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Douglas County’s Gateway to Hell

It’s hard to believe anything west of Lawrence could bring Kansas world fame. But an alleged gateway to the paranormal world has people buzzing about the small town of Stull.

img_7994Stull, Kansas is about ten miles away from Lawrence. Besides a few scattered houses and the United Methodist Church, an unassuming graveyard sits beside the main road. It’s this very graveyard bringing unwanted attention to the small community in Douglas County, as urban legends surround it.

There are different versions of the story, but each one talks about a hidden staircase under a pile of stone rubble. These ruins used to be an old church, built in 1867 but demolished in 2002 because it was already crumbling. Allegedly, occult rituals were allegedly held here with the Devil himself using the innocuous stairway to transport himself to the underworld. img_8003The story says that the stairway only presents itself on Halloween night, but if one chooses to venture down them, there’s no turning back.

This may be a fun story to scare your friends with, but some take it too far. Many people take a trip to the Stull Cemetery to find supernatural activity, but end up just making evil of their own. The graveyard is victim to not only trespassing, but also destructive vandalism. Many tombstones have been broken or stolen by paranormal thrill-seekers. The locals keep a close eye on the cemetery and are backed by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, who hold the right to arrest people for trespassing in the cemetery after hours.

The people of Stull, Kansas and the surrounding areas are tired of people intruding in the place where many of them have buried loved ones. img_8011One of these people is named Paul Bahnmaier. As president of the Lecompton Historical Society, I got to talk to him in the Lecompton Territorial Capital Museum (as pictured on the left). He has a personal stake in keeping the cemetery safe because his family has dealt with the very real consequences of vandalism.

“My grandparents are buried there, and we’ve had tombstones broken and stolen. All the stories about the cemetery are completely false,” Bahnmaier said.

It’s important to take these urban legends for what they are: stories produced by nearby college students with active imaginations. So this Halloween, rather than trespassing on the Stull Cemetery seeking a meeting with the devil, let the people of Stull, Kansas rest in peace.