.
|'The Twin Gates'|
|Gustave Dore woodcut|
One thing I wondered about this reoccurring legend is: why seven? In Dante’s Inferno there are nine circles of Hell. However, while in the first circle, Limbo, Dante sees a castle with seven gates, each one representing one of the seven heavenly virtues. The seven virtues are, of course, in opposition to the seven deadly sins.
Whatever the significance, the Seven Gates of Hell makes for a great legend, and whether or not the doorway to Hell really exists in Illinois or Pennsylvania, that’s for you to decide.