Seven Gates of Hell
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The Seven Gates of Hell is a modern urban legend regarding locations in York County, Pennsylvania. Two versions of the legend exist, one involving a burnt insane asylum and the other an eccentric doctor. Both agree that there are seven gates in a wooded area of Hellam Township, Pennsylvania, and that anyone who passes through all seven goes straight to Hell. The location in question never housed an institution; the aforementioned doctor only constructed one gate, to keep out trespassers. The area still receives a number of tourists, some of whom harass local residents, causing them to call the police.
There are two popular versions of the myth, with numerous variants of each. One states that a mental institution used to be located on either Toad Road or Trout Run Road, depending on the source, in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania. It was erected in a remote location so as to isolate people deemed insane from the rest of the world. One day in the 1800s, a fire broke out and, due to its remoteness, firefighters could not reach the hospital in time to save it. Many patients died in the flames, while others escaped and were soon beaten to death.
The gates' role in the story is disputed. Some say that the gates were put up by the local search party to trap the remaining inmates. Others say that, completely unrelated to the asylum story, an eccentric physician who lived on the property built several gates along a path deep into the forest. Both accounts agree on only one gate being visible during the day, but the other six can be seen at night. According to the legend, no one has ever passed the fifth gate, but if they passed all seven, they would go directly to hell.
Another story about the gates of hell is of a man in the 1950s who murdered his wife and children with a shot gun and impaled their corpses on the spikes of one of the gates. Before the house was torn down, bullet holes were visible in the garage door and in the wall on the side of the house where the garage door was located.
In reality, there is no road called "Toad Road" in Hellam Township, but there is one named Trout Run Road. There was no asylum on Trout Run Road, and the local doctor only put up one gate to keep out trespassers. A related myth states that Hellam was named after hell; this is untrue as well as it is a corruption of Hallam, after Hallamshire, England. The area purported to be the location of the seven gates is on private property and trespassers can be prosecuted.
The Seven Gates of Hell have received a fair amount of attention. Mike Argento wrote about it in the York Daily Record, and Matt Lake featured a section on the gates in his book, Weird Pennsylvania. Hellam Township published a page debunking the myths. Local resident Cheryl Englar reported a number of tourists searching for the gates, some harassing her and giving her cause to call the police.
- "The Downingtown Gates of Hell". Weird US. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "The road to hell paved by PennDOT". York Daily Record. August 15, 2005. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Argento, Mike (August 15, 2005). "The road to hell paved by PennDOT". York Daily Record (NewsBank). Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- "Seven Gates of Hell". Hellam Township. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- Nesbitt, Mark (2008). The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories. Stackpole Books. pp. 137–138. ISBN 0811703649.
- Map of Trout Run Road, Hellam Township, PA 17406 (Map). Cartography by Navteq. Google Maps. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- Matt Lake, Weird Pennsylvania: Your Travel Guide to Pennsylvania's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, Sterling Publishing, 2009, ISBN 1-4027-6686-6; p. 20
- Argento, Mike (September 22, 2005). "Backyard hell not fun for residents". York Daily Record (ProQuest Archiver). Retrieved August 17, 2010.
- Seven Gates of Hell, www.hauntedusa.org