Shortly after becoming president in 1901, committed conservationist Theodore Roosevelt used his authority to protect the nation’s wildlife and public lands. The newly inaugurated Commander-in-Chief established the United States Forest Service. Its goal was to maintain the beauty of America’s landscape and natural resources. Fifteen years later another President, Woodrow Wilson, furthered his predecessor’s work and signed into law the National Parks Service. Its mandate was to conserve wildlife and natural historic objects. This would ensure land was preserved for all time.
Since that day, Americans of every walk of life have enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of four hundred and nineteen national parks. But among the waterfalls, majestic mountains, and dense forests are stories of vengeful wraiths and nightmarish phantoms. Here are five national parks said to have unnatural activity amid their natural beauty.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Hidden away along the shoreline of Acadia, Maine’s Mount Desert Island has a sea cave known as The Devil’s Oven. The Devil’s Oven is an ominously named location with a sinister past soaked in so much blood that a portal that connects our mundane world with the land of the dead may have opened there.
According to legend, the cave received its name from an ancient ritual where humans were sacrificed to long forgotten gods. Dangerous criminals were taken to the cave’s darkest depths and burned alive as punishment for their wrongdoings. When the victim was dead, a portal would open and drag their souls into the underworld for eternal torment.
For decades courageous park goers have made the difficult journey to the cave which is only accessible at low tide. Several drownings have occurred when visitors got caught in the tide and were swept out to sea. Visitors who made it out alive have reported flashing lights, shadowy apparitions and arcane voices chanting in the cave. Due to the increased curiosity, park staff have had to take extreme measures to keep people safe. Signs and railings leading to the cave have been removed. Nevertheless, this has not stopped people who desire to experience the unknown from making their way to the cave.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a recent addition to the National Park Service. On October 11, 2000, Congress redesignated the land as a National Park. Visitors can learn about both the park, the canal, and the very haunted Canal Exploration Center.
Long before the building the center resides in was used for education, the building had a much different purpose. The building was a rowdy tavern frequented by boat captains and outlaws. The land was called “Hell’s half acre,” and for very good reason. Criminal activity such as prostitution and illegal gambling occurred behind the walls of the tavern. Violent fights often resulting in murder was an almost daily occurrence. The activity in the tavern was so bad, the local law turned a blind eye, completely ignoring all that went on there.
Visitors to the Canal Exploration Center have had experiences leading them to believe it’s haunted by its violent past. Loud knocks and bangs are heard on the walls along with loud music and the sounds of drunken revelry.
The land surrounding the center appears to be just as haunted. The sullen apparition of a young man in a Union uniform is seen lingering around the canal. He is said to be the ghost of a man who went off to fight the confederacy and never returned to the embrace of the love of his life.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Stretching across Tennessee and North Carolina is the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the most visited national park in the U.S. The Park contains some of the tallest peaks in North America and its scenery is indescribably beautiful. This southern national park is also home to some extraordinarily terrifying ghost stories.
If you were to ask visitors which area is the most haunted, they would agree Norton Creek Trail on the North Carolina side is cursed with that reputation.
Long before the first white settlers arrived, the region was dominated by the Cherokee. Among their many spirits and strange creatures, Cherokee lived in fear of a grotesque entity called U’ Tlun’ Ya, or Spearfinger. Spearfinger was covered in skin made of the roughest stone and her long, tapering fingers were sharper than daggers. This hellish entity lurked in the woods surrounding villages and she would lure children away from their parents with her deceptively angelic singing voice. When they were in her grasp, Spearfinger would cut out livers and eat them. The voices of her victims can still be heard screaming in agony throughout the dense woods.
A second, haunting ghost story concerns a settler who discovered his beloved daughter had gone missing. When he went to search for her, he took a wrong turn and fell from a cliff, plummeting to his death on the rocks below. Hikers who stray too far from the path have claimed to see a white, brilliantly lit ball of light herding them back to the trail. Once the hiker is back on the right path, the light floats away and vanishes. It would seem the long dead settler is making sure no one shares in his untimely death.
Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Most people who visit South Dakota’s Badlands would all agree the national park has an otherworldly quality to it. Not only is it home to colorful rock formations hundreds of millions of years old, but it’s also a treasure trove of dinosaur fossils. On the far western edge of the park can be found Dog Watch Butte, an area where hikers have claimed to encounter a legendary spirit of ancient Irish lore
Of all the spirits, creatures, and fae folk of the Emerald Isle, none is more feared than the dreaded Banshee. Upon the death of a member of one of Ireland’s oldest families, the Banshee would let out a bone chilling wail that would ferry the soul away to the afterlife. When Irish immigrants came to the region, they brought their culture and legends – including the Banshee.
While hiking along the trail, hikers have claimed to encounter a haggard looking old woman wandering near the trail. She points at a person and lets out a bloodcurdling shriek that echoes off the rocks. She then vanishes leaving a deep feeling of dread and fear.
Yellowstone National Park
For over one hundred twenty years, people have flocked to Yellowstone for both its scenery and the geyser affectionately known as Old Faithful. While the park itself has no ghosts to speak of, the same cannot be said for the Old Faithful Inn. According to visitors and staff, the inn is the domain of a disturbing ghost known as the “headless bride.”
Since its opening, the Old Faithful Inn has been a much-loved honeymoon destination. However, among all that wedded bliss, the Inn is also home to a grisly murder that happened in 1915. A young, newly married couple arrived at the inn to begin their life together when fate decided to deal a deadly hand. The husband who had always appeared to be a kind soul unexpectedly turned and became a whole different person. He took to the gambling halls and drank heavily at the saloons until the money dried up and the young couple found themselves destitute.
According to other guests of the inn, a raucous fight broke out between the married couple in Room 127. Shouts and ugly accusations of infidelity could be heard echoing throughout the hotel as everyone tried to sleep. And then suddenly, the voices were silenced, and the husband stormed out of the hotel never to be seen again. Finally, the Old Faithful Inn was at peace, sadly that peace would be short lived.
The morning following the tumult, housekeeping entered Room 127 and found a gruesome scene. The bathroom walls and floor were slick with a thick red liquid that could only be blood. When the cleaning lady pulled back the shower curtain her eyes were met with a nightmare. Laying in the tub in a pool of water and blood was the lifeless and headless body of the young bride. When they went in search of the husband, they discovered the head of the wife silently settled in the crow’s nest. It had already begun to rot as crows hungrily picked at it.
Over the years, historians have cast a great deal of doubt on the sickening story claiming it to be a fabrication to bring in guests. Despite the questionable historicity of this story, the apparition of a headless woman has been witnessed wandering the halls of the hotel late at night, cradling her own head. And as you may have guessed it, Room 127 where the life ending fight took place, is haunted as well. Shouts and what sounds like the muffled cries of a woman can be heard at all hours of the day and night. The violent final moments of a woman are forever imprinted on the walls of the Old Faithful Inn.
It’s been estimated between 2008 and 2019, over 327 million people have paid the various national parks a visit. In many of them can be found more than just rich history and natural beauty. Ghastly entities are said to haunt their forests and mountains terrifying anyone brave enough to confront them.
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