Religious teachings may vary, but a common concept embraced by many is that the souls of those who committed terrible acts in life will be forced to suffer in the afterlife. Hell, Hades, Guinee—the names are different but they all describe an underworld that many believe can be accessed from Earth through gateways across the globe.
The Masaya VolcanoVerses.com
While the native people of Masaya believed the volcano contained a sorceress and was quite possible a god, Spanish explorers came over and deduced that the volcano was in fact, a gateway to hell.
It was believed so strongly to have demonic connections that in 1529, a friar by the name of Francisco de Bobadilla decided an exorcism of the fire-breathing mountain was in order. He hiked up to its “hell mouth” with a large cross to rid it of all evil.
Fengdu, China: The Ghost CityChina Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Fengdu China is known as The City of Ghosts because it is rich with souls on their way to Naraka, which is the underworld in Chinese mythology. The streets are adorned with elaborate statues of ghosts, demons, and mythical beings that reside in the underworld, waiting to torture the wicked. There are life-sized dioramas depicting hellish torment.
St. Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg, Irelandmapio.com
St. Patrick’s Purgatory is a monastery on Station Island that was founded in the 15th century. It’s said that when St. Patrick visited the island, he was sent visions from Jesus of hellish torments during his time on the island. He was led to a cave, containing a pit to purgatory. St. Patrick was bombarded by visions of the punishment of souls prior to being allowed entry into heaven, as well as visions of those carried off to hell for eternal torment.
Since the 12th century, Station Island has attracted Catholic pilgrims that would pray and fast for days before subjecting themselves to a full day shut inside of the cave. The justices of Ireland had the cave closed in 1632, but this didn’t stop these devoted Catholics from praying near the site. Today, three-day pilgrimages are permitted on the island.
The Mayan CenotesPatryk Kosmider/iStock/Getty Images
These breathtaking underground waterways flowing throughout Central America and Mexico are believed to be portals to the ancient Maya underworld, called Xibalba. Caves were often thought to be portals for many cultures because they literally transition from the bright, outside world of the living to a deep, dark abyss.
Vast chambers with temples, scattered pottery, and even human remains have been found throughout these caves. It is believed anyone suspected of witchcraft was tossed into this hell-gate, as were those with physical ailments.
One of the most famous skeletons recovered from this site is the Crystal Maiden. These remains belong to a girl about 18 years old, believed to have been a ritual sacrifice to please the gods of death and the underworld. Her bones have calcified over the last thousand years, creating a shimmering effect, hence the name Crystal Maiden.
The Acheron, GreeceMake My Trip.com
The Acheron, prominently depicted in classical mythology, is an actual river that flows through northwest Greece and is known as the River of Woe. The ancient Greeks believed there were several entrances into hades, one of which was at the Necromanteion of Ephyra on the Acheron.
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus must travel to the underworld, locating the point when Acheron meets with the Pyriphlegethon. In Dante’s Inferno, the river serves as an eternal waiting room of sorts. Those who were indecisive, remaining neutral between good and evil during their lifetime, were left to sit on the banks of the Acheron.
Iceland's Mount HeklaHalldor Kolbeins/AFP/Getty Images
Hekla sits in Iceland’s southern mountains and has been believed to be a gateway to hell since the 12th century. In 1341, claims of large birds flying in and around Hekla’s fiery pits were published in the manuscript "Flatey Book Annal." These birds were thought to be the souls of the damned. The monk Benedict penned a poem about the 1120 voyage of Saint Brendan, and in it, he described Hekla as the “eternal prison of Judas” after his betrayal of Jesus.
The Cave of SibylWikimedia Commons
One of the oldest known alleged gateways to the underworld is the cave of Sibyl. Two thousand years ago the Romans began writing about this diabolical doorway. In Virgil’s classic work "The Aeneid," he tells of the cave where Aeneas encounters the 700-year old oracle and priestess, Sibyl who serves as his guide, her voice endlessly echoing off the caverns, as he descends into hell.
The Hell Pond of Beppu City, JapanLouis Rodriguez, Ritebook.com
Buddhist texts dating back to 700 A.D. have mentioned the nine hot springs within the Beppu City. One of these naturally occurring bodies of water is strikingly red, gurgles mud, and is named Chinoike Jigoku, or the Bloody Hell Pond. The 78-degree pond was believed to be a bubbling portal to hell and was used to torture prisoners. Now, the pond is surrounded by a spa and its hell slime is bottled and sold as a skin cream.
Pluto’s Gate Denizli Province, TurkeyWikimedia Commons
Pluto’s Gate was believed to be another entranceway into the underworld by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The reason this small cave near Apollo’s Temple was so widely feared is because the tunnels below it contained toxic fumes. These fumes would seep out through the cave and cause hallucinations in anyone who inhaled them. These vapors also killed birds and other small animals nearby, which completely freaked people out because they didn't understand what was happening so the land developed a reputation for being demonic in origin.
The Houska CastleMostly Ghostly.com
North of Prague in the Czech Republic is the Houska Castle, which is said to be built over a pit that leads to hell. According to legend, in the 13th century King Ottokar II was so curious about what was within its depths that he was willing to pardon any prisoner who agreed to be lowered into it and tell him what was down there.
Apparently within seconds of lowering the first volunteer, screams of panic erupted through the pit and they quickly pulled him back up. The man’s hair had turned white from fear and they could barely understand the gibberish pouring out of his mouth. Eventually, they gathered that vile, winged, somewhat humanoid creatures were the pits inhabitants.
After this discovery, the castle was built over it; a castle without a kitchen, or a source of water, or any real resources for defense against outside intruders. This is because the castle isn’t meant for humans to inhabit, it’s meant to contain the demons beneath it. The current owners have decided to capitalize on the castle’s dark history and have turned it into a haunted attraction for tourists.