Lesser-known spooky and/or mysterious legends?
September 30, 2009 8:11 PM   Subscribe

Tell me some scary and/or mysterious things that are local to your area, but not necessarily well-known to the rest of the world.

The Himalayas have the Yeti. Marfa, Texas, has ghost lights. Eastern Kansas has Stull Cemetery (one of the supposed Seven Gates of Hell). Latin America has the chupacabra. But I'm interested in lesser-known spooky legends. What are some of your local or regional mysterious and/or scary things that the rest of the world should know about?

My reason for asking: My son is homeschooled, and I thought this would be an interesting way to incorporate some quirky things into our geography and social studies lessons since Halloween is coming up.
posted by amyms to Grab Bag (65 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
The Lady in White of Rochester, New York.

Inspired this movie.
posted by Lucinda at 8:19 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Everglades has the Skunk Ape! (Well, not really. It's all made up.)
posted by contessa at 8:20 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Areas of San Francisco used to be cemeteries, but now they are neighborhoods full of houses. When the city relocated these cemeteries, they used lots of the old tombstones as retaining wall and drainage ditch lining in Buena Vista Park, where you can still see some of the tombstone carvings. Not exactly a secret, but odd and spooky, and kids love it - particularly when you show them the old stones in the park. This website has a bit of info and some pictures.
posted by gyusan at 8:23 PM on September 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Not sure if it fits into your model, but I live near Mount Temple, which has the dubious honour of being where Canada's most tragic mountaineering accident happened. It occurred in 1955 when an American boy scout troop decided to climb the mountain (11,600 ft tall) without adult supervision and just one ice axe. The teenagers were swept away by icy conditions during their decent and all ten died from a 600ft fall.
posted by furtive at 8:23 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hm, this falls under the general classification of werewolf or yeti/bigfoot (should it actually exist), but we've got -- among other Wisconsin cryptozoological thingies -- the Beast of Bray Road.

Then there's Rock Lake, which has some mysterious underwater structures, which some amateurs have tried to connect to pre-Columbian European culture.
posted by dhartung at 8:24 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm sure Pittsburgh has lots of things, but right now what springs to mind is the mysterious vanished B-25.
posted by tss at 8:38 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Rochester NY has a number of odd phenomena. (Hi to Lucinda, who is likely to be a FOAF.)
posted by knile at 8:40 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, and, if your son is into reading & all sorts of paranormal, I highly recommend the Readers Digest book "Mysteries of the Unexplained" (1982). It fascinated me for hours in my childhood, and in adulthood I made quite a scene at an antiques store when I found it. Check your local library.
posted by knile at 8:43 PM on September 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

There's the Devil's Tree in Bridgewater, New Jersey, which was something we talked about in middle school and high school in Hillsborough. Apparently, the tree was used for lynchings by the KKK back in colonial times, and the tree is now somehow cursed so that it kills people who try to harm it and it melts a halo of snow that falls near it. Part of the canon I grew up with included that the "heat bolder" near it, which is a stone which feels "warm to the touch," would kill anyone who touched it. (Begs the question of how people know it's warm to the touch.) Everyone I knew said they were 99% sure it was BS, but that they'd never touch the stone anyway just because they didn't want to risk it or at the very least go through all the stress of worrying it might just be true. I drive by the area it's in every day, but I have never stopped by it. Even though I like the X-Files, real life "haunted" exhibits haven't really been my thing, since there's often little that's really spooky aside from the legend, which you can hear at home just fine.

I mostly find it interesting because of the dynamic behind the heat boulder's curse. It's oddly scary, in spite of the ridiculousness, especially for a sixth grader. Plus, the conflict between the temptation to touch the rock and prove it false and the fear of dying for doing something stupid plays really well for the legend.

It's been featured in Weird NJ, though, which is kind of akin to selling out for what you're asking for, I guess.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:55 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Portland, OR has the (haunted) Shanghai tunnels right underneath downtown.
posted by churl at 8:58 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Suburban MD (P.G. County in particular) has the GOATMAN. Unlike the well-known story of the Blair Witch of suburban MD which is a cheap fictional knockoff of the Jersey Devil, the GOATMAN IS REAL.
posted by headnsouth at 8:58 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live near Sleepy Hollow.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:59 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Black Dog of the Hanging Hills has been going around Meriden, CT since the late 1800's. If you meet the dog once, it brings good luck. A second meeting brings sorrow. See it a third time and you die.

I wish I could find the original story for it. I read it as a project when I lived there, doesn't seem to have made it online though. But there's more recent "proof" of the dog's existence.
posted by saffry at 9:03 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I grew up with the Bunny Man legend.

