50 of the Spookiest Urban Legends from Every State
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
Urban legends to keep you up at night
No matter where in the United States you’re from, your home state is sure to have its share of urban legends and urban myths. These scary stories aren’t just for Halloween; they’re whispered between campers, passed from town to town and reserved for nights when the power goes out. Urban legends may be spooky stories, but they aren’t necessarily ghost stories. They could have happened to someone you know, a relative or friend. These are the stories that make you do a double-take when you walk past abandoned places or make you check to make sure your door is locked when you’re home alone. Be careful next time you’re driving the back roads of America. You never know what scary urban legends you might encounter.
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 heck of a fright. Sounds like something straight out of a horror movie!
Alaska: The qalupalik
The qalupalik, an Inuit version of a mermaid or siren, calls with a hum to children who are wandering too close to the seashore, 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. Stick them in front of a great Halloween movie for kids instead!
Arizona: Slaughterhouse Canyon
Also known as Luana’s Canyon, the urban legend of 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, and 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.
If you’re into spooky stuff, 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, but it’s become an urban legend because of its history. It reportedly housed patients who were horribly mistreated—some of whom weren’t even mentally incapable but had just been forsaken by their families. Though it was demolished in 2004, people say they can still hear the screams and see the apparitions of former patients on the grounds. But maybe they’re just people looking for last-minute Halloween costumes?
The misfortunes that have occurred in Dudleytown, starting in the 1700s, are so terrible and numerous that its nickname is “Village of the Damned.” The now completely deserted town is said to have been home to many suicides, disappearances and even demonic activity that have given rise to several urban legends. It is believed that the founders of the village—and by extension, the village itself—are forever cursed.
Meanwhile, these ghost stories from the most haunted places in the world will seriously give you chills.
Delaware: Fort Delaware
A prisoner camp during the Civil War, Fort Delaware in Delaware City was ultimately home to more than 30,000 Confederate soldier inmates. The few thousand who died before they could leave the Union fort are said to still haunt the area.
Speaking of haunting, are you looking for a scary Halloween costume? Look no further.
Florida: Captain Tony’s
Since 1852, Captain Tony’s, the oldest saloon in Key West, has been known to be haunted: Doors slam for no apparent reason, 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. Yikes!
Georgia: “The Song of the Cell”
As urban legend 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 in to the sheriff the next morning, explaining that what happened was 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.
For more real-life tales, 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 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 urban 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, this 82-plot cemetery is known as the home of many phantom sightings. People who have visited the site have seen numerous inexplicable illusions, from a ghostly “White Lady” to an ephemeral white farmhouse.
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, urban legend has it you’ll see the ghost of the original caretaker appear before you on the top of the hill. Apparently he will give you a preview 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 (much) worse, 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 country’s 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 her blood. The cops stormed the French Quarter residence where they found more young women in similar states, their blood draining from 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.
Maine: Seguin Island Lighthouse
Like many urban legends, the one in Maine has to do with isolation. 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 severe 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. Urban legend says 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 and birthplaces of urban legends 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 they’ve seen him in the windows or even felt his hands pressing down around their necks when they’re inside the space.
Michigan: The Nain Rouge
This is one of the urban legends still recognized today, celebrated by the people of Detroit every year. They say there’s a devilish creature, known as the Nain Rouge (French for “red dwarf”), who causes mayhem in the city. He’s thought to be seen when disaster is about to strike and is even said to be the reason for the Cadillac company’s downfall in the city.
Minnesota: The Wendigo
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, or is it just an urban legend?
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 and has many urban legends to tell. Locals and performers have alleged that they’ve seen the ghosts of the people believed to have perished there, including the janitor who 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.
If you’re at all concerned, here are the signs your house may be haunted.
Nebraska: The Hatchet House
The urban 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 her students in the one-room schoolhouse. Afterward, she placed their heads on their respective desks and took their hearts to a nearby bridge, throwing the organs into the water. People say you can still hear the hearts beating if you cross it, hence the name “Heartbeat Bridge.” We dare you to try it …
Nevada: The Aliens at Area 51
Publicly known as the place where the military tests out some of its most advanced weapons and technology, conspiracy theorists and urban legend die-hards suspect that it’s also where the U.S. government stashes the UFOs it doesn’t want us knowing about.
And for more on that, here are other forbidden places no one is allowed to visit.
New Hampshire: The Legend of Chocorua
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 care, the 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. According to legend, 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, but urban legend tells a different story …
New York: The Legend of Cropsey
Staten Island’s “Cropsey” has been a local legend for decades, gaining 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 … And now we need to look at these Halloween memes to feel better.
North Carolina: The Beast of Bladenboro
Many regions in the United States have their own urban legends 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!
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 even 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
People have allegedly disappeared into thin air upon setting foot in these dunes in Beaver Sands, also known as Oklahoma’s Bermuda Triangle. 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 and urban legend believers 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.
Pennsylvania: Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary of Pennsylvania is a real place that was shut down due to its exceptional cruelty toward inmates. Each cell and chamber has its own set of hauntings and terrible tales, and walking through it is supposed to feel like walking through the pit of hell itself. If you’re the type who likes to experience the macabre, you can take a tour on Halloween. You must sign a liability waiver before entering, though.
Rhode Island: Fingernail Freddie
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 them, 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. Now people say 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. Folks say Tom still hangs around Lover’s Lane, ready to kill those who dare to commit adultery.
Texas: The Lechuza
In South Texas, after you’ve had a beer or two, you’ll need to be on the lookout for the lechuza. Depending on the version of this urban legend 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 onto 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 misfortune. 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 Brattleboro 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’ll see ghosts plunging to their deaths over and over, like an old tape replaying itself.
If you like creepy stories, these ancient mysteries researchers can’t explain are for you.
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. Urban legend has it that anyone who makes the regrettable decision to climb 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
This urban legend tells of a local woman by the name of Kate Blood (fitting, right?), who 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, landscape and urban legends. Some people say they’ve most definitely seen it, while others shrug it off as fairy tale. What do you think?
We think it’s time to lighten the chills with some Halloween jokes!
- Backpackerverse.com: “Beware the Char-Man of Ojai California”
- Denver Public Library: “The Dark History of an Abandoned Institution”
- Damned Connecticut: “Dudleytown”
- Captain Tony’s Saloon: “About”
- Detroit Metro Times: “The legend of the legend of Detroit’s Nain Rouge”
- Chocorua Lake Conservancy: “About”
- The Lineup: “Cropsey: The Terrifying Urban Legend Brought to Life”
- NPR: “Is Eastern State Penitentiary Really Haunted?”
- Stateparks.Utah.gov: “Escalante Petrified Forest State Park”