Most of these creatures are imaginary (...or are they?), but here's your best chance of spotting them.
Urban legends are spooky, modern folklore often used as cautionary tales or to explain random events (and more often the case, for entertainment purposes). In the United States, these legends are often focused around the region of origin, with monsters and mysteries deeply embedded in the place.
Hell’s Gate Bridge
Visit Oxford, Alabama to shop at Old Mill Mall, see its famous 67-mile walking track, or literally go to hell. It’s just a short drive down the Boiling Springs Road Bridge. Stop in the middle, look behind you and you’ll see the doorway to Hades right through your rear-view mirror. Back your car in and you won’t be able to drive out again.
Alaska! Come for the freezing cold, stay for the wereotters. But don’t bother waiting for the full moon. Also known as Kustaka, these little monsters only come out to help people who are drowning: either by mimicking the voice of a loved one to lull you into drowning faster or by biting you so that you become a wereotter too and swim to safety. You’re welcome?
The Jackalope is part jackrabbit, part antelope, and emblazoned all over local souvenirs. But if you do decide to hunt the most whimsical game in the southwest, know this: Jackalope milk may be a highly-prized aphrodisiac, but Jackalope are quick, and their horns are sharp.
The Fouke Monster
If you smell something horrible while in the woods of Miller County, try to be polite. This urban legend isn’t just a 7-foot-tall shaggy skunk ape, he’s the star of the 1971 classic Legend of Boggy Creek (and the four sequels that followed). But before you ask for an autograph, snap a picture first. You’ll be the first person to catch him on film since the 1970s.
The Ghosts at the Roosevelt Hotel
You’ve missed your chance to see Marilyn Monroe on the red carpet, but you can still be haunted by her at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Monroe is frequently spotted in the full-length mirror (vain much?) by her poolside suite. And she’s not the only celebrity who still wants to see and be seen in the afterlife. Ghostly musicians still play their trumpets at night and Montgomery Clift reportedly recites his lines in the hallway.
The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel is so haunted, it scared The Shining right out of Stephen King. If you feel like you too might have a thriller waiting beneath the surface, we suggest that you try a night’s stay. Most guests report witnessing paranormal activity, and while Jack Nicholson won’t be there, The Shining does play 24 hours a day on channel 42.
The Little People's Village
Fans of architecture and the occult will want to mark the creepily abandoned doll village in the woods of Middlebury, Connecticut on their Google Maps. The demonic voices that commanded their architect to build them (then kill himself once he was done) are reportedly still living inside of them. Locals say that you can hear them at night, but as long as you don’t have a background in construction, you should be fine.
The Ghost of Justice Chew
Pilgrimage to Dover, Delaware to visit the ghost of Chief Justice Chew, patron saint of all those afflicted with mildly amusing surnames. On autumn nights, he rises, hell-bent on revenge against the townspeople who tormented him while he was alive, by pretending to sneeze “ah Chew” whenever he passed. Now he has the last laugh and descends on unsuspecting passersby, black robes billowing in the wind, and makes them sneeze… like a lot of times in a row… locals say it’s scarier than it sounds.
The Fountain of Youth
Friends of Anne Rice will want to spend an evening at Atlanta’s Masquerade Night Club, locally-famous as the club of choice for actual vampires. Tourists come to soak in the goth vibe and spot the creepy “tall man in black” who roams the building at night. Freak accidents, disembodied screams, and unexplained fires have also been reported there, making many suspect that vampires aren’t the only urban legends haunting the place.
The Spam Traffic Jam
Visit Oahu to meddle in deities’ centuries-old relationship squabbles. No one’s exactly sure what happened between Volcano goddess Pele and her half-man, half-pig ex-lover, Kamapua’a, but now Pele doesn’t allow pork on her side of the island. Try to drive there with it in your car and it will stop in its tracks–until you feed the pork to a passing dog. Now that’s pettiness worth traveling for.
If you’re secretly sure that you’re a long-lost member of House Stark, let the Old Gods guide you to the Idaho Rocky Mountains. Locals there have been reporting very large wolves and “savagery on domesticated animals” for years now. Get eaten by them and unfortunately that means that you’re not a member of a fictional royal family and you have our fictional condolences.
The Murphysboro Mud Monster
Spot The Murphysboro Mud Monster and you’ll be helping close the most-investigated unsolved mystery of the Murphysboro police department. They’ve been on the case of the 7-foot-tall blonde, hairy, muddy monster since it terrorized teen couples on a two-day “we think we saw something outside our window while we were making out” spree back in 1973.
