Legend Tripping

The Seven Gates to Hell (Collinsville, Illinois)

seven gates to hell gate one collinsville illinois

Collinsville, Illinois. It’s a small town on the edge of nowhere that has a wicked secret.

Collinsville is a small, rural town in Southern Illinois. With a population of 24,000, the town has its share of travelers coming off the highway and into its quaint downtown area in search of rest or a meal. Driving down Main Street, it’s all American flags and ice cream cones, until you get to the outskirts of town.

Main Street runs directly into Lebanon Road. If you turn left onto Lebanon Road., an increasingly wooded landscape and dilapidated houses will escort you to Collinsville’s dark little secret: The Seven Gates to Hell.

The Seven Gates to Hell is a local urban legend that states that if you drive under these seven abandoned railroad trestles in order, at midnight, hell hounds will greet you and escort you into Hell itself. That’s all well and good, but here’s the thing… These trestles are not all right next to each other, and it is very easy to get lost in these twisted backroads.

“Gates” 1-4 are relatively close together, with only two sharp turns, while “gates” 5-7 are quite a distance away from the others. If you take the challenge, be aware that the “gates” are not all on the same road. You will turn onto four different roads to go through all the “gates” in the correct order to complete the challenge. (See map below).

map of the seven gates to hell collinsville illinois

 

Disclaimer: Please be careful! These are extremely narrow, one-lane country roads with drop-offs, hairpin turns and blind corners. If you decide to take the drive at night, please be aware that it is pitch black on those roads. Take it slow.

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Here’s the other thing… The Seven Gates to Hell is the local legend, but the missing persons and bodies found in the corn and bean fields near the Seven Gates is a very real phenomenon. According to the Illinois State Police, a total of 11 bodies have been found scattered along Lebanon Road. Dates range from the early 1980s until June 2020.

The victim of most notoriety is that of Jane Doe. She was found only forty feet away from Lebanon Road in a bean field on July 20, 1990. Her body had been mutilated, her reproductive organs missing. Most recently, the body of a teenage girl was found hanging from a tree near “gates” 3 and 4. Her body, much like Jane Doe’s, had been ritualistically mutilated.

The word Satanism is whispered throughout the town. The pervading theory is that these murders are linked to the Satanist holiday of The Grand Climax. The Grand Climax takes place from the first week of June to the last week of July every year. They found all 11 bodies in the summer months. I’m not saying it’s true, but it makes for an interesting theory.

That’s not all, either. There is what the locals refer to as “the death house”. Located directly after “gate” 4 on the left, this house is supposedly the epicenter of Satanist activity in the area. The history of the house itself is unknown, although it is said that a family was brutally murdered there some years ago. Signs and gates leading up to the property strongly suggest that you stay away. The driveway is blocked by a rusted gate and the house is not visible from the road.

If you’re brave enough, you can park your car in the mouth of the driveway (be sure to move your car completely off the road because these roads are extremely narrow and locals drive fast around those hairpin turns we had talked about earlier), move around the gate, and climb the hill up to the house. As of this writing, the house is still standing.

Collinsville, Illinois has a dark little secret. If you choose to explore the area for yourself, please be careful. You never know who or what is waiting for you on those lonely roads.

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Legend Tripping

The Gate

the gate devil's gate libertyville illinois

This is an interesting location. The Gate, or Devil’s Gate if you want to really draw attention, is a rusted and crumbling part of the Lake County Forest Preserve district. “Why is there a gate at the entrance to a forest preserve path?” I asked myself. Well, The Gate wasn’t always a part of the forest preserve.

The Gate, originally, was the entrance to an all-girl’s school in the late 1920’s. In the 1960’s, the school was closed and the land and its buildings were repurposed for an all-boys summer camp. Soon, that camp closed and a girl’s camp was opened on the land. That camp closed quickly… and mysteriously.

