The Spookiest Ghost Stories From All 50 States

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From heartbroken brides to spectral oenophiles, America is a melting pot of otherworldly entities who have staked a spiritual claim in every crack and cranny of the country—as well as in the local community's consciousness. No matter what city or state you hail from, you no doubt grew up hearing terrifying tales of one ghost or another with whom you shared a zip code. We all did. Here are the spookiest ghost stories from all 50 states.

1. ALABAMA

An old photograph of the Tombigbee River.
By Eugene Allen Smith (1841-1927) - The Journal of Geology, Published by University of Chicago Press, 1910. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In February 1858, a steamboat named Eliza Battle set out on a cruise down the Tombigbee River, carrying 60 passengers and more than 1200 bales of cotton from Columbus, Mississippi, down to Mobile, Alabama. But on March 1, an unseasonably cold night, the cotton caught fire and quickly engulfed the ship in flames. It was the greatest nautical disaster in the river's history, leaving 33 passengers and crew dead. On brisk and chilly nights, people sometimes see the burning Eliza Battle rising from the misty waters where it sank, trying to complete its journey to Mobile.

2. ALASKA

The Golden North Hotel in Skagway, Alaska, circa 1898.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

At the height of the Klondike Gold Rush, a woman named Mary moved into the Golden North Hotel in Skagway with her fiancé, a prospector known as "Klondike Ike." Before their marriage, Ike set off for the gold fields to make his fortune. But Ike never returned. Mary locked herself in their room and waited, her anxious anticipation of Ike's arrival turning to dread and despair. The innkeepers eventually broke down the door and found Mary dead in her wedding dress. Guests at the Golden North Hotel report that "Scary Mary" still roams the halls, appearing over their beds in the night to check that Ike isn't sleeping with anyone else.

3. ARIZONA

The Flagstaff Hotel in Arizona.

The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, opened along Route 66 in 1927, often lodged the casts of western films shot in nearby Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon—and reportedly houses a whole host of ghostly guests. In fact, John Wayne reported one of the hotel's first ghost sightings in the late 1950s. Ever since, guests and staff have reported dozens of spirits stalking the halls, including a phantom bellboy who knocks on doors and disappears, the eccentric specter of a boarder who liked to hang raw meat from the chandelier, and a '70s bank robber who succumbed to his gunshot wound over a celebratory post-heist drink at the hotel bar.

4. ARKANSAS

A portrait of Union General Frederick Steele.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

During the Civil War, Union General Frederick Steele (above) commandeered the home of a mailman named John Chidester to use as his headquarters during the battle of Poison Spring. Chidester had been accused of espionage for turning over Union mail to Confederate troops. To this day, bullet holes remain in an upstairs wall of Chidester's house, where Union soldiers fired at random, hoping to hit the alleged spy as he hid in a small closet. Paranormal investigators say his spirit remains, too, turning up in photographs and shouting "Get out!" to unwanted visitors. The home, which stands as a museum today, is open for tours so that you can see for yourself.

5. CALIFORNIA

An arial view of California's Alcatraz from the 1930s.
OFF/AFP/Getty Images

Alcatraz was the site of reputed hauntings long before hosting the famous prison (Native American spirits reportedly roamed it then and now), but today one of the most famous stories is of a prisoner from cell 14D. The story goes that the prisoner spent the night in solitary confinement, screaming that a creature with glowing eyes was trying to kill him and pleading for help. The guards ignored him, but the next morning, they found the prisoner strangled to death—with strange wounds doctors said could not have been self-inflicted.

6. COLORADO

Photo of hand coming out of water
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The Buffalo Rose Saloon in Golden, Colorado doesn't have much choice but to admit one underaged patron: It's believed the ghost of a girl who drowned in a swimming pool located in the saloon's basement back in the 1920s still roams the building, skipping up and down stairs and making employees slightly nervous. The former site of the pool is said to be particularly unsettling, with the bar's overnight custodian, Seth Barry, describing it as "very bad. Sometimes you can't go [down] there."

7. CONNECTICUT

A photograph of Lorraine Warren.
Lorraine Warren
Lorraine Warren. Photo courtesy of 826 Paranormal, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In 1970, famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to combat the spirit of "Annabelle," a demonic presence attached to a giant Raggedy Ann doll. For weeks the doll had thoroughly freaked out its owner, Donna, moving from room to room, leaving handwritten notes, and even attacking a friend who suggested Donna get rid of the doll, choking him in his sleep. Finally, a priest exorcised the doll and the Warrens locked it away in a special case designed to check its malevolent influence. But even that wasn't enough to save one brash visitor to the Warrens' museum, who reportedly taunted the doll and died in a motorcycle crash on his way home.

