Some of us called it Satan’s Hill. Others called it Satansville. Online, on one of the many sites exploring the idiosyncratic urban legends of particular geographical regions, it’s referred to “Cult House Road.” In actuality, in terms of real time and space, it’s known as “Cossart Road.”
EVERYONE knew about Satan’s Hill. There are not a lot of urban legends housed in the corner of Pennsylvania where I grew up, but we had this one, and it was practically a rite of passage to learn about it. That’s the thing, though…most people (students, of course…isn’t that age and environment the most fertile breeding ground for the type of stories that make you shiver?) DID only learn about it. Very few went. Mostly because it’s nearly impossible to find, a tiny, winding, foreboding turnoff from a random road in the rolling, wooded, sinuous expanse we called “The Valley”, winding in and out of Pennsylvania and Delaware, recognizable by what used to be a rickety one-lane corridor over a stream, what is now an ornately constructed covered bridge.
The stories were legend. First, because this was right on the border of Delaware, there was the one about the Duponts. The DuPonts own Delaware. Literally. They also own DuPont, the chemical company, and DuPont, the hospital, and you don’t grow up near or in Delaware without knowing about the DuPonts. Mainly, because it’s rumored they intermarry between family members to keep their CONSIDERABLE wealth to themselves. Popular culture backs this up with the true-life tragedy of the Foxcatcher Estate, where John DuPont, reportedly insane due to inbreeding, murdered Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in 1996.
So, Satan’s Hill was notable first because of the Cult House, which is…allegedly…a house owned by the DuPonts where they stash the genetic mistakes resulting from their intermarriage, inadvertantly breeding…you guessed it…a cult. Similar anecdotes go further, to define the cult as a Satanic group that worship in the old DuPont house and use said genetic mistakes in their rituals. The evidence? Well, a few things. The trees, for one. The trees, in apparent defiance of scientific law, grow AWAY from the Cult House; which is also, incidentally, AWAY from sunlight. They’re not cut like this; they grow like this. Far enough past the Cult House, they resume growing towards, you know, the light, like goddamn normal trees.
Then there’s the skull tree. The legends range as to this one, from the belief that the stillborn DuPont children were buried amongst the roots and thus the tree took on the shape of a skull, to the tale that an aborted fetus was found in a large knothole that resembles an eye socket on the “face” in the trunk. Regardless…there’s always a similar grain of “dead baby” and “supernatural forces” which accompany the stories of the skull tree.
I’m sure it all sounds like BS, but people have stories. The same stories. Being chased by large black SUVs and trucks, disembodied voices, strange images and graffiti that pop up. I can attest to that last one.
I spent a lot of time on Satan’s Hill, you see. My ride-or-die, my best friend Lindsey and I, at the time, were wracked with ennui in the suburbs and in need of adventure, so we would drive through the Valley at breakneck speed, smoking cigarettes and listening to music, attempting to scare ourselves silly on the haunted road we were lucky enough to locate because it ended, coincidentally, mere steps from her childhood home. One night, we drove down Satan’s Hill en route to something or other which college-aged girls too young to drink are en route to during summer break. All was normal…creepy, but normal. Not long after, we returned, and…splashed across a speed limit sign that had an hour ago been clean…was an explosion of blood-red paint splatter, already dry. No explanation.
The other reason Satan’s Hill is notable is because it was the location of one Mr. M. Night Shyamalan’s film “The Village.” Significant because it improved the cell service in the Valley back in 2004 when a tower needed to be erected to receive text messages, and significant because ride-or-die and I snuck onto the set one time in the middle of the night when some production assistant foolishly left the gate to the private land unlocked. Even M. Night Shyamalan, master of all things creepy and twisted to boot, was sucked in by Satansville.
So, why do I bring all this up?
Because nothing beats a good urban legend. Nothing beats those night with your bestie in small town America, cruising around as if the world isn’t thirty seconds away from going to shit at any given time. Nothing beats that friendship, that sense of invincibility, remembering where you came from so you can remember how to get where you’re going.
My life might have hit a long tumultuous patch in the middle, but I will always be grateful for Satan’s Hill…a little corner of the supernatural all for me, where things waited right on the other side of the veil, where I grew and grew up and came to be me. Everyone needs an urban legend that speaks directly to them, and I was lucky enough to share one of the best with one of the best.
*Dedicated to Lindsey