The area that is now called Decatur was oringinally a burial ground for the Native Americans. Most of the settlers that came from the east lived outside the village in the forest and near the river. In 1830-31, during a severe winter, many of the settlers died. It was in that winter that Hell Hollow was born.
The legend says that the area was one of the most secluded outposts around Decatur and most of the settlers stayed away from there, only going there to bury their dead. The hills above this basin was part of an Indian burial ground which is now known as Greenwood Cemetery.
That winter was one of the worst, constant snow, sleet and ice combined to a depth of three and four feet. Before to long there was no way to get to the rest of the settlers in the area. Food was in short supply, the wildlife was scarce, and all that they had stored was gone. They boiled tree bark into soup, ate shoe leather and rawhide to keep from starving to death. Eventually all that was left to eat was each other.
One of the older settlers had died earlier in the winter, and his body was put away for a spring burial. In all two of the bodies had been eaten. At the end of the winter they were able to secretly bury what was left of the two. Someone found out about what they had done and they left the area and never heard from again. This was the first of many strange occurances that happened in Hell Hollow.
In the 1800s it was taken over by a gang named the Biscuit-Necks. Their area of expertise was extortion and robbery and the used the woods as their lair. During a robbery they murdered the owner. When the police couldn't find them, a vigilante group was formed and the gang was finally found. They caught the men and hanged them right there. To dissuade the other gangs in the area the bodies were left hanging in Hell Hollow, until they were completely decomposed.
After many years the outer area of the hollow was called hobo jungle, where transients and small-time crooks lived. Since the trains passed near this area it was easy for the hoboes to jump off the train and camp there. A caretaker from Greenwood Cemetery was killed in hobo jungle and the case was never solved.
Hell Hollow, according to some Chicago newspapers, was used as a hideout for a gang of grave robbers and murderers. The "Hounds of Hell," as they were called, would meet in Greenwood Cemetery to rob the graves and sell bootleg liquor.
More and more of the hollow was cleared away as time went by. A small valley was left, west of Greenwood, and became the core of bizarre occurances.
Tales abound there of crazed killers with hooks for hands and horrendous murders of teenagers. Not all of the stories were passed off as folk legends and campfire tales. Now and then someone would come across something unexplainable.
A couple went to the hollow for a romantic evening and heard what sounded like someone banging their hands on the trunk. The young man got out of the car to take a look and didn't find anyone around. He went back to the car and found handprints on the dusty trunk.
Recently the road that led to the hollow was closed and the trees were removed. There was only one other road that was open, until now, to get to the hollow, it was this that caused gloomy incidents and unexplained occurances. In the 1990s two young men were killed by drug dealers and since then, it is said, you can hear their ghostly cries.
Weird things still go on in Hell Hollow. Even though there is no longer a road through the hollow, a trail is available which can be taken into it.
Tale from Janice D.
"When I was a teenager, I used to go down to Hell Hollow with my boyfriends. The road used to be open in those days, and I remember how dark and spooky it was. One story that I heard was that someone committed suicide there on time. I was down there one night, and my boyfriend and I saw a noose hanging from a tree. I found out later that this was where he was supposed to have killed himself." -Janice D.
Tale from Jerry C.
"Me and some friends went down to Hell Hollow one night because we were going to climb over the fence into the cemetery. We walked down the old road, and all of a sudden we heard this scream that came from the woods. I have no idea what it was, but it didn't sound human. We took off running and I have never gone back down there." -Jerry C.
Tale from Cindy E.
"I heard that the ghosts of Hell Hollow are the people who lived down there back in the 1800s. I guess they got snowed in and ate each other or something. Anyway, the place has been haunted ever since. My parents used to go parking down there when they were in high school, and my dad said that he saw a ghost one time. I think he's full of it, but it's a pretty spooky place." -Cindy E.