Every area of the world has its own myths and legends that are passed down through the ages, twisted by decades-long games of telephone. These stories may have some truthful origin or could simply be one of many tall tales uttered by a natural-born storyteller with a knapsack and a grizzled beard. The stories might have deep metaphors meant to endow a sense of virtue on the listener, bring a sense of beauty and wonder to a certain locale, or, more often than not, scare the living daylights out of children and teens.
These myths may have ancient roots in the indigenous cultures that once inhabited the land or the mother countries that colonized them later, and if so, you can expect stories of ancient monsters and tricksters with lessons attached to traditions almost forgotten. If the stories are derived from more modern times, they tend to exaggerate real-life tragedies, often with bits and pieces stolen from Hollywood-driven narratives. Regardless, these tales have a tendency to sit as seeds in the back of your mind, waiting to grow into a full-blown panic when darkness falls and the shivers of loneliness set in, and every one of the 50 United States has its own creepy myths. These are the creepiest among them.
Alabama: A playground for deceased children
If you want your blood to instantly run cold, the sound of disembodied children’s laughter will surely do it for you. This is why a small playground connected to the Maple Hill Cemetery outside of Huntsville, Alabama, wins the list for the state. According to Atlas Obscura, the playground exists to give bored children something to do while older relatives visit the plots of their deceased loved ones, but the living children aren’t the only ones said to visit the little park.
Some believe, as Advance Local explains, the spirits of dead children play on the equipment at least as often as the visitors. Many claim to have seen the swings moving on their own, the telltale orbs of spectral inhabitants, or even the apparitions of the child ghosts themselves. Local lore gives two backstories: Either the children buried in the cemetery haunt these grounds or, the eerier of the two, the bodies of children abducted in the ’60s were buried where the playground now sits, and their restless spirits entertain themselves how any child at such a location would.
Alaska: Screams of women and children lure fisherman to their deaths
In Alaska, it’s not the tale of spectral beings that sends chills up the locals’ spines. This myth has a corporeal monster at its core. As Sky History UK tells it, there are creatures known as the Kushtaka inhabiting the Alaskan waters. These beings are said to be shapeshifting creatures that turn into otters and mimic the sounds of women and children in distress in an effort to lure unsuspecting fishermen to their demise. The older legend from which this story was born, though, gets even darker.
According to EsoterX, Kushtaka tales come from the indigenous Tlingit and Tsimshian peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The actual legend says the Kushtaka would search out lost or drowning people within their hunting grounds and do one of three things: Turn them into Kushtaka (the preferable fate), rip their ill-fated victims to pieces, or simply take away their immortal soul, preventing them from continuing the cycle of reincarnation and sentencing them to an eternity of oblivion. The nothingness of empty eternity is a fate more horrific than an early death.
Arizona: Keep the children inside at night so they don’t fall to La Llorona
This Arizona myth, according to Only in Your State, has roots in Aztec lore and has since been made popular across the state as a way to keep children indoors after nightfall. The story of La Llorona is terrifying enough to have been made into the popular horror film "The Curse of La Llorona."
According to Vanity Fair, the tale goes like this: A long time ago, a woman named Maria married a rich suitor and bore him two children. The husband stopped paying attention to Maria on the rare occasion he was home and noticed only the children. Soon, Maria discovered him with another woman, the real reason behind his neglect. Enraged by what she’d learned, Maria drowned her children. Regret filled her almost immediately, and she screamed out to them in grief before, in some versions, drowning herself as well. Her spirit was denied the luxury of heaven, sentenced to walk the Earth as a restless shade in search of her children.
If children pass by a body of water at night, it’s said La Llorona will drag them in and drown them like she did her own brood. Some say she does the same to cheating husbands. All in all, it’s best to avoid her in general, just in case.
Arkansas: A hitchhiking specter
You never know what you’re going to get when you pick up a hitchhiker. There’s a chance they’ll be smelly, a chance they’ll be the perfect road companion, a slim chance they’ll be a wanted criminal, and so on. But things get a little more chilling along Arkansas Highway 365, where the hitchhiker you pick up could be the wandering spirit of a deceased young woman.
Legend has it, according to KFSM 5 News, the figure of a young woman is seen walking across an eerie bridge south of Little Rock, her white dress torn. With the woman looking so down on her luck, passersby are more than willing to give her a lift to the house she always seems to be going to, but once they arrive, the woman vanishes into the chilly night air. The house is said to be that of her mother, who will gladly explain about her daughter’s death and her periodic hitchhike home to anyone who knocks on the door.
The Arkansas state website adds more to the story, saying there’s a rumor of a boy who’d given this girl a ride home. He handed her his jacket to help warm her after her walk in the crisp rain. Like always, she disappeared, he knocked, and the mother explained. Afterward, he visited her grave, only to find his jacket hanging on her tombstone.
California: A burned figure attacking campers
Wildfires are a somewhat common occurrence in California, but only one of these ravaging natural disasters has produced the psychopath known to the Ojai Valley as the Char-Man.
Some time ago, more specifically in the summer of 1948, a large fire blazed through the valley, according to the myth (as detailed by Backpackerverse). The area was isolated due to the limited technology of the era, and some households were forced to wait days for assistance. One such place was a small cabin where a father and son lived alone.
The building was devoured by the fire, the father killed by the flames, leaving the son as the sole survivor. He’d been badly burned, some might say "charred," but he made it through. Something more than his flesh was changed by the heat, the smoke, and the pain he endured, though. A piece of his mind was broken, turning him into a monster. As testament, when the police arrived on the scene, they found the corpse of his father hanging, skin flayed from his body, from a nearby tree.
It’s said the Char-Man, the creature the son became, still terrorizes the Ojai Valley and will attack unsuspecting hikers and campers so he can collect their skins like he did his father’s.
Colorado: The gates to hell are on Riverdale Road
Riverdale Road, an 11-mile stretch of road running between Thornton and Brighton, Colorado, is said to be one of the most haunted roads in the United States, and there are plenty of creepy myths to surround it. It’s thought to be so haunted, in fact, that many, according to KUSA 9 News, suspect the road houses the actual gates of hell somewhere along its winding curves.
