Everyone probably knows at least one urban legend, whether you heard it through the grapevine, saw it on social media, or discovered it via the classic 1998 film Urban Legend and its 2000 sequel, Urban Legends: Final Cut. Merriam-Webster defines urban legend as “an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true,” which is why you often see the same types of urban legends popping up all over the place, with distinct local details providing flair.
According to folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand in his book The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings, urban legends are essentially modern folklore, “realistic stories concerning recent events (or alleged events) with an ironic or supernatural twist. … They are a unique, unselfconscious reflection of major concerns of individuals in the societies in which the legends circulate” at the point in time when they’re told. Importantly, in addition to being spread through word of mouth, they’re often spread by the media.
From creepy cryptids and ghostly vehicles to deadly curses and some stuff you’ve probably seen on Facebook, here’s one urban legend from each of the 50 states, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube. (And don’t forget to subscribe for new videos every week!)
In 1833, Connecticut native Charles R. S. Boyington moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he began rooming with another man at a local boarding house. Not long after that, Boyington’s roommate was discovered dead of a stab wound in the local cemetery—and Boyington was the prime suspect. Despite the fact that there was little evidence to convict him, and that he never wavered on his innocence, Boyington was found guilty and sentenced to hang. Before he went to the gallows, Boyington proclaimed that an oak tree would grow from his heart and prove his innocence—and sure enough, an oak tree did grow over his grave. Later, two people confessed to murdering his roommate. The tree is still around today, and it’s said that whispers and crying can be heard coming from around it.
Honorable mention to Huggin’ Molly, a giant, 7-foot-tall woman clad in all black who is said to approach kids out in Abbeville, Alabama, after dark, hug them tight, and scream directly in their ears. That’ll teach ‘em to listen to Mom and Dad!
In 1938, Fairbanks residents were pilfering the mammoth tusks Otto Geist had acquired as part of his many expeditions for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In a desperate attempt to save at least some of the stash, Geist and his students took as many as 30 of the tusks and buried them somewhere in the area. Or maybe, as other versions of the story have it, Geist was actually experimenting with preservation of the tusks. Either way, he apparently didn’t make a note of where the cache was—and since everyone involved in the burial is long dead, the location of the tusks has been lost to time. That’s the legend, anyway: Multiple searches over the decades, both through archives and in the field, have unearthed some tantalizing clues, but so far, no tusks—which, if found, could be worth up to $1 million depending on their condition.
In 1891, Jacob Waltz, a.k.a. “The Dutchman,” died in his eighties, leaving behind rumors of a hidden mine stuffed with treasure somewhere in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains. The fact that Waltz had high-quality gold in a box under his bed seemed to lend credence to the legend, and he supposedly described a map to the treasure to his neighbors. But despite thousands of eager treasure hunters looking for it, no one has been able to find the Lost Dutchman Mine—and people have literally died trying: the geography of the land is confusing; temperatures vary hugely between day and night; and there’s no cell phone service. Most recently, a 35-year-old from Denver who was obsessed with locating the mine vanished after heading into the mountains to search in 2009. His remains were found in 2012 at the bottom of a cliff.
Legend has it that travelers driving on Highway 365 in central Arkansas around Halloween sometimes encounter a young girl in a torn white dress—and when they offer to drive her home, things get really weird, really fast.
Once the young girl is in their car, the driver drapes their coat over her shivering shoulders and sets off to the address she gives them. But when they get there, she has vanished into thin air. Puzzled, the driver knocks on the door of the house; the woman who answers tells the driver something like, “That girl is my daughter, who died many years ago. She hitchhikes back home around this time every year.” For some reason—perhaps to check if that story is indeed true—the driver goes to the cemetery to see her tombstone … where they find their jacket draped over the young girl’s grave.
The vanishing hitchhiker is an example of an urban legend that has really traveled: In Hawaii, that hitchhiker takes the form of Pele, the goddess of fire and volcanoes, who is said to appear as an old woman walking along the road. She gladly accepts a ride—and then vanishes from the backseat. In Pennsylvania, the hitchhiker is a man in white who once again disappears from the car when they reach his destination. (Sometimes the hitchhiker makes a prophetic statement before he departs.) In some places, the hitchhiker is combined with another urban legend—La Llorona, the spirit of a weeping woman who cries because she drowned her children—and in Utah, the tale is combined with the Mormon religion’s “Three Nephites.” Versions of the vanishing hitchhiker tale involving a car go back to the 1930s, but accounts including carriages, horses, and even two people simply taking a stroll somewhere date back as far as 1876 and appear in places as far-flung as Russia and Korea.
