Pretty, leafy, green Glen Echo Ravine seems an unlikely spot for a gateway to the nether regions but that's what local folklore holds.
Glen Echo is one of several steep-sided ravines carved by streams running down to the Olentangy River from the higher land to the east. The ravine cuts through the clay and glacial debris deposited by the last ice age and digs deep through the shale strata that lies beneath. The ravine is about 50 foot deep.
In 1912, a real estate compant bequeathed some of the land in the ravine to the city for use as a public park. The modest park runs from the railroad tracks down to the Indianola Bridge. The land to the west of the bridge is mostly owned by Columbus City Schools although small sections are owned by home-owners and businesses. Due to the depth and steep sides of the ravine, its heavy forest cover, its relative inaccessibility to law enforcement, and its status as a tributary of the Olentangy River, trespassing through the ravine is common.
The first part of the walk--from the Indianola Bridge to the Calumet Bridge--is difficult. The terrain is rough and uneven, Gravel and loose shale are underfoot. One must pass over or around huge glacial erratic boulders that have washed down here over the milennia. Depending on the weather, the stream may or may not be flowing. If it is flowing, the explorer must wade across thigh-deep pools or try to climb the muddy stream banks to get around them. One must frequently clamber over or under fallen trees and through heavy brush. In the summer, there are stinging nettles to avoid.
After the Calumet Bridge, the ground is scoured and smooth. One walks on shale bedrock, mostly clear of gravel and debris. It's almost like a highway.
At the bottom of the ravine is a huge cage of steel beams before a dark tunnel entrance. This is the purported Hellmouth.
The steelwork was installed there to keep trees and other large debris from obstructing the drain but it gives the area a sinister cast.
The tunnel goes beneath High St. and is big enough for a man to stand in. It is pitch black inside. The tunnel makes two bends. Every inch of the walls is covered with graffiti–some of it esoteric. The sound of metal scraping against metal can often be heard echoing from within. It sounds like a heavy iron door swining on rusty hinges.
Though surrounded by some of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the city, the deep, shady, and heavily wooded ravine leading down to the “gates” feels like it’s a thousand miles away from the rest of the world. Steep ravine walls mean the only way in is also the only way out.
Maybe that's the inspiration for the stories they tell about the ravine.