Blue Ash and The Portal To Hell (Satan’s Hollow)

When I was growing up in the Cincinnati suburbs, I remember hearing occasional playground talk about a mysterious portal to hell in the nearby suburb of Blue Ash. They said it was in a tunnel or cave. They said it was a place where Satanists met to summon The Devil Himself. Dark Magic was practiced there, including live goat or human sacrifice. If someone were to venture too far into the tunnel, a demon would eat his soul.

But, this was the 1980s and back then they said The Devil was just about everywhere, waiting to lure good, decent Christians into his realm of evil debauchery. On the other hand, this was the closest thing we had to a real-life Scooby Doo Mystery. So, maybe it wasn’t The Devil at all but Old Mr. Jenkins trying to scare people away from his illegal Chinchilla farm?

As I got older, I figured all that was just another Urban Legend, no different than the Phantom Hitchhiker or the Ghost Bride, just another tale that children tell trying to scare each other. So, I was a bit surprised after all these years to discover they’re still talking about the Blue Ash Portal to Hell … occasionally near Halloween or on Ghost Hunting websites and of course, YouTube.

So, what’s the real story here?

Satan’s Hollow

“Stay away from Satan’s Hollow,” one recent news report began. The video panned from the female reporter to focus on what looked like an ordinary graffiti-covered storm drain running under a road a short distance away. “The legends say there are those who summon the devil inside, but the locals want everyone to know they’re sick and tired of the loud shenanigans breaking up their quiet neighborhood. The police want to remind you that this is on private property and anyone caught where they shouldn’t be will be arrested.”

The news segment continued on for a few minutes. One elderly citizen spoke about being bothered by all the commotion and extra traffic that increases shortly before Halloween. Another local said she was bothered by the noises and how she could see people with flashlights going into and coming out of the storm drain. Before the segment concluded, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation wanted to inform people that this was an active storm drain and therefore could be dangerous. He then claimed to be intimately familiar with the sewage system and has never seen any sign of devil worship anywhere.

To me, this story sounds exactly like the type of urban legend that gets passed around the campfire, trying to scare the young (or gullible) no different than the one about the ghost bride hitchhiking and disappearing in front of a cemetery or the one about the hitchhiker with a hook for a hand. Fun scary stories to tell, but historically kind of hard to take seriously.

Yet, a recent search of YouTube videos tells me that a lot of people do, in fact, take these stories seriously. One of the shorter videos features a ghost hunter entering the tunnel, taking a few readings then after hearing some kind of noise (he wasn’t sure if it was a ghost or a demon, but to me it sounded like a truck driving overhead) he panicked and ran. The longest video I saw was about 45 minutes long. As the subject makes his way deeper and deeper into the storm drain system, he talks about the ghostly figures people claim to have seen, he talks about how a group of witches or satanists used to come down here and perform dark magic, which somehow conjured a shadow man who seemingly refuses to leave. When he comes to a large hexagonal intersection, he calls this The Altar Room. If you ignore all the graffiti sprayed on the walls, it looks rather mundane, but you can see how people’s imaginations can make something out of nothing.

Or, who knows, maybe at some point someone did enter the so-called Altar Room and perform some sort of dark ritual, maybe even trying to summon the devil himself. Seriously, that’s not totally out of the realm of possibility. Sometimes, some people do some weird stuff. But, in all those hours of videos I watched (mostly on fast forward since they’re all kind of the same thing over and over again) I didn’t see one single thing that screamed, “Here is the portal to hell everyone keeps talking about.”

Where Did The Story Come From?

Quite honestly, it’s kind of hard to pin down where the legend came from, or how long people have been telling it.

The earliest example of a Portal to Hell in Ohio that I found dates back to December, 1853 (although the story had been submitted to The Elira Democrat Newspaper several weeks before then, but its publication had been delayed because of elections). It is, by all accounts, a wild and dramatic story of how The Counsel of Hell was assembled, summoning the Angel of Death who opened a portal to hell, through which Satan, himself, appears. The devil tries to tempt the Angels of Light with the magical substance called Alcohol (which, apparently came from China) and after a lengthy battle, the forces of good win. But, the story ends with a caution about how many people were arrested for intoxication between the semi-annual reports (7,705).

For the next hundred (or more) years, newspapers have referenced Portals to Hell way more frequently than I would have imagined. Many were religious themed works, very similar to the one from 1853 in which the devil appears from a portal to hell to tempt good citizens with some vice or another. Also, during the construction of the railroad system through Colorado, one particular area was so treacherous, it was named Hell (or Helltown). Working or traveling through there was compared to working in or traveling through a portal to hell – which, in a less-than-literal way, it kind of was. There were countless references to Dante’s Inferno or Milton’s Paradise Lost. 

It really wasn’t until the late 1970s that I saw references to the Portal to Hell as anything but a religious concept or vague allegory. Now, suddenly they are tied to specific (haunted) locations. By the 1980s, stories are even more common, perhaps spurred on by popular horror films of the time (such as 1982’s Poltergeist or 1987’s Hellraiser.) 

While “Hell” itself might be a Judeo-Christian concept, the general idea has been around forever. Many ancient cultures have references to some form of Underworld, perhaps the best known being the Greco-Roman. The Taoists may tell you about the Fengdu County region of China. Not all portals have clear religious implications, as the Darvaza Crater in Turkmenistan can attest it (it’s a giant crater filled with natural gas that has been burning for a long time, so of course people refer to it as a portal to tell, even though it has a clear scientific history). There are also too many references to a portal to hell in popular artworks, such as Rodin’s installation at a paris Art Museum, currently residing at Stanford University in California.

It was during this time in the late 70’s to early 80’s that both the Blue Ash Portal to Hell, as well as a similar portal situated in the Columbus sewers were first being told, or at least first started becoming popular stories to tell. Perhaps this relates somehow to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, when belief in the devil, the fear of satan worshiping, and the idea of satanic ritual abuse (especially involving children) was going through a paranoid peak.

Satan’s Hollow – The Blue Ash Portal to Hell Today

The Legend of Satan’s Hollow continues to be told today, especially around Halloween. However, as that local news broadcast I mentioned above points out, it’s dangerous, and it’s on private property so I highly urge you to skip this one on your haunted halloween tours. Or, view it from a safe distance, sticking to public access areas.

Even though legends like this often contain some small bit of truth, I rather doubt that anything like that has happened here. Or, if it did, it was a singular event where not much happened anyway. 

From what I witnessed via other people’s videos – the place can be scary and being underground and without a light source, it can get pretty dark so anyone’s imagination can get the best of them.

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