National parks are primarily places where people go to relax and unwind, but every year both campers and park rangers wind up having experiences more frightening than fun. The country is filled with haunted national parks, complete with ghost stories that will make you hunker down a little lower in your sleeping bag. From the ghosts of Yellowstone to a wailing woman in Grand Canyon National Park, from grieving mothers to mischievous old innkeepers, these national park ghost stories may have you think twice about planning your next vacation.
Badlands National Park in South Dakota has a banshee that shrieks at visitors in the Watch Dog Butte area of the park. Little is known about the origins of the female apparition who appears in tattered clothes with wild hair. Some suggest she might have been a Native American woman killed by a warring tribe. What is known is that she appears to hikers, gesturing towards them and mouthing unintelligible words. Then, after they come closer, she begins wailing and flailing her arms before disappearing in plain sight. If that's not spooky enough, she is sometimes joined by a skeletal companion who plays beautiful music in the hopes of enticing travelers to follow him to their deaths.
Grouse Lake, located in Yosemite National Park, has a spirit that cries out for help - although you shouldn't fall for his act. According to legends, a young Native American boy drowned in the lake sometime in the past (the first reports of his ghost are from the 1850s) and now he calls out to people nearby for help. However, those heroic few who dive into the lake to try save him are never heard from again.
Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky has some really cool caves to explore - and a very interesting ghost. Back in the 1800s, a slave named Stephen Bishop worked as a cave guide, giving tours to visitors. Unfortunately, he died before he could buy his way to freedom. According to legend, he was buried at the mouth of the cave and haunts it today. He enjoys popping up during tours, scaring tourists by showing himself to them and then vanishing, and blowing out their lanterns, leaving them in the dark.
One of the main visitors centers in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located on a plot of land nicknamed Hell's Half Acre. The building now housing the center once served as a tavern for canal boat captains and their employees (as well as prostitutes), where unsavory hijinks ensued. Some of these troublemakers clearly stuck around after death, as the scent of pipe smoke wafts across the near-empty parking lot, employees witness strange cold spots, and disembodied shouting voices can be heard. The ghosts of a Union soldier and his beloved also walk the towpath right outside of the visitor's center, sometimes showing themselves to people before disappearing.