The Gates of Hell

Image courtesy of Weird NJ

Image courtesy of Weird NJ

Joseph Sannito, Staff Writer

Clifton, New Jersey is an ordinary suburb located in Passaic County. Known for its quiet streets and homely feel, not much goes on here. However, this town actually is home to one of the most notorious tunnel systems of our time. This storm drain system is rumored to be made up of 7 layers– each one bringing you closer to the evils of the underworld. Not much has been written down about its great depths, as no one on record has lived to tell the tale of what comes at the bottom. 

On the walls of this vile sight are scribbled notions of unholy markings warning any trespasser of what lives in the cave’s darkness. Not only is one breaking the law when they enter the “Gates of Hell” but they are also entering a world of the unknown. Many have referred to this location as the closest point mankind has come to encountering the supernatural.” Some have believed the Jersey Devil himself resides on the bottom layer, awaiting any unfortunate victim to cross his path.  

Of all the stories passed down about this endless drain, the most notable would be what locals call, the “secret room.” It is said to be located deep within the cave and heavily guarded by axes each weighing thousands of pounds, and when one is close enough they are granted the power to wield them, allowing for them to enter into what’s called the “dungeon.” Encapsulated in this dark and barren room is the skull of a human. Although there is no recorded footage of this great wonder, it is hard to doubt the story’s verity. 

Another legend tells of Red Eyed Mike: the demon who supposedly guarded the cursed caverns that lay within. Jeff H, a Clifton man, has sighted Mike and heard his horn. Jeff says that if you bang on the railroad tracks above the Gates in threes, Mike will sound the horn similar to the howl of the wind on a brisk winter’s night. Jeff also has seen what he describes as hurling rocks launched out of the cave’s belly with no one in sight of the entrance to be seen throwing the rocks. The last and most poignant sighting was what Jeff described as a small man with superhuman speed exiting the cave. 

The Gates of Hell is not only dangerous in its depths but also at its surface. The location has been riddled with gang-like activity as many arrests have been made over the years, mainly to do with people trespassing the area who had armed themselves with weapons of all kinds. Locals are warned by police that anyone trespassing, whether it’s innocent curiosity or malicious intent, will be arrested with zero tolerance. 

The famous journalist, Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, once remarked, “Fear. It’s the most basic, the most human emotion. As kids, we’re afraid of everything. The dark. The boogeyman under the bed. And we pray for morning. For the monsters to go away. Though they never do. Not really.” This applies to the cave and how those in society gravitate toward it. The curiosity comes from disbelief, but that doubt is quickly overshadowed by fear once you enter the Gates of Hell. Because when all light is gone and it grows so quiet that you can hear the blood rushing through your veins, and the trickle of the water deep in bowels of the cave’s systems, you simply no longer have control of what is about to happen. Without even knowing, in the blink of an eye, you have been overtaken by the cave.