Graveyard Shift

Unusual Stories And Legends About The Mississippi River 

Elizabeth Stapleton
Updated January 23, 2020 165.2k views 7 items

The Mississippi River passes through 10 different states in the US and is 2,320 miles long. With an area that large, it's no surprise that there are plenty of creepy stories about the Mississippi River. From monsters both above and in the water to hauntings to disturbing deaths, these Mississippi River stories shed a creepy light on the historic waterway.

Mississippi River legends are so varied because it runs through so many different landscapes and environments. It has also played a huge part in the formation and history of the US. It was used as a major mode of transportation during the country's western expansion, and when Union forces captured it in the Civil War, it marked a crucial turning point towards victory.

Any long, historic path, whether it's a river or a hiking trail, is bound to have a few urban legends attached to it, so check out these creepy Mississippi River stories.

Clint Walker Claims He Saw A UFO On The River In 1951
Clint Walker Claims He S... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Unusual Stories And Legends About The Mississippi River
Photo: ABC Television/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

There have been at least a few reported UFO sightings along the Mississippi River. Actor Clint Walker recalled seeing a UFO over the Mississippi in 1951 while traveling in Illinois.

Ron Quinn shared his friend Clint's story in his book, Mysterious Disappearances: And Other Strange Tales. Quinn writes that Clint "glanced off toward the river. Coming toward him, above the water, was a saucer shaped UFO. It was perhaps 25-feet across and dull silver in color." He observed it for a few seconds before it moved out of sight.

The River Is A Dumping Ground For The Supposed 'Smiley Face' Killer
Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

The Smiley Face Killer is the theory of two retired New York detectives who believe that someone (or a group) is responsible for the deaths of at least 40 college men. Nearly all of the men's deaths have been ruled accidental drownings, but some people speculate that their deaths were not accidents. They believe there is a serial slayer that preys upon intoxicated college students, drugging them and dumping them into nearby bodies of water.

The detectives came up with the theory after a smiley face was discovered near several sites where the men are suspected to have fallen (or been tossed) into the water. Christopher Jenkins, a student at the University of Minnesota, was 21 when he disappeared on Halloween. His body was found four months later in the Mississippi River still wearing his Halloween costume. 

The Mississippi River Has Been Known To Run Backwards
The Mississippi River Ha... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Unusual Stories And Legends About The Mississippi River
Photo: Unknown/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The Mississippi River has been known to reverse its direction. On the rare occasion this has happened, it is usually due to significant natural events in the area. The earliest known occurrence was in 1812 after a series of earthquakes in Missouri, but it's happened several times since then. 

Most recently, it reversed for 24 hours in 2012 as a consequence of Hurricane Issac. 

The Oldest Settlement On The River Is Said To Be Haunted
The Oldest Settlement On... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Unusual Stories And Legends About The Mississippi River
Photo: James Butters/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Natchez, MS, is known as the birthplace of Mississippi. It was settled by the French in 1716, and after the Seven Years' War, was ruled by Great Britain, Spain, and finally the United States. Years of governmental chaos earned the town a reputation for being lawless, and there are still many prominent legends about the area. 

Said to be the most haunted city of Mississippi, there have been reports of paranormal activity at many locations in the city. There are stories of witches dancing along the Natchez Trace (a long trail that winds through several states), burning every piece of land their feet touch. Natchez-Under-the-Hill is one of the oldest parts of the town and is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts. But the spookiest spot in Natchez is Longwood, an unfinished octagonal mansion.

The construction of Longwood was halted by the Civil War. Dr. Haller Nutt, who commissioned the home from architect Samuel Sloan, lived in the only part of the house that was completed - the basement. Locals call the place "Nutt's Folly," and rumor has it that you can still see the ghosts of Dr. Nutt and his wife lurking around the property.