Officially, both the boys and girls camps were closed due to financial difficulties. This would be an acceptable answer if the buildings that stood on the land weren’t immediately demolished after the camps closed. I’m talking every building razed in an effort to erase that they were even there. Of all of the historical documents I’ve read about the land, not one of them has an answer as to why the buildings were demolished. But if the buildings were razed, why wasn’t The Gate torn down as well?

These buildings were still in good condition, and they were being cared for. Why not sell the property to another organization that would utilize the land and it’s buildings? Well, legend has an answer to all of these questions. Legend posits that the camps weren’t closed to financial difficulties at all, and the buildings were razed because of the murder of four young girls late one night. The Gate is a reminder for the town to never build on this land again.

As the story goes, a caretaker of the organization snapped one night. He made his way into the dormitory around midnight, looking for his favorite four girls. Once he found them, he dragged them out of bed and into the woods, where he decapitated them. In the morning, camp councilors arrived for the day to find the heads of the four girls placed on the metal spikes of the gate. To this day, if you visit The Gate late at night, you will see the ghostly images of four heads mounted on the spikes with dripping blood.

So says the legend, at least. The truth… I think something happened here. Something serious and so embarrassing for the town that they attempted to erase the memory of it (Libertyville is known for keeping negative aspects of their little town out of the press as much as possible.*) Based on the lack of explanation as to why the buildings on that land were demolished, I can only assume that the town is attempting to limit the negative press. Libertyville is an affluent suburb of Chicago that prides itself on being a quiet and safe place to live; They want to keep it that way.

In visiting The Gate, I did get a chill approaching it (despite the 90 degree heat.) This was probably more likely due to the sight of The Gate itself, the surprise that it’s actually still standing, and the story behind it than any actual ghosts lurking around. The structure itself is rusted, the stone pillars and walls attached to it crumbling. The path past it winds through trees and brush. If you look hard enough, you can still see foundations of some of the buildings, which nature is quickly reclaiming. Nothing spooky happened, but knowing that this location hides a dark secret is enough to send chills down anyone’s spine.

*Libertyville’s Own American Horror Story

the gate devil's gate libertyville illinois
the gate devil's gate libertyville illinois
the gate devil's gate libertyville illinois
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Legend Tripping

Cuba Road and White Cemetery

cuba road barrington illinois

When you think of haunted places in Illinois, you think of wooded areas, country roads, cemeteries, and 1920’s mobsters. Cuba Road and White Cemetery has all of these elements (except for the mobsters, I found no evidence of mob activity in this area over the years). Cuba Road has dense tree coverage making the road look like a tunnel, while White Cemetery is small and isolated, giving both of these locations an unusual creepy vibe.

They say that Cuba Road is home to phantom cars and a ghostly hitchhiker. They also say that White Cemetery hosts orbs of light and several full-body apparitions. The strangest story about White Cemetery I’ve heard is that the cemetery is completely unable to be photographed. Supposedly, if you attempt to take pictures of the cemetery, your camera will malfunction or the pictures simply won’t come out. I find this to be false (the pictures of White Cemetery are below.) In addition, there is a vanishing house that sits in the woods behind the cemetery.

But that’s where the spookiness stops. Contrary to popular legends, I personally found no evidence of anything haunted around these parts. Cuba Road and White Cemetery are beautiful locations, but Cuba Road is a well-traveled street lined with stately mansions and White Cemetery is well-kept and still permitting burials. The road does seem to be separated from the rest of the world due to its heavy tree coverage, but I got no sense of anything amiss. The same is true for White Cemetery. The cemetery itself is beautiful and peaceful; There was nothing odd about it at all.

(I can’t help but note that many of the stories surrounding these two locations are quite similar to those of Bachelor’s Grove. Just putting that out there.)

