American urban legends recount spooky tales with enough truth to make people wonder, "Did this really happen?" The creepiest urban legends might make those who enjoy traveling the country reconsider their passion or take additional precautions. According to stories passed around each state in the US, the country is practically crawling with aliens, cryptids, creepy clowns, and vampires.
Mystery and uncertainty keep these stories from fading away - and sometimes, they change and evolve with each telling. Whether they're urban legends inspired by actual events or ridiculous myths concocted at a campfire circle, folklore has a special place in society.
People who like a good scare can take a road trip to the top haunted houses in the US or enjoy chilling tales from the comfort of home with this list of urban legends from every state.
In 1822, the people of Huntsville, AL, built Maple Hill, one of their first cemeteries. There's a playground in the middle of the cemetery, and locals claim strange phenomena occur there late at night, such as swings that move on their own, glowing orbs, and mysterious voices and laughter.
According to legend, several children disappeared in the 1960s, and they inexplicably ended up dead at the playground. The legend of Dead Children's Playground holds a special place in the residents' culture. Thus, when builders took down play structures to make room for more graves, people complained until the city built a new playground.
The tropical waters around Bermuda may feel like the opposite of Alaska's frigid wilderness, but both places have something in common: unexplained disappearances. Thousands of tourists, residents, hikers, and airplanes have vanished without a trace in a large area of land called the Alaskan Triangle, encompassed by Juneau, Barrow, and Anchorage. In 2007, state troopers reported about 2,833 disappearances. For a state with a population of more than 700,000 people, this suggests one in about a couple hundred people disappeared in Alaska that year.
There are many theories about this creepy phenomenon, some of which involve Alaska's unpredictable and often unforgiving environment, as well as the sheer expanse of the landscape that can result in many lost travelers. According to the legends of the Native Tlingit people, the missing people likely fell victim to the Kushtaka, a race of shape-shifting otter people who lure humans away from civilization and transform their captives into one of them.
In the mid-1800s, thousands of people ventured west in hopes of finding gold and riches. Unfortunately, this dream never came true for many people due to disease, the dangers of mining, and dwindling gold deposits. According to the legend of Luana's Canyon in Arizona, one miner left for the hills one day and never returned, leaving his wife and children with nothing and no way to afford food. The family grew so malnourished and weak that the wife fell into madness, put on her wedding dress, and killed her children to save them from further suffering.
She then threw their bodies into a river and wailed on its shore until she died of starvation. The legend says her cries still echo some nights, causing locals to call the area Slaughterhouse Canyon.
In 1931, a railroad worker named Louis McBride allegedly killed his supervisor from the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The foreman had fired McBride for an infraction, and some claim McBride had intentionally manipulated a piece of track to cause a train crash. Seeking revenge for being fired, McBride killed his former boss by beating him with a railroad spike maul; authorities arrested McBride and executed him by electrocution.
Not long after McBride's death, a mysterious moving light began appearing along the train tracks, far from the highway. People have witnessed it many times since, and the TV show Unsolved Mysteries documented the phenomenon.
Though there are some scientific theories to explain the occurrence, local legends attribute the light to the ghost of McBride - or that of a different rail worker who was decapitated in an accident and allegedly continues to search for his head.