The Devil’s Road and the Cult House
There’s a wood in southeastern Pennsylvania, right on the Delaware border, whose legendary status has even made it into a summer blockbuster movie. True, the movie in question, The Village, was written and directed by a local boy, M. Night Shyamalan. But when an A-list Hollywood director brings a wood full of misshapen trees into the Cineplex, you know the legend has legs.
The Devil’s Road winds a couple of miles through the woods just north of the Delaware border in Chadds Ford. It is better known to map-readers as Cossart Road, and has enjoyed a reputation for its general aura of evil for decades. It’s particularly famous in the triangle of towns between Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Coatesville. But although the exact location is often misreported as somewhere in northern Delaware, all the stories agree on one point: The trees that line this narrow, winding avenue bend away from the pavement as if recoiling from something unspeakable.
Further into the woods, they say, up a densely wooded hillside, stands a massive stone mansion known as the Cult House, which Delaware residents insist was once owned by a member of the DuPont family. The Cult House naturally housed a cult of some kind, as the story goes, but the nature of its ceremonies remains vague even by the standards of the local rumor mill. Fans of plutocratic conspiracy theories spin wild stories of DuPont family members marrying their cousins in the house, so that the family’s wealth would stay in the family, and then using the place to hide any inbred spawn these unnatural unions produced. The less fanciful rumors fall back on the old favorites: Satanists and the Ku Klux Klan. The house’s windows are said be cross-shaped (or among the camp that believes in the Satanist rumors, inverted cross-shaped).
But it’s getting harder and harder to explore the Devil’s Road. For one thing, the street signs have been removed from Kennett Pike, so it’s easy to miss the Cossart Road turn, or to mistakenly turn into a private road called Cossart Manor Drive a few miles up the Pike. Even if you find the road, you’ll find it liberally posted with “No Stopping” and “No Trespassing” signs on the trees. The legend of the road has been repeated so often in the past forty years that literally hundreds of noisy explorers would belt up the road by night, disturbing the residents, spray-painting everything in sight, and driving recklessly. The usual obnoxious behavior was bad enough, but it escalated into vandalism and dangerous stunts such as cross burning, that forced the township and police into a strong reaction. A barricade went up with no trespassing signs and threats of heavy fines. Police and private security guards began regular patrols along the lane, which probably accounts for the many tales of visitors being chased down the road.
So we’d advise people to tread with caution when they think about treading down the darkness of the Devil’s Road. Don’t pull over on the dark and winding road, unless you want to get rear-ended by some other thrill-seekers or ticketed for parking in a no-stopping zone. And certainly don’t start tramping through private property if your fear of being arrested is greater than your fear of mysterious places. After all, you can always get a good look at the woods in The Village instead of in real life.