The most prominent urban myth about this road has to do with a phantom jogger who attacks cars traveling its pavement or parked on the thin, graveled shoulders. The jogger is said to be the spirit of a poor soul who became the victim of a hit-and-run while trying to catch a little exercise, or so Our Community Now claims. The restless shade now travels the road at night banging on the sides of traveling cars, or worse if you’re unfortunate to park along his street. The footsteps are all you’ll hear as the jogger approaches your vehicle to beat on its doors and windows, and if you should be unlucky enough to let the specter reach the driver’s-side door, you might just join him in the in-between.
Between the ghost jogger and a spectral Camaro said to race drivers to their deaths, it might be best to avoid Riverdale Road altogether.
Connecticut: The deformed Melon Heads eat human flesh
Hidden away in the woods of Connecticut are a group of people you’d never want to meet. The Melon Heads, as they’re called by the locals, live down thin country roads on the outskirts of towns where the woods get thick. According to the New England Historical Society, they rarely ever come out of hiding, but CTPost says they’ll toss rocks at your car to drive you away from their land if you get too close. And that’s far from the worst these people will do.
There are several theories about where the Melon Heads come from: escapees from a mental institution, a group of lost colonizers, or possibly a family banished from a nearby town for the crime of witchcraft. No one knows for certain, but most agree these people have suffered strange physical abnormalities after generations of inbreeding. These people are said to be small, but with giant heads and a hunger to match. They’ll eat anything from small, crawling critters to the flesh of people. Supposedly, they have a taste for teens and are often blamed by the more superstitious folk when a teenager or a hiker disappears in the woods.
Delaware: The screams of a tortured soul may send you running
Most ghost stories involve an unfortunate person who met a terrible demise, the pain of which trapped their souls in a purgatory here on Earth, and the ghost rumored to haunt Lums Pond in Delaware is no different.
The story, as told by Only in Your State, says that during the 19th century, a young girl ran away from a bad home situation to seek refuge in the woods around Lums Pond, an area that’s now the Swamp Trail. Well, what looked like a wilderness haven from the trouble of her home life turned out to be the haven of someone more sinister than the young girl meant to encounter. Having escaped her hardships for mere moments, the girl ran across a camper. The man attacked the young girl, sexually assaulted her, and killed her. Her body was found shortly after, but despite a full manhunt, the murderer was never captured.
It’s rumored that the inconsolable shade of the young girl is still wandering the trail. Her cries can be heard echoing through the trees, sending a chill down the spines of even the most courageous.
If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Florida: A river runs red with blood
It’s unclear how far back this myth dates, but if you believe the story, then it can be traced back to around the Civil War. According to legend (via Weird U.S.), there was a woman who was once kept as a slave before having been freed, after which she moved to Wauchula and served as the town’s midwife. From here, the story goes different ways. The woman was either distraught that her own child was taken from her when she was in bonds, as described by Florida Travel Life, was concerned for the food supply, or couldn’t bear children herself. Regardless, she began smothering babies after delivering them.
The woman would carry the remains of the newborns in buckets to the river and dump them off the bridge. Before long, the locals began to notice that more babies died under her care than anyone else, and she was soon banned from her job as a midwife. This caused the woman to go (even more) crazy. She was now being haunted by her deeds. Supposedly, if she came near buckets, they would fill with the blood of the babies she’d killed. She tried desperately to empty the buckets of blood into the river, but they just refilled. That is until she fell in and drowned.
If you stand on that bridge under a full moon, or so it’s said, you’ll still see the river run red with blood.
Georgia: A lake filled with ghost towns
In Georgia, as noted by Mysterious Universe, there’s a lake filled with historic landmarks, bridges, businesses, and ghost towns. It’s a 50,000-acre man-made body of water known as Lake Lanier. To build this monstrosity, over 250 families and several buildings and cemeteries had to be ushered out to new locales. Much, though, was left behind. Forests were buried by millions of gallons of water. Entire towns were swallowed by the rushing flow, left fully intact with streets, buildings, parks, and all. But there’s one other thing rumored to be below Lake Lanier’s surface, and that’s the souls of those who used to live there.
The lake is creepy enough on its own. The abandoned, derelict boats and buildings below the surface will send shivers up your spines, but the disproportionate number of deaths on the lake is the fuel that powers myth. Boating accidents, drownings, and cars careening off the road to land in Lanier’s waters add to the lake’s mystery. It’s said that the ghost towns below the water’s surface are the reason behind lakegoers’ misfortune, as the spirits trapped within reach up and pull those unfortunate souls down to the depths. The argument then becomes whether it’s ghosts or a curse that made this lake so unlucky, but many agree it’s something paranormal.
Hawaii: A creature that devours human flesh
In the city of Honolulu, there’s one house believed to be the home of a creature so terrifying that few dare enter the building: the Kaimuki House. According to Only in Your State, this home is rumored to be inhabited by a Japanese ghoul known as a Kasha. Spooky Kine Investigations, a paranormal investigation and research group, describes this creature as a ghost from Japanese folklore that’s only called up when a person commits an impressive number of evil deeds in their lifetime. Upon their death, the ghoul arrives to drag sinning souls to hell. But the legend seems to have a bit more to it.
The creature in the Kaimuki House is said to feast on the flesh of humans, and there have been several reports attesting to the horrid nature of this building’s inhabitant. The popular myth seems to be traced back to a fictional story written by a man named Glen Grant, but the locals have been talking about it for decades, as is made clear by the police reports reaching back to the ’40s.
Apparently, a couple had the police called on them by a neighbor when they heard banging sounds from inside the house, but when the cops showed up, the couple attributed the noises to a being trying to attack them. In other supposed scenarios, the Kasha had attempted to kill or did kill children.
Idaho: The water babies will drag you under
Some myths go so far back that their roots are difficult to trace. They become so woven into local culture that they’re just a part of everyday life. Such is the case of the water babies at Massacre Rocks State Park in Idaho.
