A quick heads up: if you haven’t checked out Part One of States of Horror, go ahead and read it now. It’s a look at some folktales from the first through twelfth states to enter the American Union, and you know you’re curious about the weird stuff that goes on in Connecticut.
Back with us? Excellent. We’re keeping right along with the weirdest and eeriest urban legends from the US states from oldest to newest, so turn off the lights, light a couple candles, and open a beer. We’re about to get folked.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Ghost
There are plenty of spooky things about the Providence Athenaeum. H.P. Lovecraft wrote there, as did Edgar Allan Poe. But apparently, Lovecraft was the only one that left. Sarah Whitman, the last love of Poe’s life, spent her days at the Athenaeum. After Poe died, it’s said that Whitman summoned his spirit to the Athenaeum, and that it’s still there now. Visitors claim to have seen Poe’s spirit on the steps of the building, even hearing him cry out “The Conqueror Worm!” Poe fans know this is a reference to one of his poems, but could it be something else as well?
What is Poe trying to tell us from beyond the grave?
Winters all the way up in Vermont can be brutal. Modern citizens have ways to combat the cold, but in the early days of the state, the residents had to come up with ways to survive. So, according to local folklore, they came up with something truly unorthodox. One family member, it says, would take on the responsibility of tending their home during the coldest months. The others, meanwhile, would be buried underground and frozen. They’d stay like that until the spring thawed them out, when there was more food and water available for everyone.
As nice as hibernation might sound to anyone who hates the cold, there are tales of this process going horribly wrong. Rats could make their way into the burial spot, leaving you with only half a face upon thawing out. Plus, it’s not unimaginable that one could bury their family and, when spring comes along, forget exactly where.
You can look for Elsewhere, Kentucky, if you want. But if you find anything at all, you won’t like it. Elsewhere is the definition of a ghost town, a collection of a couple run down buildings and a blurred-out image on Google Earth. The few visitors who have found it say it is wildly haunted, and if you believe the stories of its past, you’ll see why.
According to legend, Elsewhere’s troubles started in 1923, when a teacher murdered her whole classroom with a poisoned cake. Years later, the government forcibly evacuated the whole area for safety reasons, and no one has since returned. No one alive, anyway. So go looking for Elsewhere, Kentucky, if you want. But if you get there, maybe don’t talk to the locals.
Somewhere in between a cryptid and supernatural entity is the Screamer of White Bluff, Tennessee. Rumored to be a deformed and badly treated human being, the White Screamer is said to have killed its birth parents and escaped into the woods surrounding its childhood home. But the creature in the story isn’t just misshapen. Some say it is of extraordinary size and strength, with a thirst for blood that has taken its toll on local livestock. Still, it’s not the sight or diet that makes the White Bluff monster so famous… it’s the unearthly, night-shattering, unforgettable sound it makes.
Like Elsewhere, Helltown in Ohio is also a ghost town under some sort of curse. Unlike Elsewhere, however, there isn’t just one story of how it got that way. Helltown is both a literal and fictional hub for supernatural events, with as many dark stories set in it as there are paranormal encounters. People in the surrounding Ohio woods talk about Satanic worship in the old abandoned church, mutant monsters created by government experiments gone awry, and even a supernatural view of the end of the world. We could spend an entire article delving into stories about this place, but we’ve got plenty of other states to cover. Look up Helltown, Ohio, for yourself; just be ready for some creepy stories.
Rougarou of the Swamp
The swampland cousin of commonly known werewolf, the Rougarou, is less of a cryptid and more of a boogeyman. Cajun folklore sometimes claims it stalks children who misbehave. However, there are also stories that say it only devours bad Catholics, who have forsaken their religion or aren’t observing its traditions. (In fact, one story says you become a Rougarou just by skipping Lent for seven years in a row.) Whatever story you choose to believe, it’s very cool that the US has its very own werewolf creature. And to make it even cooler, a town in Louisiana called Houma actually hosts a Rougarou fest every single year in honor of the beast.
Screw President’s Day, that is how we should do American holidays.
The Green Clawed Beast
Here’s one for you Creature From The Black Lagoon fans out there. In August of 1955, a woman named Darwin Johnson was swimming with a friend in the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana. All of a sudden, a giant and furry clawed hand latched on to Johnson’s leg, drawing her underwater. With the help of her friend and her own willpower, Johnson was able to escape the monster’s grasp, but not without a strange, green mark where the hand had touched her.
