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How to Go to Hell

A quick guide for the damned.
IMAGE Wikimedia Commons
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If you clicked on this story, then you know hell was meant for you. Welcome to the horde of the damned. Maybe you pissed off a priest or ran over a dog. Maybe you bookmarked Pornhub or let your rage out on the comments section too often. Maybe you’ve given up on the shitshow that is earth and want to advance your ticket to hell.

We won’t judge. There are no saints here.

If you think hell might be better than earth in 2020, here’s how to get there via the seven gates of hell on earth (based mostly on mythology and urban legends, but we’re taking our chances if it means getting us out of this mess). Visas may be necessary.

1| Darvaza, Turkmenistan

If you’ve ever tried to imagine what hell would look like, Darvaza fits the bill to a T. The tiny village in Turkmenistan is home to a giant, fiery pit that belongs in an apocalyptic movie, not Central Asia. The huge crater is actually man-made and not a product of mythology, but locals have already called it a door to hell.

In the ‘70s, when Turkmenistan was still part of the former Soviet Union, Soviet engineers set up a drilling rig on the site looking for oil. Instead, they found a pocket of natural gas, and soon after, the ground collapsed, forming the crater that exists today. But when the ground caved in, engineers were worried the gas would poison people nearby and attempted to burn the gas away. It worked, but they didn’t expect the flames to not go out.

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What they thought would take a few weeks extended to 49 years and there’s no guessing as to when the Darvasa will stop burning—or if it ever will.

2| Hekla, Iceland

This ultra-active volcano is located in Iceland, where it has erupted 20 times since 874. The Europeans once called Hekla a gateway to Hell, and it’s not hard to guess why. The volcano has produced one of the largest volumes of lava in the world.

The name Hekla doesn’t come from the world hell. It’s actually Icelandic for a short-hooded cloak, referring to the misty clouds over the summit. The link to hell came later when, in the 12th century, a Catholic monk called Sicily’s fiery Mt. Etna a chimney compared to the inferno of Hekla. In 1120, another monk later referred to Hekla as the prison of Judas, and, in the 14th century, locals claimed they saw souls flying in the mountain’s fire during an eruption. They were birds, but close enough?

3| Mount Osore, Japan

Osore means “dread” in Japanese, and the mountain that names itself after it also happens to be a gateway for the dead. According to Japanese mythology, Osore is an entrance to the underworld and the river nearby, Laku Usori, is believed to be Sanzu River, a river in Japanese folklore that the dead must pass in order to reach the afterlife.

It’s not hard to see the connection to hell. The mountain has a number of holes that emit steam and sulfur dioxide, which is toxic to humans. The mythology of the mountain is so strong that eventually, the Buddhist temple Bodai-ji started housing blind mediums who could speak and summon the dead.

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4| Fengdu, China

Hell is everywhere, even in China. Every religion and culture has its own brand of the underworld, and in China, the Fengdu Ghost City is a giant model of what is supposed to be Youdu, the capital of hell or Diyu in Chinese mythology.

That’s right. In Chinese mythology, hell isn’t an eternal pit of fire. It’s a city made of jade with its own palaces, justice hall, and homes for dead souls. This level of urban planning is positively Asian. We approve.

5| Waipio Valley, Hawaii, USA

With its black sand, scenic waterfalls, and gorgeous views, this oceanside valley is definitely Instagram-worthy, and apparently it’s hell-worthy, too. According to Hawaiian mythology, the sand of Waipio Valley hides an entrance to the Hawaiian land of the dead Lua-o-Milu.

It’s actually one of many entrances located throughout the islands. Folklore says that each island has at least one location (the leaping place), either at the top of a valley wall or sea cliff, where souls can jump into the underworld.

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6| Hellam, Pennsylvania

According to urban legends, the quaint little town of rural Pennsylvania houses the seven gates of hell. Stories passed down generations claim that the gates of an old mental asylum turned into entrances to the underworld after the patients there were beaten and killed. Apparently, no one has passed through more than five gates and returned to tell the tale.

The townspeople are quick to reject the urban legends, but it hasn’t stopped satanic cults in America from journeying to the little town and meeting to discuss Satan, demons, and whatever the hell (pun intended) Satanists do these days.

7| Murgo, India

Murgo lies near the border of India and China, and its name comes from the Tibetan languages’ word for “gateway of hell.” The barren wilderness of the mountainous area earned it its name, but it’s also been a place shrouded in mystery and death.

It’s where explorers have died, plants refuse to grow, and the winter is unyielding. Worse yet, there’s no signal there for any Internet access, and if that’s not an indication of hell, we don’t know what is.

BONUS: Basically all of Greece and Italy.

Now, we’re not saying Greece or Italy is hellish. In fact, they’re two of the most beautiful places in the world. But according to ancient mythology, there are entrances to Hades all over the islands.

The Trojan hero Aeneas, the only hero to escape the sacking of Troy, visited the underworld through a cave in Lake Avenus, a volcanic crater lake in Campania, Italy. This is also where Odysseus, who fought for the Greeks against Aeneas and the Trojans, also entered Hades.

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In Greece, the town of Cape Tenaron, once the ancient Taenarum, is said to be where Orpheus led Eurydice back to the land of the living and also where Heracles dragged Cerberus out of the underworld.

Meanwhile, Hades, the god of the underworld himself, is said to have opened the earth in modern-day Sicily to kidnap the goddess Persephone.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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