Whether you dismiss urban legends as children’s lore or believe they’re based on fact, these 50 tales will send a shiver up your spine. Decide for yourself which of these urban legends from across the U.S. is most terrifying.
Spookiest stories in every state
Spookiest stories in every state
Alabama: Huggin’ Molly
The legend of Huggin’ Molly is clearly a tool used by parents to get their children to obey the rules: The story, native to Abbeville, tells of a phantom woman who appears to children if they stay out late at night. She grips the lingering child tightly and screams in their ear—she’s not meant to cause death, just one hell of a fright. Check out more chilling ghost stories that will make you a believer.
Alaska: The qalupalik
The qalupalik, an Inuit version of a mermaid or siren, calls to children who are wandering too close to the seashore with her humming, then takes them away in her baby pouch. The greenish, womanlike creature will never return a child once taken into the depths. Sounds like a good way to convince your kids not to go in the water, if you ask us.
Arizona: Slaughterhouse Canyon
Also known as Luana’s Canyon, Slaughterhouse Canyon tells the gruesome tale of a 19th-century gold miner who failed to come home to his family one night. Without his earnings, the mother and her children couldn’t buy food and began to starve. When she couldn’t stand it any longer, the wife chopped her kids into pieces, tossed them into the nearby river, and died of despair. Her cries can still be heard echoing through the canyon.
Arkansas: The Gurdon Light
Like many urban legends, the story of the Gurdon Light has several variations. In one, a railroad worker was hit by a train and decapitated. His spirit can still be seen today, searching for his lost light. In another, the railroad worker bore a violent grudge against his boss who had fired him. He murdered his former employer with a railroad spike, and the victim now wanders the tracks. While the Gurdon light is well-documented, no one has been able to offer an explanation as to what it really is…
California: Char Man of San Antonia Creek
Per local lore, a father and son were trapped in a horrible fire. The father perished, then, before help could arrive, the traumatized son lost his mind. He skinned his father and then ran into the forest. Now, known forever as Char Man, his blackened, burnt body is said to attack motorists on Creek Road in Ojai, as he seeks more human skins. Learn the real meaning behind omens and urban legends.
Colorado: The Ridge Home Asylum
The Ridge Home Asylum was a real facility that opened in Arvada in 1912. It reportedly housed patients who were horribly mistreated—some of whom weren’t even mentally incapable, but had just been forsaken by their family. Though it was demolished in 2004, people say they can still hear the screams and see the apparitions of former patients on the grounds.
The misfortunes that have occurred in Dudleytown are so terrible and numerous that its nickname is “the Village of the Damned.” The now completely deserted town is said to have been home to many suicides, disappearances, and even demonic activity. It is believed that the founders of the village—and by extension, the village itself—are forever cursed. These ghost stories from the most haunted places in the world will seriously give you chills.
Since 1852, Captain Tony’s, the oldest saloon in Key West, has been known to be haunted: doors slam for no apparent reasons and there are inexplicable banging noises and frequent ghostly visitations. Perhaps that’s because it’s the site of the town’s original morgue and was built around a tree that the town once used for hanging pirates!
Georgia: “The Song of the Cell”
As the story goes, in 1848 Elleck and his wife, Betsy, both slaves, were in their home one night when their master, drunk and belligerent, crashed open the door. He attempted to attack Betsy, but Elleck fought him off. Undeterred, the master chased Elleck up a ladder into a loft. As the struggle continued, the master lost his balance, fell out of the loft, and died. Even though Elleck turned himself into the sheriff the next morning, explaining that what happened was in self-defense, he was still charged with murder (par for the course in the antebellum south). Elleck was imprisoned in the Old Lawrenceville Jail and later executed unjustly for the crime. People say they can still hear his sorrowful song traveling through the walls of the old jail. Don’t miss these strange urban legends that turned out to be true.
Hawaii: Pali Highway
Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, has many myths attached to her name. One tells of her ill-fated union with the demigod Kamapua’a, who was half-pig, half-human. The two supernatural beings had a terrible breakup, agreeing to never to see each other again. That’s why, as urban legend has it, if you carry pork with you when you travel over the Pali Highway in O’ahu, your car will come to an inexplicable halt. Next time you’re in the area, we advise sticking to chicken! Another tip: Make sure you’re not staying in any of these haunted hotels.