Interestingly, this story happened on the exact same day as the Hopkinsville Goblin incident, one of the most terrifying alien encounters in US history. Just an hour north of Evansville, many suspect the Hopkinsville sighting to be connected to whatever attacked Mrs. Darwin Johnson.
Go to any Civil War battle site in the US and you’ll find that there’s a ghost story nearby. However, you may not find a more haunted Civil War site than Vicksburg National Military Park in Mississippi. In fact, it’s safe to say that on that field, the war is still very much going on.
Visitors to the military park see ghostly figures running across the battlefield, hear disembodied screams and cannonfire in the night, and catch the unmistakable scent of gunpowder in the air. But possibly the scariest thing that happens on the grounds is in the Pennsylvania Monument, commemorating some leaders of the battle with five stoic, bronze portraits of their faces. According to legend, there are nights when the spirits of Vicksburg are especially active, and the faces of these long dead generals cry blood.
Part history and part urban legend, the story of Illinois’s chemical-wielding madman is either the tale of a real-life supervillain or a serious case of mass hysteria. And both possibilities are pretty terrifying. In the 1940’s, people in Mattoon, IL, claimed to be the victims of a kind of serial gasser (make the jokes, go ahead). They reported catching random odors in the air and suddenly coming down with all kinds of symptoms, from numbness to vomiting to seizures. And according to some of the victims, these attacks were always accompanied by the same cloaked figure, lurking with a pesticide gun very nearby.
Police never found evidence of anyone committing these acts, but you do have to ask: why did some strangers’ descriptions of the cloaked figure match?
Unlike a lot of urban legends, which feature “a friend of a friend” as the main character, this folktale’s lead is a real, documented person. Orion Williamson was a farmer that lived in Selma, Alabama in the middle of the nineteenth century. He lived a quiet, rural life on his farm until one day in 1854, when Orion greeted his family, stepped off of his porch… and disappeared into thin air.
There were plenty of witnesses to the event, not to mention a search party of hundreds that came looking once they heard about the unexplainable occurrence. Williamson’s wife and son claimed to hear his disembodied voice calling out for help in the weeks following, but the voice got fainter and fainter until eventually, there was never a sign of Orion Williamson again.
There’s bound to be some weird stuff going on in the state Stephen King calls home, but this story goes beyond even your average ghost story or escaped psychopath tale. There is, some say, a mysterious well in the woods near Sabattus, Maine. It’s hard to find and many that see it wouldn’t make much of it anyway, but a few years ago, some say, a group of boys decided to explore it.
They lowered one of their friends down and, all of a sudden, the rope stopped moving. When they pulled it back up they found their friend babbling incoherently, cackling madly… and aged at least fifty years. No names have ever been attached to this story, but they say the old man is still alive in a psychiatric ward somewhere near Sabattus.
It’s unclear exactly where the Bubblehead family of Carrico Road come from. Some say they’re an inbred family with physical deformities. Some say they’re victims of government experimentation. But the thing that’s always the same in stories about these creatures is their massive, pumpkin-shaped heads. And their taste for blood.
Folks say that the Bubbleheads, whether ghosts, aliens, or something else entirely, are always seeking wandering travelers to attack. Perhaps they’re just trying to scare them, but some of the darkest legends of these creatures involve them actually cannibalizing the travelers. Recently, the team behind The ABC’s of Death included the flesh-eating story of the Bubbleheads in their folktale horror anthology, The Field Guide to Evil. Check it out for a weird monster short.
The only thing that remains of the Plum Bayou culture near Scott, Arkansas are a series of strange, titanic grassy mounds. Called the Stonehenge of Arkansas, the mounds are presumed by archeologists to have been used in religious ceremonies or as cultural markers. However, without any records of the place, we can never really be sure what the mounds are for.
Paranormal activity abounds near the Toltec Mounds, with witnesses reporting everything from ghost encounters to orb sightings to UFOs. But what’s most haunting about the mounds isn’t their modern folktales, it’s the unknown history of the people that built them. Historians haven’t been able to connect the Plum Bayou people to any other Native American tribe, nor find anything that indicates where they might have gone. For all we know, the people of the Toltec Mounds simply vanished, never to be seen again.
Alright creeps, we are officially half way through the United States and some of the chilling and unearthly stories that are told there. Our next installment is coming to you next week, so keep an eye on our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for that. And as always, for all the folky and rural horror you can handle, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.