H/T Mental Floss.
Taking a drive along Highway 87 by Black Horse Lake in Montana? If the legends are true, you’ll want to think twice before agreeing to pick up just any hitchhiker. Locals claim that a man known as the Phantom Hitchhikerof Black Horse Lake—a Native American man wearing a jean jacket—appears on the road, then violently smashes against your windshield as if struck by your car. It is said that the man was involved in a fatal car crash many years ago and has reenacted it ever since.
Blackbird Hill, Nebraska, is best known as the gravesite of the eponymous Omaha Indian Chief named Blackbird, who was famously buried sitting upright on his most prized horse. But the hill is also home to one of Nebraska’s oldest ghost stories. In the late 1800s, a local man discovered that his wife still had feelings for a long-lost lover. Consumed in a fit of jealous rage, he stabbed his wife and then, in a panic, picked up her body, ran to the cliff on Blackbird Hill, and jumped. It’s said that if you listen closely on October 17, you can hear a woman screaming near the top of that hill.
Long before the founding of Las Vegas, a pair of lovers named Timber Kate and Bella Rawhide toured the saloons of Nevada performing a live sex show. One day, Bella abandoned the act and left Kate for a man named Tug Daniels, breaking her former partner’s heart. Kate eventually ran into Bella and Tug in a Carson City brothel, resulting in a knife fight. During the melee, Tug murdered Kate, and it’s been said that her disheveled ghost still haunts the halls of the bordello.
29. NEW HAMPSHIRE
Before the Portsmouth Music Hall was built on Chestnut Street in 1878, the site was home to the Temple, a public meeting house where black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass spoke against slavery; a Baptist meeting hall; an 18th-century prison; and one of the first almshouses in the colonies. With all that history, its ghosts could be a mixed bag, but they seem to be all about the stage. Audience members have reported seeing a man dressed in clothing so convincingly Victorian, they thought he was an actor—until he faded away. They’ve heard shuffling feet near the box office and loud footsteps in the empty hallway. Some have witnessed a shadowy mist blocking their view of the stage, dark shadows passing in front of their seats, or the stage curtains rippling as if someone were walking behind them—but no one was there. Sounds like at least one phantom is still yearning for some time in the spotlight.
30. NEW JERSEY
Manuel Rionda, a sugar baron living in the wealthy New Jersey enclave of Alpine, wanted to do something nice for his wife Harriet. In 1910, he built a tall gothic stone tower to give her a view of the New York City skyline. But the gesture lost its charm when, sitting atop the tower one day, Harriet spotted Manuel with another woman. With years of fears and suspicions confirmed, Harriet grew despondent and leapt from the tower. Afterward, every time Manuel walked up its stairs, he heard footsteps and sobs or felt the push of a cold, angry hand. Overcome with guilt and fear, Manuel walled up the tower, vowing that no one should ever climb it again. After his death in the 1950s, construction crews came to tear the tower down, but after several men fell to their deaths, they left the building as it was.
31. NEW MEXICO
In the Wild West days, Johnny, a lieutenant posted at Fort Union, fell in love with a flirtatious woman named Celia. One night, as the two danced at an officer’s birthday party, a messenger burst in to announce an Apache raid. Fearing he might not get another chance, Johnny immediately proposed to Celia, who said yes and promised that if he didn’t return, she would never marry. Some soldiers died in the fight, including Johnny. Despite her promise, Celia soon married another man. At their wedding ball, a ghoul in uniform appeared, a gash on his head and fire in his eyes. He pulled Celia from the arms of her new husband as the musicians, entranced, played an eerie waltz. Johnny’s spirit danced Celia around the room. She grew pale and died in his arms. Faithful in death, Celia’s ghost can still be heard weeping over Johnny’s grave.
32. NEW YORK
The first recorded murder trial in American history dates to 1800, when New Yorkers discovered the body of Gulielma Sands in the Manhattan Well in SoHo. Rumors quickly spread that Sands had been murdered by Levi Weeks, an alleged lover who lived in the same Greenwich Street boardinghouse as Sands did. Levi was the brother of Ezra Weeks, a prominent New York City architect who designed landmark buildings like the Hamilton Grange. With his brother’s help, Levi hired an all-star defense team that included Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr—and beat the charges. Ever since, people have reported strange shrieks and flashes of light emanating from the well, which remains untouched in the basement of a clothing store at 129 Spring Street.