Idaho: The Water Babies of Massacre Rocks
This legend is about starvation and infanticide, so if you’re squeamish, you may want to skip ahead. When famine hit the local area of Pocatello, mothers resorted to drowning their babies in the rivers instead of letting them starve to death. It is said that those babies turned into fish-like imps whose new mission was to trick, or even murder, people.
Illinois: Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery
Often referred to as one of the most haunted graveyards in America, the 82-plot cemetery is known as the home of many phantom sightings. From a ghostly “White Lady” to an ephemeral white farmhouse, people who have visited the site have seen numerous inexplicable illusions.
Indiana: 100 Steps Cemetery
If you visit this cemetery in the town of Brazil and climb the 100 steps in the total darkness of night, legend has it you’ll see the ghost of the original caretaker appear before you on the top of the hill. He will give you a preview you of what your own death will look like.
Iowa: Stony Hollow Road
As the saying goes, a woman scorned is not someone you want to mess with. Lucinda of the town of Burlington is no different. Legend says that when her fiancé failed to meet her there as promised one night, she threw herself off the bluffs along Stony Hollow Road. Ever since, her ghost has appeared to countless people. What’s worse is that if she leaves a rose at your feet, you are destined to die within 24 hours, or so the story goes…
Kansas: Molly’s Hollow
The urban legend of Molly’s Hollow speaks to the United States’ racist history. As the legend goes, when the local townsfolk found out that Molly, an African American woman, was involved with a white man, she was lynched. People claim her spirit is still there, screaming at night.
Kentucky: Hogan’s Fountain
In Cherokee Park, you’ll find Hogan’s Fountain, which features a statue of Pan, the pastoral yet devious Greek god. At every full moon—some versions say every night at midnight—the figure of Pan wanders the park, causing mischief for passersby.
Louisiana: The Carter Brothers
Back in the early 1930s, a young woman escaped from the home of the Carter Brothers in New Orleans with slash marks on her wrist. She told the police that the brothers were feeding off of her blood. The cops stormed the French Quarter residence where they found more young women in similar states, their blood draining out of their bodies. The brothers, now thought to be vampires, were captured and executed, only for it to be discovered years later that their crypts were empty. Want more blood-sucking tales? Read up on these true vampire legends.
Maine: Seguin Island Lighthouse
As legend has it, in the 1800s, the caretaker of the Seguin Island lighthouse and his wife were the only two people living on the tiny spit of land. They naturally grew increasingly bored and isolated. The caretaker bought a piano so his wife could play it to keep them both entertained, but she only knew one song. The insufferable repetition of the same tune, combined with the severe sense of isolation drove the husband mad. He took an ax, chopped the piano and his wife into bits, and then killed himself. Or, so the story goes…
Maryland: Bigg Lizz and the Greenbrier Swamp
During the Civil War, Bigg Lizz, a very large woman, was a slave who became a spy for the Union troops. But her espionage was found out by her master, who decided to exact revenge. As the urban legend goes, he took Bigg Lizz to Greenbrier Swamp so she could help him bury a treasure. Bigg Lizz dug the hole, and was subsequently decapitated by her evil master, who threw her body into the grave she had just unwittingly dug for herself. It is said that if you travel to that spot during the dead of night, you will see her spirit there, attempting to lure you into the murky swamp.
Massachusetts: The Ghost of Sheriff George Corwin
When you think of haunted locales in the United States, Salem is no doubt one of the top places that comes to mind. A key character in the Salem Witch Trials, Sheriff Corwin was the most infamous and brutal when it came to interrogating and handling accused witches, earning himself the nickname “The Strangler” for his torturous methods. A building called the Joshua Ward House now stands on top of the land where Corwin lived and died, and many people say that they’ve seen him in the windows or even felt his hands pressing down around their necks when they’re inside the space.
The wendigo is a creature of Native American folklore that is thought to be the result of cannibalism. A person will turn into a wendigo, a fang-bearing creature that is tall, skeletal, and hairy, if they resort to eating another human being. Will you fall prey to the glowing eyes and snake-like tongue of the wendigo?
Mississippi: The Witch of Yazoo
While living on the Yazoo River, an old woman allegedly lured boatsmen to their deaths with her magic. One day, the local sheriff chased her into a swamp, and as she drowned in quicksand, she put a curse upon the town. In 20 years, she said, she would return to set the city aflame. Eerily, in 1904 the city was hit with a massive fire, believed to be the work of the witch. The next day when people went to visit her grave at the Glenwood Cemetery, they saw that the chain links around her grave had been broken. Or so the urban legend goes…
Missouri: The Landers Theater
The Landers Theater in Springfield is supposedly beyond haunted: From fires to stabbings to accidental deaths, this theater has seen it all. Locals and performers have alleged that they’ve seen the ghosts of the people believed to have perished there, including the janitor that was said to have died during a 1920 fire.
