CLOSE
Original image
istock

10 National Parks and the Ghosts and Monsters Who Supposedly Live There

Original image
istock

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.

6. YOSEMITE

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.

7. GETTYSBURG

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.)

9. YELLOWSTONE

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.

Original image
iStock
arrow
science
Geological Map Shows the Massive Reservoir Bubbling Beneath Old Faithful
Original image
iStock

Yellowstone National Park is home to rivers, waterfalls, and hot springs, but Old Faithful is easily its most iconic landmark. Every 45 to 125 minutes, visitors gather around the geyser to watch it shoot streams of water reaching up to 100 feet in the air. The punctual show is one of nature’s greatest spectacles, but new research from scientists at the University of Utah suggests that what’s going on at the geyser’s surface is just the tip of the iceberg.

The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, features a map of the geological plumbing system beneath Old Faithful. Geologists have long known that the eruptions are caused by water heated by volcanic rocks beneath the ground reaching the boiling point and bubbling upwards through cracks in the earth. But the place where this water simmers between appearances has remained mysterious to scientists until now.

Using 133 seismometers scattered around Old Faithful and the surrounding area, the researchers were able to record the tiny tremors caused by pressure build-up in the hydrothermal reservoir. Two weeks of gathering data helped them determine just how large the well is. The team found that the web of cracks and fissures beneath Old Faithful is roughly 650 feet in diameter and capable of holding more than 79 million gallons of water. When the geyser erupts, it releases just 8000 gallons. You can get an idea of how the reservoir fits into the surrounding geology from the diagram below.

Geological map of geyser.
Sin-Mei Wu, University of Utah

After making the surprising discovery, the study authors plan to return to the area when park roads close for the winter to conduct further research. Next time, they hope to get even more detailed images of the volatile geology beneath this popular part of Yellowstone.

Original image
iStock
arrow
video
31 Facts About National Parks
Original image
iStock

A little over 100 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service into law, ensuring that the country’s most remarkable natural landscapes would be preserved for future generations. Today, national parks are more popular than ever, with millions of visitors passing through the system’s 400-odd properties each year. But even if you’re working to check every national park off your bucket list, you may be unfamiliar with some of these facts. For instance, did you know that Dolly Parton is an official ambassador to Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Or that Yosemite campaigned to host the Winter Olympics in 1932?

That’s just some of the trivia John Green shares in this latest video from Mental Floss on YouTube. You can check out all 31 facts above, then subscribe to our channel if you're still hungry for more brain food.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios