Dark Fandom and Stull Cemetery

Dark Fandom and Stull Cemetery



Not found at Stull, but look closely. Do you see the devil figure between the gates?

There’s a small town in Kansas that is home to a rumor-riddled graveyard. But like the old 80s song asks, “How do rumors get started?” And further, who have those twisted tales attracted? What price does the town of Stull pay for its involuntary dark fandom?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Stull Cemetery has many nicknames. Gateway to Hell. Devil’s Graveyard. Hellmouth in the Heart of Kansas. The rumors that fly around about the place are just as chilling. I grabbed a handful from the ethers. The Pope won’t allow his plane to fly over the cursed ground. The devil’s infant son is buried here, half-human, half-demon. There are steps that open up twice a year that lead you directly to Hell. An old tree was used to execute witches. The cemetery is one of seven portals to Hell.

It goes on and on.

I spent half a day researching the origins of the rumors and couldn’t find much concrete information – just third and fourth hand accounts. The most consistent story was that back in the 70s a university professor invented a story about Stull Cemetery to demonstrate the power and pervasiveness of urban legends. He concocted a rumor that Stull Cemetery was one of seven portals to Hell and detailed that the portal opened up two times a year, midnight on Halloween and at the Spring equinox. The story spread like wildfire and soon the fiction was recounted in blogs, on YouTube and in whispered conversations all over Kansas.

The urban legend took on a life of its own and pretty soon people forgot that the rumors were a work of fiction. But that’s how urban legend work, isn’t it? Eventually, everyone has a second cousin that’s had an encounter with a demon at Stull Cemetery.

Photo credit: WikiImages

The curious visited Stull Cemetery. Some performed dark rituals and others knocked down headstones. Though, most visitors did no harm, the city took action. The tree that allegedly witnessed witch hangings was cut down. Some stories say it was cut down without the owner’s permission the night before Halloween to dissuade thrill-seekers. I found other accounts from secondary sources that say the tree was taken down months prior because it’s roots were breaking apart tombstones.

There were rumblings about the stone church that stood on the site from 1867-2002, too. People said glass bottles would not break inside the church structure. And there was talk of upside down crosses and rituals. The church and tree were waypoints to find the alleged seven steps to Hell. Is that why both were eventually removed? The church had been roofless for decades, slowly succumbing to nature. But the fandom felt the church’s destruction was more nefarious. Google it. You’ll see what I mean.

Supernatural creator, Eric Kripke, grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, only a few miles away from Stull. He teethed on those urban legends and his wildly popular television show centers around two monster hunting brothers from Kansas. Kripke set a dramatic season finale at Stull Cemetery. That episode was about a battle between Archangel Michael and Satan. The episode called a whole new fandom through the gates of Stull Cemetery.

Pop star Ariana Grande visited Stull Cemetery in 2013. She spoke of it in an interview with the Kansas City Star. You can read the full interview here. On that day in November she sensed a negative energy inside the cemetery. As she drove through the property, her car filled with a putrid sulfur odor. As she was leaving, Grande rolled down her window and said, “We apologize. We didn’t mean to disrupt your peace.” Then she snapped a picture with her phone. She says she captured three demonic figures. She said that she tried and failed to text the image to her manager and received a message that the file was too big, 666MB. Afterwards, Grande felt unsettled in her home. She felt like someone was watching her as she slept so she deleted the picture and things returned to normal.

Looks like a witch’s tree to me

All this fame comes at a price. The cemetery is closed to everyone but mourners now and those that receive permission. The town holds its collective breath every evening and braces itself on Halloween. Enhanced police patrols help, but the fandom still comes uninvited.

It’s a shame.

The reason I write this blog is to inspire people to visit cemeteries. It’s primary source history. Tombstones are book covers and the graves hold the stories. Someone lived and struggled and tried and achieved and failed and inevitably died.

I’m not one for turning people away from cemeteries, but when the stories are no longer tethered to the truth, what’s the point? Those lies metastasize like a fast growing tumor. And then what? I guess then it’s best to keep people out? I’m not sure. Maybe barring people makes the rumors grow bigger faster?

It’s complicated, isn’t it? Let me know what you think in the comments!

The End of the World Stone at Reilig Odhrain

The End of the World Stone at Reilig Odhrain

Photo credit: SaintsandStones.net

Situated on the Isle of Iona, the graveyard Reilig Odhrain is two ferry rides from mainland Scotland and the stuff of legend. In fact, this may be one of the most coveted resting places in the world.

