The Ozarks cover a wide swath of the southern part of America. Stretching from Arkansas to Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri, this region is full of scary stories, tall tales, ghost sightings, and creepy folklore. Much of the Ozarks was cut off from the more urban areas of the country for a long time, and that’s why the stories - regardless of their content - have a kind of gothic grandeur to them. While the appearance of a ghost punctuates many of these tales, there are also plenty of real, unsolved cases that have occurred across the Ozarks.
Whether you’re fascinated by buried treasure, ghost stories, or 19th-century buildings that hold all manner of secrets, the Ozarks have a story for you. If you’re thinking about taking a road trip to discover some of the lesser-known stories of the American South or Midwest, the Ozarks are a great place to start - just make sure you bring a flashlight.
A ghost story that haunts the Ozarks is that of a boy who disappeared around 1903 in Goodnight Hollow, MO. Stories say he had a stammer, and that he went into the woods in the middle of the night, likely starving.
Some versions of the story have the boy getting so hungry that he feasts on his baby sister, causing his mother to hang herself from a willow. Others state he waits in the center of the woods for lost hikers.
In all the stories, his mouth is smeared with viscera, and he wears a raccoon-skin cap. The boy was even the subject of the story "The Lost Boy of the Ozarks" by Steve Friedman.
Every American region has its version of Bigfoot or Sasquatch, but the most terrifying monster of them of all is the Fouke Monster that haunts the Boggy Creek. This creature has supposedly been stalking the creeks of Arkansas for decades, but the story didn't gain traction until the '60s, when two families in the area reported that it was eating their livestock.
The monster allegedly smells awful and is covered in hair. The creature so gripped the Ozarks that it became the subject of the films The Legend of Boggy Creek and Return to Boggy Creek.
Melissa "Missy" Witt was last seen in the parking lot of Bowling World in Fort Smith, AR, on December 1, 1994. Before she made it inside the bowling alley, though, something awful happened. According to former Fort Smith Police Captain Jay C. Rider, she received a blow to the head and was taken. Along with DNA samples, "car keys were found in the parking lot; and one earring was found in the parking lot."
It took 45 days for Witt's body to be discovered. Two trappers found her in the Ozark National Forest a couple of days after the police received a strange phone call in which a young man was instructed to tell the police what he "found." He refused and hung up the phone. The police believe the person who made the phone call found the body and moved it out of fear that he would be blamed.
Over 300 "persons of interest" have been pinpointed in the case, but no one has been formally charged with Witt's slaying. Hers is one of 12 unsolved homicide cases that have occurred in Fort Smith since 1985.
It's no secret that old theaters tend to be haunted by the spirits of actors who spent time treading their boards, but the Landers Theatre in Springfield, MO, is supposedly filled to the brim with specters. Chuck Rogers, the stage designer and co-technical director for the Landers, told KSMU that he never believed the ghost stories about the theater until sometime in the '90s when a spooky figure changed his mind.
Rogers saw a man standing in the lobby after the Landers was closed, and when he was asked how he got in, the man didn't say anything:
He just kind of stood there and stared at me, and I said, "Sir, the building's closed, I need to ask you to leave," and he just stood there, so I started walking towards him, and as I walked towards him, he turned around and walked towards the auditorium in which case I got a little angry that somebody was in there, so I followed him, and he just stood there and looked at me, so I was going to go over and escort him out of the building, and he turned and walked into the auditorium, and I went right around the corner to confront him, and there was nobody there.
Aside from the man in the lobby, there's supposedly a Shakespearean ghost that haunts the building, and a green orb that floats through the balconies along with the sound of babies crying.