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Archive for Saturday, March 30, 2002

Building’s demolition a mystery

March 30, 2002

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— At day's end Friday, it was still a whodunit mystery befitting the spooky reputation of the abandoned stone church that once stood on the hillside above Stull Cemetery.

The limestone church, which for decades had drawn college students and others curious about the occult legends surrounding it, came tumbling down without much fanfare sometime Friday. Tracks near the church indicated that some sort of demolition equipment had been used to push the walls into the middle of the church.

The old church at the cemetery near Stull finally met its demise.
Landowners aren't yet sure who on Friday demolished the limestone
structure, which local legend had purported to be a "gateway to
hell."

The old church at the cemetery near Stull finally met its demise. Landowners aren't yet sure who on Friday demolished the limestone structure, which local legend had purported to be a "gateway to hell."

Major Weiss, a Lecompton resident who said he owns the land with two other members of Harvest Hills LLC, said late Friday that he hadn't been informed the church would be razed and that he wasn't sure who authorized the demolition.

"I didn't authorize it to be torn down," he said.

He declined to name the other landowners.

Cemetery neighbor Jessi Troxel said the west wall of the church had caved in about two weeks ago after a windstorm blew through the area. When she lay down to take a nap early in the day Friday, the church still was standing. She awoke several hours later and found that the walls had been reduced to rubble piles.

Dennis McCarthy, who until recently owned the land on which the church sits, said the building's demise was a blessing. It had been a stone shell with no support beams or roof for years.

"It needed knocked down a long time ago," he said. "It's caused a lot of trouble and headaches. It's cost the county a lot of money, sending deputies to sit there every Halloween.

"It's cost taxpayers a lot of money for that old church to remain standing."

Despite "No Trespassing" signs posted at the cemetery, about 10 miles west of Lawrence on County Road 442, people from the surrounding area and across the country have flocked to the hallowed ground to get a closer look at what lies just beyond its northern boundary an old church that's purported to be a "gateway to hell." Visitors often have left destruction in their wake.

Douglas County Sheriff's deputies keep a close eye on the cemetery and have written tickets and even arrested people who violate the no-trespassing warning.

The cemetery caretaker, who wouldn't give his name and said he hadn't been notified the church was being bulldozed, said four headstones had been knocked over by vandals in the past week alone.

"We have to get those back up by Memorial Day," he said.

Though Weiss didn't know who authorized the demolition, he couldn't say he was terribly distressed to see it go.

"Halloween will be really nice," he said. "You won't have to stay up late."

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