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the cake is a lie. | Portals To Hell

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

If you’ve been around ghost hunters for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard tell of portals. This river’s a portal, that house is a portal. Investigators often use the term, but seldom explain it. If we want to take paranormal investigation seriously, I think we need to be clear exactly what it is that we’re theorizing about. Otherwise we’re slipping into sheer speculation. I’d prefer to be grounded in the actual evidence at hand.

Having said that, I’m open to the possibility of paranormal occurrences, I really am. But I’m not just going to blindly accept something because it’s popular, or because it sounds plausible. I’m not the kind of person who can turn his brain off at night. I can’t just say that something makes sense and move on. Inconsistencies, ambiguities, uncertainties…they get to me. So when I hear portals brought up so matter-of-factly with no explanation, it bothers me.

That’s why I’m going to do this topic justice. I’m going to break down the theory of supernatural portals, and explore what they might explain about the world. More importantly, I’m going to cast a critical eye upon conventional paranormal investigation, and attempt to demonstrate that this line of research isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s take a look at why portals are a lie.

Ancient Origins

The idea of a particular location that connects the physical realm to the spiritual is nothing new. It dates back about as far as culture does. To the Ancient Greeks, it was thought that wandering off into the wilderness may result in you becoming lost in a supernatural realm, the dwelling place of the gods. The Celts seemed to share a similar idea; this is particularly relevant on Sauin, where going out after dark was believed to invite disastrous consequences. The Ancient Hebrews had similar ideas of the wilds, especially beyond the borders of Israel. Okay, but what about particular locations?

Well, many cultures have held that specific locations may have some connection to the dead or the gods. The Greeks postulated some connection between rivers and the Underworld. It was believed that rivers ran through Hades, and that they had analogues in the mortal realm. The Nile was particularly critical for the Egyptians. Many Native North American tribes have placed spiritual significance on various landmarks within their territory. Similar ideas are found among the Aborigines.

And as for monuments, they have always carried a certain religious importance. I’m sure you heard of Stonehenge in the British Isles. Central and South American cultures often revolved around their most sacred sites. This was also true in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean. Ziggurats in Mesopotamia, and the Temple in Israel. The Greeks and Romans were no exception either. Famously, the Egyptians were very particular about their burial chambers, and the Pyramids are a result of that.

So, we’ve clearly established that ancient cultures typically believed that geography was related to the supernatural. But how does this relate to ghosts? Well, I haven’t heard much in the way of geography inviting ghosts into the living world in ancient culture. Gateways were seen less as ways of getting out of the Underworld, and more as ways to get in. Places like Lake Avernus, Acheron, and others have a mythological history of allowing travel to the Underworld, but there don’t seem to be any reports of them allowing ghosts or shades back.

As far as I can tell, the modern idea of gateways to Hell seems to originate with Judaeo-Christian mythology and folklore, mostly from about the Middle Ages and onward. We have places like Batagaika Crater, Darvaza Gas Crater, Mount Etna, and many more, but these seem to be primarily geological allusions. Craters and volcanoes are both connected to deep layers of the earth, which are metaphorically related to the Underworld. In the ancient pagan context, this likely would have signified that these locations were connected to chthonic deities, but in the Christian context it was probably not meant literally.

So, when modern paranormal investigators tell you that ancient cultures believed that rivers and certain geographical features were gateways to the Underworld, they aren’t totally wrong. They are, however, missing the point entirely. These cultures did not seem to place particular emphasis on these locations giving rise to paranormal activity, or the appearance of ghosts. So far as I can tell, that seems to be a modern invention.

Modern Reinvention

While we’re on the topic of modern invention, what exactly do paranormal researchers believe about portals? Like I said before, I couldn’t find ghost hunters giving a clear explanation, but I have heard them use it enough times that patterns emerge. Essentially, they posit that some locations allow spiritual entities to travel into and interact with our world. This is typically attributed to some dark past, or a history and demonic rituals and witchcraft. Tragedy invites malevolent spirits, who then invite tragedy in turn, creating a vicious cycle, or so the popular thinking goes. Geological formations of religious or superstitious significance are also believed to be a source of hauntings. They never really say how or why.