Also nearby was a property known as Midgetville. It was the place we dared each other to visit at night while in high school.
posted by peeedro at 9:05 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sigh. It's awful, but Bubblehead Road.
posted by limeonaire at 9:07 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

PS: If you're more interested in the cryptozoological bent, there's the Jersey Devil. It's had it's own X-Files episode, which is less like selling out and more like getting played on a popular college radio station. They turned it into a bigfoot-type creature, though, so it's still a dubious honor.

It's basically a bipedal horse with bat-like wings in local legends. Check out the woodcutting in the Wikipedia link to get a better idea. To make things weirder, it was apparently the thirteenth child to a woman who somehow did something to merit it becoming a devil. As with any good legend, the details differ from telling to telling. Granted, that's not so fun for modern people, as the creature would have been born in the 1700s, meaning it'd be frail by now unless it's immortal. Luckily, there still are recent sightings (circa 2007), as with any good cryptid.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:08 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since Rochester has been mentioned twice already, I'd like to suggest Yobgorgle by Daniel Pinkwater. It's fiction rather than legend, but great fun to read and it would fit in nicely if you were talking about water monsters like Nessie and Chessie and Bessie and Tahoe Tessie.
posted by headnsouth at 9:15 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Australia has Drop Bears and Hoop Snakes. These aren't true legends because nobody (sane) actually believes in them - they're just humorous storytelling devices made up to scare tourists. You could teach your son some great critical thinking skills by getting him to research the stories people tell and figure out whether they're plausible or not.
posted by embrangled at 9:16 PM on September 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I believe the Home Town Tales podcast has just what you're looking for.
posted by JDHarper at 9:23 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dallas, TX has the Lady of White Rock Lake. Outside of Louisville, KY, there's the Pope Lick Monster.
posted by internet!Hannah at 9:54 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are a lot of interesting books about Philadelphia hauntings. My favorite story, personally is the statue of William Penn, a gift from his family now kept in the courtyard of Pennsylvania Hospital. the family was given the statue and do not know it's origins. Apparently, the statue hops off it's pedestal and walks around in there, trying to escape the wrought iron fence. But that's just one of a zillion ghost stories we have here.
posted by itsonreserve at 9:55 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I grew up in Vermont and we had many many many creepy local legends... Champ ... Memphre to name a few.
posted by dragonette1 at 10:19 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seattle's Fremont Bridge Troll
(He eats VWs, whole)
posted by Acacia at 10:39 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Australia also has the Min Min lights, the Bunyip & Yowie, and, my personal favourite, the Yara-ma-yha-who.

(What? What's not to like about a creature that eats you up, then spits you out largely unharmed but slightly shorter than before? ;-)

There's also the Bouncing Stones, which are real.
posted by Pinback at 11:47 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Ghost Ship of New Haven.
posted by sundri at 11:53 PM on September 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't live there anymore, but as a kid I saw the 'Maco Light' in New Brunswick County, North Carolina on several occasions. (As the wikipedia article states, the phenomenon no longer occurs since the removal of the railroad tracks.)

I suppose in this day and age I should not have been surprised to discover that there is a website devoted to this legend/phenomenon.
posted by trip and a half at 12:02 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Um, sorry: strike the 'New' in 'New Brunswick County'. It was a long time ago and I've done time in Jersey since then. Brunswick County.
posted by trip and a half at 12:15 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

In my town we have a haunted blast furnace. I've spent many hours there, day and night, and pretty much explored all of it, including underground tunnels. I've yet to meet a ghost. Though I did see The Cramps perform there once, and Lux was looking pretty scary.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:02 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

In central Texas, there is Woman Hollering Creek.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:09 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

My town has the Bell Witch, which is a great story-- she even messed with Andrew Jackson, so you could throw a little history in there too. Not, I suspect, that your kid will ever need to know where Adams/Clarksville, TN, are, but it's quite near Nashville so maybe he could learn where that is instead?

We have the Melungeons as well-- not spooky, but very interesting. Same with the Blue Fugates.
posted by WidgetAlley at 1:16 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are wonderful answers, with lots of interesting stuff to delve into. Thank you all so much!

It seems pretty silly to try to pick best answers among so many equally great contributions, so I'm giving everyone a favorite instead.
posted by amyms at 1:20 AM on October 1, 2009

In my home city, we have the legend of the human sausage factory - an abandoned building where people were taken, killed and butchered, and sausages made out of their flesh. It was mostly a post-World War II thing, but I've heard it told in the early 90's as well. You can read about it (and other Estonian horror stories) here.
posted by daniel_charms at 1:28 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