33. NORTH CAROLINA
The infamous pirate Blackbeard—whose real name was Edward Teach—is said to haunt a cove on Ocracoke Island, in the Outer Banks, where he was executed by members of the British navy in 1718. Blackbeard’s head was severed and hung from the bowsprit of one of the British sloops, and his body tossed overboard. The body swam around the ship several times before succumbing to its watery grave. Some tales say that a headless figure has been spotted splashing around in the small, sheltered bay, which is known as Teach’s Hole. Other reports say Blackbeard has been seen roaming the beaches with a lantern, looking for his lost head.
34. NORTH DAKOTA
Once a thriving pioneer outpost, today Sims is a ghost town in more ways than one: Its only permanent resident is a spirit. Known as the Gray Lady of Sims, she’s said to be the wife of a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, one of only a few buildings remaining in town. According to legend, she fell ill and died in the church parsonage sometime between 1916 and 1918, after which her husband married her sister and left the region. By the mid-1930s, the Gray Lady had begun haunting the parsonage’s second floor, pulling back the curtains, opening and closing windows, and pumping its well with her invisible hand. Her antics so spooked the congregants, they wrote a letter to a local bishop to complain about the supernatural activity, which they said kept scaring off new ministers. The spectral figure is said to still haunt the church, which is home to an active congregation.
The darkest, most desolate stretch of the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad ran through Moonville, Ohio. According to local legend, an epidemic once spread through the tiny community and trains were forbidden from stopping there. Running low on supplies, residents sent a volunteer with a lantern to flag down a cargo train on the edge of town. The idea was that the train’s conductor would start to slow down after seeing the man outside town and come to a stop by the time he cleared the passage. But the plan never had a chance to come to fruition: The volunteer was late getting to the tunnel, and the oncoming train struck and killed him before he could reach the other side. Today, the Moonville Tunnel is one of the few remaining landmarks from the defunct mining town, and some visitors still claim to see a ghostly figure carrying a lantern in the darkness. Others are convinced they’ve encountered one of themany other souls who are said to have lost their lives at the location.
Decades ago, when the owner of what’s now the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in Oklahoma City discovered that he had impregnated a housekeeper, he responded by locking the maid in one of the rooms. She was to stay there even after she had the baby. However, the despairing housekeeper had other plans and threw herself and the baby out the window. Nowadays, her spirit tends to get a lot of press for terrorizing NBA players. Opponents of the Oklahoma City Thunder typically stay at the century-old hotel, and athletes have reported hearing a baby’s cry in their rooms and knocks at their doors. They’ve also seen drawers open and doors close without reason. The New York Knicks once blamed a loss on a restless night caused by the prank-playing spirit. “She is an apparitional sixth man, of sorts,” The New York Times reported.
The Kuhn Cinema in Lebanon, Oregon is a relic of movie houses gone by—ornate and without the trappings of a generic multiplex. But preserving that kind of legacy isn’t without some risk: Legend has it that a theatergoer once plummeted from a second-floor balcony to her death. Now, her image can be allegedly be seen flickering on the screen, shocking patrons into spilling their sodas.
There’s no shortage of haunted spots related to the Battle of Gettysburg, but Devil’s Den may be the most infamous. Local lore has it that the rock formation was viewed as a cursed place long before the Civil War. When Confederate and Union troops clashed at the site in July 1863, the craggy boulders gave them a convenient place to hide. Battalions were separated, and men on both sides were ambushed. Some of the bloodiest, most confused fighting of the battle took place at Devil’s Den, earning it the nickname the “Slaughter Pen” from soldiers. A few days after the battle ended, Union soldiers returned to the area and found it still littered with the bodies and viscera of the fallen. Some Confederate soldiers were allegedly tossed into crevices between boulders and left to rot. It’s said that the spirits haunting the area sometimes appear in photographs—that is, when photography equipment works there at all.
39. RHODE ISLAND
In the late 19th century, the people of Exeter responded to an outbreak of “consumption”—tuberculosis—with an infamous vampire panic that ended in the exhumation, mutilation, and cannibalization of the corpse of Mercy Lena Brown. Science knew little of tuberculosis, and superstitions quickly spread that the wasting away it caused was due to the nefarious influence of undead family members. Mercy died at age 19 in January 1892, shortly after her mother and her sister. Since her corpse was the best preserved of the three, she was singled out as a vampire and blamed for the illness of her brother, Edwin, who had also contracted tuberculosis. Villagers cut out Mercy’s heart, burned it, mixed the ashes with water, and made Edwin drink the concoction. Edwin died two months later. Mercy’s spirit still lingers forlornly about her disturbed grave.