Despite the vagueness of most paranormal researchers, the term was clearly defined by a Roman Catholic exorcist. In E2 S1 of Portals to Hell, Bishop James Long explained it rather concisely. Anything that allows spiritual entities access to the mortal world would be classified as a portal, with this access typically being established by ill intentions or sorcery. Such would include any cursed objects or haunted locations. I find this explanation more plausible than the typical ghost hunter lore, though it doesn’t have any particular supporting evidence either. It is also well worth noting that this explanation, contrary to the more popular version without a clear definition, does not attribute any particular relevance to rivers or caverns.

Scientific Support

Simply put, there is no scientific support for the idea of supernatural portals. Perceived hauntings are definitely known to correlate with certain locations, possessions, and situations, but there’s no evidence that this is due to the existence of portals, or to supernatural forces at all. There have been known cases where physiological factors have created the perception of a haunting, and it is widely speculated that psychological factors may account for the rest. While science has not ruled out the possibility of ghostly activity, it has done nothing to make the idea more credible. Thus, the jury is still out on whether genuine hauntings exist at all. Moving on.

Classic Examples

What kinds of places are said to be portals? Well, really any place where someone thinks something spooky happened and ghosts now inhabit, but let’s look at some specific examples. We have Bobby Mackey’s Music World in Wilder, Kentucky. There is an extensive lore of tragic occurrences, including Satanic rituals, revenge murder-suicide, and a serial killer taking a woman’s head onto the property. None of these claims have ever been substantiated, and there is no credible evidence of anything out of the ordinary. While this doesn’t prove that the location isn’t haunted, it gives us no particular reason to believe that it is.

There’s an urban legend of Seven Gates of Hell in York County, Pennsylvania. Like with many products of memetic mutation, there are different versions. Something-something burnt-down insane asylum, something-something eccentric physician, I’m not going to bore you with the details here; this isn’t a deep dive. Long story short, supposedly, there are seven gates, but some can only be seen at night or something, and if you manage to pass through all seven, you go directly to Hell. Yeah, there’s not much truth to this one either. Apparently, the “asylum” is actually a flint mill, and the doctor in the area was known for being a nice guy. The story is partially due to hoaxing, it would seem. Not really sure what you were expecting with this one, but it’s pretty much fake.

There’s the urban legend of the “Well to Hell”, where the Russians drilled a borehole so deep it reached into Hell. There’s an alternate version of the story set in Alaska. The original story is based on a real borehole, but no supernatural occurrences were reported in the course of drilling it, and the location was misreported. The story seems to be either some kind of hoax or garbling of the truth. Either way, not much veracity to be found here.

Then there are the multitude of individual haunted houses that supposedly carry a harrowing history or a sinister secret. I couldn’t possibly list them all here, so I’m not going to try. Two that might be of interest to us here at Sporkless Entertainment are the Stull Cemetery and the Sallie House, both located in Kansas. They’re right around our area, so we’ll probably investigate them at some point in the future. I’m not confident we’re going to encounter any genuine paranormal activity, but we’ll keep an eye open just in case.

Alternative Hypothesis

I’m sure we all understand the argument that ghosts don’t exist, or that hauntings don’t occur. I can’t strictly rule that possibility out, but I’m not particularly convinced of it either. I think it’s well worth constructing a model that allows for genuine supernatural interference. This would allow us to consider both possibilities, and, by weighing the evidence carefully, we can make a reasonable guess as to whether or not paranormal phenomena are purely natural. We still couldn’t say anything with certainty, and we would always need to be on the lookout for further evidence, but it's at least a starting point.

