Welcome to our third entry in the States of Horror series, in which we take you on a spooky road trip through every US state’s local folklore and urban legends. If you haven’t already read the first and second parts of this list, check them out now! We’re halfway through the country, after all, and you don’t want to go too far without learning the one thing that can make New Jersey an even scarier place.
But if you’re all caught up, the next creepy list begins below. Happy travels!
Legend has it that by the water in a region called Bete Grise, a young woman lost her only love to the depths of Lake Superior. She spent the rest of her life calling out for him along the water, even unto her dying breath. But just because she passed from this life doesn’t mean her cries stopped. Stories say that the sands of the shore themselves continue her cry even until today, and if you rub them just right, you can hear the beautiful, mournful long of a lost and lonely soul. You can try this for yourself, so long as you don’t remove the sand from its home on that beach. If you do, the sands forget their purpose and stop singing altogether.
Described by Nightmare on Film Street’s very own Mac Jones as “Bigfoot with swamp ass,” the skunk ape of the Florida marshlands is both a familiar and strange type of cryptid. Like many bipedal monsters in US legends, the Skunk Ape is massive and hairy, vaguely humanoid and over seven feet tall. However, there’s one giant difference between the Skunk Ape and typical Sasquatch legends, and that is, well, the smell. Skunk Apes are said to have an absolutely toxic odor, a combination of garbage, methane gas, and rotten cabbage. So though many cryptid encounters leave witnesses with a nightmarish vision of what they saw, the Skunk Ape leaves will leave you with a very different, though still unforgettable, sensory experience.
Texas and New England have very few things in common, but one of them is, weirdly enough, a legend of a Headless Horseman. This story begins in the mid nineteenth century, when a cattle rustler made off with some very expensive mustangs. The owner of those mustangs hired a cruel bounty hunter to track down the thief, and when he caught up to him, his punishment was severe. The bounty hunter decapitated the thief and lashed him to a horse, sending his mangled corpse off into the sunset. The spirit of that thief, named El Muerto by the locals, continues that bloody ride even today.
This story is, unlike a lot of the legends on this list, 100% historically verifiable. But don’t let that change your opinion, the tale of the Villisca Ax Murders is one of the most chilling things you’ll read on this list. In June of 1912, an entirely family and their neighbors were murdered as they slept by someone wielding an ax. As you might imagine, the preserved house where the crime happened is rumored to be extremely haunted, but that might not even be the creepiest part of this story. After all, the Villisca Ax Murderer was never caught after his atrocious crime. Ghosts are only creepy if you believe in them, but this monster, who walked free after committing one of the most brutal murders in US history, is absolutely undeniable.
There are a lot of spooky stories to come out of the area surrounding the Morris Pratt Institute in Wisconsin. The school taught spiritualism around the end of the nineteenth century, so of course legends of witches are going to spring out of that. However, one specific legend has a bit more weight, or shall we say, volume, to it.
It’s a book pun.
According to stories from the school, a forbidden book has been in the Morris Pratt Institute library since its founding. The book is supposedly locked, and asking for it will get you expelled. But that’s not half as bad as actually obtaining the book. Its contents are said to have driven several students and a professor to their deaths, and one into an insane asylum. What does the book contain that could do such terrible things? No one knows for sure, but considering it is a book from an American university, it’s probably the cost.
Say you’re exploring the beautiful Big Sur area of Southern California, and all of a sudden, you get the feeling of being watched. Well, that’s no coincidence. According to stories from that region, a race of giant, humanoid, shadowy beings patrol the ridges of the Santa Lucia Mountains. References to them stretch from the old writings of the Chumash tribe to the works of John Steinbeck, but provide very little information beyond their strange and haunting descriptions. But what do you expect? With their always-distant appearances and honed ability to slip away, no one has ever gotten close enough to learn more about these figures.