In his 1938 story “Flight,” John Steinbeck wrote, “When thou comest to the high mountains, if thou seest any of the dark watching men, go not near to them nor try to speak to them.” The “dark watching men” the Grapes of Wrath author referenced are an urban legend that has long spooked people traveling through California’s Santa Lucia Mountains. Hikers traversing the area when the sun is setting have reported seeing the 10-foot-tall silhouettes of creatures wearing long capes and tall hats that seem to be watching them. There are claims—of varying levels of dubious validity—that local Indigenous tribes spoke of them, and the Spanish colonizers dubbed them los Vigilantes Oscuros—“the dark watchers.” Explanations run the gamut from hallucinogens to pareidolia to hikers’ own shadows; regardless, visitors to the Santa Lucia Mountains might want to keep Steinbeck’s words in mind: “No one knew who the watchers were, nor where they lived, but it was better to ignore them and never to show interest in them.”
Colorado’s Riverdale Road doesn’t sound like a place you want to find yourself anytime soon: It’s apparently host to a phantom jogger who taps on car windows, as well as demon dogs and demon children, a phantom Camaro with a busted headlight that challenges other drivers to a death race, and, for good measure, the gates of hell. There’s also a phantom woman in white, who is said to be connected to a tragedy in 1975 in which a mansion on the road was burned down by a crazed man with his entire family inside. The man supposedly vanished, and near the ruins you can apparently still hear the screams of his family. Research has cast doubt on whether or not anyone was actually inside the mansion at the time of the 1975 fire, but you might want to avoid the route on Google Maps anyway, just in case.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Melon Heads, small, cannibalistic humanoid creatures with outsized heads said to roam lonely roads in Ohio, Michigan, and Connecticut. These strange creatures aren’t Connecticut’s only cryptids. The Winsted Wildman is the Constitution State’s answer to Bigfoot, and he first popped up in newspaper reports in the early 1890s. He apparently accosted a man picking berries, slept on a local’s porch, and spooked passengers of a coach who spotted him on the road. Someone who encountered the Wildman firsthand said that “the man’s hair was black and hung down long on his shoulders, and … his body was thickly covered with black hair. The man was remarkably agile, and to all appearance was a muscular, brawny man, a man against whom any ordinary man would stand little chance.” The sightings have been blamed on everything from a gorilla that escaped a traveling circus to a hoax by a local editor who needed to sell newspapers. The Winsted Wildman was apparently spotted as recently as the 1970s.
If you’re out on a boat on the waters off of Delaware’s Cape Henlopen State Park at night, you might think the blinking light you’re seeing is a lighthouse—but you might be wrong. There’s no lighthouse there. Instead, that is a ghostly corpse light that, according to legend, is meant to lure British ships to their doom. It’s said that hundreds of years ago, British soldiers raided an Indigenous wedding ceremony, killing most of the tribe; those who survived cursed the land, creating the Corpse Light. The first victim was supposedly the Devonshireman in 1655 (though there doesn’t appear to be any evidence of that ship sinking there), followed by the De Braak in 1798 (which definitely did sink there).
Shout out to the Catman of Long Cemetery: This ghostly former caretaker of the graveyard had cat-like features in life, and still watches over the grounds in death. According to legend, he chases rowdy teens out of the cemetery, and if you knock three times on the rear cemetery wall, he’ll mess with your car so you can’t leave.
Perhaps you’ve heard the urban legend that after Walt Disney died in December 1966, his body was cryogenically frozen and stored somewhere on the grounds of Disney World, possibly under the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. This urban legend is so pervasive that it actually launched another urban legend: In 2021, rumors began circulating on Facebook that Disney’s body would be thawed out that December in an attempt to resurrect him. Both of these tall tales are impossible, because Disney wasn’t frozen—he was buried in Glendale, California’s Forest Lawn Memorial Park after his death. But they’re not the only Disney-related urban legends: Shortly after Space Mountain opened in 1975, rumors began circulating about the ride. Some were vague, referencing a mysterious tragedy; others were quite specific, saying that a rider had stood up on the ride—and been decapitated. Disney officials tried to track down the source of the rumor, but were never able to. There was apparently one minor incident on Space Mountain in those early days; some cars bumped together, and the ride was shut down for a few weeks. But no one was ever decapitated. Disney officials said it’s not even possible to stand up while you’re riding.
Up until a few years ago, people in Augusta, Georgia, had to beware of a 10-foot-tall pillar on 5th and Broad Street that was said to be cursed. Legend has it that after an evangelist was forbidden from preaching there, he “threatened that a great wind would destroy the place except for one pillar and that whoever tried to remove this remaining pillar would be struck dead,” in the words of Year Book of the City Council of Augusta, Georgia, of 1977. Soon, a storm or a tornado (reports vary) did just that. Supposedly, several attempts to remove the pillar ended with people dying in horrific ways. Eventually it was said that anyone who so much as touched the pillar would meet an unpleasant end. The pillar got a taste of its own medicine in 2016, when it was destroyed by a vehicle collision for the third time; it hasn’t been rebuilt, though apparently a stump—which locals are still wary of—remains.