For as much as I’ve heard about this road and cemetery over the years, I’m disappointed.

white cemetery cuba road barrington illinois
white cemetery cuba road barrington il
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Legend Tripping

Manteno State Hospital

manteno state hospital administration building

Manteno State Hospital is one of those locations that sticks with a town forever. Despite the hospital’s closure in 1985 and the demolishing of most of the original buildings, the small town of Manteno can’t seem to come out from the hospital’s shadow. Today, most Manteno residents refuse to talk about it.

This could be because of an incident in 1939 that forever tarnished not only the hospital’s reputation, but the town’s as well. A typhoid epidemic swept through the hospital’s grounds in the summer of 1939. At the time, Manteno State Hospital was the largest of it’s kind in Illinois with more than 4,000 patients and 700 employees. Due to denial and politics, isolated incidents of the fever spiraled out of control, infecting hundreds of patients and staff and ultimately killing 60.

As the legend goes, patients attempted to escape the hospital grounds when the epidemic hit. Surrounded by miles of cornfields, the patients had nowhere to go. A neighboring farmer reported that when harvest time came for his fields of corn, hundreds of bodies of the patients that tried to escape the hospital were found, having succumb to the elements. They say that during harvest time, you can still see the patients walking among the rows of corn along Diversatech Drive.

What surprised me the most about this location is that many of the original buildings are still standing. Manteno State Hospital originally claimed 1200 acres of rural farmland. That land now is home to an industrial park, a subdivision, and a Veteran’s home. The original buildings are in the middle of being repurposed.

I once lived in Manteno. In fact, I still have family in the area. Although I always knew the hospital was there (my great grandfather actually spent time at Manteno State), I had no idea that as many original structures are still there as there are. I’ve driven past millions of times and just never knew.

When you arrive at Diversatech Drive from E 4000 Road, it appears that you are turning into any other subdivision. Single family homes that line Diversatech Drive greet you. That is, until you look down the road ahead of you to a looming building that doesn’t quite seem to fit the otherwise picturesque, sleepy neighborhood. The was the Manteno State Hospital’s administration building.

Drive further back into the subdivision and the facade of quaint country homes falls away to reveal the crumbling edifices of what once was the hospital’s resident cottages. It is somewhat difficult to get to the original hospital buildings due to a confusing maze of one-way streets. It’s almost as if the town doesn’t want you to see what’s back there.

Once you manage to reach the original buildings, a feeling that you shouldn’t be there settles over you. You definitely don’t belong. You feel like you’re being watched from the broken, grimy windows of the old cottages. Take a picture of the cottages, and you just might catch a glimpse of someone staring out at you (See the picture below. What is that flash of light in the left window?)

ghosts manteno state hospital
haunted cottage manteno state hospital

Long-time Manteno residents are reluctant to talk about the hospital, I’ve tried. The moment I saw the administration building upon entering the subdivision, I wanted to leave. The sadness and loneliness I felt cannot be explained. Maybe it’s best to let the ghosts of this location rest.

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Legend Tripping

Blood’s Point Road and Cemetery

blood's point cemetery gate boone county illinois

Just a few miles outside Belvidere sits a lonely country road in the middle of vast farmland and twisted trees. Without GPS, you’d never find it, but this is Blood’s Point Road. At the eastern end of this road lies Blood’s Point Cemetery. Both locations are steeped in local legend that is hard to ignore.

