Seven Gates of Hell

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The Seven Gates of Hell is a modern urban legend regarding locations in York County, Pennsylvania.[1] 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. Despite the popularity of this as a tourist destination, the property is privately held; visitors may be charged with trespassing as a result.


There are two popular versions of the myth, each with numerous variations. 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 1900s, 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.[2]

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.[2] 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.[3] 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.[2][4]


In reality, there is no road called "Toad Road" in Hellam Township, but there is one named Trout Run Road.[5] 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.[3]


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.[2][6] Hellam Township published a page debunking the myths.[3] Local resident Cheryl Englar reported a number of tourists searching for the gates, some harassing her and giving her cause to call the police.[7]

In media[edit]

Toad Road, a 2012 independent psychological horror film, makes use of the legend.


  1. ^ "The Downingtown Gates of Hell". Weird US. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Argento, Mike (August 15, 2005). "The road to hell paved by PennDOT". York Daily Record. NewsBank. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
  3. ^ a b c "Seven Gates of Hell". Hellam Township. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
  4. ^ Nesbitt, Mark (2008). The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories. Stackpole Books. pp. 137-138. ISBN 0811703649. Seven Gates of Hell york.
  5. ^ Map of Trout Run Road, Hellam Township, PA 17406 (Map). Cartography by Navteq. Google Maps. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Argento, Mike (September 22, 2005). "Backyard hell not fun for residents". York Daily Record. ProQuest Archiver. Retrieved August 17, 2010.

External links[edit]