Morgan’s Corner on Nu’uanu Pali Drive in Oahu is supposedly haunted—and it actually was the site of a real-life murder. In 1948, two men escaped from a prison and murdered a widow in her bed. Morgan’s Corner is also said to be near the site of an urban legend that many of you might recognize.
Here’s how the story usually goes: A boy and a girl are parked under a tree at Morgan’s Corner late one night—but when the time comes to head home, the car won’t start, so the boy leaves to go get help, despite the fact that the girl does not want to be left alone. She hears all kinds of strange noises like thumping and scratching on the roof, and she’s so scared she hides on the floor of the car until morning. The police eventually arrive and take her out of the car, warning her not to look back. When she does, she sees her boyfriend hanging from the tree, toes scraping the roof of the car.
In The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Brunvand says that this particular tale, which was popular among teens, was first collected in 1964 from a student at the University of Kansas. In some versions of the story, the boyfriend has actually been decapitated and is hanging upside down; instead of his toes scraping the roof, the girl hears the drip, drip, drip of his blood on the roof all night long, and when the police come and she turns back and sees her dead boyfriend, her hair turns white. The tale is apparently related to another, older urban legend you might be familiar with: “The Hook.”
Idaho’s Payette Lake is said to be the home of the Nessie-like water creature known as Sharlie, but that urban legend is child’s play compared to the water babies of Massacre Rocks near Pocatello, Idaho. According to legend, there was once a terrible famine in the area, and some members of local Native American tribes opted to drown their infants rather than let them starve. In the tamest version of the legend, you merely hear these babies crying when you sit near the water. But in others, those babies actually survived by growing gills; supposedly, they still lure unsuspecting people to their deaths.
You might remember Homey the Clown from In Living Color. But for Chicago kids in the ‘90s, he was the boogeyman: In 1991, kids in neighborhoods across the city reported a man dressed as Homey trying to lure them into a vehicle—which was variously described as red, white, brown, or blue van with the words ha-ha written on the side—with candy and cash. Police took the reports mostly seriously, with one officer telling the press, “If you’re a clown going to work, you’re gonna get stopped.” The Chicago Tribune noted that the reports, which came mostly from kids, were “tumbling out from different parts of the city like clowns falling out of a Volkswagen.” Thanks to the discrepancies in the reports, police theorized that there might have been “one or more phony Homeys roaming the streets,” according to the Tribune. No real Homey was ever apprehended.
Not all urban legends have to be doom and gloom—take the ones surrounding Indiana’s iconic car race, the Indy 500. According to one urban legend, a tourist driving through town got caught up in the race traffic and ended up in the race’s infield. According to another, a rabbit on the track means good luck for the racers.
If you are looking for a creepy urban legend, though, feel free to read up on The House of the Blue Lights, in which millionaire Skiles Edward Test was said to have kept his dead wife encased in a glass coffin surrounded by blue lights in his house. (The only problem with that one? All three of Test’s wives outlived him.)
In 2016, emails and Facebook posts began popping up in the Ames, Iowa, area, warning women drivers to beware of stopping should they see what appeared to be a body in the road. The posts went a little something like this, bizarre punctuation and spelling mistakes very much original:
“~~WARNING: WOMEN!!!!!!!!!! a co-worker was driving back from Ames and saw somthing laying in the road (about the Jefferson area) . As she got closer she noticed it was a body. She kept going an called 911. The officer called her back later and said she was lucky she did not stop because there was two other guys waiting in the ditch to mug her. I also had a man try to flag me down between Boone and Ogden... So if this happens to you DON'T STOP, and call 911, they are also using dolls in car seats to get women to stop. Re-Post this to warn others. THIS IS REAL Iowa people! Reposted from a friend-watch KCCI news tonight !!~~”
The Ames Police Department took to Facebook to let residents know that this “warning” was actually an urban legend that might have originated in South Africa in the 1990s. “We encourage you to call on suspicious activity and use common sense when things don’t seem right,” the post read, “but this one is an urban legend.”
Stull Cemetery in Stull, Kansas, is famously home to a Gateway to Hell, but the state has plenty of other urban legends—like the Hamburger Man of Hutchinson, Kansas. Tales about the Hamburger Man first cropped up in the 1950s, when hikers started to go missing in an area known locally as “Hamburger Hill.” It’s said the Hamburger Man was a farmer-turned-serial killer who had been disfigured in a fire; these days, he’s a half-ghost, half-monster. Either way, he purportedly nabs his victims, drags them back to his cabin deep in the woods, and grinds them into hamburger meat.
