Have you been hearing bumps in the night? Have you seen flickers of light in the sky? How about shadows in rural forests? You’re not alone. Americans have been seeing odd phenomena and coming up with scary stories and legends to explain them for centuries. We’ve gathered some of the best, most obscure, and creepiest urban legends in the United States to spook your friends! But be warned: Our list of lesser-known and scary urban legends by state might have you checking your own backyard.
Some urban myths and legends veer toward the ridiculous and silly, while some are terrifying and true, or close to it. These are some of the scariest urban legends in every state, some based on real stories.
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American urban legends are some of scariest stories ever — we’ve invented Bigfoot and the Mothman, and we even saw witches in our own neighbors in Salem. Here’s some American folklore that you may not have heard yet, from the tricky Wendigo to the close-to-truth Cropsey to the horrifying Boo Hags. America is a melting pot of culture, and nowhere is it more obvious than our creepy urban legends. Stories like this might keep you up at night, not because of the fanciful urban myths about monsters and witches but because of the grains of haunting truth …
Without further ado, here is our list of urban legends in every state!
Alabama: Dead Children’s Playground
During late night hours, swings move by themselves as spirits of buried children come to play.
Shape-shifting creatures that are a cross between an otter and a man, the Kushtaka make noises that mimic children and wives to lure fishermen, though they are sometimes helpful tricksters.
Arizona: Slaughterhouse Canyon
One day, a father failed to return to his cabin during the 1800s gold rush, and his family starved. The mother went insane, put on her wedding dress, and chopped her children up. Today, you can still hear her cries for forgiveness.
Arkansas: Dog Boy
A werewolf-like ghost walks on all fours and haunts his childhood home. This myth is based on the sad story of a real man, Gerald Bettis, who was rumored to experiment on stray animals and reportedly abused his elderly parents.
California: The Dark Watchers
Featureless dark silhouettes, often with brimmed hats or walking sticks, stare down travelers during twilight and dawn in the Santa Lucia Mountains. John Steinbeck briefly mentioned them in “Flight.” They should not be addressed or acknowledged.
Colorado: Riverdale Road
Riverdale Road is home to a host of legends: While traveling down the road during a full moon, one can see the hanging bodies of slaves on the trees. They have their own Lady in White. But one section of road led to a mansion that contained a satanic cult. The gate to hell itself is reportedly inside the chicken coop.
Connecticut: Annabelle the Demonic Doll
The demonic doll in The Conjuring and Annabelle is inspired by a real-life Raggedy Ann doll supposedly inhabited by the spirit of a dead girl, which was given to two demonologists, Ed and Lorraine Warren, after some extremely malicious paranormal activity.
Delaware: Corpse Light
There’s no lighthouse in Cape Henlopen, but there is a phantom light. It crashed the ship Devonshireman on Christmas of 1665, and more than 200 men died. Allegedly, the light is a curse from a local Native American tribe after British soldiers slaughtered attendees at a wedding ceremony.
Florida: The Devil’s Chair
The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is full of odd ghosts, but one chair supposedly is a favorite for the big cheese himself. According to local lore, if you sit in it, he’ll whisper horrible things in your ear, forever changing you, and if you leave a beer on his chair overnight, he’ll drink it, sometimes even if the can is still sealed.
Georgia: The Cursed Pillar
After a preacher was told he couldn’t deliver a sermon next to the pillar, he declared that the whole town would be destroyed, and the pillar would be the only thing left standing. A freak tornado later destroyed most of Augusta, leaving the pillar still standing.
The deadly ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors march over the waters, chanting and blowing conch shells; if you hear them, run!
Idaho: Water Babies of Massacre Rocks
Sit by the river and you can hear the sounds of babies crying — they’re the babies that mothers were forced to kill during a famine rather than see them starve. Some say that these babies evolved into tricky creatures with fins and gills.
Illinois: Ghost Elephants
A real-life 1918 train wreck of circus cars leading to troop deaths has popularized the legend that elephants had to be buried where they fell. Now, supposedly, the circus still takes place at night in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Indiana: The Green-Clawed Beast in the Ohio River
With hairy arms, clawed hands, and green skin, this human-sized creature grabs unsuspecting women. (Some believe the specific incident that inspired the legend was an extraterrestrial visit related to the Kentucky Goblins sightings, which happened on the same day.)