The Spook Lights on Bruick Road
Some fun facts about Fort Wayne, Indiana: For one thing, it’s haunted by spooky lights. Drive along Bruick Road at night and they’ll pop up above the tree line, change colors and sizes, and chase your car for a while until they get bored and wander off. Fort Wayne also has a large number of Burmese restaurants including one that serves great Coconut Noodle Soup. These two facts are unrelated, but both are pretty interesting reasons to visit Fort Wayne.
Uncle Charlie is a great name for a ghost trying to sound un-scary enough to lure the curious into the woods to look for him at night. And every year, lots of tourists do just that. If you’re prepared to fall for the ruse, pull your phone out and take a picture of the surrounding darkness with flash. Locals say you’ll see the terrifying ghost of Uncle Charlie staring back, very close to where you’re standing.
The Gateway to Hell
All around the United States, there are several opportunities to be literally in hell. In Stull Kansas, you can even camp in their local hell-adjacent cemetery. Spend the night there on Halloween, and head down the stairs of the old demolished church around midnight and you can walk right down into Hades. But you may want to clear several vacation days for the trip. Locals say that it takes anyone who turns around mid-descent weeks to come back up.
The Pope Lick Monster
Part man, part goat, part sheep, the Pope Lick Monster has goofy DNA but a gruesome reputation. The monster claims his victims by luring them onto the Pope Lick Bridge’s tracks just in time to meet an oncoming train. Sometimes by mimicking a crying baby, other times by jumping out to scare trespassers off of the 80-foot bridge to their deaths below. Locals say that he sometimes even jumps down on cars that drive beneath it, and several tourists have lost their lives in search of him.
Rougarou the Loup-Garou
We’ve all done something we regret after downing a few hurricanes in the U.S.’s favorite open-container city of New Orleans. And that’s exactly what makes it the natural habitat of the Rougarou. Half man, half wolf, he stalks the streets thirsty for the blood of the misbehaving. If one feeds on you, don’t tell anyone about your wounds or you’ll turn into a Loup-Garou too.
The Specter Moose
The Maine-est of urban legends, the Specter Moose is a giant, albino ghost moose that attacks hunters in its territory.
The Snallygaster of Fredrick County, Maryland is half-bird, half-reptile, half-octopus, and half-robot. While the math may be confusing, Marylanders say you’ll know him by his metal beak, razor-sharp teeth, and the tentacles he uses when he swoops down to carry you away for dinner.
The Bridgewater Triangle
Love the Bermuda Triangle but hate water? Then come on down to Massachusetts’ Freetown-Fall River State Forest. It’s got orbs of light! Giant snakes! UFOs!!! And dozens of other unexplained events! At least those are some of the otherworldly phenomena that locals have been reporting about this spooky 200-square-mile region for years.
The Singing Sands of Bete Grise
On the south side of the Keweenaw Peninsula, there is a beach haunted by a grieving widow. Grab a handful of the sand and you can hear her cry out for the husband she lost as she paced the shore in his memory. Just don’t try to take the sand with you. It only sings at Bete Grise.
Wendigo Psychosis is an actual psychiatric term to describe an intense craving for human flesh. Give in to those cravings while in Minnesota and you could turn into a15-foot tall fanged monster who roams the Minnesota woods driven only by the search for people to eat. While it is an opportunity to take your trip to another level and become an urban legend, you should know that Wendigo hunters once frequently roamed the area to hunt these urban legends down.
The Three-Legged Lady of Nash Road
In Bastesville, Mississippi you can challenge a three-legged lady to a race. Drive to Nash Road, stop at the church, turn off your headlights and honk your horn three times. If you hear a knock on your roof, it’s a sign that the Three-Legged lady is ready to race. But be careful. Not only is she pretty fast for a ghost (it’s probably the extra leg), she plays dirty and has been known to hit your car during the contest.
The Spook Light of Clarks Fork
In the woods of Missouri, a quirky old hermit turned into a quirky old ghost. Now, The Spook Light of Clarks Fork spends his time getting into mild-mannered spectral shenanigans: he “looks” into the windows of local houses and teases local dogs until they flee in terror. Sometimes he just shoots through the woods, screaming and setting the trees on fire. They’re fine the next day.
The Flathead Lake Monster
We’re not saying that Montana’s urban legend is in danger of copyright infringement. But we are saying that The Flathead Lake Monster is around the same size and shape as the Loch Ness monster, and locals have been spotting her for just as long (and as recently as 2016). So while we’re taking away a few points for creativity, we’re adding a few for the chance to spot a Nessie that’s a lot closer than the Scottish Highlands.
