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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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Win a Trip to Any National Park By Instagramming Your Travels
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If you're planning out your summer vacation, make sure to add a few national parks to your itinerary. Every time you share your travels on Instagram, you can increase your chances of winning a VIP trip for two to the national park of your choice.

The National Park Foundation is hosting its "Pic Your Park" sweepstakes now through September 28. To participate, post your selfies from visits to National Park System (NPS) properties on Instagram using the hashtag #PicYourParkContest and a geotag of the location. Making the trek to multiple parks increases your points, with less-visited parks in the system having the highest value. During certain months, the point values of some sites are doubled. You can find a list of participating properties and a schedule of boost periods here.

Following the contest run, the National Park Foundation will decide a winner based on most points earned. The grand prize is a three-day, two-night trip for the winner and a guest to any NPS property within the contiguous U.S. Round-trip airfare and hotel lodging are included. The reward also comes with a 30-day lease of a car from Subaru, the contest's sponsor.

The contest is already underway, with a leader board on the website keeping track of the competition. If you're looking to catch up, this national parks road trip route isn't a bad place to start.

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science
Yellowstone's Steamboat Geyser Keeps Erupting, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

An eruption from Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park is normally a rare sight, but guests were treated to the geothermic show seven times in the past three months, according to the USGS. The last time the geyser spouted at least three times in a year was 2003, and scientists are still struggling to find out the cause behind the sudden spike in activity.

Old Faithful has garnered fame in Yellowstone and beyond for its regular eruptions that blow every one to two hours, but Steamboat is less reliable. Geysers occur when magma heats up the water and gases trapped in pockets under the ground. If enough pressure builds up, the steam and boiling water will escape through cracks in the earth and shoot past the surface. The reservoir beneath Old Faithful is fairly simple, as geological maps have shown us, and that explains the frequent eruptions. But the structure beneath Steamboat is likely more complicated, leading to eruptions that result from a combination of hard-to-predict factors.

Steamboat's last eruption before this recent marathon of spurts was recorded in September 2014. The geyser's water columns have been know to reach up to 300 feet, making it the tallest active geyser in the world.

Geologists have come up with a few explanations for the phenomena, one being that it was caused by thermal activity in the park's Norris Geyser Basin. Another possibility is that the geyser is having these smaller eruptions closer together in place of one large one. While they haven't come to a consensus on the cause, experts do agree that the frequency of the eruptions is unlike anything they've seen at this geyser before.

While the geyser activity remains a mystery, it shouldn't be taken as an indication that a catastrophic volcanic event is coming to Yellowstone anytime soon. The last volcanic eruption on the park's land took place 70,000 years ago.

[h/t NPR]

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