Late night drives are common wherever teenagers have cars, and many communities throughout Illinois have legendary roads that offer more thrills than most. Lebanon Road is one of the more interesting of these. On or around the road are seven railroad bridges, some no longer in use. All of them are heavily coated in graffiti—a testament to their popularity for nighttime excursions.
Local visitors have crafted a hellish tale around these seven bridges, which they dubbed the “Seven Gates to Hell.” According to Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk’s Illinois Road Guide to Haunted Locations (2007), these stories have been circulating in the area for at least 40 years.
The legend is that if someone were to drive through all seven bridges and enter the last one exactly at midnight, he or she would be transported to Hell. In some versions, the person entering the final tunnel must be a skeptic. In other versions, no tunnel can be driven through twice in order for the magic to work.
The tunnels, the stories say, are guarded by spectral hounds. “Often these ‘dogs’ are said to be dark black in color with glowing red or green eyes,” Chad and Terry wrote. “Many witnesses report that the grotesque creatures are nearly transparent and often times vanish into thin air (221).”
In Weird Illinois (2005), Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman mentioned that a “source” claimed the bridges were once used by the Ku Klux Klan for lynchings. This source might very well be the anony-mous author of a website called “The Abbey of St. Ulric the Eclectic” (http://members.tripod.com/~courtbard/id77.html).
On that website, the author claimed that the origin of the lynching story was none other than his or her friend, one Eric Miller. Eric had started the rumor as an experiment. “He created the bare bones of a story and told it [to] some people and waited to see 1. how long it took until he heard the story from someone else and 2. see how many variations of the story developed,” the site revealed. “He was not displeased, several variations of the story have come back to him by people who swear to him they are true.”
Directions to all seven gates, as well as a treasure trove of other information about Lebanon Road, are also available on that website.
Like Cuba Road in Barrington, an abandoned property near Lebanon Road has given rise to rumors of a “death house.” A closed road or driveway is alleged to lead to an old house in which a family was murdered. Moreover, a group of Satanists are said to sacrifice animals and children at the location.
Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman wrote about another bridge along Lebanon Road, called “Acid Bridge,” where a number of teens tripping on LSD are said to have crashed their car and died—an event that is supposed to reenact itself.
Lebanon Road and the Seven Gates to Hell is a wonderful trip and part of a dying tradition of roadside adventures. If you are near Collinsville, don’t be afraid to see if the stories are true.