As the Idaho State Journal tells it, the myth begins with a local Indigenous American tribe in a time when famine plagued the state. Fearing having too many mouths to feed, they decided to put the young ones out of their misery. A quick death was better than starving over the course of weeks or months, and the more mouths meant less food for everyone else. So, they drowned the infants in the Snake River.
The story is known to differ between sources, but the idea remains the same: Babies were drowned in Snake River at Massacre Rocks. According to 107.9 Lite FM, some people think the ghosts of the infants now inhabit the waters, while others believe they sprouted gills and became some sort of monsters. Regardless, it’s said you can hear the babies crying at night from the Snake River, and if you get too close, they’ll drag you down with them.
Illinois: The seven gates of hell in Collinsville
In the town of Collinsville, Illinois, an urban legend dating back around 40 years claims this area has an elaborate mechanism that allows one to open a gateway to hell, according to Warm Soda Mag, but it’s not something the locals would ever want to do.
Surrounding the town are a series of old railroad trestles rumored to have been the spots for lynchings, satanic rituals, meetings for the KKK, and all sorts of other nasty things. Today, these trestles are covered in graffiti and look fairly derelict, which is a little creepy if you were hanging out by one telling ghost stories under a full moon, but don’t be mistaken. The locals believe they hold a devilish power.
As the legend states, if you were to drive through the seven trestles, hitting the final one at exactly the stroke of midnight, you’ll open a portal to the devil’s realm. Hellhounds will come bounding out from the rift and drag you straight to eternal torture.
The story of the last people to attempt this feat didn’t end well. Supposedly, in the ’70s, a group of kids dropped acid before trying. Their run ended in a deadly crash before they even reached the seventh gate. Of course, no one knows how much of this was evil’s presence and how much was a pink elephant dancing on the hood.
Indiana: A green beast beneath Ohio River
There might be a monster lurking under the Ohio River around Evansville, Indiana. Or maybe the beast has died or left long ago, but the myth surrounding it is creepy as much in coincidence as it is in story.
The date was August 21, 1955, as Exemplore explains. A couple of women wanted to enjoy a nice day soaking up the sunshine during a swim in the Ohio River. Mrs. Darwin Johnson and Mrs. Chris Lamble hit the water expecting nothing unusual to happen that day, but a green beast with clawed hands had a different idea. The beast rose from beneath Johnson, locked its claw around her leg, and, with a powerful jerk, pulled her violently beneath the waterline.
Lamble, seeing her friend drop so quickly, screamed with freight. Johnson must’ve been a strong woman because she fought her way out of the creature’s grip and made it back to the surface. The creature grabbed her again, but this time she lunged for Lamble’s raft, making such a ruckus it must’ve scared the beast away.
It was the only sighting in that particular area, but, interestingly, the event happened on the same day a group of "goblin" creatures were famously reported not far away in Kentucky.
Iowa: Kissing the Black Angel will lead to an early grave
Any oddity can seem supernatural under the right lighting, stoking the flames of myth that gets passed down through generations. This is surely what happened in the small city of Iowa City, Iowa, where the Black Angel resides in a peaceful cemetery.
As Go Iowa Awesome explains, there are several different stories surrounding this statue, and all of them are miles from coming close to the truth. The myths say a husband placed the bronze statue over his late wife’s grave, but the statue darkened to black because he was terribly unfaithful. Officially, a woman named Teresa Feldevert commissioned the statue — but other stories say she was a sinner or a witch whose evil deeds caused the bronze to tarnish.
However the origin story unfolds, other myths about the Black Angel of Oakland Cemetery remain the same. According to Atlas Obscura, the locals believe if you kiss the angel, you’ll be asking for an early death, and some think women who walk beneath its blackened wings while pregnant will miscarry. However you look at it, the myths make her out to be one nasty statue.
Kansas: Ground to hamburger by the Hamburger Man
If you find yourself near the sand hills outside of Hutchinson, Kansas, it’s best to leave as quickly as you can because Hamburger Hill is home to ghoul of sorts that’ll turn you into paste.
The legend has been around since at least the ’50s, according to Mysterious Heartland, and goes something like this: A being known as the Hamburger Man stalks Hamburger Hill looking for unsuspecting hikers. When he comes upon one, he’ll attack, dragging them back to his little shack, where he murders them with a sharp hook and grinds them up into hamburger.
The origin of the being isn’t quite known, and it’s debated whether he’s a man or a ghost. The Wichita Eagle, for example, says some think he’s just a man who was disfigured in a car accident or by house fire, maybe while serving in a war. It’s not important, though, since all the sources say if you meet this man, there’s only one way your story ends: ground up and served for dinner.
Kentucky: A murderous trickster goatman
Kentucky is reportedly home to a mysterious creature of its own, and this one is a murderous trickster who takes on a form similar to a satyr from Greek mythology.
The Pope Lick Monster, as this beast is called, seems to be a mix of trickster lore and that story about the troll living under the bridge. According to Atlas Obscura, this creature calls the Pope Lick Trestle Bridge home, hence the name. The half-man, half-goat being waits for people to come by, and then he uses some form of hypnosis, potentially a sort of siren song, to lure people onto his bridge. The Pope Lick bridge isn’t decommissioned by any means — it’s very much an active trainway. Under the goatman’s spell, his victims walk the tracks until a passing train runs them over.
There are other stories about this being that claim he jumps down from the bridge to land on cars like some sort of psychotic daredevil. Whatever the case may be, people have died at the Pope Lick bridge from accidents while trespassing on the trainway.
Louisiana: A deformed clan of people haunts Grunch Road
The Louisiana tale about the people at the end of Grunch Road is surely one of the weirder legends out there, but given the state’s melting-pot heritage, nobody’s all that surprised.