8. DELAWARE

Photo of Woodburn, the Delaware Governor's Mansion
Library of Congress

Since 1965, Woodburn has served as the official residence of Delaware's governor. But more than a century before that, it became known as a home to more than one apparition. Around 1815, the home's owners were entertaining Lorenzo Dow, a well-known Methodist clergyman. When the group sat down to breakfast one morning, Dow asked if their other guest would be joining them … but there was no other guest. When Dow described the man he had seen the evening before, it became clear that it was Charles Hillyard III (the late father of the home's then-owner). Rumor has it that if you leave out a glass of good wine at night, it might be gone in the morning: Hillyard was a bona fide oenophile. Sounds like the kind of ghost we could hang with.

9. FLORIDA

The Don CeSar hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida, was built by Thomas Rowe and named for a character in the opera Maritana. Rowe had attended the opera during his time as a student in London, and he fell head over heels for its star, a Spanish aristocrat named Lucinda. They regularly met at a fountain in the city and made plans to sail to America and be married. But Lucinda's parents didn't approve of their romance and took her back to Spain. He wrote her faithfully, but his letters were returned unopened. Only one letter of Lucinda's ever reached Rowe. "Time is infinite," she wrote. "I wait for you by our fountain … to share our timeless love, our destiny is time." According to legend, Lucinda died of a broken heart; Rowe, who said he would never love anyone else, would go on to build his hotel. It was completed in 1928 and features an exact replica of the fountain where the lovebirds spent happier times. Rowe's ghost has been spotted on the beach, on the hotel's fifth floor and in the lobby, and in the garden, where he is sometimes seen holding the hand of a woman believed to be Lucinda.

10. GEORGIA

Lake Lanier in Georgia at sunset.
Peter Salanki, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When the Army Corps of Engineers flooded the foothills of the North Georgia mountains to create Lake Lanier in the 1950s, 59 square miles of farmland, homes, and businesses disappeared beneath the water. In the process, the federal government relocated more than 250 families—along with 20 cemeteries and all their corpses. A nasty streak of freak accidents and mysterious drowning deaths have convinced locals that the lake has been cursed ever since. Some people who have survived near-drownings at the lake have reported feeling hands dragging them down beneath the surface.

11. HAWAII

Blue skies and coconut trees in Hawaii.
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According to legend, the fire goddess Pele and a hog-faced demigod named Kamapua'a had a star-crossed love affair. The lovers were elemental opposites: Pele's lava flows brought flame and destruction, while Kamapua'a restored rain, vegetation, and animal life. Ultimately they decided to part forever, with Pele claiming one side of Oahu for fire and Kamapua'a retreating to the other side, where all is wet and lush. Today, Hawaiian motorists are careful never to drive with pork in their car along the old Pali highway, which crosses Oahu. According to legend, carrying pork—representing hog-faced Kamapua'a—over to Pele's side of the island will enrage her spirit, and she will get her revenge by making the car stall until the driver throws the pork out the window.

12. IDAHO

Cells in Old Idaho Penitentiary.
dieseldemon, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

When it comes to abandoned buildings, penitentiaries might rank only slightly behind psychiatric hospitals in creep factor—and the Old Idaho Penitentiary, with its built-in gallows and death row, may be one of the country's creepiest. Between 1872 and 1973, the Boise prison served as a temporary home to more than 13,000 prisoners—including Raymond Allen Snowden, a.k.a. "Idaho's Jack the Ripper." Some believe he still haunts what is known as 5 House, where the prison's gallows were located. On October 18, 1957, Snowden was brought here to be executed, but the noose that should have broken his neck didn't; it took 15 minutes for him to suffocate. In the years since, visitors to the "Old Pen" have reported strange happenings in 5 House and other areas of the former prison, such as hearing odd sounds and voices and being overcome by strong feelings of sadness. The prison is open to the public year-round for paranormal enthusiasts who want to test their mettle.

13. ILLINOIS

In the depths of the Great Depression, the Oh Henry Ballroom southwest of Chicago drew young people hoping to dance away their troubles. One night, a teenage girl named Mary had a fight with her boyfriend at a dance and decided to walk home along Archer Avenue. She was killed by a hit-and-run driver and buried nearby in Resurrection Cemetery. Since then, residents have described a girl in a white party dress hitchhiking along the avenue. A cab driver even picked her up, and she asked to be taken to the cemetery. But by the time they arrived at the gates, Resurrection Mary had vanished.

14. INDIANA

The entrance to Tunnelton Tunnel in Indiana.
w.marsh, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

The tiny township of Tunnelton was named for the number of railroad tunnels constructed around it, beginning in the 1850s. One of them, Tunnelton Tunnel (a.k.a. The Big Tunnel), is one of the Hoosier State's most feared landmarks. Reportedly, there are a few ghosts who refuse to leave the area, including a man who was beheaded in an accident during the tunnel's construction and still roams the grounds with his head in one hand and a lantern in the other. But the most famous of this tunnel's tenants is Henry Dixon. In 1908, the body of Dixon—who worked as a night watchman for the railroad—was found just inside the tunnel with a gash to the back of his head, his lantern still lit beside him. Dixon's murder was never solved, and locals claim that he still haunts the area seeking justice for his death.