40. SOUTH CAROLINA
According to some historians, America’s first convicted female serial killer was a Charleston woman named Lavinia Fisher, who ran an inn called the Six Mile House with her husband John. Most of Lavinia’s victims were wealthy men traveling alone. She would offer her unfortunate guests a cup of poisoned tea, then direct them to a room with a specially designed trapdoor bed. When the ill man laid down, John pulled a lever and the guest fell into a pit below the house. There John would make sure the man was dead and relieve him of his valuables. The story goes that the couple was caught when a traveler—who hated tea but was too polite to decline Lavinia’s offer—poured his cup into a nearby plant and retreated to his room. As he sat at his desk that night, he was shocked to see his bed plunge into a pit. He ran out of the inn and told the police, who soon found the bodies of missing travelers buried nearby. The couple were hanged, and legend has it that Lavinia’s ghost still haunts her cell at Charleston’s Old Jail.
41. SOUTH DAKOTA
The Fairmont Hotel—formerly a brothel and saloon, now an oyster bar—is widely considered the most haunted landmark in South Dakota. The place has seen its share of jealousy and heartbreak: There’s the ghost of a man who shot the client of his prostitute girlfriend, and then accidentally shot himself; there’s the spirit of an angry fellow whose girlfriend died of syphilis; and there’s the ghost of a prostitute named Maggie who jumped out a window to her death. On more than one occasion, visitors have reported seeing an apparition with red hair and a green dress—perhaps Maggie herself—lurking in the hallways upstairs.
The Chickamauga battlefield, which in 1863 saw a key Union defeat and one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War, is now home to a haunting monster known as Old Green Eyes. One legend maintains that the creature was a Confederate soldier whose head was blown off during the battle. His spectral head floats around the battlefield, searching for his missing body. Another, apparently older tale claims that Old Green Eyes is a humanoid monster, with glowing green eyes, light-colored waist-length hair, and huge deformed jaws sporting massive fangs.
In the frontier days, a settler family eked out a living on the banks of Elm Creek near San Antonio. One day, the son of a wealthy merchant in town passed through their property and was bitten by the family mule. Enraged, the young man began beating the animal and wouldn’t stop. The family depended on the mule for their living and in desperation pelted the man with stones until he left—but before he did, he vowed revenge. That night, he rounded up a posse and set fire to the family home. The men came armed and waited to gun down the family members as they fled the fire. When the mother ran out, she was deformed nearly beyond recognition: Her fingers had fused almost into hooves and the flesh on her face sagged terribly. With a screech, she hurled herself into the creek, where her ghastly spirit remains. Locals say they still hear shrieks coming from the creek and nearby woods, and some have reported a terrifying creature with hooves dropping onto their cars and scratching at their windows, trying to get inside.
One of the first gravediggers in Salt Lake City, Jean Baptiste was otherwise unremarkable; he lived with his wife in a two-bedroom home in town, had few friends, and was punctual. He was, perhaps, unusually well off for a gravedigger—and authorities learned the reason why in 1862. In just three years, Baptiste had robbed the graves of more than 300 people, stripping them of clothing and possessions, and dumping their naked bodies back in the caskets. The police found his home filled with clothing; he’d sold many of the possessions. Baptiste showed up in court wearing a suit a local storekeeper had been buried in. Banished to a remote island in the Great Salt Lake, Baptiste vanished six weeks later. Many say his ghost roams the southern coast of the lake carrying an armful of wet, rotting clothing.
If you ever stay at the Green Mountain Inn in Stowe, Vermont during a snowstorm, listen carefully for the sounds of boots tapping on the rooftop. You may hear Boots Berry, the ghost that’s said to have haunted the inn since his tap dancing days at the turn of the 20th century. Boots was born to the inn’s horseman and chambermaid in the building’s servants’ quarters in 1840. As an adult, he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a successful horseman. He even achieved hero status after gaining control of some runaway horses pulling a stagecoach.
But his glory days were short-lived: Boots developed a drinking problem that got him fired from the inn and landed him in jail. It was one of his fellow inmates at a prison in New Orleans that taught him how to tap dance. Years later, Boots’s quick feet came in handy: He was back at the Green Mountain Inn in 1902 when he learned that a girl was stuck on the building’s roof during a snowstorm. Recalling the secret route he took to the roof during his own childhood, he arrived there in time to return her to safety. Unfortunately, Boots himself wasn’t so lucky and he slipped and fell to his death.