The Heartbeat Bridge
Teaching is a hard job. Probably particularly hard for the Nebraska teacher who decapitated every single student in her class, then cut out their hearts and threw them over the nearby bridge into the water. This gruesome case of teacher burnout gave birth to the Heartbeat Bridge. Every year tourists come to visit and say that it’s shuddering sound exactly like the beating hearts still lurking in the water below.
Area 51 has been a tourist attraction since the government finally admitted its existence in 1991. Many people have reported seeing UFOs, little green and grey men. But the government says they’re not ready to admit to their existence just yet there are definitely no aliens in Area 51 so there’s no reason to take a drive along the Extraterrestrial Highway to see for yourself.
The Coos County Wood Devils
WHERE: New Hampshire
Coos County Wood Devils are like Bigfoot, but taller, skinnier, faster, and apparently not as shy. Since they first popped on the urban legend radar in the 19th century, lots of tourists and locals claim to have spotted them, and sightings continue today.
The Jersey Devil
WHERE: New Jersey
In New Jersey, you can meet one of the United States’ oldest and most revered urban legends: the New Jersey Devil. He’s been spotted roughly 2,000 times in the past 275 years and his blood-curdling scream has been heard by even more. And if you don’t get a chance to see or be snatched up by the flying devil with a goat head and hooves, maybe stick around to see the New Jersey Devils play. They don’t have bat wings, but they’re pretty fun to watch.
Forrest Fenn’s Treasure
WHERE: New Mexico
Not all urban legends are ancient. In the 1980s, art dealer and millionaire Forrest Fenn buried around a million dollars’ worth of gold and gems in a chest—and then went on television to deliver the clues. Treasure hunters have been searching for it ever since, but as of 2017, it still hasn’t been found.
The Mole People of New York City
WHERE: New York
There are lots of reasons not to wander around New York City subway tunnels at night, but the mole people are a local favorite. Once regular New Yorkers, the mole people were driven underground by supernaturally high rent prices (we assume) and have lived down their so long that they see better in the dark, reportedly eat human flesh, and nurse a hatred for everyone who can afford a 9th floor walk-up anywhere south of Washington Heights.
WHERE: North Carolina
“Normie” is the cute name given to the monster-sized fish living in Lake Norman. Large enough to swallow a human whole, he’s been spotted so many times–mostly by divers who vow to never go under those waters again–many legend trippers have gone in search of whatever is lurking in the depths of this North Carolina lake.
WHERE: North Dakota
The dinosaurs are extinct, just not in North Dakota. Dinosaur lovers have been flocking here for years to spot the pterosaur purportedly soaring over the Great Plains. Sightings have been publicly-reported as recently as 2009.
The Mutants of Hell Town
If you have a hazmat suit on hand, you can stop by to see Ohio’s B-movie of an urban legend: The Mutants of Hell Town (town, town, town). Boston Mills was once a small town suburb like any other–until the day when the residents disappeared, leaving a ghost town behind!
That day was a scheduled move-out date, on the calendar for quite some time after the US Government bought the land to make way for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which is a much more boring story than the local legend of a nearby chemical accident that caused all of Boston Mills residents to mutate and the government to quarantine the town. Visitors to Hell Town still claim to see strange, deformed citizens lurking around in the area.
The Spook Light of Peoria
Aliens, ghosts, illuminated gas? No one is quite sure what the floating, flashing orbs of light on this heavily-wooded Peoria road are. The Army Corps of Engineers described it as a “mysterious light of unknown origin” in 1946, and that’s the closest anyone’s gotten to explaining these lights since. Whatever it is, it’s been spooklighting local residents for nearly 100 years.
The Shanghai Tunnel
Fixies and waxed mustaches aren’t the only reasons to visit Portland. Underneath the streets of Old Town, there’s a less whimsical tourist attraction: the series of tunnels used for human trafficking in the northwestern city. So many people met unhappy ends down there that it’s now known as one of the most haunted places in America.
The Bus to Nowhere
A bad day during a visit to Philly can last a really long time. The Bus to Nowhere preys on people catching public transportation in a funk. Stand morosely at a city bus stop without paying attention to which one you’re getting on, and the bus will keep driving timelessly–for years– until you shake it off long enough to remember to pull the cord for your stop.
WHERE: Rhode Island
In Cumberland, Rhode Island you can be terrorized by A-List celebrity urban legend Freddy Krueger. Back in the 19th century, he was known as Fingernails Freddie, an average if reportedly violent Rhode Island native with noticeably long nails. That is until a group of local kids set Fingernails Freddies’ house on fire, giving him his characteristic scar and starting the supernatural chapter of his dream-murder spree. But in Cumberland, you don’t have to be asleep to see him. Legend has it that anyone who visits his former property in the woods dies under mysterious circumstances.
The Boo Hag
WHERE: South Carolina
South Carolina is famous for its adorable boutique hotels. Fall asleep in one and you might be visited by the South Carolina legend The Boo Hag. She is a red, skinless monster, but she’s really just there to feed on a little of your energy by lying on top of you and sucking your breath as you fall asleep. Let her feed and you’ll fall peacefully into a deep sleep. Fight her and she’ll steal your skin and wear it around for a while.
Neither proposition sound appealing? Just put a broom beside your bed before you go to sleep at night. The Boo Hag will be so consumed by counting the straws that they’ll be busy until morning and won’t be able to suck your energy before the sun comes up.
WHERE: South Dakota
Fans of the legendary outlaw Jesse James will want to visit Devil’s Gulch, where Jesse famously jumped his horse. Its 20-feet-wide and 60-feet deep, making this urban legend quite a feat.
Old Green Eyes
Old Blue Eyes was a famous New Jersey crooner. Old Green Eyes is a famous Tennessee ghost. He used to be a Confederate soldier until he died on the Chickamauga Battlefield, where only his head was found. Now, urban legend has it, his glowing green eyes follow anyone who walks the fields of his erstwhile battlefield at night.
The Marfa Lights
Visit the tiny town of Marfa Texas to see the eerie lights in the sky. They show up randomly and then act oddly: split into two, merge back together, and dart around in the sky. Locals have lots of theories of their origin, from car lights to aliens to disembodied spirits. At least one scientific study says they’re the result of glowing gases. But, whatever they are, they’re a lot of fun to watch.
Escalante Petrified (and Cursed) Forest
Escalante Petrified Forest is a beautiful state park. Thousands of visitors come to marvel at its 150-million-year-old wood–and then occasionally take a piece home. That’s when they discover that this petrified wood has pretty strong opinions about being moved. Rangers say that tourists often mail back the wood they stole claiming they’ve been plagued by bad luck and hope that returning the “souvenirs” will make it stop.
Fans of The Ring will want to make a pit stop in Montpelier to visit its time-release demon. Anyone who travels to Green Mount Cemetery and sits on the lap of the statue of Black Agnes, legend has it, meets an unexplainable and untimely death seven days later. Probably not from a double-jointed soggy girl demon because of copyright reasons, but likely terrifying nonetheless.
The Werewolf of Henrico
Henrico, Virginia may be home to the United States’ only vegetarian werewolf. While he’s been repeatedly spotted roaming around the Confederate Hills Recreation Center, he only seems interested in chasing his victims. Everyone who’s reported encountering the urban legend says that although he got close, he never did them any harm.
Pike Place Market
Washington’s Pike Place market isn’t just a great place to shop, it’s haunted to boot. Occasionally, shoppers report seeing an old Native American woman in the distance weaving baskets for sale. But before they can get close enough to buy, she disappears. Local legend has it that she’s not just a craftswoman but the ghost of Kikisoblu, the daughter of Chief Seattle himself and once lived in a nearby cabin and never strayed far from home.
The Mothman of West Virginia
WHERE: West Virginia
The Mothman is a 12-foot-tall space creature who landed in West Virginia sometime in 1966, and has been popping in on residents ever since. He’s famous for scaring couples canoodling in parked cars, eating farmers’ dogs, and frightening anyone who’s spotted his 10-foot wide wingspan or heard his piercing shriek. In fact he’s such a big part of the urban landscape that there’s a movie about him, a statue in his honor, and a local Mothman Festival held every year.
The hodag is the legendarily large and smelly beast that captured America’s imagination. It toured the area in a sideshow (children ran screaming from the tent), was hunted by the area’s best marksman, and even attracted the attention of the Smithsonian Institute – who’s investigation prompted Eugene Shepard, the man who made up the hunt and the fake hodag in the tent, to fess up.
But locals had grown to love the Hodag so much, they kept loving him anyway. Now, the hodag has a statue in Rhinelander, a festival in his name, and even a Scooby Doo episode starring him and his creator.
The Wyoming Whispers
Travel to the high country above Yellowstone Lake and stop to listen, and you can hear a disturbing whining whisper that lasts up to 30 seconds. Known as the Yellowstone Whispers, they’re most often heard between the hours of dawn and 10 a.m. and have been going on for quite some time. Early trappers told stories about it and Native Americans regarded it as a sacred occurrence.