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

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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.

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This Just In
Meet Betty Reid Soskin, the Country's Oldest Park Ranger
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There’s no age limit for enjoying the outdoors, switching careers, or speaking out against injustice—and Betty Reid Soskin is living proof. As Travel + Leisure reports, the 96-year-old California resident is the nation’s oldest active national park ranger, a late-in-life vocation she embarked on just over a decade ago.

Soskin, who originally hails from Detroit, works at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California. The national park preserves the history of the U.S. home front during World War II, including the businesses, innovations, and people that helped make victory possible. (Richmond was once home to more than 56 different war industries.)

Today, Soskin gives interpretive tours of the park. But long ago, she worked as a World War II file clerk for the all-black Boilermakers A-36. Soskin—the great-granddaughter of a freed slave—gained local prominence as an activist, and fame as a songwriter, during the Civil Rights Movement. But history ended up being just as important to Soskin as current political events when she served as a consultant with the National Park Service for the Rosie the Riveter Park in the early 2000s.

Soskin was the only person of color at the planning table, according to NPR. She ensured that the historic park didn’t erase memories of the segregation that had once existed at factories and shipyards, as doing so would also erase the history of the area’s African-American population.

Word of Soskin and her activist efforts spread, especially when she publicly denounced the 2013 federal funding crisis. In 2015 she was formally recognized by President Barack Obama, who gave her a silver coin with the presidential seal. Sadly, Soskin’s presidential coin was stolen in 2016 in a violent home invasion, but she returned to work three weeks after the attack, saying in a press conference that she “wanted to get back into routine life.”

Fans of Soskin can keep up with her via her blog, where she’s written about her life and job since 2003. You can also learn more about her, in her own words, in the video below.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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science
Geological Map Shows the Massive Reservoir Bubbling Beneath Old Faithful
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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.

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