15. IOWA

The exterior of Coe College in Iowa.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Coe College in Cedar Rapids is said to be haunted by the ghost of a freshman named Helen Esther Roberts, who died after becoming ill in the 1918 flu pandemic. As legend has it, the ghost of Roberts set up residence in an old grandfather clock—in Voorhees Hall, her former place of residence—which her parents donated to the school in her memory. While the clock was being installed, students claimed they saw an apparition hovering over their beds at night, pulling the covers off, and even playing the piano in the lobby, before taking a quick trek to her old room. Some even claimed that the clock would act up or stop working altogether at 2:53, the time of Roberts's death. When the clock was removed in the '70s, the sightings promptly ended at Voorhees Hall. But then they manifested in Stuart Hall—the grandfather clock's new home.

16. KANSAS

Sand Hills in Kansas.
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People in Hutchinson, Kansas, know not to venture into the surrounding sand hills alone—because that's where the Hamburger Man lives. Some say the monster, horribly mutilated by a fire or car crash sometime in the 1950s, abducts victims by brandishing a long knife or meat hook, and then carries them back to his lair where he grinds them up for dinner. The locals aren't sure whether the half-human, half-ghost was ever a real person—or why he seems to crave so many burgers.

17. KENTUCKY

A peaceful cemetery in Kentucky.
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In 1891, just a year after thousands of spectators converged on Pikeville to see the last hanging in the trial of the Hatfields and the McCoys, a newlywed named Octavia Hatcher died. Octavia had fallen into a depression shortly after her only child had died in infancy, and then slipped into a fatal coma. Since it was a hot spring, her husband wasted no time in burying her. But soon doctors began to notice a strange—but not lethal—sleeping sickness spreading through the town. Panicked, her husband exhumed her casket and found its inner lining shredded with claw marks and his wife's face frozen in a mask of terror. Wracked with guilt, he reburied Octavia and had a tall stone statue of her placed above her grave. Locals say they can still hear Octavia crying, and that once a year—on the anniversary of her death—the statue rotates and turns its back on Pikeville.

18. LOUISIANA

An empty bed in a dark room.
iStock

Louisiana's Cajun communities have an explanation for sleep paralysis: cauchemar, a species of nighttime witch that immobilizes sleepers and rides them like horses. Some say the cauchemar comes to those who forget to say their prayers before going to bed. Its unfortunate victims lie awake, unable to move, as the cauchemar presses down on their chests, and no matter how much they try to call out, their screams catch in their throats. Some have even reported waking up with marks on their bodies from the bridles and whips that the cauchemar uses to mount and ride sleepers. Beware: Talking about cauchemar increases the likelihood it will visit you tonight.

19. MAINE

The exterior of Seguin Light in Maine.
InAweofGod'sCreation, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the mid-19th century, a lighthouse keeper and his wife moved in to the lighthouse on Seguin Island, a 64-acre speck of land two miles out to sea. To stave off their loneliness and boredom, the man ordered a piano and some sheet music from the mainland, so that his wife could learn to play. Dutifully, she learned her first song—then she played it again and again and again, the same song, every day. Eventually, it drove the lighthouse keeper mad. He took an axe first to the piano, then to his wife, and finally took his own life when he realized what he had done. Visitors to the island say they sometimes hear phantom piano music, and occasionally catch a glimpse of the lighthouse keeper walking by, still carrying his axe.

20. MARYLAND

A cypress swamp.
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With thick cypress swamps fringing a black river, the Pocomoke Forest on Maryland's Eastern Shore has birthed several ghostly legends. Folks say that a teenage couple drove into the forest but ran out of gas. The boyfriend went to get help, and the girlfriend was woken in the middle of the night by scratchy sounds on the car's roof. In the morning she discovered her boyfriend hanging upside-down from a tree and his fingernails trailing on the metal. In another tale, a couple in a car heard a radio report of an escaped murderer with a hook for a right hand. The girl noticed a strange sound outside the car, and when she opened the door, a hook was hanging from the handle. Locals also talk of fireballs erupting from thickets and a six-fingered sea captain who killed his adulterous wife and bastard child in the forest. The baby's wails still echo through the trees.