In August of 1979, Marshall County Sheriff’s Deputy Val Johnson had a car accident. But instead of hitting another car or even a crossing animal, the rural police officer ran into something much more interesting, in fact, something legendary: a UFO. Since Deputy Johnson went public with his story of seeing the object, hitting it, then waking up much later in a ditch with burns around his eyes, the story has become one of the most widely talked about events in UFO lore, investigated by TV shows, amateur ufologists, and skeptics everywhere.
You can go to the Marshall County Museum in Minnesota and see Deputy Johnson’s car now. Sure enough, it bears the scars of his otherworldly encounter, along with a plaque that reads “UFO car.” We give the exhibit points for being evidence of one of the strangest stories in the US, but not necessarily for creativity in name.
Calling a place something so seemingly innocent as “Candy Cane Park” is just asking for trouble. Seriously, can you imagine seeing the words “Candy Cane Park” without expecting them to be followed by “Murders Still Unsolved?” Well, the Candy Cane Park in Le Grande, Oregon, is just as creepy as the naming suggests. Also known as Hatchet Park (yeah), the site is rumored to be the scene of a near beheading in the 1980s. Since then, swingsets, merry-go-rounds, and other park items have been seen to move on their own. In fact, some visitors report even being violently thrown off of these playsets, as though pushed by an invisible attacker. Feel free to test these rumors out yourself if you are, like other visitors to a place called “Candy Cane Park,” clearly insane.
Located in the North East of Kansas, Stull Cemetery isn’t your typical haunted location. There are ghosts for sure, but to limit the stories of paranormal activity in Stull Cemetery to only spirits is to wildly understate what’s said to have occured there. Stull is a hub of evil and unexplainable happenings, from rumors of human sacrifice to demonic apparitions, to annual appearances of Satan himself in the flesh. If you don’t believe me or the link above, that’s fine, because there’s a much more trustworthy source that supposedly believes the stories of Stull Cemetery. He believes it so much that, if he is scheduled to fly over Stull, Kansas, he will request the plane change courses.
And who is that high-flying, knowledgable expert on evil? It’s the Pope, of course.
No disrespect to the previously mentioned Skunk Ape, but how in the world is it more popular than sheepsquatch? Not only does it have a stellar name, but the creature is said to resemble a real life tauntaun, covered in white wooly fur and sporting horns on top of its head. Sure, there aren’t any pictures of sheepsquatch like there are of Skunk Ape and Bigfoot, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that no one’s talking about them. Heck, we should be talking about West Virginia’s very own cryptid even more, until someone figures out a way to snap a picture of one. Fan art only goes so far, you know.
By the way, for any of you uninformed, a tauntaun is that thing in Star Wars that Luke crawls inside to keep warm. Who am I kidding, none of you didn’t know that.
It’s not supernatural, alien, or even rumors of a cryptid, but this urban legend out of Las Vegas is still completely terrifying. In the darker, less-known corners of Sin City, rumors have emerged of a gory and terrible criminal enterprise. The criminals, most of whom are beautiful women, will lure men back to their hotel rooms, only to drug them or knock them out with some chloroform. Victims will awake in a bathtub full of ice, with stitches up and down their abdomen, and missing a kidney. These missing kidneys, say the stories, end up on the black market for criminals in need of one. And the kidney thieves? Well, if the rumors are true, they end up back on the streets, ready to find more products to sell.
Radioactive insects usually just lead to memes of Tobey Maguire crying. However, there was a time when people thought they could do a lot worse. Nuclear disasters was a common fear for the US in the 40s and 50s, especially near testing sites like the ones in Nebraska. Those stories took a lot of weird turns, and in one of them, swarms of angry hornets had been exposed to radioactive material. These hornets grew to several times their normal size, were deadly to human beings, and had, you know, regular hornet temperaments. No cases of the creatures ever went on record, but that isn’t stopping me from lining my apartment with industrial bug zappers tonight.
Wait, would that only make them stronger? Oh man, I don’t get science.
That’s all for the third part of States of Horror, we hope you believed at least part of it. The fourth and FINAL entry into this series is heading your way next week, so be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep an eye out for that. For more folk scares, plus all your horror movie news, reviews, and interviews, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.