Kentucky’s Sleepy Hollow Road is a two-mile-long thoroughfare said to be haunted by a ghostly hearse that materializes out of thin air and aggressively tailgates drivers, trying to force them off the road and into a ravine.
The Rougarou isn’t the only cryptid prowling around Louisiana’s swamps; the state is also home to the Grunch. What the Grunch is exactly is unclear: Some say it’s a goat-like monster, while others claim it’s a group of half-human creatures. The name comes from Grunch Road, which, according to the legends, was a swamp road that has since been paved over. The Grunch, whatever it may be, is said to hunt those who park near its namesake road. If you see an injured goat wandering around the bayou, don’t stop—that’s how the Grunch lures in its victims.
A monument to Colonel Jonathan Buck, founder of Bucksport, Maine, features an odd stain. According to local legend, it’s the mark of a woman he sentenced to death. Some versions of the tale say she was a witch, while others claim she was pregnant with his child. Either way, Buck had her killed. In some versions, the woman somehow lost her leg before dying, and a leg-shaped water stain now permanently blemishes the town’s monument to its founder.
The winter of 1697 was rough in Maryland. Crops failed, livestock died, and people perished from the flu. But as the story goes, instead of blaming the weather or a stroke of poor luck, the townspeople pointed fingers at Moll Dyer, a former indentured servant. She was an elderly woman often spotted begging and foraging around the fringes of society. The people decided she was a witch and was to blame for all the misfortune their town had recently suffered. Shortly after Dyer was driven out of town, her body was found frozen to a boulder. It’s said her handprint remained on the rock long after her corpse was removed, and that anyone who touches the stone falls ill. People have suggested that Dyer inspired The Blair Witch Project.
In the early 2000s, a story about a preteen boy with autism stealing a penguin from Boston’s New England Aquarium spread through the region. The boy allegedly snuck into the penguin pool somehow and hid a penguin in his backpack or under his jacket. He smuggled the bird home, where his mom found him playing with it in the tub. Of course, nothing like that happened. No one stole a penguin from the New England Aquarium. But weirdly, it wasn’t the first aquarium to be wrapped up in such a tale. Over the years, stories of a boy or man with disabilities stealing a penguin from an aquarium have popped up elsewhere, too.
In 1679, a ship named Le Griffon set off on its maiden voyage in the Great Lakes. During the trip, it stopped so its crew could trade with Native American tribes on an island in Lake Michigan. It was later supposed to set sail to a French military fort—but Le Griffon never arrived there. It was likely the first of many ships to have gone down in the Great Lakes. Though people in recent years have claimed to have found its wreckage, no one actually knows what happened to the ship. People have proposed the typical theories: ransacking, a mutiny, or a storm. But some believe a local prophet’s curse is what doomed the ship and crew.
In 1898, a Swedish immigrant named Olof Öhman made a startling find in Minnesota: an old stone slab covered with runes. He and his son first suspected it was some sort of Native American artifact. But they later realized it was left behind by some 14th century Scandinavian explorers. The text read, “We are 8 Goths [Swedes] and 22 Norwegians on an exploration journey from Vinland through the West. We had camp by a lake with 2 skerries [small rocky islands] one day’s journey north from this stone. We were out and fished one day. After we came home we found 10 of our men red with blood and dead. AVM [Ave Virgo Maria, or Hail, Virgin Mary] save us from evil. We have 10 of our party by the sea to look after our ships, 14 days’ journey from this island. Year 1362.” And though we now know that Scandinavians did set foot in North America prior to the 14th century, they certainly didn’t leave behind the runestone. Multiple tests performed over the last century revealed the odd artifact to be a hoax, probably created by Öhman himself. Some people, however, remain convinced the Kensington runestone is the real deal.
Down in Mississippi, the most legendary urban legend there has become something of a cornerstone of American folklore. Robert Johnson was a blues artist in the 1930s. He made a local name for himself, and he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 when people began recognizing his contribution to the music scene decades after his mysterious death. His career may now be seen as somewhat legendary, but how he got that talent is a bona fide urban legend: It’s said Johnson met the devil at a crossroads and sold his soul to him in exchange for his guitar skills.
An abandoned water treatment plant in St. Charles County, Missouri, had a pretty dark reputation before it was demolished. According to legend, a Satanic cult would gather there during the weekends and decapitate chickens. Police did find traces of Satanic symbols around the property, but they believe it was likely from local teens trying to imitate the rituals that allegedly took place there.
