The Abandoned Church in the "Haunted" Cemetery
Experiencing the Legend
I live approximately ten miles from a famous cemetery in the small town of Stull, Kansas. With Halloween approaching, it seemed appropriate to describe a bit of the legend of Stull Cemetery. The place may or may not be haunted, but it is a truly eerie place, and one can get some pretty strange “vibes” wandering among the old tombstones there. I took the photograph of the abandoned church on this property atop Stull’s Emmanuel Hill over twenty five years ago. The church is gone, but the legend of Stull Cemetery remains.
For decades, stories of ghosts and supernatural happenings have surrounded the old graveyard, and it is a place some claim to be one of the “seven gateways to Hell”. According to a November 1974 article in the University Daily Kansan (KU’s student newspaper), the cemetery is one of two places on Earth the devil appears in person. The story was picked up by the Kansas City Times in 1980, where it was reported that the Devil chose two places to appear on Earth every Halloween. One was Stull, Kansas and the other was someplace on the “desolate plains of India.” From these sites, according to the article, Satan gathers all the people who died violent deaths over the past year for a dance around the Earth at the witching hour. The article added that he appeared in Stull because of an event that took place in the 1850’s, when “a stable hand allegedly stabbed the mayor to death in the cemetery’s old stone barn. Years later, the barn was converted into a church, which was later gutted by fire. A decaying wooden crucifix that hung from one wall was thought to sometimes turn upside-down when passersby stepped into the building at midnight...”
It was rumored that Pope John Paul II instructed his private plane to fly around Kansas so he would not fly over “unholy ground”. Other tales involved visitors to the cemetery experiencing memory loss, being “grabbed” on the arm by someone or something, strong winds holding visitors motionless, and losing time. One of the most common stories told us that rain would not strike the floor of the church (when it was still there), even though it had no roof.
An intriguing rumor was reported by Author Lisa Hefner Heitz, who has collected numerous legends that have added to the mythology of Stull Cemetery. This tale asserts that the Devil appears at Stull on the last night of winter or the first night of spring to visit a witch that is buried there. A tombstone bearing the name “Wittich” is located close to where the old church stood. Other rumors claim an old tree in the graveyard was once used as a gallows for condemned witches. A grave in the cemetery is purported to hold the bones of a “child of Satan”, born of the Devil and a witch. The child was so deformed he only lived a few days, and the body was buried in Stull. Some say his ghost walks there, as a photo was supposedly once taken that showed a “werewolf-like boy” peering out from behind a tree.
These are common tales that can be found on numerous web sites, so why do I mention them here? I have a story of my own involving the cemetery at Stull. My tale takes place 33 years ago, when I was a freshman in college in 1976. My friends and I had heard the stories about Stull Cemetery, but the hysteria surrounding it hadn’t yet grown. One night in October (but not Halloween), three friends and I drove to the cemetery to see what we could see.
We arrived after dark and parked my old Mercury Cougar along one of the rock roads which circled the cemetery. Shortly after we climbed out of the car, we were engulfed by an enormous wind. It wasn’t strong enough to prevent us from moving but was still an impressive, sustained gust that prompted us to clutch our jackets in response. After ten or fifteen seconds, the wind subsided as quickly as it approached, and we were left to prowl the grounds in search of the unexplainable. (It is important to remember that this occurred well before it was fashionable for college students to come to the cemetery in search of thrills. The fences were not yet in place, and police patrols were not regular occurrences.) We split into pairs, and as we meandered through the sea of tombstones, I found myself awestruck by their age. I wondered about the men and women that died over a hundred years earlier—what type of people were they? How did they live and, ultimately, die?
We inspected graves awhile longer, and then heard a sound. A small bell was ringing softly, melodically. After a few moments of searching, we found the bell tied to the branch of a large tree. My friend wondered why we didn’t hear the bell as the windswept through. There was nothing protecting it from the windstorm, and it should have shaken violently in the midst of the tremendous gusts that passed through only minutes before. We inspected the bell and saw it was attached to the tree with simple kite string—certainly nothing strong enough to hold it in place while the wind swept through. Who placed the bell there, and why?