My husband has seen the locally well-known lights on Ghost Road in Port Perry. I don't think it is spooky but the town I grew up in has a magnetic hill.
posted by saucysault at 2:51 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Near here, we have the Brown Mountain lights.
posted by Red Loop at 3:18 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Louisville.
posted by dilettante at 4:08 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Joplin, Missouri, has its spook light.
posted by Atreides at 5:34 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Hoboken NJ was rumored to have a Monkey Man who, as we heard it, terrorized the local schools, breaking out of second story windows and running out into the nearby park. (Looking at the Weird NJ website, apparently the monkey men are fairly common in urban Jersey.)
posted by librarianamy at 5:47 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Dover Demon!
posted by bondcliff at 6:05 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

More from upstate NY: Guns of the Seneca and The Lady in Granite. While googling for the last one (I couldn't remember the exact name, just that it was in a cemetery in the Finger Lakes), I came across a blueberry season ghost. The Web has an astounding number of sites out there with accounts of paranormal activity!
posted by knile at 6:19 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

The legend of Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil in the Mississippi Delta is a fun way to get into the history of that area.
posted by dog food sugar at 6:37 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Canada, we have Ogopogo (BC) and the Tabor Light (Saskatchewan) - the latter is probably not well known but I had a grade school teacher who wrote a song about it, which is stuck in my head to this day.
posted by Gortuk at 6:47 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Suburban MD (P.G. County in particular) has the GOATMAN.

Cottage City in Prince George's Co. is also, supposedly, where the events that inspired The Exorcist took place.

Portland, OR has the (haunted) Shanghai tunnels right underneath downtown.

The Ghosts of North Portland catalogs a few more local (and lesser-known) hauntings.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:06 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

While not very specific the stories that went round the playground where I grew up of children falling down mine shafts and dying. The more creepy ones included the child surviving the fall, then wandering the mine galleries, looking fruitlessly for a way out before dying of hunger.

The extra-creepy version was told by staff at my school about a small wooded area next to the school playground, so that we wouldn't go in there!

It was a mining area, with lots of bits of mining subsidence that added credence to the stories, but I don't think that in my childhood anyone actually did fall down a mineshaft...
posted by Coobeastie at 7:19 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Montgomery, Alabama, the Red Lady is said to still pace the halls of Huntingdon College.
posted by Evangeline at 7:24 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Newport, KY, had the Squirrel Invasion of 1801.

Hopkinsville, KY, was invaded by aliens in 1955.

A UFO collided with a coal train running from Russell, Kentucky to Shelbiana, Kentucky, in 2002.

Kentucky's had a fairly elaborate history with UFOs. Apparently we're an exit off some major UFO highway, or something.

We also have a few monsters: the Pope Lick Monster, the Milton Lizard, and Charles Manson (who is frequently listed as being from Ohio, but that's only because his mother birthed him at a hospital in Cincinnati. He was in fact raised in Ashland, Kentucky). The Fairdale Bigfoot recently joined us.

Waverly Sanitorium has been mentioned, of course, as well as featured on the SyFy channel's Ghost Hunters show. But no place holds a candle to Bobby Mackey's Music World in Wilder, KY! Built on the land where Pearl Bryan was murdered, the well in the basement is reportedly a portal to Hell, and demons and ghosts haunt the site.

Really, we've got too many ghosts to list. Check out the Unusual Kentucky blog and Prairie Ghosts for details.

From the real-but-still-freaky side of the state:

The high school I graduated from looks like a UFO. No legends, but it's always fun to see cars with out-of-town plates pull over and people get out, staring. Useful to teach your son about architecture.

No one knows for sure if Ft. Knox has any gold or not. Use this little trivia fact to educate your son on the collapse of the American economy.

Contrary to recent Metafilter comments, the Commonwealth Government has not authorized a submarine to go into the Ohio out and sink casino riverboats. But the rumor persists. Useful to teach your son about irresponsbile reporting from the press.

Knob Creek Gun Range hosts the World's Largest Machine Gun Shoot. Useful when you cover the 2nd Amendment with your son.

Dr. Panayiotis Zavos in Lexington, KY is trying to clone humans. He's not trying to make any of them blue, however. Useful to teach principles of biology.

The Eckankar religion was founded by Paul Twitchell, from Paducah, KY. Edgar Cayce was from Hopkinsville. Useful when teaching about religion, religious freedoms, new religious movements, and demonstrating yet another reason atheists aren't talking out their asses.

Feuds and vendettas. Lots of them:

French-Eversole War in Hazard
Hargis-Cockrell Feud, Breathitt County
Martin-Tolliver Feud of Rowan County
Underwood-Holbrook War, Carter County
Phipps-McNeal, Baker-White, Howard-Turner, Turner-Sowders...it's a long list, and the details, if you care to research, will scare the pee out of you. Useful for teaching your son WHY WE HAVE A JUSTICE SYSTEM.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:19 AM on October 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

My hometown's ghost story involves a young woman who was hanged for murdering her child, but she may have been innocent. (When I was in high school our drama coach actually wrote a play about her for us to do.)

