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The truth about Stull Cemetery

Updated: Mar 9, 2022

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Today I’m going to do something that I haven’t done before. I’m going to revisit a topic I’ve already covered that, at least for my part, desperately needs a revamp. I covered this particular place back on my very first YouTube video about 5 haunted locations around the world. It’s a terrible video, so don’t bother watching it — but there were a couple of places I did still find interesting enough to go back over in more detail. Don’t worry, I will get to the others later. But for now, let’s talk about Stull Cemetery.

Stull Cemetery is located just outside Stull, Kansas, a small, unincorporated community about 17 miles east of Topeka. Stull was settled by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers in 1856 and originally named Deer Creek. When a post office opened in 1899, the town was renamed for postmaster Sylvester Stull.

By all accounts, Stull is a small, quiet town — one source even went to far as to say it’s practically vacant. But for such a tiny area, it has a lot of dark rumors associated with it. There’s a story about the town mayor being stabbed to death in a barn by a stable hand in the 1850’s. Another story tells of a farmer in the early 1900’s who burned down a field to clear land and later found the body of his son in the field, killed accidentally in the fire. Other rumors float around of people taking their own lives in public places, leaving their bodies behind to later be found by passers-by.

The mayor murder is probably not true Stull never even had a mayor, likely due to its size. The other stories are unconfirmed, at least by me. But some people think these (alleged) tragedies in Stull’s early history made it a magnet for the paranormal.

Stull Cemetery has been around for awhile — the oldest graves there date back to 1850. For awhile, the cemetery was like any other cemetery — creepy, maybe, but not haunted. There are a few different accounts of how the supernatural rumors started. One source says a University of Kansas professor made up the story in the 1950’s. Another said a 1980 article in the Kansas City Times prompted the rumors. But most accounts seem to agree that talk of Stull Cemetery being haunted dates back to 1974.

That year, a student the University of Kansas published an article about the cemetery in the school’s newspaper, the University Daily Kansan. The article reported that the cemetery was home to one of the seven gateways to hell, and was visited by none other than Satan himself twice a year, on Halloween and the first day of spring (or “the spring equinox.”) . A few students were interviewed who gave their own accounts of strange experiences they’d had while visiting the cemetery.

The article was probably for a Halloween edition of the paper and likely wasn’t meant to be taken seriously. But somehow, this school newspaper article about the devil in Stull caught on like wildfire.

In 1978, four years after the article was published, 150 people showed up at the cemetery on the first day of spring to catch a glimpse of the devil. Ten years later, in 1988, a crowd of 500 people gathered at the gates to see him. He never showed up, but quite a few vandals did. The cemetery has been private property and watched closely by police ever since.

In the 1990’s, with the internet becoming more prominent in people’s homes, the story began to spread even more. So let’s look at some of the rumors that have spread over the years about Stull Cemetery.

In the 1850’s, the Evangelical Emmanuel Church was established. The church was reportedly in the same building that used to be the barn where the alleged mayor murder happened — a building on the property of Stull Cemetery. At some point, the church burned and the roof was blown off by a storm. One source says the roof blew off in the 1920’s, another said it didn’t happen tunnel 1996. It’s also not clear just when the church was closed and abandoned.

The cemetery’s portal to hell is allegedly located inside the church’s staircase. This is the staircase the devil is said to use to travel in between earth and hell, and can only be accessed on Halloween and the spring equinox. After the church’s roof blew off, people said rain no longer fell inside the hollowed out building. And if you do find the stairs and venture down into hell, make sure your affairs are in order first because there’s no coming back.

If you decide to stay in the main part of the church, you might find a wooden crucifix that turns upside down at midnight. Legend also says that if you take two glass bottles, hold them in the shape of an inverted cross, throw them at the wall and they don’t break, you’re going to die. Other versions say if the bottles don’t break you’re going to heaven, and if they do break you’re going to hell.

In March 2002, the church was mysteriously torn down. A man named Major Weiss, one of the cemetery’s three owners, said he didn’t authorize the church’s demolition. At first, it was unknown who actually tore it down. But not long after, it was revealed that it was ordered demolished by the owner of the church.

So, at this point you might be wondering: Why is Stull Cemetery visited by the devil? Satan is a pretty powerful guy who could probably travel anywhere he wanted. Why would he choose a small town in Kansas? Not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas, but you get what I’m saying. Well, Stull Cemetery is reportedly the final resting place of Satan’s child and baby mama (for lack of a better phrase).

That’s right. At some point, Satan had a baby with a woman who was rumored to be a witch (and also possibly a werewolf). The child was deformed and only lived a few days. When he died, he was buried in the cemetery — and presumably his mother was buried there as well whenever she died.

There are at least two graves in the cemetery with the engraving ‘Wittich’ on them. This obviously looks quite a bit like an older version of the word ‘witch,’ and the rumor is that Satan’s son is buried in a grave with this marking on it. However, it’s much more likely that Wittich is just a family name. An Anna Andrew Wittich is buried in one grave, with the death dates of two of her children engraved on the headstone, along with a ‘baby Wittich’ who was presumably another child of hers.

Another source says the cemetery’s zip code starts with the numbers 666, which would attract the devil. However, it actually starts with 660. All the other zip codes I could find for Douglas County, where the cemetery is located, start with 660, 664 or 665.

