As one drives north up Rte 18, from Hermitage to Greenville, there is an easily-overlooked side road nestled in the trees. Up this road, past the houses, is a small dirt path leading off to the left, entering a cemetery. The yard has fallen out of use–no grave is marked later than the 1950s–but is kept clean and free from the influence of the forest behind it. Every aspect of the site points to its history as a churchyard, but no sign of the actual church can be found. Just a dark, ancient, and ominous forest, which local lore claims will drive one mad if explored. On autumn nights, when the desire for such things grows, the most adventurous and foolhardy of the local teen population will sometimes risk a visit. Their stories grow more elaborate with each telling, but I have watched as they stood at the edge of the trees, and stared into the void beyond that threshold, and rare has been the child who could step any further. They all know what lies in those trees.
On this site, in 1837, a church was erected to serve the farmers of the area. For over a century, its small congregation kept it going, a beacon of hope when their sons died at war or the crops were thin or the Depression was at its peak. But apocalyptic fervor was hard to avoid after the end of the second great war, and this small body quaked in anticipation that the world would soon end in righteous fire and the Lord would descend to judge the Nazis and Commies and all the twisted children of this world. In the afterglow of the greatest destruction mankind had ever unleashed, a new pastor arrived at the church. His face was kind, his soul heavy with the memories of war, his mind keen, and his heart set on rejoicing even in the face of certain doom.
He took his post in 1946, and began to usher in a new age of joy and growth for the church. This church, however, took much pleasure in the urge to see the world burn. Left unchecked, dark desires beget dark practices, and the church slowly began to succumb to a desire for power, and glory, and a final separation from the world around them.
Gods can be difficult to understand, and feel no need to make themselves subject to the agendas of man. But demons always keep their appointments, and their word, especially when one would rather they do not.
And so it was that, as this body petitioned higher powers, they really did begin to receive answers. The price at first seemed normal to them, but as the years continued, a higher toll was demanded. The church did not think much of its drift from orthodoxy. The few who noticed simply left the fold, and the rest focused such on the path that they did not even see them go. The church began to acquire a reputation, and after a decade, was known to locals only as The Devil’s Church. A cult, fully submitted to their new lords, had grown in the place of the congregation, and stories circulated about orgies and human sacrifice.
As the whole body gathered for an unspoken rite on August 1, 1958, the ground shook and the neighbors ran in fear. A great dark cloud covered the entire property, and a great voice echoed through the landscape in a language no living ear had ever heard. When the sun shone again, and the people dared to investigate, they found only a forest where the church had been. They said the earth had swallowed the building, and its inhabitants, whole. And from that day on, the land has been cursed.