The Reilig lies beside Saint Oran’s chapel, which is home to a mysterious stone called Clach Brath. It has not been verified, but lore says that part of Clach Brath was brought to England where it has witnessed the coronation of countless royals. Others say it is the original stone mentioned in the Bible as Jacob’s pillow. Another spine-tingling legend says that when the stone is worn through, the world will end. Oh, my.

Sixty kings are buried in Reilig Odhrain. They heralded from Scotland, Ireland and Norway.

Why have the royals clamored to be interred here? Could this ancient prophecy hold the answer?

“Seven years before the judgment,

The sea shall sweep over Erin at one tide,

And over blue-green Isla;

But I of Colum of the Church shall swim.”

Photo credit: alexander-ritchie.co.uk

I hope if your travels take you here, you will check on Clach Brath and make sure it is still thick and strong and enduring. It’d be a great comfort to know. Maybe we should install a camera at Saint Oran’s chapel to keep a steady watch?

Tom, not Tim. A visit to Preston Cemetery.

Tom, not Tim. A visit to Preston Cemetery.


It was a rare sunny afternoon in the Pacific Northwest. My college daughter, Nora, was in town for a brief stop over between spring and summer term and we had a few hours of free time, so naturally, we ended up in a cemetery.

We were tipped off by a friend, Shannon Flynn, who had discovered Preston Cemetery, with her daughter a few weeks earlier. Less than five minutes from I-90, I’d driven past this place countless times, clueless.

As Nora and I parked, the temperature danced at the 80-degree mark. We abandoned the car and began to walk the cemetery. Soon, we were drawn to a huge tree, that felt like the watchman of the grounds. We stood beneath it and after a few breaths, looked down to the graves.

There are 630 internments at Preston Cemetery that stretch across a rocky hill. We turned on our ghost hunting equipment and received a handful of words. ‘Tim’ stood out to us. I had a sharp pain in my right temple and stopped. Nora said her head hurt. I asked, “How did you die, Tim?” and we received the word, ‘Fall.’

We asked where his grave was and the word, ‘Center’ popped up on the screen. Oh, he was a jokester. We would find out more about him as we combed the grounds in search of a grave with Tim or Timothy etched into the stone.

A half-hour later, we called it quits. As we walked back to the car, a robin landed on the tombstone in front of us. We remarked how pretty it was. Our ghost equipment said, ‘Breakfast.’ Nora laughed, “Don’t eat the robin!” The ghost equipment said, ‘Several.’ Nora, giggling, said, “Tim, do not eat robins. How many would you eat?” The ghost equipment said, ‘All.’

Laughing, we returned to the car. I told Tim thank you for communicating and also that he didn’t have permission to follow us home. Nora said goodbye as well and then the name, ‘Tom’ appeared. It was the last word we would receive that day.

“Tom? Is that your real name?” we asked.

Sure enough, there is one Thomas interred at Preston Cemetery.

Read from the bottom up! Tom joked he would eat a dozen robins!

Born in Ohio on December 12, 1874, Thomas Sherman Ambrose married his first wife, Nina Z. Schott in 1898 and she died the following year. Thomas served in the military at some point, possibly that is what drew him out to the Pacific Northwest. His draft registration card said he was of medium height and build with dark blue eyes and black hair. In 1912 he married again, Myrtle Olive Green, from Victoria, British Columbia.

They settled in Preston, Washington where Thomas taught grade school.

I like to think we got a glimpse of the real Tom, who gave us a fake name and joked about eating all the robins for breakfast. No matter what, it was an amazing cemetery visit.


The grave of Thomas Sherman and Myrtle Olive Ambrose
He’s Trying to Save Two Seattle Jewish Cemeteries

He’s Trying to Save Two Seattle Jewish Cemeteries


He’s trying to save to Seattle Jewish cemeteries and he needs help! His name is Ari Hoffman and I’d love for you to read the full article about his efforts here. 

Graves are being soiled and the city isn’t doing a darn thing about it.

Yes, it’s complicated, there are homeless camps on the streets surrounding the two cemeteries. And yes, ALL people deserve compassion, so we have many reasons to find a comprehensive solution. Keep the cemeteries safe and clean but also respect people in need.

I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I have faith in people. If we come together, talk this out and work together, we will find a solution that is good for everyone. Yes, I’m a Pollyanna, but I have faith. 

Read the story. Comment. Contact Ari. Both the living and the dead deserve our love and compassion.

Honoring the Muse

Honoring the Muse


Okay, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. I hate my voice. It’s weird.

It’s also led to a number of funny nicknames over the years, Squeak, Flipper, etc. But, today, I’m throwing my insecurity into the wind because this was a meaningful conversation.