Somewhere back in the bayou, down a lane formerly called Grunch Road, lives a clan of dwarfs and albino folks, according to 97.3 The Dawg. It’s said that these people were hassled all the time by residents, who treated them as some sort of local freak show. The group wanted nothing more than to live in peace. Avoiding the world and the jerks that made their lives hell, they became more and more secluded until interbreeding and inbreeding left them barely looking human. Still, they were treated as freaks. That is until pets started disappearing. By the time people began to go missing, everyone knew to leave them alone.
Best Things Louisiana talks of a rumor claiming these people hired a type of beast to protect them and drive off anyone coming too close to their territory. Others say they made a deal with the devil. One thing’s certain: You wouldn’t want to meet them at the end of Grunch Road.
Maine: Catherine of Catherine Mountain
As far as myths from Maine are concerned, most of them are fairly benign, but that isn’t to say the state doesn’t have any creepy myths. As Bangor Daily News makes clear, the myth of Catherine of Catherine Mountain has locals seeing things.
The story goes that a woman believed by some to be Catherine Downing, who died in 1892 and was buried in a nearby cemetery, lost her life in some tragic accident. What type of accident it was is obscured by history. The spirit of Catherine is said to be seen wandering near the 1,000-foot mountain that shares her name along Black’s Woods Road, and if you come across the spirit, you have a choice to make: Help her or flee. If you choose not to help the lost soul, the legend says you’ll be cursed with the sort of bad luck that sends your vehicle uncontrollably swerving off the road.
Maryland: The Demon Truck on Seven Hills Road
The state of Maryland, like many of the older states on the East Coast, has a rich world of folklore and local mythology, probably due to the vast influx of colonists and immigrants from Europe who brought with them bits and pieces of their native traditions. The Demon Truck that’s believed to inhabit Seven Hills Road, though, isn’t quite so old, since motor vehicles weren’t common when the state first came into being, but that doesn’t make it any less creeptastic.
According to Week in Weird, Ellicot City has one of the weirder haunting myths around. The community is believed to be one of the most haunted in the United States, and the essence of all that spiritual activity has spread to inanimate objects. Instead of this legend surrounding a human spirit, it’s said that the ghost of a truck is what plagues the pavement of Seven Hills Road. The road itself winds around seven large hills, hence the name, and if the locals’ claims are correct, it seems to be fairly dangerous, mostly because young drivers find it fun to hit the hills at top speed. Many in the area believe the accidents caused on this road aren’t due to the daredevil speeds alone but are caused by the phantom headlights said to appear behind vehicles and drive them off the pavement.
Massachusetts: The weird people of the woods
Some myths are fairly modern, while others have roots in older traditions, and this creepy one from Massachusetts can be traced clear back to legends from the indigenous Algonquin tribes long before colonizers set foot on American soil, according to Native Languages. The creatures of this myth may be small, but they’re said to wreak plenty of havoc.
As an article from Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads (via Spooky South Coast) explains, the common myth of the Pukwudgies is alive and well in Bristol County, where some locals believe these 2-foot-tall humanoid demons haunt the woods. Once believed to be helpful creatures in the days before the United States, the Pukwudgies are now said to cause a number of disturbances, ranging from messing with hunters in their woods and throwing stones to abducting people who find themselves too close to their land at night. What’s crazy about this myth is that people still claim to see these creatures roaming about, but their appearance seems to have been influenced by European myths of nasty little folk, like gnomes and trolls.
Michigan: A monster who preys on campers
Torch Lake, just a skip away from Lake Michigan, is one of the most gorgeous inland lakes in the United States. According to Forbes, it’s not the biggest thing around, but it’s sufficiently deep, at 285 feet, and houses plenty of big fish for fishermen. Apparently, it’s also home to a monster who preys on those caught unaware on its waters, including the local campers.
The myth of the Torch Lake monster likely persists thanks to the generations of storytelling at the nearby Camp Hayo-Went-Ha, but just because this myth is spread by children doesn’t detract from its merit. The monster, as 99.1 WFMK tells it, is believed to be some weird chimeric cross between a lizard and mountain lion and gets blamed by locals for the drownings that occur in the lake. With Torch Lake being a fairly impressive tourist attraction, stories of mysterious drownings without known causes are less than rare, so the myth lives on through those tragedies. The creature, also described as a "sea panther" is said to rise out of the water at night to feed on stragglers still within the lake’s boundaries.
Minnesota: An ancient man-eater of legend
In Minnesota, one of the most terrifying legends retold and bastardized from Indigenous American stories is said to roam the thick timber that covers the northern portion of the state. And this isn’t the kind of beast you’d want to encounter alone in the woods, or even with a group, for that matter. Just stay away.
According to Park Rapids Enterprise, the Wendigo, one of the most feared man-hunters in all of mythology, has been reported in the state as far back as the end of the Civil War. The beast feasts on the flesh of humans, but the creepiest part of this myth is that the Wendigo is said to have once been a human itself. The legends claim men who turned cannibalistic for one of many reasons — starvation, belief that it would transfer power, or simply because they were Jeffrey Dahmer-sick — transformed into creatures 8 to 15 feet tall, covered in white fur, and cursed to yearn for the meat of their former species for the rest of their days.
This myth has been popularized in movies and TV shows like "Supernatural," for years now, which probably has something to do with the Wendigo’s popularity.
Mississippi: A man’s odor that turns women homicidal
Not all creepy myths have to do with demons or ghosts or the paranormal at all. Some surround strange biological phenomena and government conspiracies, much like one that had people in Mississippi quite riled up in the ’50s.
A mythical disease called Mercritis was believed by some to have infected the population of Mississippi in the ’50s, according to Urban Legends Online. It supposedly caused men to emit a body odor after eating too much lead, like from drinking certain types of paint. When a woman smelled this odor, it would drive her into violent and often murderous insanity. There are even rumors of a riot occurring due to the spread of this mythic sickness. You likely won’t find evidence of any of this, though, since the government is said to have covered it up. There was even a book published about the incident that claims the smell men were emitting affected every woman on "a hormonal level," but only the "pretty women" are the ones who become killers.
