Welcome back, urban legend aficionados, to our spooky trek across the U.S. examining the creepiest urban legend in each of the 50 states. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey so far as we’ve looked at haunted roads, creepy bodies of water, and mysterious entities that show up when things go bad.
This week, we continue with five more states on our demented travelogue. Don’t forget, if I cover your state and you think there’s a better urban legend I should know about or a different version than the one I shared, drop it in the comments below! I’m always looking for more!
Hawaii: The Hitchhiking Goddess
In most of the U.S., parents raise their children with the admonishment, “Never pick up a hitchhiker.”
This isn’t the case on the Big Island of Hawaii. There you’ll hear that if you’re driving along the highway, especially on Saddle Road, and you see an older woman on the side of the road, you should always stop to pick her up and take her wherever she needs to go. It’s believed that Pele, the goddess credited with creating the islands as well as holding power over volcanoes and fire, will often appear in this guise and it would be unwise to anger her or treat her with disrespect.
Another version of this story states that her appearance warns of impending danger and that she will vanish as soon as you stop to pick her up. You are then charged with warning others of imminent disaster.
Interestingly, Pele plays into yet another legend, this one far older, that says ill-fortune will befall anyone who removes something from the island. The postal service in Hawaii reports that many small packages appear every year from tourists returning lava rocks and other items to the island to wipe away their bad luck.
Idaho: Lake Monsters
What is going on in Idaho?! Seriously.
It’s not uncommon to find mention of a lake monster in one state or another. Much like Nessie from across the pond, mysterious creatures from deep lakes are bound to turn up here and there. But in researching this series, I found multiple lake monster stories from the mysterious state of Idaho.
There’s Sharlie in Payette Lake, a gentle beast reportedly anywhere from 10-50 feet long who appears like waves on the lake’s surface and who has never reportedly harmed anyone. Sharlie was named in a newspaper contest in the 50s. Then there’s the Paddler in Northern Idaho who is large and gray and also appears to be a peaceful resident of the lake.
Oh, and Bear Lake, which is part of a natural border between Idaho and Utah, is said to be home to a monstrous beast who did actually harm people along the shore, using it as a hunting ground.
This is to say nothing of the “water babies” who inhabit the waters around Massacre Rocks State Park. The water spirits appear in the guise of children to lure unsuspecting humans into the depths to drown.
So what exactly is going on in the water in Idaho?! What is it about a place whose waters teem with these kinds of creatures? Well, there’s another urban legend that might interest you. This legend says that Idaho doesn’t actually exist! No, I’m not kidding. You can read more about that particular urban legend HERE, and I cannot recommend it enough. But you know, in a way, it does make sense. Only an imaginary land can produce so many fantastic beings, right?
Illinois: Homey the Clown
Okay, I’m including this one for two reasons. First of all, who doesn’t love a creepy clown story? Second, I think this urban legend might have a particularly fun/interesting origin.
In 1991 in Chicago, multiple children reported a strange clown who drove around certain neighborhoods in a creepy van attempting to lure them inside. Police got involved in an investigation but turned up zero leads and ended up writing it off as an urban legend. It certainly reads like one with an archetypal “stranger danger” theme.
What I find interesting about this case is that in the early 90s, we saw the debut of In Living Color, a sketch comedy show that featured, among other characters, Homey D. Clown, an ex-con forced to work as a clown as part of his parole agreement. Homey was ill-tempered on the best of days and refused to engage in the normal clown antics. Could it be that one inspired the other? Or could it be that a slick clown serial killer used the name thinking he could get the kids to go with him?
Indiana: The Haunted Bridge in Avon
Indiana adds yet another haunted bridge to our urban legend travelogue. This one comes with a similar story to those we’ve read about before, but it’s what you’re supposed to do at the bridge that makes it different.
There is a bridge in Avon, Indiana where a young mother was once walking with her infant child when she fell from the bridge. They both died as a result of the fall. To this day, it’s said that you can hear the woman calling out for her lost child in agony. That’s a pretty standard urban legend if we stop right there.
What sets Avon’s bridge tale apart is that locals are encouraged to honk their horn as they drive under the bridge to drown out the woman’s screams.
That’s right. While other states might have sad tales where the mother is haunting the area and might harm those who come near or just wants to be heard, Indiana says just honk your horn so you can’t hear her and you’ll be just fine. It seems kind of callous, but who am I to judge?
This isn’t the only legend tied to the bridge, mind you. In another tale, it’s said that a man fell into the cement while the bridge was being constructed and that his bones are still inside the bridge. When a train travels over the bridge, you can hear him moaning to be released.
Iowa: The Black Angel of Death
Okay, settle in. This one has quite the story.
In Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City stands a beautiful statue of an angel. Once bronze, the angel is now black as night with numerous legends about how the change occurred–all of them outside the realm of oxidation, of course.
The most common urban legend is tied to a woman named Teresa Dolezal Feldevert, an immigrant from Bohemia who settled in Iowa in 1836. Teresa, who was a physician in her native land, lost her son to meningitis when the young man was only 18 years old and she had a stone erected for him of a tree stump and axe when he was interred in Oakland Cemetery. She left the state for a while and married a man in Oregon who subsequently died leaving her around $30,000, part of which she used to commission a monument for her family in the cemetery.
The angel was erected in 1918 and when she died in 1924, she was buried beneath it. This is where the legend kicks in.
In one version of the tale, Teresa was a wicked woman and the angel turned black after her evil seeped into it from the grave. In another version of the urban legend, the angel was struck by lightning the day after Teresa was buried which caused it to turn black.
Some stories diverge completely from Teresa. Some say that a man erected the statue over his wife’s grave but was turned black because she was unfaithful to him in life and her sins colored the monument. Another says that a preacher’s son, murdered by his own father, is buried there.
Okay, so you have a legendary statue in a cemetery, of course it’s going to stir up some lore. Like many such locations, the lore over the Black Angel is varied from good to bad. Here are just a few of the supposed results of being near the angel.
- Any pregnant woman who walks beneath the angel will miscarry.
- If you touch the statue on Halloween, you’ll die within seven years.
- If you kiss the statue, you’ll die instantly.
- If a virgin is kissed in front of the statue, it’s original color will be restored.
Lots and lots of kissing…and those aren’t the only ones.
To read more about the Black Angel of Iowa City CLICK HERE and come back next week for more creepy urban legends.