Welcome back, readers, to United Spooky, a new series breaking down the spookiest and creepiest urban legend from each of the 50 states. We started last week with tales that ranged from a phantom Cavalryman from the late 1800s to haunted bridges and lakes that come with dire warnings.
This week we continue with a deep dive into chilling tales from five more states, and we encourage you to share your own in the comments below!
Colorado: Riverdale Road in Thornton
It’s not uncommon for a stretch of road to have an urban legend or two attached to it, but Riverdale Road in Thornton, Colorado is the epitome of an overachiever. The 11-mile stretch of pavement has numerous legends attributed to it, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll dig into just a few.
- The Phantom Camaro: This is one of those stories that no doubt began as a cautionary tale. Riverdale Road is notorious for its blind corners and it is prudent to err on the side of caution when traveling. Now, supposedly back in the 1970s a man in a flashy Camaro tested fate and lost. To this day, drives will tell you that the Camaro still drives up and down the stretch of road with only one headlight lit, challenging other drives to a race. It’s one challenge you definitely want to let go.
- The Gates of Hell: Along Riverdale Road, you’ll find a rusty set of iron gates that will lead you straight to hell. Now anyone who has spent any amount of time researching urban legends knows that there are supposed gates to hell, well, everywhere! This one, however, comes with a truly sad story. Supposedly, the man who built those gates also built a mansion on the property they lead to, but upon its completion, he went mad and burned down the estate while his family slept inside, killing them all. It’s said that a woman in white now haunts the location and will beckon passersby to the gates in an attempt to lead them to hell.
- Ghost Jogger: One day a man went for a jog and was hit by a car and died. Years later, he’s still jogging along Riverdale Road. Pedestrians have reported hearing footsteps and even a loud human heartbeat trailing behind them on the road, and occasionally drivers report the sound of something thumping against their car as if they ran over something but nothing is there.
- Bloody Handprints: Another story of a pedestrian struck down by a driver, this one involves a young boy who was killed on his way to school. Now at night, he walks along the road leaving bloody handprints on the street signs, all of which vanish by morning.
Connecticut: The Pig Man
Some of the most prominent urban legends are built around a warning of some kind. The babysitter plagued by calls coming from inside the house instructed young women to mind their children. The Hook Man cautioned teenagers against premarital sexual activity. These themes of legends and stories as warnings are found throughout the United States and around the globe and Connecticut comes with a tale of a man with the head of a pig.
Back in the 1970s in aptly named Mystic, Connecticut, a couple of boys were out playing at night when they heard the sounds of screams from a nearby river. They ran toward the sound only to stumble upon a woman being drowned in the river by a man with a pig’s head. Before their very eyes, both the strange man and the woman disappeared beneath the surface of the river.
Since then, parents caution their children not to stay out too late or wander into the woods or the Pig Man might catch them and drown them in the river as well!
It’s interesting to note that this is only one such tale from around the country involving a man with the head of pig. Vermont has a similar story, and writers have drawn inspiration from the legend for books and television including American Horror Story.
Delaware: Salem Church Road
For such a small state, Delaware has plenty of tales and urban legends attached to it, and I landed upon the story of Salem Church Road in Newark mostly because it gives us a chance to look more closely at the subject of witchcraft and witch trials in the U.S.
As a matter of course, this particular story is brief. Around midnight on Salem Church Road, drivers are said to see a mysterious group of six spirits crossing the road. The spirits are those of a family who were hanged for witchcraft in the early 1900s in the area and they are still attempting to flee to freedom to this day.
Like many states along the Eastern Seaboard, Delaware has an interesting mix of dealings with supposed witchcraft. In 1719 Delaware enacted a statute that forbade the conjuration of spirits and practice of witchcraft within its borders, but by the end of the century, they had set aside the law in favor of new legislation that drew upon the English Witchcraft Act of 1736 which basically aligned the practice of magic and fortune-telling with fraudulent acts.
The new legislation made it illegal to operate under the pretense of practicing witchcraft, mediumship, conjuration, and other similar acts accompanied with a punishment of 21 lashes along with a fine of up to $100. By 1852, the public whipping had been removed as punishment and was replaced with up to one year in prison. They didn’t stop there, however.
Other laws followed, no few of them racist in nature against the Romani people as a way of imprisoning and otherwise removing those people deemed socially undesirable in some way.
As late as the 1950s, a woman who practiced handwriting analysis was accused of placing a curse on another woman and brought to trial much to the chagrin of lawmakers when the state became the focus of derision from the rest of the county. In 1953, the outdated laws were struck down by the state, but only two years later another was added that mimicked the previous law with only the word “witchcraft” removed. The new law focused on fortune-telling and spirit conjuration.
This urban legend is particularly interesting as it speaks directly to the states checkered legislative history.
Florida: The Devil’s Chair
In a small cemetery in the unincorporated hamlet of Cassadaga, Florida sits the Devil’s Chair, a stone bench reportedly built by Satan himself.
There are a lot of stories connected to the Devil’s Chair. For one thing, it’s said that every night around midnight, the Devil comes up and lounges there. If a person should sit down at that time, Old Scratch will lean down and whisper evil things in their ear to try to corrupt them.
Furthermore–and this is one of strangest things I’ve come across while researching these legends–if you leave an unopened can of beer on the bench and return the next morning, the can will still be unopened but it will also be empty.
It’s a head-scratcher for sure, but some locals will tell you it’s all true.
As with many urban legends, there are numerous supposed Devil’s Chairs around the country. Read more here.
Georgia: Lake Lanier
Like many states, Georgia has plenty of tales to tell, but none hit me quite the same as Lake Lanier. The man-made lake was formed with the completion of the Buford Dam back in 1956, but that isn’t the whole story.
The area where the lake now sits was home to more than 250 families, approximately 15 business, and reportedly 20 cemeteries. The families and business owners were forced to leave their land and many of the graves remain covered in thousands upon thousands of gallons of water.
Since its formation, numerous deaths have been reported with ties to the lake. Some are not unlike those one would normally see. Boating accidents and drownings are not uncommon at a lake, but some say the number at Lake Lanier is inordinately high. Then there are the numerous car accidents in the area. Survivors of many of these accidents have reported the feeling of invisible hands grabbing them and pulling them against their will into the water’s depths.
In fact, some say you can sometimes see what looks like people waiting in the water for unsuspecting victims. Could it be they’re the spirits of those whose graves were disturbed by the formation of the lake? Or is this simply a story to warn those who go out to the lake for recreation to be especially careful?