Missouri: The dangers of Zombie Road
As this list makes quite apparent, hauntings don’t necessarily have to be centuries-old houses or sacrificial sites hidden away in remote backwoods; they can also occur on things as commonplace as bike paths. That’s what many popular myths say, anyway. It likely has something to do with the spooky nature paths with heavy tree cover take on as the sun goes down, and Zombie Road in Wildwood, Missouri, is just that sort of place.
Lawler Ford Road, known to the local folk as "Zombie Road," is a short hike, but within that minuscule stretch of pavement, there’s enough supposed paranormal activity that it’s considered one of the most haunted paths in the county, or so Dangerous Roads says. Having one of the largest known Indigenous American burial mounds in the U.S. located along its stretch doesn’t hurt, either.
The stories of Zombie Road are plentiful, from the rising of spectral Indigenous spirits and Confederate soldiers to child ghosts and the lost souls of industrial workers, but the most chilling myth, as Only In Your State explains, is the tale of a terrifying man who lives in a shack by the road. The mythical man allegedly attacks couples who are looking for an inconspicuous location to … uh-hum … get away from it all.
Montana: A prison with a horrible past
The old Montana State Prison was decommissioned in the late ’70s, and if you ask some locals, they might say it had something to do with the hauntings inside the prison’s walls.
According to Haunted Hovel, the prison was never an ideal place, even as far as prisons go. It suffered overcrowding problems from the beginning, and this was during the Wild West days following the Civil War, when conditions in general weren’t favorable. It was underfunded, lacking in beds for inmates, and dirty. Not the type of place you’d want to send anyone who wasn’t your worst enemy. As you might expect, these conditions led to riots, inmate takeovers, and an unusually high death toll.
Many believe this prison is haunted by the angry inmates who lost their lives on the grounds, and given the conditions and treatment at the facility, any spirit hanging around would have to be angry. It now serves as a museum where some visitors have claimed to have been attacked by spirits, while others see apparitions or feel heavy, unnerving presences.
Nebraska: A teacher with a taste for murder
Being a teacher has to be a fairly difficult job. Let’s face it, school children can be real jerks sometimes, and the gig requires you to deal with the less-than-pleasant parents that often accompany these kids. That, of course, wouldn’t necessarily drive a normal teacher to murder, even if they’ve thought about it a time or two, but then again, the teacher from this Nebraskan myth couldn’t have been exactly normal.
As the story goes, according to Only In Your State, a teacher had been going about the usual teaching business one day in the early 1900s at one of those classic one-room schoolhouses in the town of Portal. Out of nowhere, and nobody seems to know exactly what caused this, the teacher became enraged. Moving to the doors, she barred the exits. Then, she grabbed a hatchet and methodically murdered her pupils, decapitated them and placing their heads on the desks in some versions.
When the teacher "snapped out of it," she was torn with grief, so she gathered up the freshly murdered children’s hearts (which every iteration of the legend says she’d cut out) and tossed them off a nearby bridge where it’s said you can still hear them beating today.
Nevada: Watch your kidneys
Nevada is a fairly diverse state. You have the rural desert areas with their own myths and legends, and then you have Las Vegas. Okay, maybe it’s not that diverse. The legends from rural areas tend to be relatively old, but the cool thing about a popular tourist location like Vegas is that they have myths forming all the time. This one can be traced back to the ’90s and might make you think twice before visiting Sin City.
If you find yourself alone at a bar in Las Vegas, you might want to call a friend to keep you company so you don’t lose any body parts throughout the night. As the Las Vegas Sun explains, rumors of people having their kidneys stolen from them haven’t just plagued Las Vegas but numerous other cities, as well.
This is how the myth says it happens: You sit alone at one of the many bars in Sin City, where you meet an attractive person. The two of you share some good conversations and way too many drinks. Then you black out. When you awaken (if you awaken), you’ll be lying in a bathtub filled with ice and have a large surgical incision in your torso. And you’ll be short one kidney.
New Hampshire: A species of Devil Monkey
There are many areas with their own cryptids. Some of them are surprisingly well-known throughout the world — such as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the yeti, etc. — and a number of them tend to fall into one of two categories: the serpent or the primate. New Hampshire’s Danville Devil Monkey is certainly the latter.
Danville is located in the hilly south of the state, just above its southern border, and it’s believed to be the home to a unique primate. The Devil Monkey, as Sentinel Hill Press notes, is an ape-like beast that lives in the woods and comes out every so often to wreak havoc. This odd and terrifying creature was alleged reported by around a dozen locals in 2001, but according to Seacoast Online, it turned out to simply be an escaped exotic pet, or so they believe. Of course, that doesn’t explain the Devil Monkey sightings throughout the state’s history, which Strange New England says include descriptions of giant baboons with pointed ears, razor claws, and the snouts of dogs. Since the 2001 monkey was reportedly never caught, how do we know for sure it wasn’t a Devil Monkey?
New Jersey: The state’s most famous cryptid
Probably the best-known legend from the state of New Jersey is that of the Jersey Devil (or Jersey Beast). The cryptid itself is said to be a horrifying sight, but it’s the beast’s origin that’s truly creepy.
The Jersey Devil, as Pinelands Alliance explains, has been around for more than two and a half centuries, terrorizing the state’s pinelands. The beast is said to appear as a terrifying amalgamation of animals. With the head of a head of a dog, the face of a horse, wings of a bat, a tail, and horns, and the kangaroo-like posture with which it holds itself, the creature would surely leave anyone shaking, but the beast is also rumored to be the child of the devil.
Centuries ago, a woman by the name of Mrs. Leeds was pregnant with her 13th child. Having too many mouths to feed as it was and desperately upset to be giving birth to yet another, she cried, "Let it be the devil!" And out popped the Jersey Beast. After exiting Mrs. Leeds’ womb, the baby demon shot out of an open window and disappeared into a nearby swamp to terrorize the states’ inhabitants for hundreds of years to come.
New Mexico: A shapeshifting demon
In New Mexico lives a demon straight out of your worst nightmares. This story is told all the way from this state to parts of Mexico proper, so its history is a long one, making La Mala Hora ("the bad hour") a demon of the old world.