Please have a listen.

Thank you for inviting me, Tanglepod. I hope our conversation helps others connect with their own muse. 

Find the podcast, named one of the top indie’s in the nation here.



Brier Trail Cremation Garden

Brier Trail Cremation Garden


It was the final hours of my daughter Bryn’s spring vacation. We craved one last adventure and agreed a movie was too mundane. We decided to  take a drive to a place she’d stumbled upon with her older sister last summer. Over the months since, it had become a legend in our family  – as much as something can in such a short span of time.

It’s always sunny here. The views are amazing. The lighting is that greenish, yellow that makes all your pictures look nice. It’s a time capsule. You’ll see, you’ll see! 

It was all true. We turned off the main road and winded up a wooded hill. “Welcome to Brier,” the sign read. A song came on that we both liked, and we cranked up the volume and drove. At every intersection, I asked Bryn which way to turn. 

We ended up at the bottom of an expansive cemetery. We turned into the property and silenced the radio, which had switched to a rap song ripe with colorful language. I think it was the Jesus statue that made us hyper-aware. Carved out of white stone, arms extended, Jesus watched over Abbey View Memorial Park, maybe on the look out for sinners like us. Only slightly scorched, we continued driving the loop around the cemetery. 

My little angel, Bryn, had to return to school today

At the top of a hill, we noticed a small dirt road that broke off and twisted into the woods. “Left!” Bryn said, and I turned. We winded into the woods and up another hill and there we saw it, Brier Trail Cremation Garden.

A cemetery within a cemetery, moss-coated trees towered above a humble footpath. The path twisted through mounds of peaty earth, each divot holding an urn. Flowers of all types were tucked around the memorials. Daffodils, pansies, crocus, and lilies, the urns sparkled in the sunshine that filtered through the piney boughs. 

“This isn’t scary at all,” Bryn said. “It’s got such a good vibe!” She was right. It was a lovely spot. 

We snapped a picture and returned to the car, driving home lighter and happier. Was it the magic of Brier? Or the secret garden we’d found? I’m not sure, but we left feeling filled up and ready for Monday.


And now for the rest of the story:

After we returned home, I searched online for information about Brier, Washington. Wow. The story of how this small city came to be is dramatic! I encourage you to read the full account on History.org! It involved a greedy developer who was in a hurry to get his dense housing development built. A group of active locals worked round the clock to incorporate the town to keep things the way they were, green spaces between properties and the like. There would be court orders, injunctions, flights across the state and mud-stuck cars, but ultimately the citizens won and Brier was saved and the character of this special place preserved! 


Black Diamond Cemetery

Black Diamond Cemetery

Grave of two-year old Morgan. His father was an influential figure in Black Diamond, but still tragedy struck.

Black Diamond Cemetery lies an hour from Seattle in the heart of an old mining town. I’d seen it on a list of most haunted places in Washington, and knew it’d be perfect for a walk with my college daughter, Nora.

“This experience changed my life.”

That’s what Nora said after our visit. It changed my life, too. 

Before we even entered the graveyard, I stopped to take a picture of a wall mural and was surrounded by the scent of natural gas. I knew then, the spirits wanted to speak. I found out later that others had encountered the same scent. By the end of our walk, I would also detect the scent of flannel mixed with earth. 

Drizzling, surrounded by pines, the cemetery was painted in grays and greens. We turned on our ghost equipment and stepped inside the grounds, telling the spirits we wanted to hear from them and that (because we are cheesy) we had come in love.

We walked in solitude, none of the equipment indicated any energy. We cut a path through the center of the cemetery and joined a lower path. No words. No magnetic changes. 

Tristan Tyler Newton’s grave with a heartfelt note from his mother

And then I saw a grave with an empty rum bottle on it. I needed a picture. The epitaph read, “My true North forever, Love Mom.” (sic)

I blinked back tears and took a picture. I squeezed Nora’s hand. “You’re my true North, too. I love you.” We hugged and wiped our eyes and thanked Tristan Tyler Newton for bringing us that moment, him and his mom. And the equipment came to life.

We continued to circle the property and were drawn to the far end. We climbed a hill and began receiving words on the equipment. Even more curious is the ghost meter that hadn’t registered anything, now was. It was flickering from green to orange.

I had a pain in my throat, a squeezing sensation. Nora said her throat hurt. We stopped. I asked if it was a spirit and if they died of something to do with the throat. We receive the word POND. We would get this word two more times during our walk. We told the spirit that we were sorry they had suffered and that we hoped they weren’t in any pain now. 