Montana: The Haunting of Chico Hot Springs Hotel
The mysterious “Lady in White” supposedly roams the corridors of the Chico Hot Springs Hotel in Pray, scaring guests and staff members. People have reportedly seen the ghost of a woman in white, many times leading them into room 349, only to find an empty rocking chair swaying back and forth. Her rocking chair is sometimes found in other rooms as well, always facing the window, no matter the position the last person left it in. Here’s how to figure out ifyour house is haunted.
Nebraska: The Hatchet House
The legend of the “Hatchet House” of Portal reminds us of those scary ghost stories we used to tell each other at camp. As the legend goes, a school teacher from long ago went insane and decapitated all of her students in the one-room schoolhouse. Afterward, she placed their heads on their respective desks and took all of their hearts to a nearby bridge. She threw the organs into the water, and people say you can still hear the hearts beating if you cross it, hence its name “Heartbeat Bridge.” We dare you to try it…
Mount Chocorua was named after a native American chief who lived in the early 1700s. Legend has it that he left his son with the Campbell family, while he went away on tribal business. While under the family’s car, his son died (perhaps accidentally, perhaps not). To exact revenge, Chief Chocorua killed the white man’s wife and children. Then the surviving Campbell chased Chocorua to the top of a mountain and shot him dead, but not before the Chief had placed a terrible curse upon the land. It is said that the land, now known as Chocorua Lake Conservancy, will inflict suffering and death on anyone who tries to live there or drink from its rivers.
New Jersey: The Ghost Boy of Clinton Road
The ghost of a young boy is said to reside beneath one of the bridges on this road in Passaic County in northern New Jersey. As the legend goes, he’s quite helpful, not to mention honest: If you drop a coin into the water, he will return it to you within 24 hours. It has become a rite of passage for local teens to go test it out.
New Mexico: UFO Crash at Roswell
In 1947, something big, really, really big, crashed on a ranch northwest of Roswell. Members of the U.S military quickly came to retrieve the debris, which led some to believe that it was something they wanted to cover up… a UFO, perhaps? Adding to the mystery, Jesse Marcell, Jr., son of one of the military officers charged with clearing the site, later described the debris he saw his father bring home as being made of lead foil with “I”-beams. According to Roswell UFO Museum, “He recalled the writing on the ‘I’-beams as ‘Purple. Strange. Never saw anything like it … different geometric shapes, leaves and circles.’” The U.S. government maintains it was a weather balloon that crashed.
New York: The Legend of Cropsey
Staten Island’s “Cropsey” has been a local legend for decades, and gained national attention when the documentary of the same name was released. The story goes that Cropsey had a hook for a hand and was a patient at the Willowbrook State School. He would come out late at night to hunt and chase local kids with his hook hand. In truth, a series of child murders did take place in that area of Staten Island in the 1970s and 1980s. Eerie…
North Carolina: The Beast of Bladenboro
Many regions in the United States have their own version of a story about a mutant creature in the woods who kills viciously and indiscriminately. In North Carolina, it’s the Beast of Bladenboro, described by locals as a panther-like, bloodthirsty killer lurking in the darkness. It is said to have attacked numerous dogs and even people. Watch your back! Don’t miss the strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.
North Dakota: The Miniwashitu
Next time you’re on the banks of the Missouri River in North Dakota, keep an eye out for the Miniwashitu of North Dakota, a giant, red, hairy monster with sharp spikes along its back, a horn, and only one eye. If you look at it, blindness, insanity, and death are said to soon follow. So on second thought, don’t keep an eye out for it!
Ohio: Gore Orphanage
In the 1800s, there was a deadly fire at the aptly named Gore Orphanage in Lorain County. Tragically, every single orphan in the institution perished. Locals say if you visit the site where the orphanage stood, you can still see the ghosts of the dead children, hear them playing, or smell their burning flesh.
Oklahoma: Shaman’s Portal
Also called Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle, people have allegedly disappeared into thin air upon setting foot in these dunes in Beaver Sands. It’s believed that a UFO crashed here, opening a door to another world.
