STULL: The Real Legend
THE REAL LEGEND
The short film "Stull" is based on a real legend, still in circulation. Here are some excerpts from other accounts.
The legends say that these stories have been linked to Stull for more than 100 years, but none of them made it into print until the 1970's. In November 1974, an article appeared in the University of Kansas student newspaper that spoke of a number of strange occurrences in the Stull churchyard. According to the article, Stull was “haunted by legends of diabolical, supernatural happenings” and the legends asserted that the cemetery was one of the two places on earth where the devil appears in person two times each year. It said that the cemetery had been the source of many legends in the area, stories that had been told and re-told for over a century. [...]

But were the stories actually true?

Not according to the residents of Stull, who claimed to have never even heard the stories before. [...] But such stories have a strong hold on people, as evidenced by the reaction to the article that claimed that the devil would appear in Stull Cemetery on the night of the Spring Equinox and again on Halloween. On March 20, 1978, more than 150 people waited in the cemetery for the arrival of the devil. The word also spread that the spirits of those who died violent deaths, and were buried there, would return from the grave. Unfortunately, the only spirits that showed up that night came in bottles and cans... but this did not stop the stories from spreading.
Watercolor by Kansas artist Mike Ott
Unfinished watercolor of the Stull church and cemetery by Kansas artist Mike Ott, 1981
used with permission of his estate
I honestly think that the reason there is controversy over Stull is the fact that the residents claim it is all false. This is small town America; they don't want attention. They don't want rowdy teenagers looking for a scare and causing trouble in their town. They are trying to protect and hide their secrets.

I've been to the old cemetery, though. I don't believe in most stories, but I definitely believe in Stull. Not that much happened, but in a completely clear part of the sky we started hearing growling noises like it was coming out of the air once it started getting dark. [Tessa, 05/11/2009]
--RoadsideAmerica.com, emphasis in original

One of the strangest stories about Stull supposedly appeared in Time magazine in either 1993 or 1995. This one claims that Pope John Paul II, while on his way to a public appearance in Colorado, allegedly ordered his private plane to fly around eastern Kansas. The reason for this, the story claims, was that the Pope did not want to fly over 'unholy ground.'
Urge Overkill's Stull EP album cover
Album cover for Urge Overkill's Stull EP
Forty miles west of Kansas City
Down a county road like a lonely soul
I see Sharon, I see Jack
It's me and Roman, wearing black
Tell my bride to bury me in Stull

Don't be afraid
Don't be afraid
It's great
I'm sure some of you are wondering, since Stull is supposed to be a gateway to hell, then where is the gateway? [...] I received an email today (3/29/99) from Ryan, and this is what it said:

"There are 'stairs' that lead somewhere down. They are behind the church on the right side of the church if you are facing the church. They aren't easy to find, however, because they are well covered by the grass that has grown on top of the lid that covers them. It is not easy to find them, it took a friend and I about 3 hours of snooping around. We came upon this about 6 years ago. If you really want to see or hear awful and weird stuff, if you can, try to campout behind the church for a night. Do this behind the church to avoid the patrol that do drive by there at night every hour or two. Take a flashlight and plenty of batteries, because you will have a ton of trouble keeping the flashlight working and it will go out a lot, trust me, I know."
The second 'myth' is that one could never reach the bottom of the staircase that leads to the basement. Well, this was also true. We had the intentions of busting this legend, but we couldn't. We took two stop-watches with us, and we all had flashlights and extra batteries, just in case. We started the first watch at the top of the stairs and started down. After 45 minutes we decided that it was becoming ridiculous, so we stopped. It shouldn't have taken more than a minute to reach the stupid basement-that-we-never-saw. We turned around and started the second stop-watch and headed back up the stairs. It only took us four minutes to get to the top again! And we had the watches to prove it. We were not running or hurrying in any way, going in either direction. Now, for the creepiest part of the whole deal. When we got outside of the church again, there was a group of eight guys talking and stretching. They freaked the hell out and almost ran when they saw us walk out. They asked how we got in and we told them that we had just tried getting to the basement, without success. They called us liars and said that they had just come off the stairs barely five minutes ago, then they showed us their stopwatches. They had been going down the stairs for almost two hours, and had turned back only because they were worried about trying to climb so many stairs back to the top. And, as you may have guessed, it only took them four minutes to get back to the top! We showed them our stop-watches and we all decided to freak out together, lol.

We ended up getting busted by a couple of county deputies for trespass. They let us go when we explained what we had been doing, and showed them our watches.
--Hometown Tales, "The Gateway to Hell"
HINT: You can skip ahead to 1:12 minutes in.
On Halloween night of 1999, reporters from local newspapers & TV stations went to the cemetery to join the curious onlookers, to see the devil make his appearance at midnight, as the legend claims. Sheriff deputies were on hand, but didn't ask anyone to leave until 11:30 pm, when a representative of the owners (the cemetery is on private property) arrived & insisted that everyone leave. The deputies had no choice but to honor the representative's wishes and everyone, including the reporters, had to leave.

If these legends are untrue as the locals claim, why didn't they let these people stay and see for themselves? It may have dispelled the myths. On Friday, March 29, 2002 the old stone church was mysteriously torn down. A man named Major Weiss, who owns the property with two other people, said he did not authorize the demolition.

Today it is advised that if you go to Stull, Kansas, to enter the cemetery at your own risk. The old church may be gone, but the legend lives on.
If you walk up the hill to the pile of rubble where the old 1867 church once stood and knock on a rock, the Devil will not answer the door.

However, if you walk down the hill and cross the street, you will find the gateway to a church that not only has escaped death, but is now thriving, 150 years after its first members met and 142 years since the old stone church became its first home.

Yes, Stull United Methodist Church is turning 150 this year, despite the odds, the difficulties and one persistent urban legend.

“It’s been such a presence in the county and in the community for so long ... there’s some good, strong roots, but you know, there are a lot of churches that kind of disappear without notice over time,” says the church’s pastor, Andrew Mitchell. “I think that’s a real testament to just the community and their faith that they’ve been able to carry through.”

To read about the elements of the Stull legend that inspired writer/director J. Ott to make the movie, visit the 'Stull' page on Making the Movie.


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