Bigfoot aside, the instances of otherworldly national parks visitors are almost too numerous to chronicle.
1. GREAT SAND DUNES
The Great Sand Dunes National Park is surrounded by San Luis Valley, a place where 60 UFOs have been spotted since 2000. Unexplainable cattle mutilations have also supported speculation that there’s something highly unusual happening in the region—which may also contain portals to another universe.
2. MAMMOTH CAVE
At Mammoth Cave National Park, the ghost of Stephen Bishop, a slave and Mammoth Cave explorer who is buried nearby, is said to make occasional appearances. In the 19th century, Mammoth was also the site of a failed tuberculosis hospital; today, you can now reportedly hear the coughs of patients who perished while being treated.
3. GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
The Norton Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is home to the legend of Spearfinger, a witch who'd disguise herself as an old woman, snatch children, and use her obsidian stone finger to cut out their livers, which she considered a delicacy. Another legend chronicles a man who was murdered while looking for his daughter, and now manifests as a light that leads hikers.
4. GRAND CANYON
The “Wailing Woman” haunts the Transept Trail at Grand Canyon National Park. According to legend, she committed suicide there in the 1920s after hearing that her husband and son had died while hiking. She floats around the trail in a white dress with blue flowers on stormy nights, slamming doors and haunting the Grand Canyon Lodge.
5. NEW JERSEY PINELANDS
At Batona Trail in the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the Jersey Devil can be heard screaming at night—though it’s much better to hear him than to see him. The creature is said to have the head of a dog, bat wings, horns and forked tail.
The cries of another tragic figure haunt Grouse Lake in Yosemite National Park. Legend has it that a Native American boy who drowned in the lake calls out to hikers for help. America’s first park ranger, Galen Clark, heard the cries in 1857 and assumed they were from a lost dog. When he asked a band of Native American hunters about it that evening, they informed Clark of the story.
The Miwok Indians also believe that Yosemite’s waterfalls are haunted by an evil wind called Po-ho-no. The wind draws people to the edge and pushes them off. And the spooky legends surrounding Yosemite don’t stop there: The Ahwahnee Hotel is supposedly haunted, and the entire Tenaya Canyon was cursed by Chief Tenaya in 1851 when the U.S. Cavalry forced his tribe off their land.
Battlefields, not surprisingly, often possess their own haunted histories. At Devil’s Den, a hill in Gettysburg National Military Park, a barefoot ghost known as the “Tennessean” or “The Hippie” will point toward the Plum Run stream and say, “What you’re looking for is over there,” before disappearing.
8. CRATER LAKE
The Klamath Indians consider Crater Lake—a caldera and the deepest body of water in the U.S.—a sacred place. A legend states that it holds a spirit named Llao who was thrown into the lake by another spirit called Skell and devoured by monsters. In 2002, a tourist in a rowboat reported seeing an enormous creature swimming underneath her vessel. What’s more, rangers regularly spot campfires on the lake’s Wizard Island, but find no evidence of people or a fire when they go to investigate. (It’s possible that Bigfoot or Sasquatch are to blame for those.)
Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park is also supposedly haunted. According to legend, a bride who was decapitated on her honeymoon now strolls around with her head tucked under her arm. Another woman in 1890s fashions has appeared floating at the foot of a bed in Room Number 2 at the Old Faithful Inn, and one worker reported seeing a fire extinguisher spin all by itself in the hallway.
10. HAWAII VOLCANOES
Pele—the volcano goddess, not the soccer player—inflicts severe punishment on anyone who steals from her during visits to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Every year, tourists walk off with souvenirs in the form of volcanic rocks, and more than a few of them seem to experience negative consequences afterward. In fact, thousands of pounds of mail addressed to “Queen Pele” are returned every year, begging her to lift the curse on them.