Six Seriously Spooky Tales from National Parks

It’s spooky season! Time to pull out the candles, watch your favorite horror flicks, and lean into the eerie dark of night. And if you’re a National Park lover – or simply a fan of creepy encounters – you may consider curling up with the following scary tales. While this roundup isn’t the most disturbing of what we’ve found (I may have nightmares after this research!), these aren’t quite bedtime stories for the kiddos.

So ready for the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end? Grab a goblet of your favorite drink, turn down the lights, and read on, if you dare…

Grand Canyon National Park – Wailing Woman

Around a century ago, tragedy struck near the Grand Canyon Lodge and North Rim Campground on the Transept Trail. A father and son went for a hike while the mother stayed behind. Storms rolled in, making the pathway too slick. The hiking pair fell to their deaths in the canyon, their bodies never to be recovered. The woman, distraught with grief, searched for her husband and son to no avail. It became too much, and she took her own life. 

Throughout all these years, many hikers and campers around Transept Trail can still hear her cries on stormy nights, forever searching for her beloveds. Dozens of reports have said they’ve also seen an apparition of the ‘Wailing Woman’ in a white dress with small blue flowers along the trail.

Sunset at Arizona-Grand Canyon-North Rim-Transept Trail near Bright Angel Point.
Transept Trail in Grand Canyon

Gettysburg National Battlefield

It’s said that Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is one of the most haunted areas of the country. With thousands of casualties between the Union and Confederate armies, Gettysburg is the site of one of the deadliest battles of the Civil War. This brutal battle occurred near Devil’s Den, a rocky stretch of the otherwise fairly open-plain landscape. By the end of the battle, the boulders covered in blood.

Ever since the war, cries, gunfire, and screams have been reported from the area, as well as visits from the spirits themselves. Photo evidence is unlikely, as many cameras and other devices are reported to glitch or run out of battery at this location. You can experience it for yourself – Gettysburg has many haunted locations to scare and thrill.

Devil's Den viewed from the Slaughter Pen. Gettysburg National Military Park.
Devil’s Den in Gettysburg National Battlefield

Olympic National Park – Lady of the Lake

Most visitors of Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park enjoy the beautiful landscape of lush trees and clear waters. But the lake hides secrets that few know about… In the 1930s, a woman by the name of Hallie met a man while working at a tavern near the lake. They fell in love and soon married. One day, Hallie went missing. Her husband claimed she ran off with another man. The town was skeptical but could not prove anything. Until a few short years later, that is, when Hallie’s body, perfectly persevered, surfaced in the lake. She had been murdered.

Today, hikers along Spruce Railroad Trail, near Lake Crescent, have seen the glow of a ghostly Hallie wandering the trail searching for help. They call her the Lady of the Lake.

Sunset and clouds reflect off lake at  Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, Washington
Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Yellowstone National Park – Headless Bride

One of the more gruesome tales on this list is that of a young married couple. The woman came from a wealthy family and married a servant for love. Her father was unsure about this fellow and was certain the man just wanted to marry his daughter for money. He gifted them money with the caveat that this was it, period.

They traveled the country and ended up at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. It did not take long for the new groom to squander away the funds and begged his bride to convince her father to change his mind and replenish their bank account. Their arguments grew violent, and eventually, the man left the hotel heated. The staff grew worried about the woman went to check on her. When they entered the room, they were horrified to find her bloody body without a head. The head was later found in the crow’s nest of the Inn.

In the hundred years since her murder, the woman has been seen wandering near the crow’s nest, searching for her head.

historic yellowstone inn near old faithful
Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park

Back in the Civil War, the cave housed a mining operation for gunpowder. The job was dangerous, and many miners faced an untimely end. Not only miners, but explorers, too, lost their lives from being trapped or pinned beneath falling rocks.

Today, it is much safer to venture into the cave, but those who explore the 400+ miles of trails should know that they may not be hiking alone. Many have reported hearing and seeing the spirits of those forever trapped within Mammoth Cave.

The stairway down to the opening of Mammoth Cave in Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.
Entry to Mammoth Cave National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park – UFOs

The southwest corner of the country is no stranger to extraterrestrial tales. Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado is without exception. Skies filled with strange lights, mysterious objects, and unexplainable patterns have been reported for centuries. Native American tribes began recording these phenomenons from all the way back to the 1600s, actually. Today, the park loves to bring guests in with nighttime activities – there are lots of opportunities to camp out and maybe get your chance of seeing a UFO yourself.

Stars Over the Great Sand Dunes Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, US
Great Dunes National Park

But really – be safe out there!

In all seriousness, reader, please do take care when heading out to the parks. There is nothing to fear, but caution must also be exercised. People go missing every year, whether they are lost, injured, or as the result of something more sinister. It’s always best to hike with others and make sure other people are aware of when to expect you back. Here are some of our safe hiking tips to have handy the next time you venture out:

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