There's probably tons from New York City.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

In North Texas:
I grew up on Lake Worth in Fort Worth, where (especially in the late 60's) Goat Man lives. There's even a festival. Among many stories about him my favorite is the origin in which he was knocked off of the moon by the landing in '69. Aside from the fact that they hadn't actually made it to the moon yet when he was first seen, landing in the lake was supposed to have saved him after suffering severe burns during his fall through the atmosphere. This explained his partially scaly appearance.

As a kid I was heavily into cryptozoology and Goat Man is still one of the more amusing stories I know.

I didn't find any references in a brief search, but there's a haunted gravestone in Weatherford which is about 20 miles west of Lake Worth. It's supposed to glow during a full moon, which it does, but only because it's polished marble. Its main function is as a place for teenage farm girls to take boys in the middle of nowhere and pretend to be scared.
posted by cmoj at 9:34 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can't believe nobody's mentioned New Orleans yet. (Not my town but I love it.)
posted by Quietgal at 9:35 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

In West Virginia, there's the Mothman (as known from the horrible movie The Mothman Prophecies) which is a Very Big Deal in the western part of the state. You're not a true West Virginian unless you've had your picture taken with the Mothman statue.

There's also the less-famous Braxton County Monster.
posted by kerning at 9:42 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not from there, but I've always thought that the Devil's Tower in Alpine, NJ is the perfect example of teenagers running away with history.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:55 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mason Winfield deals with a lot of this sort if thing in the Western NY area.
posted by oflinkey at 10:32 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sorry, look in the books section.
posted by oflinkey at 10:32 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you teach your 6-year-old about Ogopogo, ask him what it spells backwards, and wait for the early language-learning delight.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 10:57 AM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

You really, really need to get a copy of Weird U.S.
posted by chowflap at 11:47 AM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Alaska's Lake Iliamna, our largest lake, is reputed to be the home of a Nessie-type monster.

- AJ
posted by Alaska Jack at 12:20 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, even more great responses! These will keep us busy well past Halloween. I'm envisioning using this material as a separate subject for next semester: Paranormal Investigations. It would definitely be eye-catching on my son's homeschool transcript lol. Thanks again to everyone!
posted by amyms at 12:46 PM on October 1, 2009

New Jersey has a number of "Gravity Hills" where one's car appears to roll up hill.

A little googling indicates that many other states have the same thing, so maybe not exclusive enough an answer to your question.
posted by qldaddy at 12:55 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just wanted to add, in case anyone was concerned about the age-appropriateness of the subject matter: My son is 16, so no worries about things needing to be "kid-friendly."

We've been homeschooling since 7th grade, when our sorry excuse for a school system decided that the best way to deal with Asperger's kids was to make them do their work in the hallways and then punish them with detention when they didn't keep up.

He's very intelligent, and he will immerse himself into learning about things that can truly capture his interest, but he's easily bored and jaded with the basics, so anything I can do to spice things up is very appreciated.
posted by amyms at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2009

The Janesville Doll in rural Minnesota is both spooky and mysterious. I drove by it a decade ago and still remember how much it creeped me out. Here's a video.
posted by cholstro at 5:01 PM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

The Louisiana, Missouri "Mo Mo" aka the "Hairy Dog Snatcher" and "Gurgling, Hairy Freak"

The Fouke Monster in Fouke, Arkansas

Atreides beat me to it, but the Joplin (also known as the "Hornet") Spooklight is a local delight that has been keeping folks in suspense for decades.
posted by Coyote at the Dog Show at 6:22 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Minnesota we have an abandoned mental institution, an abandoned munitions plant and an abandoned sanitarium/monastery. Also, in Wisconsin there's the House on the Rock, built by Alex Jordan Jr.:
"Both of Jordan's biographers relate a story told by Sid Boyum, which places the inspiration for the house in a meeting between Alex Jordan Sr. and Frank Lloyd Wright, at some unspecified time apparently between 1914 and 1923. Jordan Sr. drove with Boyum to Taliesin to show Wright the plans for a building, the Villa Maria in Madison, which Jordan had designed. Jordan worshiped the famous architect and hoped for his approval. Wright looked at the plans and told Jordan: "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You're not capable." Fuming, on the drive back on Highway 23, Jordan pointed to a spire of rock and told Boyum: "I'm going to put up a Japanese house on one of those pinnacle rocks and advertise it." Balousek says Wright "apparently didn't forget the incident", noting that Wright "complained publicly to Iowa County officials about the house the Jordans were building" and bought a nearby piece of property, "perhaps as a way to get back at Jordan.""
posted by Demogorgon at 8:18 PM on October 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Also sightings of the Wendigo have reportedly taken place in Roseau, MN for years.
posted by Demogorgon at 8:24 PM on October 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention the Hodag.
posted by tss at 6:19 PM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

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