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Whilst a drainage tunnel may not immediately inspire diabolical imagery of hellfire and infernal torment, there is one such tunnel system in the city of Clifton, New Jersey that has a reputation for just that.
Off Clifton’s Paulison Avenue, located behind the old Black Prince Distillery building, lies a storm drain that is known as the Gates of Hell. Over the years, this drainage system has earned a reputation for inexplicable, possible paranormal, happenings, including strange sounds and ethereal “figures running at abnormal speeds” 1. Not only that, it is rumoured that dark rituals have been performed in the tunnels.2 It is for these reasons that the Gates of Hell drain has attracted the attention of both locals and visiting paranormal investigators.
Before one can even get close to the supposed entrance to Satan’s lair, one must identify the correct way in. As there are many openings into what has been described as a “maze of drainage tunnels”3, it is easy to get lost. Found “in a wooded area down the hill from a railroad line” 4, it is the dry, “square shaped entrance” that supposedly marks the start of the Gates of Hell. 5 From this eerie primary passageway, it is said that one can access a “network of underground tunnels and storm sewers”6, including a secret room.
It is this secret room which local legend largely focuses on. According to someone who grew up in Clifton, local people would often “tell stories of people entering these tunnels and never returning” – most in pursuit of the secret room. Said to be “many layers under the ground”, this hidden location is described as the penultimate room before entering Hell itself. Only those with the supernatural ability to lift the “axes that weighed thousands of pounds” which block the door would be able to enter. 7
Before that point, however, legend dictates that one must pass through hundreds of feet of underground tunnels, allegedly layered seven times just like the circles of Hell. These inner tunnels, it is said, are littered with the remains of ritual offerings – bones, decaying carcasses, crosses and occult graffiti. 8.
According to one personal testimony, a summer’s day exploration of the drain with a friend ended in them fleeing from the tunnels after they heard “a strange knocking sound” and possibly “someone whispering some chant deeper in the tunnels”. 9
“I had seen the entrance, and I now believed everything I heard just by looking at it. It was pure Evil. […] Years later I made several trips back to the Gates of Hell, however after telling my story I could never convince anyone to venture into the tunnels as far as my friend and I did that one summer day.” 10
Another testimony describes having seen “rocks” being hurled “out of the tunnel with no person visible inside”. On another occasion, they also claimed to have witnessed “a small human shaped figure run out of the tunnel towards Weasel Brook Park with superhuman speed”. 11
Regardless of the presence of Satan, those who have visited the tunnel point out that inside can be an extremely dangerous place. Not only are the tunnels dark, but their very nature as a storm drain can mean that a seemingly dry tunnel can fill suddenly with water from the Weasel Brook stream that they provide run-off drainage for. 12 As such, a visit to Clifton’s Gates of Hell may very well endanger your life in several ways.
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