You won’t find Langville, Montana, on any maps—because Langville doesn’t exist. But since the early 2000s, people have been convinced the small town was once real. It’s said the whole town mysteriously disappeared overnight, with all traces of its history vanishing with it. Some also say the town and its residents were turned “inside out,” but no one really knows what that even means.
In 2013, a website published an article saying these deadly hornets were on the loose in Nebraska. The hornets, it claimed, were affected by radioactive debris from the 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster. The nuclear material caused the wasps to become enormous, aggressive, and venomous with poison that was 2000 times more powerful than a normal hornet. There were no radioactive insects going on killing sprees in the state, though: The article that started the whole rumor was published by the National Report, a site that publishes fictional news stories. News of the hornets snowballed from there.
We don’t know exactly how many people died while working on the Hoover Dam. Some estimates put it at 112, while others say 96. We can, however, say with certainty how many people are buried in it: zero. Though it’s claimed that there are corpses concealed within the concrete, no one is actually buried in the dam. Pouring the concrete was a precise, multi-person job, so it would have been impossible for someone to stuff a dead person into it without anyone noticing. But that hasn’t stopped this urban legend from spreading all across the Silver State.
29. New Hampshire
An abandoned factory dubbed the “Cataclysmic Domes” near Franklin, New Hampshire, was rumored to be another site for Satanists. People said the graffiti adorning its walls was a sure sign of the occult. But as it turns out, some of the illicit artwork—and the site’s ominous name—came from a local band called the Cataclysmic Domestics, who graffitied the site in the late ’60s while taking pictures for their album cover.
30. New Jersey
You probably know the Jersey Devil. But do you know the Spook Rabbits of Harmony Township? They’re more Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog than Peter Cottontail. In the late 1800s, locals were alarmed when their hunting dogs returned home covered in blood and scratches. Naturally, they blamed killer bunnies, which for some reason seemed to be unhuntable. And even though one level-headed person proposed that it was probably just thorny shrubs and brambles that scratched the dogs, people still insisted the murderous Spook Rabbits were to blame.
31. New Mexico
Roswell isn’t the only New Mexico site with an extraterrestrial reputation. Above ground, Dulce, New Mexico, seems like a typical small town. But people are convinced that there’s something far from ordinary lying beneath it. As the urban legend goes, the area sits right next door to a giant high-tech underground facility full of aliens. It’s said people use the multi-level bunker to conduct all sorts of experiments, including some on human-alien genetics. People have reported seeing strange human-animal hybrids, and have claimed that someone was using cows to incubate alien babies. According to one conspiracy theorist, there’s even a full on human-alien war happening beneath Dulce. And of course, locals have reported numerous UFO sightings.
32. New York
New York City is famously full of rats. And also giant albino gators—at least, according to a popular urban legend. For decades, people have reported seeing the reptiles slinking around the sewer system. They’re said to be particularly vicious beasts that feast on rodents and attack sewer workers, who must carry firearms for protection. It’s true people have spotted the rare gator on the loose around the city over the last century—in fact, one was pulled from a lake in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in early 2023—but they’re usually illegal pets that people dump once they get too big. The rescued gators didn’t even come from the sewer system. The water is too cold and toxic for them down there, and a diet of city rats and raw sewage would be dangerous for them as well.
That said, according to Brunvand, there has been “one reliable account of a full-grown alligator dragged from a New York City sewer.” The incident occurred in February 1935; teens were shoveling snow into a manhole on East 123rd street when one of them spotted the gator. After the kids pulled the gator from the sewer, it got understandably cranky and snapped at them … at which point they killed it. “Reptile slain by rescuers when it gets vicious,” the Times proclaimed. “Whence it came is a mystery.”
33. North Carolina
When the Carroll A. Deering wrecked along the coast of the Outer Banks in the winter of 1921, the ship was mysteriously empty. No one knew what happened to its crew. People suspected a mutiny, or perhaps a crash with another ship. Then, that spring, a message discovered within a bottle stated that the crew had been captured by another boat, leading people to believe pirates were the cause. News then spread that Bolsheviks were to blame, and that the ship was caught up in their plot to steal ships and crews and smuggle them to Russia. However, that theory was later debunked, and the person who discovered the message in the bottle was revealed to have written it in an attempt to get a job at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse. To this day, no one really knows what happened to the people aboard the Carroll A. Deering. But if you’re thinking “that doesn’t sound that urban legendy to me,” we have two words for you: Bermuda Triangle. Supposedly the ship passed over that area of the ocean.
34. North Dakota
When you think about a mythical stairway to hell, chances are you don’t picture it in North Dakota. But according to urban legend, that’s precisely where it’s located—in Tagus, to be exact, at the ruins of an old Lutheran church.