After another moment, the two of our party separated from us cried out in unison, “Look!” We hurried toward them and asked what was wrong. They said they saw someone. A man was standing near the church. The biggest and strongest of our group asked where he was, and we cautiously followed a short distance behind as he searched for evidence we were not alone. We determined that whoever our friends saw was no longer there, and asked them to describe our guest. They explained that a very tall man stood next to the church. He wore a cloak (or some type of bulky outer-garment) and boots. When he realized he was spotted, he moved behind the church wall with great speed for someone so large. The odd aspect of what they observed was that the darkness didn’t seem to envelope him as it did us—while we stood shrouded in the shadows of the night, to them he appeared as if in daylight. They saw the colors of his clothes and his long gray hair, tied back into a ponytail. And then, he was gone. Having seen enough to be sufficiently spooked, we decided to depart as well. We hastened to our car and sped back to Lawrence. No one spoke much on the way back to town—we were processing what we saw.
The simplest interpretation of our experience that night was: we stood in a strong wind, heard a bell, and thought we saw someone. Two of my companions convinced themselves this was the sum total of our experience, but my other friend wasn’t so sure. He remained convinced something odd “happened” that night, and was certain the man our friends spotted was a ghost or some other type of paranormal entity.
Is my tale diabolical? Not really. Does it suggest we had an encounter with the supernatural? Not in any definitive way. Was it weird, and in keeping with the strange tales of Stull Cemetery? Very much so, especially when compared with other stories recounted over the years. I recorded the events of that night in my journal and always wondered what else was there to be seen that night, if only we knew where to look, in Stull Cemetery.
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CW Television Series Supernatural Update
The fifth-season finale for the CW Network’s hit series Supernatural took brothers Sam and Dean Winchester to Stull Cemetery, just outside their childhood home of Lawrence, Kansas. In this episode, Michael and Lucifer met to do battle. Lucifer used Sam as his vessel and Adam Milligan was Michael’s human host. Dean arrived but Michael informed him it was no longer his fight. The angel Castiel temporarily banished Michael with Holy Oil, leaving an opportunity for Lucifer to attack Dean. Before Dean could be killed, however, Sam regained control of his body and opened Lucifer’s Cage. Michael reappeared and tried to stop him before being dragged into the cage, as well.
The cemetery depicted in this episode was not really Stull, but the dramatic story of a conflict between good and evil was certainly in keeping with the legends surrounding this small, isolated cemetery. This episode did nothing to dispel the notion that Stull Cemetery is a significant location for the forces of good and evil alike.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 10, 2012:
Kanzguy, thanks for coming back. I drove by Stull again today but forgot to look for the burned houses. It is a fascinating place. I will always look for a normal explanation to weird occurrences, but if none present themselves, I am not above considering an extraordinary explanation. Something odd happened at Stull, and it seems like odd things continue to happen there--there are a lot of unexplained events taking place. The residents of Stull don't appreciate the notoriety, but some of the things that have happened certainly raise eyebrows.
Thanks again for your comments. Take care.
kanzguy on January 08, 2012:
Well, I've always been a firm believer that if evil is staring you directly in the face, it's not always obvious. And believe me, if I'm supposedly walking into the devil's play ground, I'm going to be thinking outside of the box to see what's really going on and observing things most people would not. I also noticed on the way to Stull that a bunch of houses around that area, had burned down. I'm pretty sure I counted 4 or 5 burned down houses outside of Lawrence on the way to Stull.. Tough luck I guess. But as I was noticing this, I also thought to myself that living close to cemetery with the -666 tag on it probably doesn't help the bad luck around there. Just saying.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 07, 2012:
Kanzguy, thanks for reading and for offering the directions. I have lived in Lawrence all my life, and many people have gone to Stull in search of something unexplainable. Now the locals are very much against having visitors, and it is more difficult to get in. It is an eerie place.