21. MASSACHUSETTS

A stereoscope photo of Minots Ledge lighthouse.
Boston Public Library, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Minots Ledge, a tiny outcropping of rock rising from the sea a mile off the coast from Cohasset, was a ruthless destroyer of ships and sailors. Between 1695 and 1754, the ledge sank 80 ships and drowned 400 men. But no one knew how to build a lighthouse on such a perilous sliver of rock in the middle of the sea. Finally, in 1850, Massachusetts erected a small granite beacon tower on nine cement pylons grounded on the ledge. One year later, a furious nor'easter hit and set the tower swaying. During a lull in the storm, the lighthouse keeper rowed to the mainland, leaving his two assistants behind to man the beacon. All night, townspeople on the shore heard the lighthouse bell ring furiously, perhaps as a final goodbye from the assistants. In the morning, the tower was gone, toppled into the sea. The assistants' bodies washed up days later. Passing fishermen say they can still hear their ghosts crying for help.

22. MICHIGAN

A spooky forest.
iStock

Be careful where you roam at night in western Michigan: The Melon Heads might come after you. Said to haunt the woods near Saugatuck, these childlike figures have oversized heads and mostly white eyes, with irises barely visible above the lower eyelid. They might knock on your car window, or they might stalk you as you walk the dog. Some speculate that the Melon Heads were children in the late 19th century with hydrocephaly who escaped a local hospital where a doctor had been conducting terrible experiments on them. Be especially wary if you're a young couple making out in a parked car; the Melon Heads like to tap on the windows to get your attention.

23. MINNESOTA

Ghost hunters have come from all over the country to visit the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre in the hopes of glimpsing a permanent guest: Lucy, a ghost who hasn't forgiven the male gender for her tragic life and even more tragic demise. As the story goes, Lucy was a prostitute who worked in a brothel erected on the future site of the hotel. It burned down, taking Lucy and other escorts with it. When men pass by, she's said to slam doors and drop the temperature. Guests can ask for Room 17—Lucy's favorite—if they're feeling adventurous.

24. MISSISSIPPI

Glenwood Cemetery in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
NatalieMaynor, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

At the center of the historic section of Glenwood Cemetery, Yazoo City's public burial grounds, there's a grave surrounded by a chain link fence. Local lore claims that the grave belonged to a witch who lived along the Yazoo River, who used to lure fishermen to the shore to torture them. When the Yazoo County sheriff came to arrest her, she fled into the swamp and fell into quicksand. The sheriff found her half sunk. Before she drowned, she swore to take revenge on Yazoo City. No one thought much of her threat, but they fenced in her grave just in case. Then, on May 25, 1904, a fire nearly wiped out the entire city, spreading quickly on unusually fierce winds. After the fire, Yazoo City residents found the chain link around the witch's grave cut open.

25. MISSOURI

Close up of a black horse's hooves as it walks through the dirt.
iStock

An old couple in Overton, who made a trickle of income lodging travelers in their home, decided one night to murder a wealthy boarder and make their fortune. They hid his body, took his money, and used it to build a grand new house. Years later, as the woman lay on her deathbed, she made her husband promise to keep their secret and never to remarry … but he took a new bride within a year. The people of Overton, disapproving of the widower's impropriety, harassed the couple on their wedding night with catcalls, drums, and rifle shots. But when the man went outside to shush the crowd, he was startled to see a black carriage pull up to the house. Inside sat a woman, pale as death and dressed in black. Without a word, the man got into the carriage. It drove off and he was never seen again. Ever since, townspeople have spotted the black carriage and interpreted it as an omen of danger.

26. MONTANA

A close up of a man's hand as he hitchhikes.
iStock

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 Hitchhiker of 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.

27. NEBRASKA

A painting of Blackbird Hill by Karol Bodmer.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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.

28. NEVADA

A map of Nevada with a thumb tack in Carson City.
iStock

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

The exterior of the music hall in Portsmouth, 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

Fort Union in New Mexico.
Fort Union
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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

A portion of a well surrounded by clothing.
Erin McCarthy

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

A drawing of the pirate Blackbeard's head hanging from a bowsprit.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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

The church in Sims, 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.

35. OHIO

The spooky Moonville Tunnel in Ohio.
Jayson Shenk, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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 the many other souls who are said to have lost their lives at the location.

36. OKLAHOMA

The Skirvin Hilton Hotel at night.
Matthew Rutledge, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

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.

37. OREGON

The interior of an empty movie theater.
iStock

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.

38. PENNSYLVANIA

The group of rocks in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania known as Devil's Den.
iStock

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

A photo of Mercy Lena Brown's grave in Rhode Island.
Josh McGinn, Flickr // CC BY ND-2.0

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 exterior of the Old Fairmont Hotel in Deadwood, South Dakota.
Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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.

42. TENNESSEE

Cannons on Chickamauga battlefield in Tennessee.
iStock

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.

43. TEXAS

A photo of the Elm Creek, Texas watershed
J. T. Mitchell/Three Lions/Getty Images

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.

44. UTAH

Cub Island on the Great Salt Lake
By Cory Maylett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

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.

45. VERMONT

Boot prints in the snow.
iStock

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.