According to Seeks Ghosts, the demon is a shape-shifter that appears where roads intersect in the middle of the night. Scary For Kids says the demon can take on a multitude of forms but is usually seen as a rapidly changing black lump or a woman of the wickedest constitution. La Mala Hora will appear to drivers who are traveling by their lonesome, jumping out in front of their cars in female form.
One of the more popular stories sailing around the internet claims that a woman was driving cross-country when a frightening female figure jumped in front of her car, causing her to screech to a halt. When the driver looked around, she didn’t see the woman at first but soon noticed her at the passenger-side window. La Mala Hora’s face was clearly demonic — sharpened fangs, red eyes, the works — and her hands held terrible claws, which she used to strike at the window.
The terrified lady drove hard and fast, but the demon followed with ease, growing gigantic as she did so. Somehow, the driver got away from this powerful creature unharmed. Or so the story says.
New York: A myth to scare campers into good behavior
Some of the myths and legends out there exist solely for the purpose of fun — to scare the bejesus out of a campfire gathering or perhaps lift spirits — but other myths are designed with a specific purpose in mind. The tale of the Cropsey Maniac, which is commonly told at the summer camps in the state of New York, has its beginnings as a camp story meant to keep kids from getting criminally out of hand and bringing a bad name to the camps.
As one scholar at the University of Missouri tells it, the common version of the story goes a little something like this: A respectable man, a real member of the community type, living right outside the property of a camp was driven insane after a group of kids burned his house down. His child and wife both died in the fire. Naturally, the type of insanity that afflicted the unlucky man made him vicious and vengeful. He began stalking camps and murdering campers, making sure to leave messages burned into their skin so the rest of the kids would know this was his work.
North Carolina: Where the devil goes for strolls
If all the myths and urban legends from around the country are true, the devil must be a very busy entity. Everywhere you look, some place has a portal to hell or a chair that Satan frequents. But it’s the beautiful coastal state of North Carolina where the devil is said to take his nightly strolls.
This myth, according to WRAL, was around before the U.S. was even a country. The legend says that Satan comes to Earth every night and either tramps around or dances in a very specific circular patch of forest about 50 miles south of Greensboro. Now, the Devil dancing probably isn’t the creepiest legend on its own, but there’s a phenomenon at the Devil’s Tramping Grounds, as the circle is called, that turns some skeptics into believers.
The circle of the Devil’s Tramping Grounds is only about 15 feet wide, and since as far back as the 1880s, it’s been almost entirely barren. The few sprigs of grass that grow there are said to grow abnormally. NCpedia even says the locals have tried transplanting the "wiry" grass to other locations, but the cursed blades refuse to grow.
North Dakota: A monster that’ll drive you insane
There are almost as many myths about monsters in the waters of the United States as there are about the cryptids on land, but unless you’re from one of the locations in which they reside (or you just really love cryptids), there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them. And the legend of the Miniwashitu living in the Missouri River at the border of North Dakota is one such beast.
According to a legend derived and been twisted from an old Dakota story (via Ghosts of North Dakota), the Miniwashitu lives below the water’s surface and rarely breaches into sight. You should be glad for this if you ever visit the area because the last person to see it was supposedly driven mad and died within days of the encounter. The man rambled long enough to give a description of the creature: The Miniwashitu is said to be large, looking like a red stroke of fire as it swims through the depths, but when seen clearly, its body is covered with red fur the thickness and texture of a bison’s, a single giant horn on its head, a fin like a massive saw down its back, and single eye in the middle of its face.
The eyewitness died not long after he recounted what he saw.
Ohio: A werewolf on the loose
Ghost stories, connections to hell, and tales of demons tend to dominate the local myths of the United States. You’ll find stories of sea monsters and curses as well, but one mythological creature you rarely hear about in earnest is the werewolf. In 12th-century Europe? Sure. But thanks to Hollywood, few people still believe in the beast of stories that haunted humans past. That is, of course, unless you live around Defiance, Ohio.
In 1972, the Toledo Blade ran a story about an investigation into werewolf sightings by the Defiance police (via Crypto-Kid). This wouldn’t have happened if a single crazed person called in a werewolf complaint, but there were several, as CLE Weekend explains. The first was a pair of railroad workers who claimed to have been attacked by a towering werewolf while working in the middle of the night. The odd part about this story is that the beast used a club, instead of fangs and claws, for some reason. A different railway worker ended up calling in a werewolf incident not long after the first report. The next sighting came when a driver caught the creature in their headlights a week later.
Due to the sheer number of reports, the police had to figure out what they were dealing with, but as soon as the article was published about their investigation, werewolf panic broke out in the area. Of course, the reported creature wasn’t found.
Oklahoma: A portal in the panhandle
The myth of Shaman’s Portal, located amidst the dunes of Beaver Dunes Park in Oklahoma’s panhandle, begins hundreds of years ago with a Spanish explorer who was searching the American West. According to Jean Marie Bauhaus, a writer with a passion for the supernatural and other eclectic things, this explorer, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, was taking part in some odd military excavations in the middle of the night in search of gold. Ignoring the advice of his indigenous guides, he brought his men out to the sand dunes, where he watched them disappear in flashes of weird green lightning.
The location is still known as "Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle," and as 106.3 The Buzz tells it, the site is believed to have a strangely high number of disappearances dating all the way back to the 1500s, when Coronado and his men first experienced Shaman’s Portal in action. No one seems to know where this portal takes its victims or what it actually is, knowledge likely lost with the stripping of Indigenous American culture, but some people truly believe the dunes are the site of a wrecked alien spacecraft that’s been causing strange happenings from beneath the sands.
Oregon: Cursed to burn
There are a couple of myths that serve as the origin for a single outcome in Lafayette, Oregon. The first, as Green Lettuce explains, says a Roma woman laid a curse on the town. Supposedly, a mother and son killed the mother’s boyfriend. The son was then put to death, but as he was hanged, the mother cursed the town, saying it would burn down three times.
