“The Door to Hell” / Darvaza, Turkmenistan

Locations of entrances to Hell may vary depending on the legend one bases his search upon.

Greek mythology assumes that the Acheron River (northwest Greece) leads to the underworld: in Ancient Greece, in order not to wander between two worlds for an eternity, dead people about to be buried would be put one obol on their lips, so that they could pay their transportation fee to Charon, the ferryman who was carrying dead souls across the river.

One of Gustave DorĂ©’s illustrations for Dante’s Divine Comedy (source: OpenCulture)

The Lake Lerna, in southern Greece, where Hercules slayed the Lernaean Hydra as part of his mythical Twelve Labors, constitutes another gate of Hell; Twins Cave in Israel is also known for being a portal to the underworld dating back the Roman Empire; Fengdu’s ‘Ghost Town’ in China features a bridge originating the Ming Dynasty (15th century) reprezenting the passage dead people would have to go along before their reincarnation; in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania, you’ll have to go through seven different gates to find your way to Hell; even the band AC/DC made its own assumption, which is that a highway with ‘no stops signs’ or any ‘speed limit’ lead to ‘the promised land’.

(Personally, that’s the coolest way I’ve found so far.)

But there are other ways without any mythological or legendary background which got their reputation from their hellish looks.

In the middle of the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan, is located one of these awesome-looking places. The village of Darvaza (meaning ‘the Gate’ in Turkmen) has been a must-see destination since a group of Soviet scientists discovered a natural gas source there, in 1971. And decided then, considering its harmful potential, to set it all on fire.

(Because scientists need a break sometimes, too!)

Darvaza’s crater (source: Wikipedia)

The crater has been burning since; forty-five years later, it still looks like the ultimate level of a dungeon crawler video game, a mighty dragon possibly guarding the place.

With a depth of 30 meters and a width of 69, it appears to be the perfect place to set up a rock’n’roll festival or throw the most amazing BBQ party. It is indeed a real magnet for tourists, attracting between 12,000 and 15,000 of them a year, a remarkable achievement for a country marked by authoritarian leadership and human rights abuses.

Entrances to Hell remain widely discussed, but may they be hoaxes, actual archeological sites or mythical places enshrined in legends, they keep on fascinating.

For sure, there’s no clear evidence of any place where we’d meet Satan in person – the safest way is still to summon him by yourself with adequate material.




Author: Nicolas

Ingrédients : 33% d'anecdotes insolites, 19% de livres poussiéreux, le reste de curiosité névrosée. Auteur du Petit dictionnaire des sales boulots (Vendémiaire, 2022). Chroniqueur chez Slate et RetroNews.

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