46. VIRGINIA

George Wythe
New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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.

47. WASHINGTON

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

Photo of Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia
iStock

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!"

49. WISCONSIN

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.

50. WYOMING

The exterior of the Carnegie Library in Green River, Wyoming.
Erin Kenney, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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 Michele Debczak, Colin Gorenstein, Kirstin Fawcett, Shaunacy Ferro, Kat Long, Bess Lovejoy, Erin McCarthy, Lucas Reilly, Jen Pinkowski, Nico Rivero, Jake Rossen, and Jenn Wood.

13 Facts About Amadeus On Its 35th Anniversary

Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video

Though much has been written about the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the most entertaining look at the master composer's life might very well be Amadeus, Milos Forman's film about the artist's life (and rivalries), which was released on September 19, 1984.

Here's a look back at the Oscar-winning biopic that not only brought renewed interest to Mozart's music in the 1980s, but inspired Austrian rocker Falco to write the chart-topping "Rock Me Amadeus." Poor Salieri never stood a chance.

1. Amadeus began life as a Tony Award-winning play.

Russian poet/playwright Alexander Pushkin wrote a short play in 1830 called Mozart and Salieri, and playwright Peter Shaffer—who was already a Tony winner for Equus—took inspiration from that to write his own play. Amadeus played in various theaters in London beginning in 1979, then premiered on Broadway in 1980 with Ian McKellen as Antonio Salieri, Tim Curry as Mozart, and Jane Seymour as Constanze, Mozart's wife. The production won five Tonys, including Best Play and Best Actor for McKellen, who beat out Curry for the award; the two leads had been nominated in the same category.

2. Mark Hamill wanted the lead role, but Milos Forman wouldn't let him audition.

In an attempt to circumvent any typecasting he might get after three blockbuster Star Wars films launched his career, Mark Hamill played the composer on Broadway for nine months in 1983. But when the time came for the movie to be made, Czech director Miloš Forman couldn’t get the space cowboy image out of his head. “Miloš Forman told me, ‘Oh no, you must not play the Mozart because the people not believing the Luke Spacewalker as Mozart,’” Hamill said in a 1986 interview. “He was very upfront about it, and I appreciated that rather than getting my hopes up that it was possible I’d be playing the role.”

3. Kenneth Branagh legitimately thought he had landed the lead role.

A young Kenneth Branagh was an early contender for the part of Mozart. In his autobiography, he wrote that he thought he had the part in the bag until Forman informed him they were casting Americans for the leads. Other actors who auditioned for the Mozart role included Tim Curry and Mel Gibson. Though Mozart was a rock star in his day, actual rock star Mick Jagger was also turned down after his audition.

4. Mozart's frequent collaborator Emanuel Schikaneder was played by another stage Mozart.

Actor Simon Callow originated the role of Mozart at the Royal National Theater production of Amadeus in 1979, and though Forman told him his portrayal was "truly brilliant, fantastic, asshole and genius, funny, tragic, crazy, a baby and a god," the director wasn't prepared to give him the title role in the film. Instead, he cast Callow as Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist who worked with Mozart on The Magic Flute and played the part of Papageno the bird catcher.

5. The movie was shot without the use of light bulbs or other modern lighting devices.

The Tyl Theatre in Prague was the original theater where Don Giovanni first premiered in October 1787, and the authenticity of the building was a huge boon for the production since it had hardly been updated since it was first built in 1783. “[The Tyl is] where the opera premiered. And he conducted the first performance. And none of the opera house had been touched since he was there," choreographer Twyla Tharp recalled in 2015. "We had fire everywhere. We could have burnt down the opera house. We had live fire in the chandelier. We were lighting people on stage, and these guys were whipping these torches around."

Patrizia von Brandenstein—who became the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Art Direction with this movie—had nightmares about damaging the all-wooden opera house. "I thought, 'God will truly punish me if this place catches on fire,'" she said.

6. Tom Hulce practiced piano for four to five hours a day.

In order to look believable on camera, Hulce spent a month with a piano teacher before filming. Although he knew some basics—he could read music, and had played violin and sung in choirs as a child—he needed to look like a natural. "I spent four weeks, four to five hours a day learning to play,” Hulce told People in 1984. “The first two days were scales and exercises. The next day was a concerto." And for that scene at the masquerade ball when Mozart plays a tune while lying on his back? That was really Hulce.

7. Tom Hulce's laugh is semi-historical, though he had trouble recreating it.

Throughout the movie, Mozart has an infectious cackle—it comes out just as often when he’s giddy as when he’s uncomfortable. Though there are dubious historical reports that the real Mozart had such an obnoxious laugh, Hulce created the giggle after Forman asked him to come up with "something extreme." "I've never been able to make that sound except in front of a camera," Hulce later said. "When we did the looping nine months later, I couldn't find the laugh. I had to raid the producer's private bar and have a shot of whiskey to jar myself into it."

