Welcome back fiends! Tonight we conclude our journey through the United States by way of its creepiest folklore in a little series we’ve been calling States of Horror. If you haven’t checked out the stories from the first 37 states in the country, head over to the States of Horror page now and catch up! But if you’re already up to speed, then read on.
This is our final entry into the series, and as fate would have it, some of the creepiest tales have been saved for last…
If you’ve ever doubted that there’s a shadow government running the United States, check out the Denver Airport to be re-convinced. The airport is a conspiracy theory hub, due largely to the strange choices in the design of the structure. Cryptic murals adorn the walls of the building, murals that seem to depict a terrible apocalyptic scenario and the rise of a murderous fascist government. Then, there are rumors of underground tunnels running beneath the structure, said to be bunkers for the elite in the upcoming nuclear armageddon. Finally, there’s a massive blue horse statue outside, nicknamed “Blucifer,” whose eyes glow red when light strikes them. So what is Denver airport trying to tell us? Well, no one is quite sure. But it definitely doesn’t look like good news.
Occasionally, US cryptids take on a kind of mystical quality. They’re not always weird species of apes like Sasquatch or lizard like Chupacabra. Take, for example, the legend of Miniwashitu. It is a kind of sea serpent, one that is covered in red hair, sports a single horn and single eye to match. Seeing one would obviously terrify you, and probably make for a great story to tell your friends. However, according to legend, that’s not all a Miniwashitu would do. The creature is a kind of North Dakotian banshee; seeing one is a portent of your death. The legends of this monster don’t clarify how you die, although I’m guessing “getting mauled by a furry snake rhino” is a safe bet.
Beware reader, this story gets pretty dark. In South Dakota, stories have long existed of a tall, malevolent force called Walking Sam. Walking Sam seems to fit the description of a “shadow person,” a spirit that takes the form of an elongated, translucent humanoid figure that have been a part of horror lore for years. But the tragedy attributed to Walking Sam is anything but lore. Walking Sam is said to influence people toward suicide, and for the believers in Pine Ridge, South Dakota in 2015, his influence was behind several thousand real-world suicide attempts. Thankfully, many of the attempts were stopped before anyone was hurt, but that doesn’t mean the Walking Sam story should be ignored. Whether a real entity or just a resonant folk legend, there’s a darkness in the Walking Sam tale that has real consequences.
Along a dark and lonely stretch of Highway 87 in Montana, several drivers have reported a haunting, otherworldly experience. These travelers will be driving along, perfectly safe and aware of their surroundings when suddenly, something smashes into their windows. For a terrifying second, these drivers will see that what they’ve suddenly hit is a man, adorned in denim and sporting long, black hair. But when the drivers check on the man they think they’ve injured, there will be no sign of him on the road. In fact, there will be no sign of damage to the car either. The only thing folks will remember of the Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake is a second of roadway panic… and an image of the same man people have been seeing for decades.
I’ll be honest, this was a difficult choice to make. There are a lot of great folk tales and urban legends out of Wisconsin. But The Bottomless Pit, also unfortunately called “Mel’s Hole,” really stuck out to me as unexplainable phenomena. Rumored to be somewhere in Ellensburg, Washington, this paranormal landmark is exactly what the name implies: a hole that simply never fills up, no matter what you put in it. However, the legends around Mel’s Hole (yikes) don’t stop there. Visitors to the site have claimed to see a strange column of blackness rising out of the pit, accompanied by a cool breeze and an aura that wards off all surrounding wildlife. But the strangest tale to come out of Mel’s Hole (like, pick literally any other name) is the story of a Washington farmer and his dog. According to the legend, this unnamed farmer accidentally killed his dog in an undisclosed way. Wanting to quickly be rid of the body and move on, the farmer tossed the dog in the pit. Later that evening, the farmer hears a scratching on his door. HIs dog, it seemed, had returned home.
Be careful if you ever get the urge to go camping in the Owyhee Mountain Range. Make sure to keep an eye to the ground, which here I mean pretty literally. That’s because the worst threat in that area, if you believe the stories, averages a height of only about two feet. These mysterious, murderous dwarves are reportedly incredibly strong, much stronger than their human relatives, but that’s far from the scariest thing about them. According to the legends of these creatures, which date back hundreds of years, these dwarves survive off of any meat they can find. That includes livestock and wildlife, of course, but it’s human meat they find the most delicious…
US history is heavily influenced by its bodies of water, and the same goes for its urban legends. Outside Alcova, Wymoming, there is a folk tale that’s as far-reaching and deep as the Platte River its set on. According to local legend, there is a ghost ship that rides the waters along the formerly busy riverway. The Death Ship, as its been called, always precedes a death of someone that sees it, like the Miniwashitu above. Strangely, however, not everyone that sees the Death Ship dies. What’s even stranger is that there’s always the same scene happening on the deck of the ghost ship. If witnesses are to be believed, the crew of the damned vessel crowd together on the main deck, hovering over a body covered in a sheet. Who could this corpse be? The old captain of the vessel? The person who cursed the ship to eternally sail? They’re all possible, but whoever it is, it as especialy sad type of ghost. Not only has this person been lost to history, but to legend itself.
