Since I was eight-years old and carrying around my first book about ghosts and haunted houses, I’ve been keeping a list in some form or another listing every haunted location I’ve ever heard about. Every hospital, highway, cemetery, church, museum, library, landmark and castle and what not, I’ve become familiar with them all and it never ceases to surprise me that there are still locations I’ve never heard of out there. (Not that I have an eidetic memory to automatically recall all of them.)
After a while, I start to see variations far from the traditional haunted house that tend to repeat themselves. Ghosts don’t just frequent the lopsided Gothic mansion sliding off its foundation like in The Woman In Black,or the large foreboding hotel with a maze of rooms as in The Shining or the quaint little bed and breakfast seen in The House Of Bones.
It seems every state has its own version of one of these ten common following archetypes; sometimes as many as twenty to thirty of them or more. What does this say? Does it mean we’re carrying these archetypes from state to state, or are we genuinely just starting to see ghosts everywhere? Why do we have hundreds of versions of the same location scattered across the country with minor alterations. Is there a pattern here?
- Legend #1 – school was built on a cemetery (Native American or Colonial)
- Legend #2 – school is haunted by a boy/girl tossed into the basement by a teacher/janitor and died over the weekend and who also haunts the school
- Legend #3 – school is haunted by janitor or workman who crashed through roof during construction. Seriously! I’ve seen this story in all forms separately and merged together in every state, sometimes more than ten times, and yet, you’d think the horrible murder of a child would have been in the news even in the 20s or 30s, but I can never find confirmation of such a thing.
I can find details of battlefields to the Revolutionary War. I can look up what Napoleon had for breakfast. Did we really have over five hundred school employees and/or teachers murder umpteen kids separately over the Twenties and the Thirties in incidents that failed to make the newspapers? If it were my kid, I’d be screaming bloody murder. Even if all these tales are fake, did umpteen kids make up these stories independently or are these urban legends created by adults to instill fear in kids to do one thing: obey the rules.
Locations: Old Milton School in Alton, Illinois, Old Bentonville Middle School in Bentonville, Arkansas, Alice Memorial Middle School in Alice, Texas, Summit Elementary School in Amarillo, Texas, Old Bellmore Schoolhouse in Bellmore, Indiana, Old Amanda Clear Creek High School in Amanda, Ohio, Old Ostrander School in Ostrander, Ohio, Rockaway School in Springfield, Ohio, Washington Elementary School in Alameda, California, Fourth Street Grammar School in East Los Angeles, California, Simon Rivera High School in Brownsville, Texas, Conroe High School in Conroe, Texas, Etowah City School in Etowah, Tennessee, Kentron Middle School in Kingsport, Tennessee, Cherry Creek High School in Englewood, Colorado, Andevine Middle School in Lafayette, Colorado, et al.
According to legend, a student took their life here or lost it by overdose or by hazing gone wrong, and now their spirit returns to protect the new students or just make their lives miserable. In some cases, the ghost is of a female student murdered by her boyfriend but never the other way around. Dorms are great places to make the friendships that will last a lifetime, but let’s face it, most colleges are nothing but bars with a $250,000 cover charge. Unfortunately, it is kind of hard to tell apart the actual hauntings from the on-campus legends and rumors that haunt every college or university.
Locations: Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, Manhattan College in Manhattan, Kansas, California State University in Los Angeles, California, St. Mary’s College in South Bend, Indiana, Ball State University in Muncie, Alabama, Oakland City College in Oakland City, Indiana, University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Bellflower High School in Bellflower, Ohio, Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, Porter College in Santa Cruz, California, Chowan College in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, Salem College for Women in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas, University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, University of Texas in Martin, Tennessee, University of Denver in Denver, Colorado, University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado, Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia, et al.
This is the favorite type of location for the “Ghost Adventures” team, next to haunted prisons. They’ve inspired at least two movies, House On Haunted Hill and Greystone Park. They’re great locations for urban explorers to explore. They’re former tuberculosis hospitals mistaken as sanitariums and haunted by the patients who died here, usually under great neglect or tragedy, and usually crowded with derelict equipment and furniture, forgotten medical files and shelves of preserved human remains. Unfortunately, they almost always on fenced off private properties heavily monitored by police looking for teenagers too stoned or drunk to read “No Trespassing” signs.