8. Someone really did commission a requiem from Mozart—it just wasn't Salieri.

The script clearly took some artistic liberties, including the plot line of the masked man who comes to Mozart pretending to be his dead father. This was not, as the movie portrays, Salieri. But in 1791, Austrian Count Franz von Walsegg—who had a penchant for commissioning music to pass off as his own at his twice-weekly concerts—approached Mozart and asked for a requiem for his beloved wife, who had died on Valentine’s Day.

According to a famously censored document in which a teacher near Vienna, Anton Herzog, recorded firsthand accounts of von Walsegg’s court, the Count often rewrote these commissioned quartets and other scores in his own hand and didn’t give credit to the original composers. His staff musicians often laughed this off because it seemed to amuse the Count, and because the Count was also an amateur musician in his own right. Mozart’s “Requiem Mass in D minor,” the document alleges, was one such piece. And Mozart really did die later that year, in December, before completing the full mass. Salieri didn’t help him complete it though; Austrian composer and possible Mozart student Franz Süssmayr took that on.

9. The actors felt intense jealousy, too.

Salieri and Mozart were the 18th-century equivalent of frenemies: They were contemporaries in a competitive field, and though they needed each other’s support, they weren’t above petty jealousies and a little backstabbing. Hulce and F. Murray Abraham (who played Salieri) also felt those pressures. ''Tom and Meg [Tilly, the actress originally cast as Constanze] were very close,'' Abraham told The New York Times in 1984. ''They had these secret jokes and were always laughing together. I was pushed out, and I was resentful. I began to have very nasty feelings that were exactly like Salieri's feelings toward Mozart. When that correspondence between a film and real life occurs, it's a director's dream.''

“Occasionally Murray and I would go out and drink this terrible sweet champagne that they have in Prague," added Hulce. "But at other times there was a rivalry between us, and I found myself suspicious of him.''

10. It was shot almost entirely on location in Prague—while under surveillance from the Secret Police.

During filming in 1983, Czechoslovakia was under Communist rule. The production team was often followed around by the secret police, and Forman and the cast spoke about their fears that a Fourth of July prank—the unfurling of the American flag in the concert hall and the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by the large cast and crew—would lead to their arrests for inciting rebellion. Many suspected that their hotel rooms had been bugged during the six months they spent filming the movie.

Forman, who was considered a traitor for becoming an American citizen and not returning to the Soviet-controlled area, had previously had one of his movies banned in the country (then called the Czech Socialist Republic). According to Twyla Tharp, in order to shoot in red territory, Forman had to make certain concessions. "Miloš had to sign an agreement that he would go to his hotel every night for the year that he was there and that his driver would be his best friend from the old days," Tharp told The Hollywood Reporter. "And everybody knew what would happen to his best friend if something untoward politically happened around Miloš, because Miloš was a sort of local hero and he was dangerous to the authorities."

11. A teenage Cynthia Nixon had a small but pivotal role.

At age 17, Nixon played Lorl, the maid employed by Salieri to spy on Mozart. Though she was an experienced child actor at that point, she was also trying to finish her schooling. Thus, she and her parents were cautious of the time she'd need to be abroad for filming. "When I was cast in Amadeus with Miloš Forman, which was shooting in Europe," Nixon said in 2014, "I said, 'I want to be in your film so much, but I have a request: If I don’t shoot for two days in a row, you have to send me home.' They agreed."

12. The distributor made a promotional video depicting Mozart as a modern rock star.

Since the movie wasn't financed by a major studio with lots of promotional dollars behind it, the distributor, Orion Pictures, decided to get creative. And what better way to promote a rock star in the age of MTV than with a music video featuring David Lee Roth and cuts of Bruce Springsteen, Van Halen, KISS, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, and Madonna dancing along to Mozart's "Symphony No. 25 in G minor"?

13. The movie was a huge hit.

The film nearly tripled its $18 million budget at the box office, which was particularly impressive considering it opened in a limited 25 theaters and didn’t have a wide release until several months later. The movie also swept the Academy Awards—of its 11 nominations, it won eight, including Best Picture and Best Director. And, just as on Broadway, Salieri won the Best Actor statuette over Mozart, with Abraham beating out Hulce.

15 Things You Can Do to Help Keep Oceans Clean

pcess609/iStock, Getty Images
pcess609/iStock, Getty Images

Summer is almost here, and millions of people will take to the most beautiful beaches all around the world for relaxing afternoons of sunbathing and swimming in the ocean. Our beaches and oceans are a natural wonder that should be taken advantage of, after all. But they're also facing a pollution crisis. From untold tons of plastic to carbon emissions and household chemicals getting into our waterways, the dangers facing marine life are mounting.