Named for the first white settler in the area, Arthur Blood, Blood’s Point Road and Cemetery seem like your average rural locations. That is, until you get into the stories surrounding them. The most well-known story in this area is that of the friendship Arthur Blood’s children had with a local woman suspected of being a witch. When Blood found out about the friendship, he forbade his children to see the woman. The woman became so angry that she set fields ablaze. In retaliation, Blood hung the woman from the bridge at Sweeney and Blood’s Point roads. She was later buried in Blood’s Point Cemetery.
It is said that, at times, the spectral image of the local witch can be seen hanging from the bridge, swaying in the breeze. Travel a bit further down Blood’s Point Road toward the cemetery and they say the trees become guards, watching you, reaching out to prevent you from traveling further. If you happen to make it to the cemetery, hellhounds guard the gate and the witch’s cackles can be heard.
I recently traveled to Blood’s Point Road and Cemetery to see if the stories were true. Driving down the road toward the cemetery, I got no weird vibes. It was your ordinary, run-of-the-mill country road. As for the trees, I can debunk that. This road is host to wide areas of farmland with a smattering of houses on either side. There are very few trees along the roadside, and the ones that are there are regular, non-spooky trees. Maybe you have to go at a certain time of the year to get the effect. 
What I did find odd is that there are absolutely no street signs at any of the intersections along Blood’s Point Road to guide your way. Without GPS, the road (and the ones that intersect it) would be impossible to find if you are not a local. Whether these street signs were stolen by pranksters or if they were taken down by the county to discourage legend-trippers remains to be seen.
There is also a lesser-known legend about phantom cars appearing along Blood’s Point Road. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but my traveling companion (we all need at least one) claims he saw a black Jeep about twenty feet behind us not long after we turned onto Blood’s Point Road from Irene St. He saw this vehicle in both my rear view mirror and the driver’s side mirror. He even saw it out of the corner of his eye when he was turning around to look out the back window. However, when he was fully facing the back window, there was no car around. As for me, I had not seen any cars at all on our entire drive to the cemetery.
Although I didn’t feel or see anything “off” on the road itself, that feeling quickly changed when we arrived at Blood’s Point Cemetery. Again, there was not sign on the cemetery to indicate that it was indeed Blood’s Point. I felt nothing noteworthy until the car was inside the gates of the cemetery. Instantly, I felt like we shouldn’t be there. I was convinced we were being watched from the tree line at the edge of the cemetery. The atmosphere was so heavy I was actually gasping for breath at one point. After a few minutes inside the cemetery for pictures (because I had come all this way, I was getting my pictures), I started shaking so badly we had to leave. There was a pervading sense of doom that enveloped me. Once my car was outside the cemetery gates, most of the feelings instantly faded. The shaking lingered for a few more minutes as we drove north on Pearl St. toward the main thoroughfare. We were only in the cemetery for three minutes. 
While I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary at all on either the road or in the cemetery, the feelings I got inside the cemetery were intense. After looking at the pictures I snapped, there also seems to be some strange things present that were not visible to the naked eye (I’ll post the pictures below, you can be the judge). 
Overall, I got what I came for. As for the truth about the legends surrounding the area, I found no evidence of witches or hangings. However, based on the negative energy within the cemetery itself, I’m not going to rule anything out.
tombstones at blood's point cemetery boone county illinois
tombstones at blood's point cemetery boone county illinois
tombstones at blood's point cemetery boone county illinois
tombstones at blood's point cemetery boone county illinois
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Legend Tripping

Axeman’s Bridge

axeman's bridge crete illinois

Back in the woods, down Old Post Road in Crete Township, sits an abandoned bridge with an eerie backstory. This is Axeman’s Bridge.

Allegedly, sometime in the 1970’s a man lived with his wife and two children in rural Crete. With a modest house set back in the woods, away from prying eyes, the family lived in peace, until a rainy summer night. Without warning, the man snapped. After dinner, the man calmly rose from the dining table and walked out to his shed. He returned to the house, axe in hand, moving room to room, and hacked his wife and two children to death.

After the deed was done, the man hung his family’s bodies from the bridge that hosted the area’s traffic. The police found him hours later, sitting on the bridge next to his hanging family, his legs dangling over the edge while he whistled a somber tune. They say if you venture out into the woods by the bridge, you’ll hear soft whistling and the sound of metal hitting metal.

Today, the bridge has crumbled into the creek below it. All that’s left are the concrete supports and an overgrown road leading to it. But there is still energy that lingers there. Whether the legend of the Axeman is true or not, there is definitely a weird vibe in those woods, surrounding what’s left of the bridge.

