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13 Places on Earth People Believed Were Entrances to Hell

Eckhart Tolle. Native American Wisdom. The Hammond organ would start up, and the ministers, carrying their Bibles, trailed by the pastor, would file in in a loose line, singing a song. It went:. This is the church that love is building; the gates of Hell shall not prevail! But, either there in the sanctuary or later, lying in bed, I sometimes fixated on the bit about the gates of Hell. Sometimes I pictured him enveloped in light, dissolving into the never-ending worship around the throne of God.

Other times, helped along by the accounts of my Jesuit schoolteachers, I imagined him waiting, otiose and slightly bored—restless, as he had often seemed to be in life—in the long, cosmic queue of Purgatory. Here, though, was a different idea. More immediately distressing than the prospect of going there was the idea that it could be headed in my direction, determined to overtake me even before my death. You might even notice a slight uptick, these days, in its invocation. As a metaphor for global warming, hellfire is almost too on the nose. There are also the grim jokes about how, during our most recent and most wretched Presidential election, we all surely died and boarded the first elevator downstairs, where we are now in permanent residence.

Our ancestors developed their ideas of Hell by drawing on the pains and the deprivations that they knew on earth.


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Those imaginings shaped our understanding of life before death, too. They still do. The afterlife is an old room in the house of the human imagination, and the ancients loved to offer the tour. Homer has Odysseus sail through the underworld in search of a way back home, to Ithaca. Others suffer extravagantly. Tantalus stands in a pool of water that flees when he stoops for a drink, and he takes shade under trees whose fruits shy away when he tries to grab a bite.

Like an over-the-hill older brother recounting his athletic exploits, Hercules remembers his first turn through the pit.

60 Hours of Hell: The Story of the Barkley Marathons

The Hades drawn by Homer, and, later, by Virgil, in the Aeneid, is not quite Hell as understood in the post-medieval Christian tradition, but it is one of its ancestors. While all of the dead go to Hades, there are tortures specially designed and individually designated for those who acted badly while alive. Within this chosen lineage, the meeting between Odysseus and Hercules coaxes a trope into view. From antiquity forward, our stories about Hell often feature some prematurely damned hero—Orpheus or Aeneas, the three Hebrew boys in the furnace or Jesus during his three days dead, the innocent prisoner or the untried detainee—passing through the state of hopelessness, then coming back, blinking, into the light.

There is something philosophical in the pattern, too—the idea that the extremities of earthly experience inevitably draw us toward the higher themes of justice, balance, retribution, mercy, and punishment. O, what a marvel it appeared to me, When I saw three faces on his head! The one in front was a brilliant red;. There were two others that joined with this one Above the middle part of either shoulder And they merged together at the crest of his hair Underneath each face sprouted two mighty wings, All six proportioned for a bird of great size; I never saw sails of the sea so large.

Pathetic, and almost moving, when you think about it: the worst sinners imaginable, each doomed to everlasting mastication, are guys undone by the successes of their famous friends. Insecurity is a tomb; these are the kinds of midlife crises from which few people recover. One leads, inexorably, to the other. Dante, writing in the early fourteenth century, drew on a bounty of hellish material, from Greek, Roman, and, of course, Christian literature, which is rife with horrible visions of Hell.

Bruce includes an excerpt from the Apocalypse of Paul, an apocryphal third-century text that narrates a Revelation-style reverie experienced by Paul of Tarsus. Abbs: Any time between midnight and noon on Saturday, Laz will blow a conch shell, which signals one hour to the start of the race. The year before that he blew it at A. Laz: The Barkley starts with the lighting of a cigarette. And then they run. Abbs: The names that have been given to the climbs are crazy.

Testicle Spectacle is the first really steep climb. Then you go down Meth Lab Hill. Rat Jaw is one of the worst. Those who make it to loop three learn the joy of Checkmate Hill, which is 1, feet of climbing in a quarter mile. Laz: There are paperback books at each checkpoint. Then you get the same page number out of the book as the number on your bib, which means we can only use every other number.

So all of the Barkley numbers are odd, which seems fitting. I used to have to go and scout the used bookstores to get books with appropriate titles. Henn: Brushy Mountain Prison was a federal prison until just a few years ago. Gary somehow got the warden to show him this tunnel that goes underneath the old exercise yard. There are no lights.

Deposition of William Donnelly, March 1880

Laz makes the runners go through it. Laz: The course breaks your heart. People reach a point. They quit on their own. Everyone has to self-extract. Especially the first night, people come in from all directions out of the woods.

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Some give up and make their way out to a highway and hitchhike back to the park. Just over a dozen people, all men, have gone the distance at the Barkley Marathons.


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This year, ultramarathoners Nick Hollon and Travis Wildeboer added to that number. Laz: The prize is that you get to stop running. The finishers have a chair brought to meet them right at the finish line. They stay there for a long time. They talk and tell their stories, and the rest of us sit around and listen, and think Oh my God!