The church burned down in 2001, but it’s been rumored to have been a hotbed for satanic activity involving everything from cannibalism to human sacrifice. Its reputation was so notorious that Charles Manson supposedly claimed that if he ever got out of prison, that’s where he planned to go. As for the stairway? It was said to be underneath the church, and although now there’s just a memorial there to mark the site, some claim that if you get close enough to it, you can hear the screams of the damned as they descend deeper into hell.
It’s all pretty creepy stuff, but the town of Tagus is interesting, too: It was founded in the early 1900s but has since become a ghost town. You can still visit it, and those who have have reported feelings of “simmering dread” as they walk past the vacant houses and rusted-out cars that are all that remains of the old community. Just be careful not to rouse the hellhounds—those are said to roam the empty streets, too, snarling and snapping at whoever dares to overstay their welcome.
Turns out, you don’t have to go to London if you want to see a werewolf—back in the summer of 1972, you could’ve just gone to Defiance, Ohio.
Starting in late July of that year, police received multiple reports that there was a “large beast” resembling a werewolf on the loose. One witness—a local train crewman who supposedly spotted the creature with a coworker early one morning along the town’s railroad tracks—claimed it had fangs and hairy feet, and that it “ran side-to-side like a caveman in the movies.”
There were other early-morning sightings too, including from a driver who said it ran in front of his car and then disappeared. Others even said they saw it holding a 2-by-4. The police actually took all of this seriously but told the press that they suspected it was just a local person wearing a costume or a mask. The so-called creature was never found, and after that summer, it all but disappeared. Still, if you’re in the area during the next full moon, you might want to think twice before taking a midnight stroll.
You’ve probably heard about the Bermuda Triangle, but did you know that there’s another one, said to be located right in Oklahoma? Reports of strange events in Beaver Dunes Park go all the way back to the 16th century, when three Spanish conquistadors supposedly vanished into a flash of eerie green light as they searched for gold in the dunes.
Over the years, there have been other strange disappearances too. Some believe that people slip into another dimension, while others suspect a UFO crash might be to blame, as military personnel have allegedly been seen digging inside the dunes. Native Americans were said to have avoided the area completely and referred to it as the Shaman’s portal, but so far no conclusive explanation has ever been given for the bizarre events that are rumored to happen in the 520-acre park.
Could a video game actually make you go insane—and more importantly, would you still wanna play it, even if you knew it could? According to legend, Polybius made its way into Portland, Oregon, arcades back in the fall of 1981, and the all-black cabinet soon caused quite a stir.
Rumor has it that two teenagers went missing shortly after playing it, while others who tried it out quickly became addicted, falling into trance-like states that prompted nightmares, seizures, amnesia, and even hallucinations. Some players believed the game was sending them subliminal messages, and to make matters worse, claimed to have seen men dressed in black suits removing data records from the machines instead of quarters.
Polybius supposedly disappeared from arcades about a month later and was never spotted again. While many believe the original game never existed in the first place, some speculate that MKUltra—the CIA’s real-life, Cold War-era mind-control project—was behind the whole thing.
If you’re in Philly, a one-way ticket to nowhere could be easier to come by than you think. Legend has it that there’s a bus in the city that doesn’t have a destination or show up on any transit maps, but it appears when people are down on their luck and looking for a way out.
You reportedly have to wave the bus down to make it stop, and you only have one chance to catch it or else you’ll never see it again. The ride can last for hours, days, months, or potentially even years, because once a passenger sits down, they’re said to fall into a deep state of reflection and don’t emerge from it until they’ve faced their demons and figured out how to fix their problems, at which point, they just tug on the cord.
Then the bus—which locals call Zero—drops them off exactly where they first got picked up, and with any luck, their next destination is a much happier one.
39. Rhode Island
Speaking of cities, if you’re headed up to Providence, Rhode Island, and you’re feeling a little thirsty, you might be tempted to take a sip from the fountain outside the Providence Athenaeum, which is emblazoned with the message: “Come hither every one that thirsteth.”
But before you do, you might want to know about the little curse that’s involved. You see, the nearly 200-year-old Athenaeum was once a favorite haunt for some famous writers, including Edgar Allan Poe, who spent time there when he visited the city back in 1848. But before he left, Poe allegedly put a hex on the fountain. According to legend, if you drink from it, you’re either bound to return to the city or you’ll never leave it again—the curse kind of varies, depending on the source.
40. South Carolina
In the summer of 1988, a 17-year-old from Lee County, South Carolina, reported to local police that he’d seen something incredible after stopping near a local swamp to change a flat tire. That thing? A 7-foot-tall creature that he claimed had “searing red eyes, three-clawed fingers and snake-like scales,” and which then reportedly chased after the kid and attacked his car.
