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Catonsville, Maryland

Hell House Altar

This haunting stone gazebo is one of the few remnants of an abandoned college that has been a magnet for local legends. 

Buried in the woods of Patapsco Valley State Park are the ruins of St. Mary’s College, and since the main buildings have been torn down a single stone gazebo still shelters a metal cross despite the popular local legends involving Satan-worshippers and ghosts.

St. Mary’s College was built in 1868 to train young men on their way to taking up the cloth. Unfortunately for the college (but fortunately for urban explorers) the schools student body slowly evaporated until there were just not enough to keep things going and the facility was abandoned in 1972. The empty buildings slowly decayed as curious explorers, urban legend hunters, and hormonal teenagers took charge of the property. The haunting ruins soon became the subject of countless local legends involving every sort of supernatural clap-trap from satanic cults to restless souls, eventually earning the buildings the colloquial name, “Hell House.”

After a fire in 1997 the buildings were essentially gutted (although no less haunting) and by 2006 the remaining structures were torn down.

While there are still other remnants of the college littering the grounds including foundations and concrete staircases, the most stunning relic on the site is the Christian altar that still stands beneath a crumbling, colonnaded pavilion. The large metal cross sitting beneath the faux-classical dome seems like some ancient artifact from some bygone time. The ghost stories about Hell House may be malarky, but the site of the eerie old altar might make visitors think differently.    

Update August, 2017: The cross is gone and the gazebo is still standing.