The true location of the hell gates of Illinois depend largely on who you ask. Information on five of the gates is readily available, but the other two either change or cannot be seen. And visitors who have visited them eagerly share their tales with those interested. Lebanon Illinois is a quiet place with much in common with other small towns one might visit one late night as they make the cross country trek along highway 64. But as with many other towns, Lebanon has a long history of ghosts and Urban Legends. And some say if you pass through seven gateways in the vicinity you’ll actually find a portal to a disturbing world. They call them the Hell Gates.
The legend’s origins change depending on who you ask, and as information is scarce in printed form, most information has to be gathered by word of mouth. One commonly repeated legend of the Hell Gate origin is that when the bridges were constructed, a man by the name of “Harold B” visited each construction site shortly after construction began. The few people who talked to the man clad all in black and dressed “like an undertaker” say his voice had a certain chilling effect, and he spoke in a dialect unfamiliar to them. Most conversations involved questions about people working on the bridges. One version of the tale dictates that while inspecting the bridge a worker asked him what he did for a living, to which he replied with a smile, “I make toys.” It’s said he disappeared and was never heard of or thought of again until later when stories that something wasn’t quite right with the gates he had visited started cropping up.
It’s said if you start at the first gate and pass through the other six without going through the same one twice you will find yourself in a terrible world of nightmares. Some call it hell, some refer to it simply as another reality. One witness during an extremely brief interview cryptically referred to it as “the world behind the mirror,” but would not elaborate on this. While most locals you talk to refer to it in the same jocund manner they would use to talk about any local haunted house, occasionally the conversation takes an unsurprising collection of urban legends and distributes them amongst the bridges before the sobering “hell” aspect of the story comes up. Still others have tales of friends who made it all the way to the end under the exact circumstances outlined in the legend and came back “somehow different” as though passing through them had an effect on their personalities. Of course this is disputed by others who suggest it’s nothing but a story.
The bridges are said to lie on the road between Lebanon and Collinsville, Illinois. The whereabouts of two of the bridges is often disputed between three locations. The exact circumstances to pass into the “world behind the mirror” are generally agreed to be one must pass through the first during the full moon at exactly midnight and never cross through the same bridge twice. One must then reverse their journey in order to get back. It’s said if you fail to navigate back on your journey you’re doomed to spend eternity in an alternate nightmarish reality.