In addition to the Prince of Darkness, the cemetery is rumored to be a hot spot for witches and occultists. A so-called “hanging tree,” said to be used for hanging suspected witches, once grew in the cemetery, reportedly out of a headstone. As the story goes, in 1965, the tree fell onto a couple’s headstone, splitting it in half. After that, rumors cropped up that the couple was involved in witchcraft. At some point, stories also spread that the church had become a secret meeting place for Satanists after it closed. Since Satan himself reportedly uses the church as his own personal portal, that’s not too much of a stretch.

Several sources say the hanging tree was cut down in 1998. One said it was cut down because it was dead, but another claims it was perfectly healthy when it was cut. So who knows.

One of the most reported stories about the cemetery is that chunks of time seem to pass by quickly. People who have visited reported enormous memory lapses, going all the way back to that 1974 article that started all of this. When Satan visits the cemetery, buildings catch fire and strange noises appear on tape recorders (I assume the same concept would apply to more modern devices, like iPhones). It’s also said that you should bring extra flashlight batteries as the lights have been known to die arbitrarily.

Other reported hauntings include: A strange mist over the grounds, apparitions of a man who hanged himself from the hanging tree, ghost children playing in the cemetery, the disembodied voice of an old woman and “raps and banging.” Werewolves are also said to jump out of bushes, which is something I did not expect when I went into researching for this video. A video taken at the cemetery in 2016 claims to show random fires on the grounds. The man in the video says it was shot on a cool spring day, so not exactly normal conditions for fires to spring up.

Another story tells of two young men who visited the cemetery at night. The men were scared away by a gust of wind and ran back to their car, only to find it on the opposite side of the road and in the opposite direction from where they’d initially parked. However, I don’t think this story holds water. I don’t know about Kansas, but here in Mississippi, random gusts of wind aren’t all that uncommon — and I forget where I parked my car all the time.

Another story of a reported visit to the cemetery was posted on Reddit in 2019. The poster, who I presume is male, said he visited the cemetery in the wee hours of the morning with his girlfriend and her father. He said they felt a heavy silence outside the gates, and when they picked up a bottle inside they heard gas and fizzing. When they got back to their car, the lights had been turned back on. The poster also claimed to take a photograph with a “questionable face” in the background.

And Stull Cemetery has had its fair share of celebrity visitors. In 2013, Ariana Grande played a show in Kansas City and decided to visit the cemetery while in the area. While there, she claimed to smell sulfur and hear strange whisperings. A couple of weeks after her visit, she began seeing a “strange black matter” at night.

There’s also a story that the band The Cure refuses to play shows in Kansas because of the cemetery and the stories behind it. I was curious about this, so I did some digging. I looked up the band’s previous tour dates, and they did play a show in Kansas City in 2016 but there are two Kansas Cities — one in Kansas, one in Missouri. (They might technically be the same town — I’m not really sure.) The address of the Starlight Amphitheater, where the band played that day, is in Missouri. So it looks like they really have never played in Kansas, though I don’t know if that’s because of the cemetery or just for monetary reasons.

Another report says Kurt Cobain visited the cemetery in 1992. I couldn’t find much else about this, or whether he had any paranormal experiences. There’s also a story about Pope John Paul II rerouting his plane to avoid flying over the cemetery, but I don’t think it’s true.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t think the hauntings of Stull Cemetery are real. And I’m not the only one. Paul Thomas, who works at the University of Kentucky library, is the author of Haunted Lawrence, published in 2017. Lawrence is about 11 miles east of Stull, so clearly on Thomas’s radar. According to him, the church was pretty creepy when it was still standing, which probably spawned some of the ghost stories. But a lot of the sensation and lure of the cemetery went away after the church was destroyed. He also believes the hauntings are simply urban legends that “spiraled out of control.” You can pick up a copy of Haunted Lawrence here.*

And from everything I’ve read, Stull residents aren’t too happy about the legends. The cemetery is frequented by vandals, who leave their trash behind, knock over headstones and even start fires. (Hey, maybe that’s how the random fires from that 2016 video came about.) Most news articles I came across said the vandals were tourists, but a few commenters I saw in other places said a lot of them were also high school and college students.

Regardless of who they are, the property owners obviously aren’t happy about them, having kept the cemetery under proverbial lock and key for years. Multiple ‘no trespassing’ signs hang on the gates, and the ruling is strictly enforced by Douglas County Sheriff’s deputies.

But Stull Cemetery has creeped its way into pop culture. One of its most notable appearances was on the season five finale of the popular show Supernatural. The show’s creator, Eric Kripke, once said the show’s sibling protagonists, Sam and Dean Winchester, were from nearby Lawrence because of its close proximity to the cemetery. In fact, the show is the only reason I’d heard of Lawrence before this — and I’m sure that’s the case for a lot of other people as well.

It’s been awhile since I watched this particular episode, so I might not get all the details. But for the past couple of season before this, the show had been building up to what was supposed to be the apocalypse. According to the show’s lore, the cemetery had to be the site for the final showdown between archangels Lucifer and Michael because of its gateway to hell — the world had to end where it began.

So that’s all I have for you today on Stull Cemetery. I think this is the first haunted place I’ve covered where I genuinely felt bad for locals in the area. Usually rumors of hauntings seem good for the place because they bring in interest and tourism, but it seems like these “hauntings” have done more harm than good. It should go without saying but, of course, please don’t go to Stull and trespass or bother anyone. Leave these people be.

Of course, if you’re from the area and have a different experience, I would love to know it in the comments. And even if you’re not from the area, I would still love to know what you think.

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