As you get closer to the bridge itself, there is a heavy sense of foreboding that washes over you. The closer you get, the more intense the feeling becomes. I was out there with a friend of mine last week, and despite the strange feeling of being watched, I heard whistling. It could have been the birds, but it sounded like it had a distinct melody to it. Meanwhile, the friend I was with heard the sound of an axe hitting wood as he was about to take a picture of the bridge. I didn’t hear this, but he swears it was close and loud. It is worth noting that the nearest house is a quarter mile away.

If you’re going to visit and leave the main road to explore, please be careful. Further into the woods that surround the bridge are occult altars and barbed wire hidden in the grass and bramble.

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Legend Tripping

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery and Woods

I thought about not including this location. I thought, “Ugh, Bachelor’s Grove has been done!” It seems like everyone has written about it. Everyone has a story.

Yet here I am, including it. I’ve joined the hundreds of writers that think they have something new to bring to the Grove table. But this location is so ingrained in my memory, in my childhood, that I felt like I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t include it, even if it’s just in the introduction.

Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery is the hidden gem of haunted places in the Chicagoland area, and some say, the United States. To get there, you’ll park in the Rubio Woods forest preserve lot, then make your way across busy Midlothian Turnpike on foot. You’ll see a chain across the path of the trail that leads to the cemetery if you know where to look.

Back when this was an active cemetery, that path was paved to allow for vehicle access. Now it’s a hidden, pitted foot path. Follow this path about a quarter mile into the woods and on your right you’ll see the old chain-link fence surrounding the few desecrated tombstones that are left.

When walking into the cemetery, an overwhelming sense of sadness assaults you. When you talk to your friends, you find yourself whispering. There is a distinct heaviness that settles over the place, and it is almost crushing.

Birds don’t chirp here, and although the very busy Midlothian Turnpike can be seen through the tree cover from inside the cemetery, the rumble of vehicles cannot be discerned. It is eerily quiet. This is a very odd place.

Growing up in the Chicago area, I have heard stories about Bachelor’s Grove cemetery and the woods that surround it. These were mostly ghost stories where the inciting incident had happened long before my time. But there are other stories; Stories featuring the living, some of whom wish to do others harm.

The stories I have of Bachelor’s Grove aren’t concerned with the cemetery’s ghosts, but with living people who often frequent those woods. The ones who practice the occult on the tombstones and seek to do other visitors harm. The very real and dangerous threat that stalks the cemetery and it’s woods.

When I was a teenager, a friend told me about her friend’s cousin’s (classic ‘friend of a friend’ beginning to an urban legend, right?) run-in with some bad people while out at Bachelor’s Grove. Apparently, my friend’s friend’s cousin went out there one night with a group of people to see if the ghosts were real. They made it down the path just fine and arrived at the cemetery. When they saw shadows shaped like people moving among the trees on the perimeter of the cemetery, they got spooked and booked it outta there. The group ran at full speed down the path, trying to get out of the woods, when the girl who was running the fastest at the head of the group fell backwards and landed flat on her back. Those of the group who saw it later said it was like someone shoved her shoulders back. Another in the group was close enough to the collapsed girl that she couldn’t stop running in time and ran into something sharp in the middle of the path. As it turns out, both girls were cut pretty badly by barbed wire strung from tree to tree across the walking path. They both ran right into it; The first girl had a deep gash along her throat, while the second girl had cuts on the side of her head. The wire was nearly invisible in the dark. Since the group had passed that spot on the way in without incident, someone must have strung the wire up while the group was in the cemetery. Someone was watching, and waiting.

I always thought my friend was making this up until, years later while doing research for one of my books, I found a news article published by the Chicago Tribune detailing occult happenings in Chicago’s woods, including a short blurb about police finding remnants of barbed and piano wire in the brush. I guess she wasn’t straight up lying to me.

Some of these stories are just that, stories, but some could be based in truth.

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