The Wythe House, a colonial-era Georgian townhouse, draws its name from George Wythe, the country’s first law professor and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Wythe was an eminently respectable judge, but his great nephew, George Wythe Sweeney, was his opposite: a profligate gambler with a mounting debt problem. By 1806, the elder Wythe was widowed and childless, and Sweeney was one of his last remaining heirs. Eager to hasten his inheritance, Sweeney offered to move into his great uncle’s house to look after the old man. At the first opportunity, he slipped arsenic into Wythe’s coffee. The judge fell violently ill and died two weeks later—but not before he grew suspicious and wrote Sweeney out of his will. Legend has it that Wythe’s spirit never left his house.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Kell’s Pub, on the former site of Seattle’s first full-service mortuary, would be home to several spooky tales. One of the most famous surrounds a mischievous little girl with long red hair who was apparently looking for pals. One day, a young mother came in for a job interview at the bar with her small daughter, who was told to go play by herself while the mother spoke with a manager. Halfway through the interview, the little girl appeared with a rag knotted in the shape of a doll. Confused, the mother asked her daughter where she had gotten the toy. The little girl replied that her new friend, a little girl with long red hair in the corner, had shown her how to make it. Surprised, the manager and mother insisted there were no other little girls at the bar, and sent her off to play again. A little while later, the mother called for her daughter and received no reply. After a frantic search, she finally found her sitting on the floor, playing with the rag doll and conversing with a spectral presence. The mother whisked her daughter away, never to return to the bar again.
48. WEST VIRGINIA
The Appalachian woods of West Virginia are stalked by the Tailypo, a strange, cat-like creature [PDF] with long claws, sharp teeth, and a thick, hairless pink tail. Legend has it that one winter night, a hermit living deep in the woods with his dogs was about to go to bed hungry when the Tailypo crawled into his cabin. The man lunged at the revolting creature with a hatchet, managing to lop off its tail before it scurried away. Overcome with hunger, he cooked the fleshy tail into a stew and ate it for dinner. Throughout the night (or over a couple of nights, depending on who’s telling the tale), the creature returned, calling in an inhuman voice, “Tailypo, Tailypo … where is my Tailypo?” The hermit sent his dogs after the creature; they didn’t return. Despite the unsettling voice outside his door, the man fell into an uneasy sleep just before dawn, only to wake up and find the creature, with its red eyes, staring at him from the edge of his bed—just before the Tailypo ripped him apart. Hunters and hikers say that on some nights, they can hear a strange refrain on the wind: “Tailypo! Tailypo! I got my Tailypo!”
Visit Appleton’s Riverside Cemetery during a full moon and you might see one of its historic tombstones ooze blood. Located on an isolated wooded bluff, the grave is the final resting site of Kate (“Kitty”) Blood, the daughter of an influential 19th-century settler who has been the subject of many a bloody tale. According to one legend, Blood murdered her husband and children with an axe before killing herself—but that can’t be true, because her spouse, George W. Miller, outlived her by 42 years, as you can see right on her tombstone. Another account says that Blood’s husband murdered her, and yet other speculative accounts have her pegged as a witch. The real-life Blood died in 1874, reportedly from tuberculosis, at age 23, and Appleton’s community mourned her loss. Blood’s remote grave and evocative maiden name likely played a part in the formation of these spooky tales. Today, they play such a large part in Appleton’s historic lore that a local grocery store has even sold tombstone-shaped cookies with Blood’s name on them.
In Sweetwater County’s library system, you don’t need to pick up a book to experience a good ghost story: just stay overnight. The branch at Green River was accidentally built on top of a graveyard. (Construction workers, believing that the graves had been relocated ages ago, were shocked when they dug up caskets.) Patrons and employees have come home telling spooky tales ever since: A few years ago, a reporter is said to have stayed at the library overnight and discovered a voice speaking into his tape recorder. Another time, a janitor was vacuuming the bottom floor when he noticed a lightbulb glowing on an upper floor. He went up to turn it off. But when he returned downstairs, his vacuum cleaner had gone missing—that is, until he heard the vacuum running by itself, upstairs.
Written by Nico Rivero, Michele Debczak, Colin Gorenstein, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Kat Long, Bess Lovejoy, Erin McCarthy, Lucas Reilly, Jen Pinkowski, Jake Rossen, and Jenn Wood.