Crater Lake in Oregon is considered to be one of the most breathtaking places in the United States. It is the deepest lake in the nation, and its waters are described as unnaturally blue and crystal clear. But despite the beauty or the lake and surrounding park, there are several creepy Crater Lake tales floating around, involving everything from ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, and a giant lake monster, to unsettling accounts of disappearances, suicides, and murders. Here are 12 of the weird things that have happened at Crater Lake.
There Are Literal Skeletons Haunting the Park's Past
Supernatural occurrences aside, Crater Lake has a rather extensive history of accidental deaths, suicides, and even murders. In some cases, the bodies are irretrievable, lost in inaccessible wooded areas. This has resulted in more than a handful of skeletons cropping up over the years. Finn J.D. John of Off Beat Oregon details a few of these incidents, such as the story of a World War II fighter pilot who crashed in the park shortly after the end of the war, only to have his skull discovered 30 years later by a park ranger who got lost looking for the plane's wreckage.
UFO Sightings Are a Common Occurrence There
There have been numerous UFO sightings in the area throughout the years, including an infamous case from the '90s. From the website UFO Info: "On Tuesday, February 4, 1997, at 6:15 p.m., a private pilot flying south of Diamond Lake Junction, Oregon (population 150), east of Crater Lake National Park, saw 'three discs' speeding across the dark sky, pursued by 'several jet interceptors.'" There were also reports of a sonic boom later that same evening, one so massive it set off car alarms all over the area.
Mysterious "Burps" Plagued Crater Lake in 1945
Crater Lake formed from volcanic activity ages ago. While the volcano itself has long been silent, allowing the park to become a popular tourist destination, there are remnants of its former fiery self still bubbling below the surface.
This became apparent in 1945 when the lake began "burping up" "bluish-gray clouds of smoke or gas that mushroomed over the lake several times from September to December," according to Kernan Turner from a 2009 public radio broadcast. Though these gas clouds were initially a mystery to spectators, in the 1980s scientists discovered hydrothermal vents at the bottom of Crater Lake. This discovery, combined with several earthquakes that rocked park residents in the 1990s, suggests that the Crater Lake volcano might not be totally dead.
The Klamath People's Version of the Devil Lives There
The Klamath people, indigenous to the area, hold Crater Lake sacred. They see it as the crossroads between the Spirit of Above, called Skell, and the Spirit of Below, called Llao, a fiery and dark figure - basically, the Devil.
According to Andrea Lankford, author of Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America's National Parks, "... Llao and Skell fought gory battles here. Llao ripped Skell's heart from his chest, and Skell retaliated by dismembering Llao and throwing the body parts into the lake. Hideous monsters gobbled up everything but Llao's head, but the lake still holds Llao's spirit. When stirred, he may brew up storm clouds. When angered, he may appear in the form of a giant crayfish that climbs up out of the lake, snatches people off of the rim of the crater that surrounds the lake, and drags them down into the water."
Bigfoot Calls Crater Lake His Home
Bigfoot, also known as Sasquatch, reportedly lives in many areas around the US, but the Pacific Northwest region, especially in Oregon, reports more Bigfoot sightings each year than any other state. Crater Lake is, of course, no exception. Week in Weird writer Cody Meyocks states, "Bigfoot himself is known to show up here from time to time. Rangers once reported following a large, dark, putrid-smelling creature through the woods until it started throwing pinecones at them."
Crater Lake is also the spot for two supposed Bigfoot deaths - one by car, though the body was whisked away by government agents (no word on whether Mulder and/or Scully were among them); the other by train. In the latter case, the incident was not reported at the time because the men responsible were apparently drinking on the job.
The Spontaneous Suicide
From the Crater Lake Institute's website, reporting on an incident from 1947: "A Park visitor, Mr. Cornelius suddenly hands his startled wife his billfold and watch as he sits down on a snow chute near the old Lake Trail, and slides to the Lake attempting suicide. Since the fall only broke his leg, Cornelius crawls to the water’s edge and drowns himself."
No other information on this Mr. Cornelius could be found online. Just what was it that inspired him to commit suicide in such a grisly and painful fashion?
A Log Has Been Floating in the Water for Over 100 Years
Dubbed the Old Man of the Lake, this tree stump, most likely a hemlock, has been floating vertically in Crater Lake since 1896. Now sun-bleached and bone-white, the Old Man has confounded park officials all these years, as it not only bobs in the water, but is capable of traveling four miles in one day, and is also buoyant enough to support the weight of a person standing on top of it.
However, John Salinas offered up a reasonable explanation for the Old Man's physics-defying ways in 1996: "Some have suggested that when the Old Man slipped into the lake, he had rocks bound within his roots. This might naturally make him float vertically, though no rocks appear to still be there. At any rate, the submerged end could become heavier over time through being waterlogged. Acting like the wick on a candle, the shorter upper portion of the Old Man remains dry and light. This apparent equilibrium allows the log to be very stable in the water."
Ghost Camp Fires Are Known to Spring Up
According to park ranger Jan Kirwan, she and other officials have witnessed spontaneous campfires on the lake's Wizard Island that seem to ignite out of nowhere. She details one such instance, as told by National Parks Traveler writer "haunted hiker":
"One evening Ranger Kirwan was patrolling the roads below the rim when she spotted ten people standing around a roaring fire, camping illegally in the forest far from the designated campground. The ranger parked her car and entered the woods to contact the illegal campers, but when she reached the site, she could find no people and no campfire. Somewhat distressed by the campers’ furtive behavior, the ranger got behind a tree and called for backup. The two rangers searched all over, but they still couldn’t find any sign of the 'roaring campfire' or the ten campers Ranger Kirwan had seen just moments before."