Locations: Waverly Hills Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, Danvers Mental Hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts, Pennhurst State Hospital in Spring City, Pennsylvania, Athens Mental Heath Center in Athens, Ohio, Bartonville Insane Asylum in Bartonville, Illinois, Essex County Hospital in South Caldwell, New Jersey, Trans-Allegheny Insane Asylum in Weston, West Virginia, Mansfield Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in New York City, New York, Letchworth Village near Linda Vista Hospital in East Los Angeles, California, Old Greenville Tuberculosis Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina, Old Spartanburg Tuberculosis Hospital in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Old Logan County Memorial Hospital in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Hillcrest Sanitarium in Howell, Michigan, Old Mercywood Hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Old Alameda Insane Asylum near Alameda, California, Old Harmony Grove Sanitarium in San Marcos, California, Old Camarillo State Hospital in Camarillo, California (now a university), West Tennessee Mental Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee, Old Memphis Veterans Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, Old Lakin State Hospital near Lakin, West Virginia, Palms of Sarasota Hospital near Sarasota, Florida, et al.
It’s the most famous ghost story ever. A motorist picks up a figure at roadside and drives them to their destination. Their guest either vanishes from the car or sends them to the front door to get the shocking news: you’ve been riding with a ghost of someone who died in an accident, usually a girl who lost her life on the way to the prom (and who just happened to be buried in her prom dress). In some variations, it’s a young man giving his jacket to the young lady, and retrieving it from her tombstone. It’s everywhere. Actor Telly Savalas reportedly encountered his own version of this story in the 60s. Worse yet, some of these spirits don’t bother to invited, they just suddenly appear in the backseat. In England, they walk out for you to hit them, and in the American Northeast, they attack your cars as you drive by. Who says ghosts need to haunt houses?
Locations: Resurrection Cemetery in Justice, Illinois, Black Bridge near Ramapo, New York, Highway 11 near Decatur, Alabama, Highway 5 near Lynn, Alabama, Highway 5 near Nauvoo, Alabama, Highway 17 in Santa Cruz, California, Eight Mile Road in Stockton, California, Lerdo Highway near Bakersfield, California, Broad River Bridge near Caroleen, North Carolina, Highway 70 near Goldsboro, North Carolina, McPherson Road near Laredo, Texas, Highway 2449 near Ponder, Texas, Sensabaugh Tunnel near Kingsport, Texas, Old Paris Road near Paris, Tennessee, Cedar Valley Road near Rogersville, Tennessee, Exit 28 near Unicoi, Tennessee, Bennett Road near Berthoud, Colorado, Highway 93 near Golden, Colorado, Highway 3 near Honolulu, Hawaii, et al
She’s mostly popular in Spanish communities around the United States. La Llorona was a woman who drowned in her children on purpose in the river, and now she can’t cross over until she retrieves the spirits of her children. She is also accused of drowning anyone who gets too close to her, but her story is not preclusive to the Spanish. Across the country, mysterious white ladies haunt anywhere a carriage or automobile can crash, even long after the bridge is gone and the road is closed off.
Locations: Calumet River in Gary, Indiana, Nueces River in Corpus Christi, Texas, Yellowstone River in Billings, Montana, LuCero Road in Guadalupita, New Mexico, Rio Grande River in El Paso, Texas, Guilford Park in Sunman, Indiana, Heacock Bridge in Dublin, Indiana, Imperial Valley in Brawley, California, Agua Mansa Cemetery in San Bernardino, California, Salinas River in San Lucas, California, Delaware Seashore State Park near Indian River Bay, Delaware, et al.
If any legend had a spin-off, here it is. The legend claims that a woman who found herself pregnant with an unwanted child drowned the newborn by casting it off a bridge, and to this day, the screams of the child echo from the river or creek it was cast into, even years after the water is gone. The story is especially common in Ohio and the surrounding states which tells me all the sounds of babies crying could just be a bird indigenous to the Ohio Valley whose warbling sounds like a baby crying. On the other hand, unwanted pregnancies was a major stigma in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, so who knows?
Locations: Cry Baby Bridge in Bellefontaine, Ohio, Crybaby Overpass in Cable, Ohio, Schrader Tunnel in Chillicothe, Ohio, Crybaby Bridge in Greenfield, Ohio, Black Rabbit Bridge in Hillsboro, Ohio, Johnston Bridge in Lancaster, Ohio, Maud-Hughes Bridge in Liberty, Ohio, Greeley Chapel Bridge in Lima, Ohio, Mary Jane’s Bridge in Mansfield, Ohio, Crybaby Bridge in Newton Falls, Ohio, Rogue’s Hollow Bridge in Norton, Ohio, Egypt Bridge in Salem, Ohio, Lee Bridge near Sardis, Ohio, Cry-Baby Bridge in Shelby, Ohio, LeFevre Bridge in Troy, Ohio, Fudge Road Bridge in West Alexandria, Ohio, Cry Baby Creek in DeKalb, Texas, Cry Baby Bridge in Anderson, Indiana, White Lick Bridge in Avon, Indiana, Crybaby Bridge in Red Key, Indiana, Boston Mills Bridge in Peninsula, Ohio, Cry Baby Hollow in Vinemont, Alabama, Helen’s Bridge near Asheville, North Carolina, Poplar Tent Road near Concord, North Carolina, Sensabaugh Culvert in Mount Carmel, Tennessee, et al.
