Saturday, October 4, 2014

Festival Of Fear: Day 4 ~ Roots Of Horror: The Seven Gates Of Hell

'The Gates of Hell' by Auguste Rodin
~by Marie Robinson

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.

This corner of the woods is home to all kinds of superstition—apparitions, strange noises, and occult activity—but at the core are the gates. Legend goes that only one is visible during the day, and that the remaining six appear only at night. It is also said that no one has ever made it past five, but if you happen to cross through the seventh gate, you’ll find yourself in the realm of eternal damnation.

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'
My friends and I went “legend tripping” one night and took on the diabolical challenge, following instructions I found online ( Some of the gates have their own individual legends, such as the second gate, which is apparently haunted by a hanged man, whose silhouette can be seen swinging from the bridge. The third and fourth gates, known as, “the Twins” because of their proximity to each other, are shrouded in rumors of occult activity and the sixth gate is allegedly haunted by a spectral car, the result of a car crash involving two teenagers on acid.

Gustave Dore woodcut
When we drove through the gates we only ended up in Troy, IL—which could very possibly be Hell—but it could have been that we didn’t complete the challenge at the proper time, which, according to the legend, is midnight. We did, however, have a very good time driving along the secluded winding roads, passing through the ominous, spray-paint covered bridges while I narrated the legends. If nothing else, it was a creepy, fun time, perfect for the upcoming Halloween

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.


steve prefontaine said...

Christine, have you ever reveiwed "The Hidden" (1987) on here ?, Christine Hadden reveiws The Hidden, it rhymes ! ! !.

Christine Hadden said...

I have not reviewed The Hidden.

I have also not reviewed Christine... but that's about to change.