Iowa: Villisca Axe Murder House
Based on real events, this 1912 cold case features a whole family (two parents, four children, and two house guests) being bludgeoned to death in their sleep. Since then, the house has been the source of odd paranormal activity, such as a ghost hunter stabbing himself in the chest in 2014.
Kansas: The Gateway to Hell
One of the several gateways to hell in America, the stairs in an old demolished church open to the other side on Halloween and the spring equinox.
Kentucky: The Kentucky Goblins
The Kelly-Hopkinsville encounter was a supposed extraterrestrial appearance of small, goblin-like, green “hairless children” with three toes. While most skeptics easily dismissed them as owls, there has been a new wave of recent sightings of them on the other side of Kentucky.
Louisiana: The Rougarou
A pale white werewolf-like creature prowls the swamps and often stars in stories to encourage children to behave, such as hunting down Catholics who don’t practice Lent.
Maine: Colonel Buck’s Tomb
After a woman became pregnant with Col. Buck’s son, he forced her out to take care of the babe alone, later having her burned as a witch. The son ran off with the witch’s leg that had rolled out of the bonfire, and he later cursed the colonel’s tomb, which now bears the stain of a leg, despite several attempts to clean, replace, or remove it.
Maryland: The Goatman
This legend stirred so much enthusiasm that the USDA at one point had to formally deny the creation of the Goatman in their Beltsville Research Agricultural Center. The half-man, half-goat creature likes to chase down teenagers in Lovers’ Lane and distract drivers on Crybaby Bridge.
Tiny gray tricksters resembling humanoid porcupines will supposedly lure people off cliffs or trap them in sand in the swampy regions of Massachusetts.
Michigan: The Nain Rouge
Out of the various Michigan urban legends, this one seems both ridiculous and feasible. Detroit is haunted by a small impish hobgoblin who predicts misfortune and has cursed the city. He was seen in the 1805 fire, which nearly destroyed the whole city, the 1968 riots, and the 1976 ice storm. Today, a banishment parade is thrown yearly.
This is one of the oldest legendary monsters, dating back to the folklore of Native Americans, who hunted these 15-foot-tall shape-shifting creatures even into the early 20th century. Anyone who resorts to cannibalism and tastes human flesh will become one.
This story is an odd myth — it’s about a disease! Supposedly, a horrible outbreak wrecked much of a rural Mississippi town and was later covered up by the government and medical community. If a man ingested too much lead, he would produce a smell that would cause a hormonal reaction in women, who’d descend into mad homicidal fits.
Missouri: Zombie Road
Stories about strange deaths along the road as far back as Native American times and drownings in the nearby river made it a fun haunted spot for teenagers for decades, but many of them have perished in strange accidents, too. Today, dark shadows follow you here, seen only out of the corner of your eye.
Montana: The Phantom Hitchhiker of Black Horse Lake
A Native American man with long black hair wearing an outdated, baggy jacket and jeans collides with cars, suddenly appearing on their windshield, only for him to vanish without a dent. He’s also been known to hitch a ride and chase cars at inhuman speeds.
Nebraska: Radioactive Hornets
This is a recent urban legend: After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the locals of Nebraska believed that mutant hornets from that area had grown to four times their normal size and were running rampant locally.
Nevada: The Spiteful Mermaid of Pyramid Lake
While Area 51 gets all the fame and glory for its supposed alien autopsies, fewer people know about the curse on Pyramid Lake, which happened after a Paiute man fell in love with a mermaid. His tribe rejected her and told him to throw her back in. She cursed the lake, brought the settlers, and ignited a war. (Talk about spite!) In modern times, the lake has drowned locals, spiting them out as far as Lake Tahoe.
New Hampshire: Goody Cole
Eunice “Goody” Cole was blamed for numerous local tragedies and accused of witchcraft twice. Legend says the locals staked her heart to make sure she wouldn’t bother them, but they continued to blame numerous events on her. Some say she still pays a visit from time to time.
New Jersey: The Ghost Boy of Clinton Road
Hiding under one of the bridges of Clinton Road is a ghost boy — but don’t worry, he’s pretty nice and helpful! If you throw a coin into the river, he’ll return it to you.
New Mexico: La Mala Hora
If you’re traveling alone in country crossroads after dark, avoid this demon, which appears as a woman. She drives people insane, and if you see her, either you or someone you love will die.
New York: Cropsey
This escaped mental patient with a hook for a hand would snatch children in Staten Island, but the old legend became horrifyingly real when a killer named Andre Rand was caught in the 1970s.