If Cry-Baby Bridge is a spin-off of La Llorona, this one is a spin-off of the Ghostly Hitchhiker, but someone somewhere always seems to understand this parlor trick of a haunted railroad crossing or intersection where cars roll forward as if pushed by unseen hands. The back story is usually a busload of kids hit by a train, or a carload of kids on the way to school hit by a truck, but in the end, whoever has to do the pushing is getting stuck cleaning baby powder off their fingers. Heck, a movie called Fingerprints was even based on this story. After a few TV series have done segments on the most famous San Antonio location, the TV series, “Fact Or Faked” finally busted it. The real busload of kids hit by a train actually happened near Salt Lake City, Utah in December 1938 in a story broadcast over the United States, and a legend was born…
Locations: Villa Main Train Crossing in San Antonio, Texas, Albany Train Crossing in Albany, Texas, Spook’s Corner in Upland, Indiana, Five Points Bridge in Cortland, Ohio, Route 42 Bridge near Ashland, Ohio, Gravity Hill in Brentwood, California, Jamul Train Tracks in Jamul, California, Gravity Hill in Corona, California, Glen Helen Road in Devore, California, Gravity Hill in Moor Park, California, Nason Street in Moreno Valley, California, Richfield Road near Gold Hill, North Carolina, et al.
The Floating Lantern
Here’s another popular legend we all know by heart. It concerns a train conductor or employee, either on a train or near one, who by accident or design loses his head and is doomed to wander up and down a line of train tracks for eternity with a spectral lantern looking for the misplaced body part. Most popular in the Southeast United States, the legend sometimes varies from a conductor to a transient to a local, but the floating ball of light is so popular than one of the incarnations appeared on “Unsolved Mysteries” and another one stupefied the cast of “Fact or Faked.” To date, the most logical explanation is sparks from off the railways from limestone deposits rubbing together on local fault lines, but then how do you explain these lights sometimes appearing long before the railroad was built?
Location: L&N Railroad near Chapel Hill, Tennessee, Atlantic Coast Railroad near Maco, North Carolina, Crosset Railroad near Crosset, Arkansas, Railroad Overpass Bridge near Azusa, California, Early’s Station Railroad in Early’s Station, North Carolina, Fayetteville Railroad Tracks near Fayetteville, North Carolina, Old Hookerton Railroad in Hookerton, North Carolina, Pactolus Railroad near Stokes, North Carolina, Conetoe Railroad near Conetoe, North Carolina, West 7th Railroad Crossing near Port Arthur, Texas, Dry Hollow near Cookeville, Tennessee, Duffield Railroad in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, et al.
Balls Of Light
This phenomenon seems quite similar to the lantern of the ghostly conductor except the back-story in this case is usually unrevealed and the lights are often connected or compared to UFOs. The explanations, however, are just a varied: dead Indian chiefs, lights from old Indian skirmishes, ghosts of men looking for gold and other tales difficult to confirm. The traditional culprit is that all these lights are products of distant headlights from nearby headlights, but how far can a headlight actually shine and what about the lights that date back to before the highways were first constructed?
Location: Mitchell Flat in Marfa, Texas, Devil’s Promenade in Hornet, Missouri, Spook Light Road in Quapaw, Oklahoma, Brown Mountain near Morganton, North Carolina, Highway 94 in Spring Valley, California, Bandera Pass in Kerrville, Texas, Nueces River near Crystal City, Texas, Pierson’s Hollow near Unicoi, Tennessee, Cypress Swamp Conservation Site in Selbyville, Delaware, Hanauma Bay near Honolulu, Hawaii, Old Pali Road near Honolulu, Hawaii, et al.
The Witch’s Shadow
History tells us that the last hanging of a witch occurred in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, but that fact seems to have failed to reach the rest of the country. Around the United States from Michigan to Texas and Vermont to Oregon, there are isolated rural areas where women accused of witchcraft were executed and hung from trees or rest in graves trying to escape. Today, their shadows still hang in mute witness of the injustice done them. The nit-pick here is none of them can be easily researched and the addition of the “witch” reference seems to be added just to make the location that much more creepy. The odd part: most of these are located near reported lover’s lane locations, which probably adds to the explanation of the activity.
Locations: Sugar Shack Road in Alton, Missouri, Shinville Graveyard near Troutman, North Carolina, Highway 101 in Prunedale, California, Marsh Creek Road near Somersville, California, Old Liberty Hill Graveyard in Liberty Hill, Texas, Old Point Graveyard in Point, Texas, Old Timbertree Cemetery in Bloomingdale, Tennessee, Riverdale Road in Thornton, Colorado, Salem Church Road near Newark, Delaware, Highland Street Cemetery in Mannington, West Virginia, et al.