BTW, I very much enjoyed reading your directions. It never really occurred to me before that even the road signs are weird.
kanzguy on January 06, 2012:
My take on the stull myth is that maybe it's not as crazy as the stories make it out to be, but there is deffinetly something spooky about that cemetery. Based off my one visit, my take on where all the horror stories come from is that more than likely someone in the 1800's got spooked by stull cemetery some how... And they started spreading the rumor. I mean, who knows how it all really started, or what actually happened for that cemetery to get the -666 tag on it. Some thing happened though because I am from Kansas and I have been hearing about Stull since I was in middle school. It is just an old, old,old legend that's not very specific. But visiting is creepy. I mean, someone in topeka is helping making this more spooky. To even get out to stull from lawrence you take SIXTH street (haha...) then turn left on STUBBS road (like, i'm missing my arm and now I just have a stub) Just saying.. lol. If you want to find stull, just follow every creepy sign in lawrence and you'll get there....eventually.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 19, 2011:
Dennis, thanks for your comments. I agree--the church and tree was an important part of the Stull mystique, and both are missed. I agree with you, however--it is still creepy enough to stay away at night!
Dennis on August 25, 2011:
I was raised in Lawrence and always heard about the old bone yard in Stull. It was sad when they tore down the church and cut down the spooky old tree. It doesn't have that creepy feeling anymore,(though I would not want to wander around there at night).
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 02, 2011:
LJJ, thanks for stopping by. Stull cemetery is closely monitored now, so it sometimes is a difficult place to visit, but you should have no troubles in the daytime. I hope you get a chance to visit this place. Take care.
LJJ on January 02, 2011:
my daughter n i will be visting the graveyard in the near future, i myself am intrigued with cemeteries n have visted many, mainy for historcal reason. I love this passtime n hope the cemetery isn't close down, it doesn't seen right.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 22, 2010:
Vyclur, thanks for coming back. One of my friends inspected the bell--he touched it but I did not. We didn't move it or take it, however. It did look old and displayed a bit of rust.
I have experienced a number of strange occurrences in my life, and have written about several of them. You can find links to some of them on this page, and I eagerly invite you to read and comment. Thanks again for stopping by.
Vyclur on November 22, 2010:
Mike, thanks for the reply. I definitely find this interesting and helpful for my research. So although you found the bell no body touched it or took it? Also if you have posted these further occurrences these "weird happenings" I would like to read more if possible. Thanks again mike.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 20, 2010:
Vyclur, thanks for stopping by. I am not certain what the bell signified, but I have often wondered what its significance was. And, while I will search for a rational explanation to anything that happens (particularly to me), I do believe in ghosts and other paranormal occurrences. Many things can be explained, but just as many do not fit into a "normal" or scientific explanation. My life has been filled with weird happenings, and rational explanations only explain so much.
Again, I still wonder what the bell might have meant--even after all these years.
Thanks for stopping by, and if you return to read my response, feel free to respond in kind if you have any further thoughts on the matter. Take care.
Vyclur on November 19, 2010:
Mike, I really liked your story. I think Stull is a very interesting place...Im wondering though....what do you think the bell signifies? I mean assuming this IS paranormal...usually items such as a cross or an item used and loved by a deceased person ends up playing a big role in "Hauntings". What are your thoughts on it? also one last question. Do you personally believe in ghosts or do you think there is a scientific or some other reason to it?
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 02, 2010:
Doug, thanks for the kind words. Although another Halloween has come and gone, a strange story will always make an impact. I am glad you enjoyed my tale. Thanks for stopping by.
Doug Turner Jr. on November 02, 2010:
Mike, as you mention in your story, there is nothing supernatural or gruesome about the tale, yet here I am reading it at night and checking to make sure my doors are locked. You're obviously a very experienced writer and this is spooky bit of storytelling. Well done.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 01, 2010:
Christopheranton, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your reading my work.
Christopher Antony Meade from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom on November 01, 2010:
Interesting article. I shall have to look into that further. Thank you.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 31, 2010:
Thirst4more, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found this a good read, and your comment that it backs up an experience of your own is intriguing. Hope to hear more someday, and, yes...
thirst4more from Kansas City on October 31, 2010:
Awesome! I've been too lazy to read other hubs for a while. Hell, I haven't even posted in a bit. I'm working on a novel that's proving to be a monster of a project. Thanks for sharing something that backs my strange experience as well. Go Chiefs!!!