The Lizard Man became something of an overnight media sensation. As reporters flocked to the area and local vendors sold everything from t-shirts to bumper stickers and blow-up dolls inspired by the reptilian humanoid, other sightings started to pop up all over the area, with more witnesses coming forward to claim they’d been chased by the creature and had their cars mauled too.
Although the mystery Lizard Man was never found or captured, the legend lives on, inspiring festivals, books, and enduring interest from within the community, many of whom still maintain that there’s something wicked lurking inside that swamp.
41. South Dakota
Hikers in the mood for a great climb in South Dakota have been heading to Garretson for years, where the cliffs over Split Rock Creek offer a great view of the waters below. Known as the Devil’s Gulch, the 18-foot canyon has a staggering 60-foot drop, and it’s said to be here where the legendary outlaw Jesse James made one of his most daring escapes.
After attempting to rob the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1876, which some have claimed was the largest bank west of the Mississippi, James and his posse took off. They were pursued for weeks, until James reportedly ended up cornered at the Devil’s Gulch. Rather than be captured, he and his horse leapt across the 18-foot gorge and somehow made it to the other side.
Although it seems unlikely that anyone could survive a jump like that, many locals do believe it could have been possible, provided he had a really good horse. Because of that, the legend of Devil’s Gulch remains a big part of the lore surrounding James and the notorious Northfield Raid.
Nothing screams “love” like an urban legend from the 1920s involving a guy getting skinned alive for accidentally falling for another man’s wife. According to the Skinned Tom legend, after Tom got his skin peeled off at a local Lovers Lane by his girlfriend’s angry husband, he turned into something considerably less romantic.
Although some versions of this tale do vary, police supposedly never found Tom’s body, and it was only after following a trail of blood into the woods nearby that they found his skin hanging from a tree. Even though Skinned Tom is said to be just a skeleton at this point, he supposedly haunts other Lovers Lanes along the Tennessee and Kentucky border, and he carries a long hunting knife, just like the one that was used to take his flesh off. But before you get too spooked, you should know that he only goes after cheaters. And mostly, people who have claimed to see him say he just stands around their cars and glares.
As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas, and the same is true for its urban legends. The Lone Star State has its fair share of myths you’ve probably heard of before, but La Lechuza is one that might have flown under your radar—and in more ways than one.
La Lechuza, or the Witch-Owl, comes from Mexican and Tejano folklore, and it’s said to be a woman who can turn herself into a giant 7-foot tall white owl with a 15-foot wingspan and glowing red eyes. The creature prowls the Rio-Grande Valley at night—in some versions of the tale, she’s a witch who was murdered by local villagers for practicing black magic, but in others, she’s just a mom looking to avenge the death of son. Some believe there can also be more than one, and that the owls are real owls that have just been trained by witches to carry out their evil spells.
According to most versions of the story, though, the La Lechuza can draw people in by sounding like a crying infant, and that’s when it strikes. It’s said to be powerful enough to snatch up grown men and carry them off into the night. If you want to survive, praying might help, or you could just stay inside your house until morning, because that’s when the La Lechuza reverts back to its human form.
If you’re planning to visit Utah’s Escalante Petrified Forest anytime soon, there’s one really important thing that you ought to know. There’s said to be a curse that befalls those who take things from the park. Visitors who have nabbed illicit souvenirs have claimed that all kinds of unlucky things happened to them afterward, from strange accidents to breakups and terminal illnesses, and that’s really just the beginning.
In fact, it happens so often that the state park gets dozens of letters every year from remorseful former guests, desperately hoping that if they just send back whatever it is they took and it’s returned to its original spot, the curse can finally be broken. Some even claim this works and is the only way to lift the curse. It could all be just a coincidence, but then again, why risk it?
Vermont is known for its cold winters. But back in the day, those terrible snow storms could drive folks to do some pretty questionable things. Case in point: The legend of the Frozen Hill People.
According to the tale, Vermonters who were strapped for cash back in the late 1800s and looking for a way to save money on food and heat would drug their old and sickly relatives and toss them outside in the snow. Those people would freeze, of course, but then come spring, their relatives would venture outside and just thaw them out until they were good as new again.
The story gained some traction thanks to an article that was published in 1887 on the front page of the Montpelier Argus and Patriot newspaper, from a reporter who claimed to have found an account of this gruesome ritual in his uncle’s diary. Beyond that, there’s really no evidence that any of this ever took place.
Stories about a vampire lurking in Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery have been around since the 1920s, but this night crawler isn’t exactly of the Bela Lugosi variety.
