Welcome to creepy New York - a land of lake monsters and wild men, of hook-handed killers and flying blob monsters. There's more to New York than just the city - in fact, it's a whole state, and it's full of its share of strange stories. Many of the urban legends from New York have served as the inspiration for novels, movies, TV shows, and even urban legends in other states. This list looks at some of the strangest urban legends and ghost stories from New York state, from the ghostly tales of its original Dutch settlers to the weird science yarns of its modern inhabitants.
New York is the birthplace of many of America's favorite urban-legend themes. The night-stalking killer with a hook for a hand? Yeah, that started in New York.
The hook-handed boogeyman of Staten Island's urban mythology is called Cropsey. It used to be said that Cropsey haunted the area at night and would drag wayward boys and girls to their deaths in the ruins of the old Seaview Hospital. Parents would spook their children with tales and warnings about Cropsey: "Go to bed early, or Cropsey will get you" - that sort of thing.
But the Cropsey legend turned all too real in the 1970s, when serial killer Andre Rand allegedly began kidnapping the children of Staten Island. Though a suspect in five cases, Rand was ultimately only convicted for two of them, which was enough to earn him 50 years to life in prison.
Hell Gate Bridge is a a vast steel and stone construction that straddles the East River in NYC - and more than lives up to its name as it is haunted by ghostly trains that carry the souls of the dead.
Local legend tells that the trains carry the souls of people who drowned (or had their bodies dumped) in the River. People who climb the bridge will often see strange lights from trains that never actually arrive, or spectral locomotives dragging cars full of lost souls. Mafia victims, old Dutch explorers, and suicide victims all sit next to each other in the carriages, sharing one last ride to the hereafter. Or perhaps their souls on trapped on the trains in a private sort of hell. Either way, the story is no less unnerving for its anachronisms.
Lake Champlain is the sixth-largest freshwater lake in North America, straddling the borders of New York (on the west), Vermont (to the east), and Quebec, Canada (to the north). Its shores are home to numerous quaint New England towns and tourist hotspots, and the region brims with a rich history stretching back to pre-European settlement.
The waters of Lake Champlain are hundreds of feet deep in some places, and connected to the Atlantic Ocean through a network of rivers and smaller lakes, providing plenty of opportunities for mysterious swimming beasts to make their way into the area. And this seems to have been going for a very long time, as there is at least one monster known to be living in Lake Champlain.
Local Native American cultures - including both the Abenaki and the Iroquois - shared legends of a lake monster with European explorers very early on, a creature that the Abenaki called Tatoskok. The earliest recorded sighting of this beast is ascribed to none other than Samuel de Champlain himself, the man after whom the lake is named. In 1609, he reportedly witnessed "a 20-foot serpent thick as a barrel and a head like a horse."
Encounters with "Champ," or "Champy" as the monster is now called, continue to the present day, but perhaps the most famous sighting occurred in 1977 when Sandra Mansi photographed the monster while having a picnic with friends and family. In the photo, Champ looks an awful lot like his more famous colleague Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. However, it's important to note that he's been around a lot longer - Nessie was first spotted in 1933, more than 300 years after Samuel de Champlain's encounter with Champ. So, by all rights, Champ should be more famous.
If you've seen Stranger Things on Netflix, a lot of this is going to sound familiar. And there's a good reason for that: the strange things that happened, and may still be happening, at Montauk, NY, were the inspiration for Stranger Things.
Montauk is a long-time center of weirdness. Its old military base, Camp Hero (now abandoned and serving as a state park), is said to have been the site of top-secret, black-book experiments in the 1960s and through the 1980s that involved alien contact, psychic experiments with children, and even time travel.
Most of what we "know" about these bizarre happenings comes from the accounts of Preston Nichols, an electrical engineer who claims he worked at the site during that period of time. According to Nichols, the facility was built to turn kidnapped children into psychic soldiers, using technology supplied from alien spacecrafts. Nichols says he interacted with at least three different alien species at Camp Hero, and that the research teams working there ripped a hole in space-time in 1983.
No word yet on whether a kid named Eleven escaped from them.