Oregon: The Bandage Man
The ghost of a man who was supposedly chopped into bits at a sawmill terrifies Oregon residents to this day. They call him the “Bandage Man,” because, well, his entire body is wrapped in bloody bandages. Mostly, he is said to attack people who drive through or park their cars in Cannon Beach.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the Rhode Island legend of Fingernail Freddie is supposedly the inspiration for The Nightmare On Elm Street. In this version, Fingernail Freddie is a wild woodsman with insanely long fingernails who comes out at night to attack campers with his talons.
South Carolina: The Legend of Lavinia Fisher
Known as America’s first female serial killer, Lavinia Fisher was certainly not dainty about her kills: In the 1800s, she and her husband John ran an inn, where they had the unfortunate habit of killing off many of their guests. They would poison their guests, then when the poor person had fallen asleep, drop them down a trap door. One victim managed to escape and the two were found out, resulting in their execution. People say that the ghost of Lavinia Fisher haunts the Charleston jail where she was executed.
South Dakota: Walking Sam
Walking Sam of South Dakota is a bit like the notorious figure from the Slenderman video games: An unnaturally tall, skinny, and creepy character. Those who cross his path are induced to commit suicide and his favorite prey is young teens.
Tennessee: Skinned Tom
As the story goes, in the 1920s, a young man named Tom once took his lady friend to the local Lover’s Lane. He didn’t know it, but the woman he was so enamored with, was, in fact, married. Her husband found the two canoodling in their car, murdered the wife, and then skinned Tom alive. People say Tom still hangs around Lover’s Lane, ready to kill those who dare commit adultery.
Texas: The Lechuza
In South Texas, after you’ve had a beer or two, you’ll need to be on the look out for the lechuza. Depending on the version being told, this incredibly large owl is either a brouha’s (witch) or a familiar woman by day, bird by night. Her child was killed by a drunk, so she is on the prowl, looking to take revenge on bar patrons stumbling out on the street after closing time.
Utah: The Curse of the Escelante Petrified Forest
Visitors to Escelante Petrified Forest in the Black Hills of Utah are cautioned to leave what they find behind. Legend has it that anyone who takes so much as a rock or a piece of wood will suffer intense misfortunes. Car accidents, broken bones, and even job loss are said to have befallen those who dared to ignore the warning.
Vermont: The Brattleboro Retreat Tower
Built as part of an insane asylum in the late 1800s, the Brattelboro Retreat tower was soon closed off after a number of patients supposedly committed suicide by flinging themselves from the top. The tower remains standing today and people say that if you dare visit it, you will see ghosts plunging to their deaths over and over again, like an old tape replaying itself.
Virginia: Bunny Man Bridge
As the story goes, in 1904, some of the most dangerous patients from an insane asylum in Clifton, Virginia, were being moved to a prison when the bus crashed on Fairfax Station Bridge. The inmates attempted to escape, but only one was successful. He left a trail of dead, skinned, half-eaten rabbits, hanging many from the bridge that was the scene of the crash. Then on Halloween night of that very same year, several teens hanging out under the bridge were attacked at the stroke of midnight—and met the same fate as the bunnies.
Washington: Maltby’s 13 Steps to Hell
In Maltby Cemetery in Maltby, you’ll find a set of 13 steps leading down into an underground crypt. Legend has it that anyone who makes the regrettable decision of climbing down those steps will be met with a vision of hell so terrifying it will drive them to insanity.
West Virginia: The Mothman
Yes, this is the same “Mothman” from the movie, The Mothman Prophecies. The final scene of that movie is a retelling of a take on an event that actually happened in 1967: The Silver Bridge that connects Point Pleasant, West Virginia with Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed at the height of rush hour, killing 46 people. According to legend, it was the Mothman, the great bringer of death, who caused the accident.
Wisconsin: The Bloody Headstone at Riverside Cemetery
A local woman by the name of Kate Blood (fitting, right?) is said to have killed her husband and three children, after which she committed suicide. Her headstone at Riverside Cemetery in Appleton allegedly drips with blood every full moon. (Though if you do visit, a glance at her headstone will quickly debunk the legend: She was outlived by her husband and her only child.)
Wyoming: The Jackalope
The large bunny creature with antelope horns is a well-known character in Wyoming’s culture, history, and landscape. Some people say they have most definitely seen it, while others shrug it off as fairy tale. What do you think?