Hell has many faces, and many of the images have been carved onto the face of this earth. This Dark Atlas explores the places that lead the way to hell...
Hell on Earth: A concept that has fascinated many for millennia, an attempt to place divine punishment on the same plane of existence humans live in. We also have a deep rooted passion for the paranormal. For Pope John Paul II, Hell is a mental state that incites repentance and forgiveness of sin, but it can also be a metaphysical space where souls are cast out, unworthy of glory. Ultimately, Hell is closer to home than we realize.
Hell has many faces, from the fiery pits of Christian Hell to the complex Asian underworlds and pagan dimensions. Many of the images of Hell have been carved onto the face of this earth and in the minds of the fearful. This Atlas Oscura explores those places that for years have been linked to the paranormal and to the place where damned souls dwell.
Religions across the world speak of portals that connect the living with the dead and the terrible creatures that guard this fiery pit. Where are these gates to Hell? The answer lies ahead and luckily you don't have to die to cross them...
Houska Castle is located in the north of Prague, in the Czech Republic. It is a gothic castle constructed over a large hole in the ground that is called The Gateway to Hell. Legend has it that when construction began, all the inmates that were sentenced to death would be granted a pardon if they dared to be lowered by rope into the hole, and report back what they saw. The first person that was lowered began screaming after a few seconds and when he resurfaced he had aged considerably.
Houska Castle was built with no water, no kitchen, no fortifications, and there were no occupants at its time of completion. In fact, it was built as a protective sanctuary, because it was truly believed that the hole was thought to be the gateway to the underworld. Houska Castle remains as a fortress that keeps the demons at bay.
According to the Greeks and Romans, this door, that is close to the Temple of Apollo, is directly connected to the Underworld. It all began when the people of the village nearby spotted a crack in the earth that emanated toxic fumes that killed any living creature in its proximity. In this context, people assumed that the origin of the hole was demonic, and they decided to close it with rocks, marking it as a forbidden site. Nowadays, this portal belongs to the province of Denizli, Turkey.
These Japanese natural springs are famous and have been mentioned since 700BC in Buddhist manuscripts. Perhaps, the most famous spring is located in the city of Beppu, which is known for its deep red color and terrifying aspect. The original name of this spring is Chinoike Jigoku, and it can reach temperatures of 78º C. This explains why this site was used to torture Japanese prisoners in ancient times. Today it is a spa that sells the contents of the spring as a body cream.
Grotto della Sibilla
Along the road of Lake Averno in Italy, we find one of the oldest roads that lead to the underworld. Over two thousand years ago, Grotto della Sibilla was once a Roman military tunnel connecting Lake Averno to Lake Lucrino. Here, Aeneas with Sibyl at his side embarked on a journey into Hades.
These Icelandic mountains are thought to be connected to Hell, and this superstition has existed since the twelfth Century. Hekla is one of the most active volcanoes, and the clouds of fume add to its image as The Gateway to Hell. Strange sightings of flying creatures have been catalogued since Medieval Times and the monk, Benedeit believed that these birds were lost souls guarding the eternal prison of Judas.
The Acheron River
The Acheron River is thought to only belong to the pages of ancient mythology, but in fact it is a river located in the Epirus region of northwest Greece. It is known as the River of Woe, and it was one of the five rivers that led to the Greek underworld. According to Homer and Dante, this river holds the souls of the condemned and lost.
According to ancient Mayan beliefs, these cenotes with their stunning waterfalls and pure waters served as portals to the underworld known as Xibalba. Secret chambers with human remains have been uncovered. The ties this civilization had with death were so familiar and natural that they inspire many things but fear.
St. Patrick's Purgatory
In Lough Derg, Ireland, you will discover a beautiful monastery founded in the fifteenth century. It is an ancient pilgrimage site and, according to legend, Christ showed Saint Patrick a cave, on Station Island that was an entrance to Purgatory. Thousands travel to the caves every year to pray for the lost souls that haunt the cave and visit the monastery in honor of the saint who banished all the snakes from Ireland.
Officially known as Fengdu, it is known as Ghost Town because of the amount of souls and supernatural beings that inhabit it. This town is a stopping point to reach Naraka, the Chinese underworld. The streets are adorned with demonic figures and mythical beings that guide the traveling souls in their journey. Visiting this town is a supernatural experience.
The Masaya Volcano
This volcano is located in the National Park of Nicaragua and, according to legends, it was the home of a witch, while others maintain it housed a terrifying deity. The concept of Hell came after the arrival of the Spanish and the adoption of the Christian faith. This superstition was so strong that a governor at the time, Francisco De Bobadilla, ordered an exorcism to be performed on the volcano to get rid of the evil spirits. Today, it is a touristic attraction not only for its natural beauty but the supernatural qualities attached to it.