In honor of World Environmental Health Day on September 26, it's important to realize that it's not enough just to enjoy our oceans—we also have to keep them clean and actively protect them. And here are 15 ways you can help.

1. Educate yourself.

A discarded plastic cup in the ocean.
Placebo365/iStock, Getty Images

It's hard to clean up the ocean without knowing why and how it gets polluted in the first place. So the first step is to get informed. Go online, turn on a documentary, or grab a book from the library—there are countless ways to learn about the ocean without having to move off the couch.

Learn how your plastic water bottle winds up in the ocean in the first place, or how the oil from your engine can travel through the sewer and into nearby bodies of water. You can even learn about lesser-known forms of pollution—did you know that even noise pollution underwater can kill marine life? The best way to begin your ocean advocacy is to know the hows and whys.

2. Cut down on plastic use.

Endless plastic bottles on discarded on the beach.
Sablin/iStock, Getty Images Plus

There are plenty of reasons to cut down on the plastic you use every day, but if you want to do your part for the ocean, it's doubly important. To put it into sobering perspective: It's possible that around 8 million tons of plastic get into our oceans every year, harming plant life, water quality, and marine animals around the globe. To put that into further perspective, around Los Angeles, around 10 tons of plastic fragments find their way into the Pacific every day.

Single-use plastics are among the most wasteful, but they're also the easiest change you can make to your lifestyle. Instead of buying single-use plastic water bottles in bulk, switch to reusable bottles you can fill up again and again. There is also a movement among cities, countries, and certain restaurant chains to get rid of plastic straws, bags, utensils, and other smaller plastic items that can be easily swapped out for something more sustainable. Make that change in your own home, too.

3. Hold companies accountable.

krblokhin/iStock, Getty Images Plus

It's not just individual consumers who need to watch their plastic consumption—it's local restaurants and global corporations as well. Find out which companies and businesses employ the best practices when it comes to packaging and plastic usage and which ones don't.

If you feel like your local take-out place or café is being excessively wasteful, tell them. (Also, do your part by telling them you don't need any plastic utensils or paper napkins if you're planning to eat at home or the office.) And if your issue is with a larger chain, get in touch with them on social media or write an email. Then you can start digging deeper. Harmful microbeads are banned in the U.S. [PDF] for their impact on oceans, but what about in other countries? And are the products you're using actually free of them? Find out, because while you may practice clean ocean habits, the companies you buy from may not.

4. Be aware of chemicals in your gardens and on your lawn.

Woman spraying plants in her garden
iStock

Pesticides, fertilizers, weed killers—three things that are ubiquitous on lawns and gardens around the world, but each can be very harmful for our oceans. Pesticides and weed killers work by using dangerous chemicals, and though your plants and yard may benefit, those chemicals can easily get into our water systems. And if you live close enough to an ocean, they’ll likely end up there.

Fertilizers have an interesting effect on the eco-system. The excess nutrients can be carried by rain and wind to various water systems. Once in rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans, these nutrients can help with the growth of algae at an unnatural rate. When this happens, the algae's natural toxins can not only poison marine life, but the algae itself can use up the oxygen in certain areas of water, making it impossible for anything else to survive. These are called "dead zones," and the roughly 500 of them around the globe cover some 245,000 square kilometers (that's about the size of the UK). Luckily, there are ways to have and maintain a garden while being responsible to the environment.

5. Recognize the harm of individual litter.

Picking up a bottle on the beach
iStock

Picking up after yourself on the beach should go without saying, but just take a look around the sand the next time you're by the shore—obviously someone didn't get the memo. Stray bottles, cans, bags, and napkins can be ubiquitous along waterways, and even just one piece of litter can pose a problem. This garbage can be picked up by the wind, get stuck around the necks of birds and other animals, and carried back out to sea by the tides.

Keep anyone in your party accountable for their messes, and if you encounter some trash that isn't yours, pick it up anyway and throw it away. That plastic bag or discarded soda can is an immediate threat to any marine life that could get caught in it, so be sure to do your part.

6. Volunteer your time to clean up.

A group of people cleaning up the beach.
jf/Getty Images

Picking up litter while on a beach vacation is great, but you can also organize your own cleanup in your community if you live near an ocean. First, talk to local politicians and community groups to see if there's an existing ocean cleaning effort in your area. If not, go through those channels to help organize one. This is a great way to call on townspeople in your area—including friends, strangers, and local schools—to help beautify the area and teach positive habits when it comes to maintaining a cleaner ocean.

7. Donate to an ocean charity.

A person holding a sea turtle
iStock

Not everyone lives near an ocean to help do the legwork, but a simple donation can go a long way. Research charities in your state or around the country that help clean the ocean and see if they're holding a fundraiser or collecting supplies for a cleanup effort.

In addition to donating to cleanup charities, there are also ways to give money to research efforts, conservation groups, and educational foundations.

