Monday, February 13, 2012

First Post/Seven Gates

Hi there,
My name is Zach, and this, obviously, is my blog. I am 19 years old and I have lived in York County, PA for all of them. Admittedly there was a period of time that I didn't think too highly of Pennsylvania, I told myself that when I grew up I was going to move somewhere more "fun", somewhere "interesting." 
But then, a funny thing happened. I was at Border' Books in East York and I walked by a new book called "Weird PA." I flipped through it and was immediately entranced with it. I had my grandfather buy it for me and I read it cover to cover in one night. That was 5 years ago. That book made me fall in love with PA. I've bought several other books about the area, all focused on the Keystone State's legends, it's strange creatures, it's ghosts, it's oddities and it's darker history. I've fallen in love with this state, and the notion of leaving permanently seems laughable now.
I'm writing this blog because I want to share these tales of the paranormal, of murder and mystery. I want people to see just how interesting and beautifully bizarre this area is. This blog will focus on South Central PA and the surrounding areas. I plan to focus not just on the paranormal, but the abnormal as well, anything slightly off center or odd. It is my hope that I can get in touch with the owners of some of these places, conduct interviews and visit or revisit some of them myself. However because this blog will be linked to the York Daily Record's circle of blogs, I will not visit any location that is posted or private property without expressed consent. I may write post's about some of these places (in fact one of these places is the subject of the entry below) but that will be the extent of my involvement. If it is illegal to visit a particular location, I will make this information available. If you would like to contact me, with a story, or if you own a haunted or interesting location and would like to set up an interview or see a post, please email me at

The Seven Gates of Hell 
The Seven Gates of Hell in York (Not to be confused with the Downington Gates of Hell in Chester County) are probably one of if not the most famous haunted locations in York County. The gates are located off of Trout Run Rd near the York Galleria mall. More than any other place, this is the one my friends ask me to give directions to.
The property where the gates are located once belonged to a Dr. Belknap in the 50's and 60's. He was apparently a very odd man, and did not care for trespassers, putting up signs like "Those found here at dusk will be found here at dawn" and "No trespassing under the sign of the toad" which is where the nickname"Toad Road" came from.  One can assume that it was these eccentric signs, along with the gate in front of the doctor's secluded driveway that sparked an interest in exploring the property in the first place.
The doctor, according to legend had a Sanitarium for the criminally insane on the property, and one night the building burned to the ground, with many patients dying in the fire, and the remainder being beaten to death by locals who feared what the escapees might do. Ever since then people have reported that the souls of these evil men and women prowl the woods near the charred remains of the asylum. So evil is the property that if someone were to pass through the seven gates found along what I assume was the doctors driveway, they would be transported straight to Hell. Conveniently though, no one has ever been brave enough to pass through all seven gates, or if they have, they've never returned. Oh and there are rumors of Wiccan's practicing in a clearing in the woods.
Now, there are several problems with this legend. First, pretty much everyone who knew Dr. Belknap has stated that he was a heart specialist. Seems odd that a man would go to medical school to be a cardiologist only to open a Sanitarium. Second, there are no newspaper stories about a mental asylum burning down and locals savagely beating the survivors. Maybe this is just me, but I feel like that would have been a significant enough event to warrant a little news coverage. Third there seems to be a lot of dispute on what exactly the gates are. The red gate out front is clear enough to see but beyond that there are some who say there are 6 other actual gates, and others who say the gates are in fact clusters of trees that resemble gates in the moonlight. There also seems to be confusion as to where exactly the remains of the asylum are, some say there is a charred foundation of the building while others saying there is a fully intact, if decrepit building in the woods. Regardless, one could just as as easily assume these ruins are the remains of Dr. Belknap's house. As fat as the reports of witches go, you'd be hard pressed to find a creepy location without at least one tale of Satanists, Wiccan's or cults.  
Whatever you choose to believe happened on the property, the real threat in exploring would be the constant police presence along the road. The woods near the area are plastered with "Posted and Patrolled" signs, and others have told me that the neighbors are not above calling the authorities. I've even been told at least one local will send out his hunting dogs if trespassers are heard.
I did decide to risk it and explore the property when I was a junior in high school, and I can honestly say that I did not experience anything paranormal. I was not able to find any ruins of a building (though I could have missed them)  It is my personal opinion that most of the paranormal events reported in the area stem from paranoia and a desire to experience something ghostly. I cannot recommend exploring the area, it's simply not worth the possibility of fines, ticked off neighbors, and possible dog attacks. There are plenty of more public and legal areas to explore in the area. But if anyone has had an encounter in the area, pictures, etc. and would like to share them I would love to hear/see them.
Till next time,

Haunted Places in York County Pennsylvania by Leo Motter
Weird PA by Matt Lake