Skinwalker Ranch isn’t a single folktale, but a veritable encyclopedia of them. The ranch is a real place, a nearly five-hundred-acre plot of land in rural Utah, but one could be forgiven for thinking that Skinwalker Ranch is a destination straight out of the X-Files. Stories across the paranormal spectrum stream out of Skinwalker, from UFO encounters to real-life werewolves to even more abstract, unearthly goings on that push the limits of human understanding. The area is currently owned by millionaire and renowned UFO investigator Robert Bigelow, but don’t think that he’s letting just anybody in right now. The area is Bigelow’s restricted private property, and even though that might frustrated those of us who are interested in seeing evidence of the paranormal, perhaps it’s a good thing people aren’t let around it. The werewolves, after all, are bulletproof.
Unlike Skinwalker Ranch, you can visit the location of Tulsa’s Hex House. However, what you’ll find there are only a few steps of the old estate remaining, as most of it was torn down years ago. Still, it’s not the physical remains that preserve the legacy of Tulsa’s Hex House, it’s the terrible history that happened within. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, a woman named Carolann Smith found a way to force two innocent women to do her bidding, essentially keeping them as slaves for years. According to the sensational reports once Smith was discovered, the women were somehow “hexed” into serving Smith, providing for her, and even signing away all their savings in her name. Eventually, Smith was arrested, her unwilling servants released and her home destroyed. And the cause of Smith’s downfall? She had been convicted of tax fraud, proving that no matter where she got her powers, they were no match for the IRS.
The legend of the Death Waltz begins in Fort Union, a US Army outpost in what would eventually become New Mexico. It focuses on a young army lieutenant and his fiancé, who planned to live together there after the army finished a skirmish (read: land theft) in the area. However, the army lieutenant died in battle and his fiancé eventually moved on, becoming engaged to someone else. At her wedding, the corpse of her former fiancé appeared, hypnotizing the crowd and kidnapping the poor woman. As the band was cruelly forced to play an evil ballad, the ghost proceeded to literally dance the woman to death, robbing her of any happiness she might have had with her new love. Is this story true? No one knows. Is it spooky? Yes. Is it proof that toxic masculinity continues beyond death? Absolutely.
If there’s anything creepier than every urban legend we’ve covered on this list, it’s Reddit. And that’s where we find our Arizona-based tale, thanks to Reddit user ExplodingTacos14. The story is of a Dutch immigrant named Jacob Waltz, who discovered a massive copper depository along the Phoenix trails in the 1800s. Jacob died while mining the metal, as did everyone who tried to follow in his footsteps. Now, the trail he used is reportedly cursed by spirits of the Native Americans who lived there, angry at miners like Jacob for stealing their land. Many who visit these trails don’t make it back, presumably dying of exposure or accident in the unforgiving area.
Although, there is a chance that there’s an even worse fate awaiting the unsuspecting travelers of the Phoenix Trails where Jacob once mined. After all, we have no way of knowing what happened to these missing hikers. Their bodies are never recovered.
Sorry Disney fans, this underwater woman is not the one you remember from The Little Mermaid, though she may be just as terrifying as the live-action remake is shaping up to be. The Qalupalik is another part-cryptid, part-mythological creature that hails from the far north and the folklore of the Inuit people. She is said to be half-woman, half-fish, have green hair, claws, and a backpack specially designed for kidnapping children. All that said, Qalupalik does share one trait with The Little Mermaid of your childhood. Both of them, say the stories, have an enticing singing voice. Of course, Ariel never used hers to lure children onto a dinner plate, but the point is they’ve both got talent.
It was in a drive-in theater restroom, in 1959, that the last recorded sighting of a mujina took place. The story goes that just outside of Kahala, Hawaii, a woman popped in to a bathroom after seeing a movie. She approached one of the mirrors and, next to her, a redheaded woman was brushing her hair. The next thing she knew, the first woman was in a local hospital, having gone into a violent state of shock, screaming incoherent nonsense about what she saw. The doctors attending her could only make sense of part of what she was saying, but they stuff they understood chilled them to the core. She got a clear look at the redhead, the crazed victim told them. She was missing a face.
That wraps up our little state-by-state tour through US folklore, but let me assure you dear reader, I have barely scratched the service of what this country has to offer. Wherever you live, from the redwood forests to the gulfstream waters and beyond, is full of campfire tales and eerie folklore. They’re a part of your home as much as the grass, the water, or the sand, and you only need to ask the folks around you to tell them. So to my American friends: as you celebrate this Fourth of July weekend, make sure to keep the campfire lit when the fireworks end and the music dies down. You never know what tales you might hear.