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 05, 2010:
H.P. Dominque, thanks for stopping by. I know of someone who tried recording sounds at Stull, but that yielded nothing (that I recall--it happened a LONG time ago). Now, of course, the town of Stull is quite protective of their famous cemetery, and it is nearly-impossible to get in--which is a shame. You should still stop by if you're ever in the area--when you can get inside it is a formidable sight. Thanks again for reading.
H.P. DOMINIQUE on October 05, 2010:
Has anyone tried evp at stull? Now THAT would be very interesting :) Good story, i live in K.C. and have been wanting to take a look at Stull for awhile now.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on July 12, 2010:
Nora, thanks for reading. I am not certain if anyone has actually witnessed Satan. I do know the opportunity to do so is limited by the cemetery owners, who at least once ordered a group off the property shortly before Satan was to appear at the witching hour. If nothing was going to occur, why not just let the visitors see that there is no basis to the myths? It was an odd situation that certainly raised eyebrows, and it fueled speculation more than it quieted the rumors. The cemetery is now watched in a persistent effort to keep away the thrill-seekers.
I don't know the answer to your question, Nora, but I can testify that it is an odd cemetery where strange things do indeed occur.
Thanks for reading, I appreciate it.
nora on July 12, 2010:
nice page Mike!! has anybody witnessed Satan on any occasion?
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 26, 2010:
gg.zaino, thanks for reading. There is a fascination with cemeteries that many people share for a lot of reasons. There is of course the link to our past and the many ancestors that came before us. There also seems to be an interest in the unexplained that a graveyard somehow feeds. It is easy to believe something strange can happen in a cemetery, after all...
Thanks for reading--I will have to take a look at what you've written about cemeteries. Take care.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 26, 2010:
Peggy, thanks for stopping by. Because of the notoriety Stull Cemetery has received over the years, they are adamant about keeping visitors away after dark. When I made my visit, of course, things hadn't yet progressed to the point where visitors were a problem. It is a shame in a way--there is a beauty and a majesty to a cemetery at night.
Thanks for stopping by, and for sharing your interest in cemeteries on your own hubs.
greg g zaino from L'America- Big Pine Key, Florida on June 26, 2010:
Great tale! graveyards have always been something special to me. i write about the 'common burying ground' in newport rhode island... a bit different type of writing but the lure of the bones is there just the same. great hub, thanx.. gregz- peace..
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 25, 2010:
Interesting story. I guess many gated cemeteries are now shut to visitors after dark just due to vandalism. Thanks for telling us about your and your friend's experiences at the Stull Cemetery. I had never heard about it but now, thanks to you, my base of knowledge has been expanded. Nice that you got that photo of the remains of the church before it disappeared.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 16, 2010:
Thanks again, Asp. I will keep writing them.
Andrew Stewart from England on June 16, 2010:
you keep writing them i will keep reading them
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on June 11, 2010:
Asp, thanks for reading. I'm glad you enjoyed my work.
Andrew Stewart from England on June 11, 2010:
Great hub thank you very enjoyable
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 26, 2010:
Sally's Trove (Sally?), thanks for commenting. I agree that we are taught how to perceive things when there likely are myriad methods available. The very young, animals, and those who (as you say) cast away formal teachings can have a chance to see things in a new way.
And, you are correct about how strange is it to fence off the cemetery and post no trespassing signs. One bizarre Halloween, it was reported that college students gathered at the cemetery to await the arrival of Satan at midnight. At around 11:30 PM, a man appeared with police representing the property owners and asked everyone to leave.
Why did they owner wait until 11:30 PM to force the crowd to disperse? The students were already there--why not let them see whatever there was to see? If it turned out to be nothing, the college students would no longer perpetuate the legend and trespass. If the owner was truly concerned with property damage, why let everyone gather until 11:30 PM?
It was strange and illogical. Now of course, no one is allowed in after sundown for any reason. And the doorway to a different perception remain closed.
Thanks again for your comments, they are greatly appreciated.
Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on February 26, 2010:
I believe that most of us are not receptive to things outside our 5 accepted senses, because we've been taught not to be. A group of people who for a moment cast away the formal teachings can open a door that was not able to be opened before.
Sometimes we humans are so stupid in our arrogance about what we know...we don't know anything.