Having said that, I don’t see much merit to the mainstream portal theory. It posits alot about the world, while not being able to explain very much. In other words, it’s a weak theory. The idea of cursed objects and mediumship inviting spiritual entities is significantly better on this front, but it isn’t a complete explanation. It’s only a mechanism that may be part of a comprehensive understanding of how these entities operate. So, what would such a comprehensive theory look like?

Before we get into that, I need to throw out a disclaimer. Sporkless Entertainment is firmly committed to a stance of neutrality when it comes to personal beliefs. The topics of mythology and paranormal studies can sometimes cross over into religious territory, so let me clarify that I am not trying to tell you what to believe. Please remain respectful of other people’s beliefs, and don’t start a flame war in our comment section. Are we good? Okay then.

I think that paranormal activity is best modelled with the concept of cosmic geography, an idea that has its genesis in Classical Judaism. It postulates that physical locations are tied to and governed by spiritual entities, sort of like territory. These entities would supposedly exert influence and control over their territory. In the ancient world, this was especially pronounced with national borders, as religious practice was usually governed by the state. Thus, Ancient Hebrews often regarded land outside the boundaries of Israel as dangerous, since it would be ruled by the Shedim.

Now, what is a sheyd, you ask? Different sources will vary on the specifics, but I can give you the gist of it. Roughly speaking, <shedim> might be translated as demons or pagan gods. They were spiritual entities not loyal to the God of Israel, sometimes believed to be responsible for various curses or misfortunes. Origin stories range from children of Lilith to unfinished works of creation to fallen angels. Note that the Shedim were often contrasted with minor malevolent spirits, but the two were often seen as related. Again, the topic is complex and multifaceted, so I really can’t do it justice here, but pretty much all sources agree that the Shedim were not good news to those who weren’t in league with them, and were probably still bad news to those who were.

This theory has a few particular advantages. First, it accords with historical accounts rather nicely. Modern ghost hunting lore tends to be pretty far removed from the ancient context, so you can’t really say it has a reliable tradition. Pretty much all cultures, on the other hand, have some sense of geography being responsible for supernatural interactions; this might mean that cosmic geography better explains the totality of the evidence across time. Second, it would account for the features of exorcisms. Qualified exorcists have stressed the importance of location when expelling demons. Unlike in the movies, exorcisms tend to be done in Churches and on consecrated ground. As said by Father Vince Lampert, “The Devil doesn’t get to decide where he’s defeated.” This would also neatly explain why areas with a dark history may have more paranormal activity, especially those with a history of witchcraft or unsavoury rituals.

So, does this explain paranormal activity? Maybe. It’s entirely possible that some paranormal experiences may be explained by the interference of supernatural beings, and that these beings are geographically situated. It is not, however, widely regarded as proven, as evidence for this line of theory is somewhat lacking. As per usual, more research is needed, and you should probably keep an open mind. Note that an open mind does not mean indulging in baseless speculation, nor does it mean desperately explaining away things you don’t understand. It means admitting that we don’t know everything.

In Conclusion

The popular theory that some locations act as portals that supernatural entities use to access our world seems to lack any supporting evidence. Furthermore, the idea seems to have been inspired by a misinterpretation of ancient pagan and mediaeval Christian beliefs. As is often the case with the modern spiritualist movement, older ideas are taken out of context to fit a modern superstitious understanding of the world, with little regard for evidence or plausibility. While it is still quite impossible to say for sure that there aren’t supernatural portals, as it is notoriously difficult to prove a negative in natural philosophy, it is intellectually responsible to cast serious doubt on these suppositions.

There may be genuine haunting experiences or possession in the world, but the suggestion that we understand what brings them on seems like it goes beyond the evidence available. If there are genuine hauntings, I propose that the ancient idea of cosmic geography may explain their distribution, and how it is that one might deal with them. That being said, we don’t know much for sure. What we do know is that the state of paranormal research is built on some pretty shaky assumptions. There’s simply no reason to buy into popular ghost lore. The cake is a lie.

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