Hello, readers! Welcome back to our zig-zagging cross-country trek covering the creepiest urban legend in each of the 50 states. We are down to the final 10, but the hits keep coming. Get out your maps, and dive in as we cover the next five states!
South Dakota: Spook Road
Legends about creepy roads are a dime a dozen, and it really takes something for one to stand out when you’re researching urban legends from across the U.S. However, South Dakota’s “Spook Road” stands out among its peers, and was the only real choice for this list.
Just outside of Brandon, South Dakota lies a rural patch of road that is actually quite beautiful and scenic…during the day. At night, however, all of that changes.
After dark, locals say, if you drive along the road in one direction, there are five bridges, but if you turn back there will only be four. Moreover, it’s said that any number of people have hanged themselves from those bridges and that their spirits can still be seen–some along the side of the road and others still hanging.
The winding road has also seen more than its fair share of accidents resulting in the death of motorists, and they too, are said to walk along the road. Many say that even on nights when you can’t see them, they are still watching, leading many to report feelings of paranoia and anxiety while driving along Spook Road at night.
What I find most interesting, however, is that while locals will attest to its haunted nature, they are also dedicated to preserving it. According to OnlyInYourState.com, a resolution was passed by town officials several years ago to remove some of the trees that form the canopy over Spook Road. It was met by protests from citizens demanding the road be left as it was.
Tennessee: The White Bluff Screamer
White Bluff, Tennessee is a quiet little town with a not so quiet “secret.” The legend of the White Bluff Screamer or White Screamer dates back one hundred years and has many different versions, of which I’ll share one. It’s a grisly tale that will keep you awake at night.
In the 1920s a young family moved into the holler at White Bluff, building a home for themselves in their own little paradise. The father, mother, and seven children seemed quite happy together until dark nights descended and they began to hear ear-shattering screams from the forest. Every night, as the darkness descended the screams would begin anew, driving the family to desperation.
One night, the father snapped. He’d had enough. He grabbed his rifle and ran into the forest to see where these unearthly screams were coming from only to stop dead in his tracks when he realized they were now coming from his home.
He ran back to find his entire family brutally murdered, their bodies torn to pieces. In some versions of the story, he saw the vision of a woman wrapped in white mists inside the home who let out that piercing shriek once more before vanishing as if she’d never been there.
According to locals, the screams can still be heard to this day in White Bluff, TN. Some locals believe it’s a banshee. Others aren’t so sure, but they all believe something is out there.
For those of you wondering, yes I nearly wrote about the Bell Witch, but I decided to go with one I thought might be a little less well known.
Texas: The Screaming Bridge in Arlington
Okay, before we get started here, I have to say Texas is huge. I know some of you know that, but until you’ve driven across it or lived here for any length of time, you just really don’t realize. All of this is to say that with a state as large as Texas, it’s hard to choose just one! As a native Texan who has lived here my entire life, I am always on the lookout for new tales to tell.
Some of our stories are quite famous. Take, for instance, the chupacabra or the Marfa lights. Neither of those mysteries are fully explained. Then there’s the story of El Muerto, our own headless horseman whose terrifying tale is whispered in the southern regions of the state. Let’s not forget the numerous versions of La Llorona up to and including the Donkey Lady who was supposedly disfigured in a fire–set by her husband–that killed her children so that she now has hoofs in place of her hands and feet.
I wanted to do something different for this list, however, and The Screaming Bridge in Arlington seemed the perfect fit, in part, because it is one urban legend that we know began in real-life events.
Back in the 60s, a group of teenage girls left a movie theater in Arlington and decided to go for a ride before returning home. Sadly, they would never make it. In the dark of the night, they drove onto a burned-out bridge and plummeted to their death.
According to the urban legend, you can still hear them screaming in the night to this day.
The story is fascinating to me, first because it reads like a typical urban legend warning teenagers about driving too fast, staying out late, being rebellious, etc. We’ve heard these stories so many times before, and as a cautionary tale, it totally works. But when you layer the reality on top of it, it becomes all the more creepy.
These young women weren’t rescued right away. They lay beneath the bridge, broken and bleeding and calling for help.
It isn’t hard to believe that their spirits might linger if you are a person who believes in such things. And to this day, though the bridge is now only accessible by walking from a nearby park, their legendary screams supposedly endure.
Utah: John Baptiste, the Ghost of the Great Salt Lake
This is one urban legend that you hope isn’t true, but you get the feeling it might be.
John Baptiste, an Irish immigrant supposedly born in 1913, was one of the first gravediggers employed in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was very good at his job, or so everyone thought. When a relative of a man buried in the cemetery there asked for the body to be exhumed so he could be buried elsewhere, they discovered the body completely stripped naked, lying facedown in the coffin.
An investigation was launched and John Baptiste, the man who did the burying, was its focus.
The cemetery was secretly placed under surveillance and sure enough, a few nights later, Baptiste was caught with a corpse in a wheelbarrow headed to his home. He was arrested and his property searched whereupon the authorities found piles of clothes removed from bodies as well as jewelry which Baptiste intended to resell. In total, he reportedly looted over 350 graves.
Further, rumors began to circulate–because of course they did–that Baptiste also took the bodies in order to have sex with them…
Baptiste was tried, convicted, and exiled to an island in the Great Salt Lake where he lived the remainder of his life. Now, they say, if you find yourself walking along the southern shores of the lake, you just might run into Baptiste carrying a bundle of wet and rotting clothes.
Vermont: The Curse of Mercie Dale
The story behind the legendary curse of Mercie Dale begins right at the turn of the 19th century when Mercie’s daughter, Silence, married a man by the name of William Hayden. Mercie accompanied the couple when they moved to Vermont. There her son-in-law managed to start a business and at first, everything seemed to be going well.
Before long, however, William found himself in deepening debt. and he turned to Mercie for help. She loaned him large sums of money but never saw a penny returned and after some time, the man fled the area to avoid those attempting to collect what was owed them.
In failing health and enraged, Mercie Dale laid down a curse on Hayden and his family: “The Hayden name shall die in the third generation, and the last to bear the name shall die in poverty.”
Stories like this are quite common in parts of the world, and even here in the United States, but what is remarkable is that Mercie’s curse was fulfilled.
Within three generations every member of the family had died and the last were completely impoverished. What’s more, the once beautiful mansion that served as the family’s home fell to ruin and stayed that way for many, many years.
To this day, the Legend of Mercie Dale and her powerful curse is retold throughout the state.