8. Watch what you flush.

Using a plunger on a backed-up toilet.
iStock

Medicines have been detected in groundwater and in marine life in the past, likely from being flushed and lingering in water systems afterwards. And 4500 wet wipes were found in a 154 square-meter portion of the Thames river in 2017—a byproduct of a bathroom staple that doesn't break down in the flushing process like people think.

These are just two examples of products that are often flushed or poured down a drain without a second thought but could build up over time and pollute local waterways, soil, and oceans. Cotton balls, floss, cat litter, insecticides, vegetable oil, paint—this is just a snapshot of products that are harmful for oceans and marine life if flushed. So next time you open that toilet lid to discard a harsh cleaning agent, find out if it's safe.

9. Conserve water.

Sprinkler system spraying water.
iStock

Any of the water you use in your home is later sent to a sewage treatment plant [PDF] where the pollutants are removed before being reintroduced into local bodies of water. The problems come not only when harmful products and chemicals are flushed, but also when we simply use too much of the available water.

As the Surfrider Foundation points out, excess water at these treatments plants can overwhelm the systems—many of which are older anyway—leading to pollutants getting through and finding their way into oceans, rivers, streams, etc. To do your part, simply conserve the use of water in your home. Take shorter showers, don't leave sinks running, and cut down on any superfluous activities like washing your car for long periods of time.

10. Don't throw anything overboard.

A bottle floating in an ocean
iStock

Whether you're out on a cruise or fishing on a lake, be mindful of what you leave behind. Never throw any trash overboard, even if you think it's harmless, like a stray fishing hook or line, or something small like a used piece of chewing gum or a cigarette butt. There's a ripple effect to any foreign item that enters a waterway, and often the consequence is that those tiny items amass into a large problem for the local ecosystem. Encourage those around you to be similarly mindful, and take proactive measures to ensure garbage and recycling bins are onboard during your trip.

11. Watch what you eat.

A plate of seafood.
AlexRaths/iStock, Getty Images Plus

Being a responsible seafood consumer is a vital part of ocean conservation, and knowing what fish you're eating and where it's coming from is a big part of that. Familiarize yourself [PDF] with the fish you buy and where it was caught when you pick out your next meal, and ask your local supermarket chain or restaurant if their selection of seafood has been farmed in an ethical way that protects the ocean's ecosystem and doesn't pollute the water in the process.

12. Reach out to your elected officials.

An offshore drilling platform
iStock

What's your state representative or governor's stance on ocean pollution and conservation? Is your state considering offshore drilling, which can result in accidents that impact the environment? Find out what the politicians in your state are doing about the environment and see if it's a plan that will provide a cleaner ocean for future generations.

If your state is in a good place, ask if there is a chance to volunteer to help realize the goals of your elected officials. If your state isn't doing enough about the oceans, write letters and get in contact with both elected officials and local environmental clubs of influence. For instance, the Pacific Fishery Management Council recently voted to protect approximately 140,000 square miles of ocean from bottom trawling, a move that will prevent commercial fishing nets from harming coral and rocky reefs in that area. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts, who were also involved, this vote was a result of five years worth of research and lobbying from environmental groups and charities, and thousands of letters from activists and concerned citizens.

13. Keep up-to-date on the latest environmental news.

A person reading the news on their phone.
iStock

Taking care of oceans and waterways requires vigilance, and staying informed is vital to that cause. Read up on the latest products that have been deemed harmful to the ocean or environment (like this recent study on why black plastic can't be recycled the same way as other plastics); keep an eye out for any environmental tragedy, like an oil spill or a tropical storm in your area that requires a cleanup; and be sure you're in the know about any organized rallies or fundraisers you can take part in.

14. Understand your carbon footprint.

Car exhaust emitting smoke.
iStock

Carbon dioxide isn't just responsible for pollution in the air—it also makes its way into the ocean. In fact, about a third of manmade CO2 makes its way into the ocean, which equates to about 22 million tons a day. This can cause acidification of the water, which affects the health of the marine life—especially shelled animals—that live there.

Taking stock of your own carbon footprint is important, and it becomes even more urgent when you think of the impact it has on everything. Climate change is all connected with one danger leading to another, leading to another, and so on. See how your energy habits can be more sustainable for the environment and make some much-needed adjustments. Simply driving less, buying energy efficient lights and appliances, and using fewer disposable goods can help.

15. Share what you know with friends and family.

Trash on the beach
iStock

Don't keep all this knowledge to yourself! Bring up some of the more important facts to friends and family next time you're at the beach or out at a seafood restaurant. Invite them to join you for a cleanup, and encourage them to be mindful of their own carbon footprint. Your enthusiasm for healthy oceans and environments could be contagious, and you may soon find yourself with a network of like-minded individuals looking to make a difference.

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