Rumored to dwell in one of the graveyard’s hillside mausoleums, the so-called Richmond Vampire may be related to a worker on the Chesapeake and Ohio railroad’s Church Hill tunnel back in 1925 when it tragically caved in, burying several men alive. One of the workers, a fireman named Benjamin Mosby, reportedly managed to dig his way out, but had broken teeth and burn injuries that were so bad, eyewitnesses claimed his skin had fallen away in flaps, and he ultimately died at a nearby hospital.
It’s right about here where this grisly tale takes a sharp turn toward the strange. According to local lore, the Richmond Vampire also emerged from the wreckage with broken teeth that looked like fangs and bloody skin hanging from his bones. He was supposedly chased by the rescue team and fled to the graveyard, where he scared off his pursuers by screaming curses at them.
It’s not exactly the kind of defensive move you’d expect from a bloodsucking creature of the night, which is why some Virginians believe it wasn’t a vampire at all, but instead just an account of what really happened with Mosby after he escaped the tunnel. Considering that Mosby was buried in Hollywood Cemetery and the undead creature’s description at least somewhat matches the accounts of Mosby’s injuries, they may be onto something.
If you’ve ever eaten at KFC before, you probably know about Colonel Sanders and his legendary “secret recipe.” No, not the widespread urban legend about the unfortunate people who buy some KFC and end up biting into a fried rat, or the one about how the chain supposedly genetically engineers mutant chickens with extra legs and exactly zero beaks. We’re talking about Sanders’s secret blend of 11 herbs and spices.
All things considered, you wouldn’t be wrong for assuming he created it in Kentucky, but actually, many folks believe he developed it while he was living and working in Seattle at an old roadside restaurant back in the early 1940s. Though there’s literally no evidence for it, this urban legend would be a big blow to Kentucky if true.
The Colonel, who back then was just known as Harland, stayed in the city for about 10 months, and apparently, his coworkers weren’t too crazy about him. They complained that he was more focused on some “finger lickin’ good” fried chicken recipe than on doing his actual job. (But locals did say he made a mean spaghetti.)
Anyway, eventually he moved back home, started calling himself a colonel, and the rest is fast food history. To be fair, Washington Fried Chicken just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
48. West Virginia
The Mothman isn’t the only urban legend you’ll hear about in West Virginia. Screaming Jenny is another creepy one supposedly dating from the mid-1800s. According to the tale, a young woman with no family ended up squatting in an old storage shed along the Harpers Ferry railroad depot.
One cold autumn night, she lit a fire inside to warm up and ended up accidentally setting herself ablaze. Panicked and shrieking, she ran outside and headed straight for the railroad tracks, hoping that someone would see her and put out the flames. But because she was essentially a ball of fire at that point, she didn’t notice there was a train coming right at her until it was too late.
About a month after Jenny’s untimely passing, another train operator passed through the area and claimed to see a giant “ball of fire” along the tracks. He also failed to stop the train in time but when he got out, there was nothing there—no fire, and most importantly, no bodies, either. Residents of Harpers Ferry to this day claim that you can still spot Screaming Jenny on the anniversary of her death, engulfed by flames and desperately trying to find someone who will help her.
In March of 1985, a terrible accident occurred on a bridge just outside of Siren, Wisconsin. It was snowing when Richard and Rose Kringle—who were traveling in their pickup truck with their 8-year-old daughter, Jodee—reportedly hit a patch of black ice, which sent their vehicle through the bridge’s guardrail and into the swampy creek below.
All three tragically died as a result of the accident, but that’s not where the story ends. In the years since, locals have claimed that strange things tend to happen when they attempt to cross that same bridge. Beyond feeling uneasy, folks have claimed that their car radios fade out, and then a young girl’s voice comes through, screaming, “Help me Mommy, I can’t get out!”
Many point to the Kringle accident and believe it’s the ghost of little Jodee cutting in over the airwaves. If that’s not enough to give you shivers, we don’t know what is.
Why visit a ghost town when you could catch a late-night cruise on a ghost ship instead? Over in Wyoming, there’s said to be a haunted liner that sails along the North Platte River.
Known as the “Ship of Death,” it appears after a thick, ominous mist rolls over the water, and both the boat and the crew are said to be covered in frost. According to the legend, if you spot it, it means that someone you love dearly will die that very same day. The crew is said to appear on the deck and gather around a canvas sheet that’s draped over a body—then slowly draw back the canvas to reveal the identity of the soon-to-be deceased.
The ship was supposedly first sighted back in 1862 by a trapper whose wife or fiancée died shortly thereafter, but eyewitness accounts of this supernatural vessel go well into the 20th century, and it’s said to appear about every 25 years or so.