Another version of this myth says a witch was hanged in the town cemetery sometime in the 1800s for, you know, being a witch and all that. In this telling, it’s a witch’s curse that will burn the town down three times.
Whichever story is at the true root of the curse doesn’t matter as long as the myth of the curse exists. You’ll hear people in the area claim the town has already burned twice, but according to NewLafayette.org’s collection of old newspaper headlines, the town has already had several major fires that took out multiple buildings. So, maybe there’s some merit to this curse after all.
Pennsylvania: a bus to nowhere
Grief is one of the hardest human emotions to go through. Nothing you do or other people do for you seems to lift the weight of whatever tragedy put you in that dark place, but on the other end of the spectrum, there are certainly things that can make your grief worse, like being abducted indefinitely. Cue the bus to nowhere.
There’s a myth in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, regarding a phantom bus that only shows itself to those in the most pain, according to WereWoofs.com. Maybe they’re suffering from the loss of a job or loved one, or maybe they were just served divorce papers or learned of a cancer diagnosis. Whatever the case may be, those who wander the streets of Philly under the haze of grief will see the bus to nowhere.
On the bus, it’s quiet. The passengers stare off, consumed by their own personal hell. Time doesn’t seem to move. Those who escape their time on the bus don’t tend to remember many details, like how long they were on the bus or who was driving it. The bus can hold its passengers for mere hours or for years, that is if it allows you to escape at all. Some on the bus are said to ride it through eternity, locked within a dreadful sense of despair.
Rhode Island: The real Freddy Krueger
Freddy Krueger is one of the world’s most notorious and flavorful cinematic horror characters. He’s as recognizable as Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers. "A Nightmare on Elm Street" kicked off an unnecessarily long franchise because it was a decidedly chilling flick for its time, but how much scarier would it be if there was a real-life creature like Krueger roaming the night? Some believe there is.
The "New England Legends" podcast describes the myth of a man known as Fingernail Freddy. While he doesn’t have metal knives at the tips of his fingers, he does have natural ones. The man-monster lives in the woods around Cumberland, Rhode Island, and preys on similar victims to that of his onscreen counterpart: children. The myth predates Freddy Krueger by at least 30 years, so the crossover is unlikely to be intentional. Fingernail Freddy hates people, especially children, and spends his life as a recluse to avoid them, but when campers make too much ruckus at night, it draws Freddy in. This is bad news for the children, as few of them are likely to survive an encounter with the hermit.
South Carolina: Taking your breath away
The islands and southern coast of South Carolina have an awesome local culture, the Gullah people, according to Only In Your State. They’re South Carolina creole, if you will, and have a diverse heritage, much of it from Africa. Unfortunately, you never know what creatures of legend might be stalking any given locale. One that for sure lives on, in the minds of locals at least, is the myth of the Boo Hag.
The Boo Hag, in essence, is kind of like a succubus or incubus in that it feeds off your life force. But it’s a bit meaner since you don’t ever get the "good time" along with your early death. The creature or spirit (depending on whom you ask) sneaks into your home at night and searches for your sleeping body. Once it finds you, it climbs onto your chest and begins to drain your life force by sucking it, and the air, from your lungs. It should eventually fill up, but that doesn’t mean it’ll leave you alone just yet. The Boo Hag, instead, slips into your sleeping and drained body, settling in for the night to use you as a "muse" of some sort, leaving only as the morning dawns and taking some days away from your time on Earth.
South Dakota: A spirit causing suicides
The legend of the "Slender Man" really gained in popularity throughout the early 2010s before dropping off, but in that short amount of time, it did some legitimate damage. As NPR explains, two high school girls in Wisconsin actually murdered a peer because they believed that stabbing the girl would make them servants of the weird internet myth, thus saving their own families. But there’s believed to be a different Slender Man-type being in South Dakota responsible for way more deaths — in this case, by suicide.
Much like Slender Man, according to Hot 104.7, Walking Sam is a tall, thin spirit you don’t want to meet. The Pine Ridge reservation has gone through a serious wave of teenage suicides and attempts in recent years — much of this has to do with issues affecting the Indigenous population who live there — but some claim this is the work of Walking Sam, as opposed to Uncle Sam. Teens report this being showing up to talk them into taking their own lives, and it’s not a new legend. The being has been around in local Indigenous culture for years.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Tennessee: A haunted boy in the mirror
The effects of bullying are monumental. The harm is serious, and sometimes, it lasts long after our spirits have left our bodies, whether only in myth or in reality. It really depends on who you ask, and if you were to discuss the topic with locals near Jamestown, Tennessee, they might just tell you where you can figure it out for yourself.
The old Pine Haven School is a creepy sight to behold on the best of days, and without the knowledge you’re about to learn, but as the story goes, detailed by Urban Legends Online, the decommissioned schoolhouse is home to a tragic tale and a deadly spirit. Supposedly, a nerdy boy was in the bathroom one day when he was jumped by a group of bullies. He was washing his hands and minding his own business, which, unfortunately, didn’t make him invisible from the gaze of kids who took pleasure in causing harm to those they deem weak. The bullies likely didn’t mean to kill him, but during their "teasing," they shoved the kid into the mirror. It broke, sending a shard of glass into his neck, and he bled out.
With a dead schoolmate on their hands, they had no choice but to hide his body in the floorboards to escape their deeds. It’s said that if you look in the school’s bathroom mirror, the boy appears behind you and shoves you to a similar fate.
Texas: An out-of-this-world experience
Ghost stories are so common in Texas that you can’t step on a stone that’s not haunted. Because of their frequency within local culture, it’s unlikely a ghost really counts as creepy anymore, but the state has more than ghost stories.
This legend goes back more than 120 years, according to KERA News, and it’s still believed by many to this very day. On the morning of April, 17, 1897, a small vessel fell from the sky, crashing through a windmill before exploding, in the small town of Aurora, near Fort Worth. Since airplanes weren’t invented yet, this was an even more unexpected sight for the locals than if a crop duster were to crash on the highway. Inside the vessel, which was said to have been shaped like a cigar, was an unlucky alien visitor.