It's darkly amusing to me that Stull should now be off bounds to those who who might be able to open a door there to another sense. Of course, things must have gotten out of hand with kids wreaking havoc, but it's the kids who can open that door more easily than petrified adults.
A great read.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on February 07, 2010:
prasetio30, I thank you for your kind words.
prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on February 06, 2010:
I am glad and enjoy reading your story. Wow... I am very impressed. thanks
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 31, 2010:
Siew Cheng, thanks for your comments. I'm not certain which hell this is supposedly a gateway to, but 18 levels sounds like a lot to deal with. I hope I never see whatever hell that Stull is a gateway to, Chinese or otherwise....
Thanks again for commenting.
Siew Cheng on January 31, 2010:
hmmm, gateway to hell? Which hell? The chinese hell has 18 levels. good luck to anyone who ends up there.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on January 03, 2010:
Ghost Guide, thanks for reading. Is it fair to guess that, judging by the name you've chosen for yourself here, you might have an interesting story or two to tell, also?
Ghost Guide on January 03, 2010:
This is really a good article...Thanks
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 25, 2009:
Thanks, hypnodude. I appreciate the compliments.
Andrew from Italy on December 25, 2009:
Interesting hub. I really like your style of writing.
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 21, 2009:
Becca, I can't wait to read about it after this happens. A long time ago I rented a house from a lady who claimed to be a witch, and some interesting events took place, but I've never been to a house believed to be haunted. It should be quite interesting.
Becca Hubbard-Woods from Outside your window. on December 21, 2009:
My best friend's sister believes her house to be haunted. So we're going to do an amateur ghost hunt of our own. There will be a hub to follow, absolutely, but I'm not quite sure when we'll be able to do it. : )
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 19, 2009:
Becca, thanks for your comments, I appreciate your interest in my humble writings. Your own ghost hunt? Let us know how it turns out, okay?
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on December 19, 2009:
Ben, thanks for your comments. The IRS audit does sound like a "Abandon Every Hope, Ye Who Enter" scenario. My life has had several strange moments like this one, and I would be quite interested in reading your holiday ghost story.
Thanks for commenting.
Becca Hubbard-Woods from Outside your window. on December 19, 2009:
I love the paranormal. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I enjoyed it thoroughly and can't wait for my own ghost hunt! : )
Ben Zoltak from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA on December 18, 2009:
A lesser know gateway to hell is the revolving doors at the audit department of the Internal Revenue Department, take it from a dude who was audited last year, pure h e double hockey sticks. That was a lot of fun to read, I really felt like I was there with you and your friends.
You've inspired me to write out my one or two ghost stories too, Christmas can be kind of a haunted time eh? Ghost of Christmas past, future,what have you!
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 21, 2009:
Thanks, Habee. No one is really allowed in Stull Cemetery any longer, so the stories are eventually going to go away, but it was a strange night in a very strange place, that much is certain. Thanks for reading.
Holle Abee from Georgia on November 21, 2009:
Great story, and you tell it so well!
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on November 06, 2009:
Thanks for reading, shazwellyn. It was indeed a curious and spooky evening.
shazwellyn on November 06, 2009:
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 31, 2009:
Halloween is here! The local police won't let you spend the evening at Stull Cemetery and dance in the (nearly) full moon with the devil, but have a safe, happy Halloween wherever you are. I was going to go downtown instead, anyway....
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 27, 2009:
Diana, thanks for the comment. It does indeed put Kansas on the map, joining the Wizard of Oz and the biggest ball of twine or whatever it is in Western Kansas. Gosh, it's nice to live in a state famous for so many wonderful things!
dianab61 on October 27, 2009:
Well, at least it puts Kansas on the map as something other than where Dorothy lived. If you are in Stall would you ask "Are we in Kansas or he...ll"
Mike Lickteig (author) from Lawrence KS USA on October 23, 2009:
Thanks for your comment efeyas! It's hard to say if there is anything beyond legend to talk about at Stull, but it is a mysterious, spooky place.
Elizabeth from Some Sunny Beach, USA on October 23, 2009:
Great Hub! Even if it's not paranormally active the historic accounts and stories about Stull are enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck!