Many national parks are inherently creepy resulting from the vast openness, from deep weeds, and from the presence of deadly creatures. But there’s something else. Because of their grand nature, it’s easy to see how they might attract epic tragedies. Where there are great tragedies, there are great ghosts. From early explorers whose lives turned to absolute garbage in the wilderness to illegitimate lovers crazy enough to toss their kids in rivers like skipping stones, here are some of our favorite national park hauntings.
It seems that most ghost stories and haunted places are found where terrible tragedies occurred, which makes Gettysburg basically ghost Disneyland. Devil’s Den is the name given to a rocky outcropping which was used by artillery and snipers. Countless visitors to the park have reported seeing a barefooted ghost, known as the “Tennessean” or “The Hippie”. He carries a rifle and speaks to visitors, frequently pointing and saying “What you’re looking for is over there.”
Haunting a cave is a classic ghost move and if you’re going to do it, you may as well choose a really huge, freaking cave. Mammoth Cave National Park receives thousands of visitors a year to explore it’s never-ending caverns by guided tour. It’s a practice that has gone on for centuries, plenty of time to get some solid ghosts lined up. The most famous sighting is that of Stephen Bishop, a slave who operated as a guide for many years. Bishop intended to buy his own and his wife’s freedom and move away, but it never happened. Seeing the great potential for a haunting, cave staff buried him directly in front of the cave entrance. Perfect. Now he shows up on tours, bringing many visitors within seconds of a stroke, blowing out lanterns and engaging in classic ghost hijinks.
The remote North Rim of the Grand Canyon is the ideal location to accidentally defecate out of pure fear. It’s most popular haunting story is that of La Llurona, the Wailing Woman. Guests and rangers have reported hearing a woman wailing in the night, only to find no one around. Some have even witnessed a glowing figure disappearing down canyon paths at night. Supposedly, it is the ghost of an Indian woman who drowned her two children after her lover, and the father of her children, married another woman.
The Stanley Hotel
While not technically inside park boundaries, the Stanley Hotel is adjacent and surrounded by Rocky Mountain National Park. More importantly, it’s haunting is said to be Stephen King’s inspiration for The Shining, possibly the greatest horror movie ever made. The hauntings here are varied, from hearing sounds of a party in the ballroom only to find it empty to seeing apparitions floating over beds. It’s a terrifying place to spend the night, but the views are great!