The townspeople believed the being had come from Mars, and Aurora was a good Christian town where even Martians weren’t exempt from their God’s graces. So, they took the mangled body of the extraterrestrial and buried it in a local cemetery with full Christian rites. If the myth is to be believed, then we’re far from alone in the universe.
Utah: Cursed for stealing fossils
One thing you’ll notice at national and state parks known for their fossils is a clearly posted rule telling you to leave said fossils where they are or face a fine. They’re there for everyone to enjoy, and if people keep stuffing them in their pockets, the fossil spring will eventually run dry. Escalante Petrified Forest State Park definitely has a similar rule to the others, but they also have one thing more: a curse.
As KSL News points out, not only the locals but visitors in general are usually aware of the myth at the petrified forest, though you might not be. It’s a simple one that says the area is affected by some ancient curse, and stealing any piece of the park’s petrified wood takes the curse home with you. Most report minor things like terrible strokes of bad luck or strings of accidents. The majority of people who steal from the park believe the myth is only superstition, but the park’s mailbox is always overflowing with packages from those who decided otherwise. After the curse sets in, those unlucky thieves send their chunks back to the park as fast as possible, usually with an apology.
Vermont: a specter falling to their death
Insane asylums pepper the beginning of any good urban myth with a touch of creepy spice, bringing with it a sense of derangement that adds just a few more chills to your spine as the story progresses. This myth starts out much the same way.
The Brattleboro Retreat, as Only In Your State explains, began as the Vermont Asylum for the Insane in 1834. The 1,000-acre mental health and treatment facility treated patients with mental health issues and later addiction issues. For the most part, the facility, which still operates, is quite nice and preaches a philosophy of humane treatment for their patients, something old asylums weren’t exactly known for. But on the grounds of this near-paradise (in comparison to other mental health facilities) is a building with a sinister look.
In 1887, a large retreat tower was built using labor from the patients under the assumption that it would be good for their progression. It’s a creepy-looking thing. Soon after it was finished, as it’s said, the patients began to use the tower as a convenient place to end their lives. The number of people who’ve jumped has been well-guarded, but many in the area say you can still watch a lingering soul reenact their deadly jump, vanishing just before they reach the ground.
Virginia: Beware of the Bunnyman
Unlike our patients from the Vermont myth, this creature in Virginia was less concerned with his own demise and more with the deaths of others.
As WAMU 88.5 tells it, an old asylum was closed down in 1904 because the nearby residents didn’t want to be that close to a building full of people deemed insane and potentially dangerous. The patients were being taken by bus to another facility when the vehicle had an unfortunate accident and one of the patients, Douglas Griffin, escaped. Soon after, local folk started finding rabbit carcasses littering the woods. Griffin had been surviving on the animals.
An escaped mental patient eating rabbits isn’t scary, but he didn’t stop with hunting bunnies. A group of kids were reportedly hanging out at a bridge near the forest when a bright light shined and stunned them. The next time the children were seen, they’d been strung up on the bridge, gutted like dressed rabbits.
This legend has gone through a serious game of telephone, so you can find several different variations out there. For instance, some people report a man in a bunny costume chasing children.
Washington: A faceless ghost wanders the streets
The town of Auburn, Washington, was once named "Slaughter." The name gives off some creepy vibes, but it was given to honor a soldier by the name who’d died while fighting local Indigenous folk who had a problem with their land being stolen. But with a name like Slaughter, you can imagine the legends surrounding the town. Instead of murder tales or mass executions, the myth that causes the most goosebumps in the area is that of a faceless spirit who wanders the town.
Before Auburn, the area was owned by a rich landowner, as Only In Your State notes. It was the sale of his land that started the town in the first place, and for some reason, the landowner never left. This story is a full of "who knows?" because no one has a single clue why the ghost behaves the way he does. The spirit is supposedly seen around town, angrily walking the streets, passing through walls, and scaring townsfolk. There’s nothing in the myth that explains why he’s so angry — maybe he regrets selling such a valuable piece of land — and there is likewise no explanation for the creepiest detail about him: The ghost has no face.
West Virginia: A haunted tunnel with a history of racial violence
The United States has a dark history of racial violence and turning a blind eye to it, and the heaviness of this type of evil deed is said to echo through Dingess Tunnel in Dingess, West Virginia.
According to the Tug Valley Area CVB, the late 1800s saw a spike in the coal industry and, with it, an increased number of Black and Chinese workers being brought out East to the mines via railway. Well, the racist white locals didn’t like that, so the most violent of the racist jerks would hide out by the tunnel, rifles trained on the emerging locomotives, and straight-up murder any of the incoming workers who weren’t white.
The Mingo Messenger says the Dingess Tunnel is considered one of the most haunted tunnels in the country. Given the pain it’s known for, it’s not surprising. There are accounts of shadow figures as people drive through, and the dark past of the location is said to attract poltergeists.
Wisconsin: An ornery sea monster at the lake
As seems to be common in all the states surrounded by sea or large lakes, Wisconsin is home to myths about its own freshwater sea monster. As Pine Barren Institute explains, the creature known as Bozho is believed to inhabit Lake Mendota, a nearly 10,000-acre body of water right next to the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
The creature, whose myth can be traced to the 1860s, was said in the earliest accounts to cause boating accidents simply due to its sheer size and boaters’ poor navigation skills, but within 20 years, the beast had become more aggressive. A couple had their boat attacked by Bozho, which they described as a 25-ft black serpent, until the husband hit the creature with a hatchet.
Since then, Bozho is supposedly seen every few years or so. It causes havoc for boaters and blatantly scares the pants off anyone unlucky to see it. There’s even a rumor that giant sea serpent scales have washed up on Lake Mendota’s shores. Luckily, the creature seems to be mostly harmless. No one is said to have been killed by the beast, but many have had their perfectly good days allegedly ruined and probably won’t be heading to the water anytime soon.