We received the words SLOWLY and FLOATING. “Did you drown?” Nora asked. The meter blipped once. We asked if they’d drowned in a nearby pond and the meter went to the extremes. Then Nora felt something touch her wrist.  At the same time we received the word ARM.

The energy seemed to fade, so we continued to walk. My daughter, Nora, is pretty and has striking blue hair. At one point, we think the spirits were talking to her. We received the words PRETTY and STAGE and METAL. Her hair is the color of metal, gray and blue.

My beautiful blue-haired daughter, Nora

As our walk came to a close, we said our goodbyes and said thank you for the conversation. We received TEA and laughed. Yes, we would love to stay for tea with our new spirit friends.

If only.


The rest of the story:

Black Diamond Cemetery, run by the city, was established in 1804, the year the coal mine officially opened. The mine drew people from across the globe to work. That diversity is reflected in the stones.

During our walk, we received somewhat antiquated words like STAGE (instead of television or movie), and CERTAINLY, INDEED. We even received the word CENTURY when we were discussing the age of the city. Larry, a blog follower, said they seemed appropriate considering the age of the cemetery and residents.

After our walk, we went to Black Diamond Bakery & Deli to recount the visit and take notes. “This experience changed my life,” Nora said over soup. “The spirit world exists. There’s more to life than this physical state.” 

It was undeniable. 

Also, the spirits that came through were friendly and eager to speak to us. We felt like we’d walked into a senior center and they’d pulled up chairs for us, gathered around and took turns sharing their stories. 

Also, we reflected on how we get what we look for in terms of spiritual energy. My daughter and I approach all cemetery visits with love in our hearts and the spirits respond in kind. 

Our early efforts were different, though. We confessed that we wanted to be scared, come away from the walks with a nightmare of a story, and we often did, but that was never positive. Not for us, not for the spirits. We were stupid and those infant efforts resulted in carrying stuff home and remedies that involved lots of sage and salt.

Finally, we agreed, Black Diamond Cemetery had been our most active walk yet. We were overwhelmed with gratitude

As we exited Black Diamond, we passed a pond. The hairs rose across my arms. Was this the POND where one of our ghost friends met his end? We will never know for sure.




Oddfellows Cemetery

Oddfellows Cemetery

The font on this tombstone is fantastic!

In a small town north of Seattle lies an interesting cemetery. Tucked within a residential neighborhood, Oddfellows Cemetery, also known as Monroe Park, is a quiet and simple resting place. It is also the last cemetery my youngest daughter will ever volunteer to visit with me. 

On a rare sunny afternoon, my two daughters and I spread out across the grounds to take pictures. I kept track of my younger daughter as she explored and soon, my oldest daughter was not in sight. I looked harder and saw her sitting on a grave. As I approached, I noticed her staring past me, a face frozen in apathy. I called to her and called to her. Finally, she looked up, surprised to see me there. 

We continued to walk the grounds when my younger daughter ran at me. “We need to leave. I want to go.” 

She ran to the car and climbed in to wait for us. 

Over lunch, she told us about a shadow figure that followed her around the cemetery. It filled her with cold terror. She didn’t want to give anymore details than that, so we let it go. But, after lunch, she said she would never visit a cemetery again. 

Once home, I saged all three of us before we entered the house. I hadn’t felt any darkness, but clearly, my kids had.

Visit with caution.

Perhaps the Most Beautiful Tombstone Ever

Perhaps the Most Beautiful Tombstone Ever

Jiménez mausoleum, in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Photo by Waywuwei via Flickr.

From The Funeral Zone, here’s the story behind Jimenez Mausoleum. “This winding rainbow-like sculpture is the final resting place of José Alfredo Jiménez, a famous Mexican musician who wrote more than 1,000 songs in his lifetime. Considered an important figure in modern Mexican culture, Jiménez died in 1973, aged just 47.

His striking mausoleum, which is located in his hometown of Dolores Hidalgo, is made of two symbols of Mexican culture: the sombrero and the sarape, a blanket-like shawl. Mosaic tiles give the sarape its rainbow stripes, making Jiménez’s grave as colourful and vibrant as his music.”

“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world!”

“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world!”

Photo credit to TX Seabees, Find A Grave

The tombstone of poet, Robert Frost, reads, “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.” (b. 1874 – d. 1963)

His grave resides in Old Bennington Cemetery in Bennington, Vermont.

How many of us are in the throes of a lover’s quarrel with the world? Well, persevere. Do what you must, but one day the world will win the fight. That’s the natural course of things, after all.