North Carolina: The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro
Gruesome deaths in the 1950s of mutilated livestock and dogs drained of blood led to reports of something vaguely feline and huge living near Bladenboro.
North Dakota: The Miniwashitu
The red bison-like water monster of the Missouri River travels upstream to break ice. Anyone who sees it alone in the daytime will go insane.
Ohio: The Loveland Frog
Out of the various ghastly Ohio urban legends, this one may be the strangest: A humanoid, 4-foot frog apparently hangs out on the sides of roads in Loveland at night, and it will stand up on its hind legs, wave a wand over its head, and shoot sparks to deter humans.
Oklahoma: The Men in Black at Shaman’s Portal
Beaver Dunes Park is the Bermuda Triangle of Oklahoma, with weird disappearances dating back as far as Coronado’s time, when his men disappeared in flashes of green light. In recent times, archaeologists have been chased away from the site by mysterious government officials. According to superstition, anyone who learns anything about what’s truly buried underneath the sand disappears.
Oregon: The Bandaged Man
The ghost of a logger who died in a grisly sawmill accident attacks cars and terrorizes teenagers. The smell of rotting flesh predicts a visit.
Pennsylvania: Charlie No-Face
Rumors of a murderous faceless man roaming the streets at night were based on a real-life person who’d suffered an extreme accident that destroyed his face. He wasn’t, as it turns out, a murderer; he walked at night because he wanted to get fresh air and be left alone. The legends stuck, however.
Rhode Island: Mercy Brown, The Vampire
Outbreaks of tuberculosis caused a vampire scare in 1892 when a full family contracted the disease; while most of her family’s bodies decomposed, Mercy’s body seemed to be frozen in time, making people suspect her to be a vampire. While it was obviously superstition, the legend persisted.
South Carolina: Boo Hags
Gullah folklore tells us about evil souls who stay behind after death and become skinless, vampire-like witches who take other people’s skin for a “ride.”
South Dakota: Walking Sam
A 7-foot-tall specter whose job it is to collect the souls of suicide victims stalks lonely, depressed adolescents. Perhaps he’s an explanation of the alarmingly high suicide rates in the area or the few recent attempts at mass suicide.
Tennessee: Skinned Tom
Don’t woo the wrong lady, like young Tom did. He ended up getting skinned alive by a beautiful woman’s angry husband. His bloody ghost hangs around Lovers’ Lane to punish cheaters.
Texas: The Candy Lady
Texas urban legends about monsters like the chupacabra or sites like the Alamo are creepy, sure, but have you heard about the lesser-known legend of an evil woman who lures children with candy? Candy left out on the windowsill is meant to lure children so a spectral woman can pull out their teeth, kidnap them, or stab them in the eyes. What’s creepier is that this story may have been linked to a real-life person, Clara Crane, who killed her husband by poisoning candy and was later released from an institution.
Utah: The Curse on Escalante Petrified Forest
Anyone who takes petrified wood from the state park risks bad luck, job loss, sickness, and accidents. Park managers claim they get dozens of packages every year sending back chunks of wood from regretful thieves.
Vermont: Deep-Frozen Folks
Frugal Vermonters facing extreme winters have been said to freeze their elderly and thaw them in the spring. Is this more scary or utilitarian? Or both?
Virginia: The Bunny Man
On Halloween many years ago, a bus of transferring asylum inmates crashed, with one of the inmates escaping. For years, skinned, half-eaten rabbits were found hanging from the trees near “Bunny Bridge,” even after the supposed culprit died. Eventually, he allegedly attacked humans, too, leaving bodies strung up over the bridge.
Washington: Caddy of Cadboro Bay
While the legendary Bigfoot gets a great deal of attention in this state, you might not have heard of Caddy (short for Cadborosaurus), the local sea monster hanging out in Cadboro Bay.
West Virginia: The White Things
Mothman might be the more popular mystery, but rural West Virginia is also home to mysterious dog-like creatures the size of a lion with white shaggy fur.
Wisconsin: The Rhinelander Hodag
An ugly, stumpy critter with a spiked tale, the hodag features in Paul Bunyan stories and reportedly likes to eat bulldogs.
Wyoming: The Platte River Ship
Through thick mist, usually in February, a ship can be seen sailing the Platte River, its phantom crew frosted over. On the deck, you’ll allegedly see the body of someone you know or yourself. Either way, the person’s death will come soon.