My husband Brian-James (BJ) and I were thrilled when we were hired to work at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. During our stay there we personally came into contact with strange paranormal occurrences. Then, co-workers and park visitors told us about their personal ghostly encounters, as well. There really had never been a book written about all the paranormal activity centered around the Grand Canyon Village by someone who actually lived and worked there. I knew I had to share these never-before-told ghost stories of real hauntings within this popular national park with the world. At first, I didn't take most of the stories I was told at face value. I did my own investigating and studied the history of the park and its buildings, and that is how Ghosts of the Grand Canyon: Personal Encounters that Will Have You on the Edge was born. However, Grand Canyon National Park isn't the only national park that has untold ghost stories. Even though the United States is still considered a young country, our national parks are full of terrifying paranormal stories. Below are four national parks that have their fair share of ghosts and hauntings and which will chill you to the bone.
Big Bend National Park (Texas)
If your perfect idea of a vacation is to be in a remote landscape with a lot of paranormal activity, then Big Bend National Park is right up your alley. This isolated park is three hundred miles southeast of El Paso, Texas. Big Bend offers visitors a mixture of tree-covered mountains, badlands, parched desert landscape, sand dunes, and colorful canyons. In the years before Big Bend became a national park 1944, this land was claimed by at least six different Native American tribes as well as Mexican settlers. It has seen its fair share of violence, unexplained deaths, and some of the strangest paranormal activity on the planet.
Hikers have reported hearing unidentified, terrifying sounds emanating from the area around the Chisos Mountains (chisos is Spanish for "ghost" or "spirit"). Upon hearing these strange sounds, even the most skeptical park rangers have become fearful for their lives, as they are unable to explain what the sound is and from where it is coming.
In Bruja (the Spanish word for "witch") Canyon, hikers have encountered the spirit of an Hispanic man, wearing a sombrero and serape, that appears to be drifting aimlessly through the desert and canyons.
Probably the biggest mysteries within this park are the UFOs and strange objects that seemingly fall from the sky on a daily basis. UFOs are often seen darting around park's sky. Since the 1800s, people living in this area have also been victims to strange objects falling from the sky, such as hot stones that have destroyed property and that have killed livestock. Big Bend National Park is also known as the, "Zone of Silence," due to extreme electrical failures in aircraft, automobiles, most electrical equipment, and radio waves.
In 1962, two men were exploring some of the park's caves, and in one they discovered a broken ancient tablet on which strange symbols had been written. The men notified a park ranger about their amazing discovery. The ranger took the tablet with him to be studied by specialists, but when the men called the ranger station a few weeks later to inquire about the tablet, they were informed that the ranger to whom they had initially talked no longer worked at that park, and the station claimed they had no knowledge of the ancient tablet to which the men were referring.
Don't forget the infamous Marfa Lights! First witnessed in 1883 by Robert Ellison, these greenish-yellow balls of unexplained light never fail to disappoint their spectators. They are seen every night south of the town of Marfa, Texas. People have tried to explain what this phenomena might be, with explanations ranging from UFOs to swamp gas to ghosts. It is impossible for any living person to get close enough to these lights before they disappear from view.
Mount Rushmore National Park and Keystone (South Dakota)
Mount Rushmore National Park is nestled in the picturesque Black Hills of South Dakota. I was fortunate to have lived in the town of Keystone, which is the home of Mount Rushmore, from 2009-2011. The cemetery in Keystone also holds the remains of some of the men who died while carving Mount Rushmore. The history of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills are impressive, to say the least. Many famous lawmen, outlaws, and businessmen from the old west came here to find their riches when gold was discovered in the hills in 1874. These includ Seth Bullock, Martha Jane Cannary (aka "Calamity Jane"), Wild Bill Hickok, General George Armstrong Custer, Jack McCall, Solomon "Sol" Star, and the great Indian Chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse—just to name a few. When people think about the paranormal in the Black Hills, their minds immediately think of the town of Deadwood. However, the town of Keystone just might have more hauntings than any other place in the South Hills.
The crumbling ruins of the Holy Terror Mine sit in Old Keystone. This dangerous mine was responsible for hundreds of deaths in the late 1800s through early 1900s. Ghost sightings of long-dead miners are a regular sighting around the property of this deadly mine.
Keystone is a town with quite a few hotels and motels, so it should come as no surprise that several of the hotels have eternal guests that like to add a little scare to the overnight guests. Keystone also offers tourists an authentic 1880 train ride to Hill City; if the passenger is attentive, they might witness the male spirit who rides the train. Other local mines and caves within the vicinity of Keystone also claim ghost sightings. Keystone's old school house (turned historical museum) has a couple of ghosts that like to torment the volunteers that work there. Fun fact: Carrie Ingalls Swanzey, sister of author Laura Ingalls Wilder, was a teacher at the Old Keystone School. Also, many businesses in New Keystone are haunted.
But probably the most haunted locale in Keystone is the town's beautiful cemetery, where multiple specters are said to wander. It also harbors an malevolent spirit that has physically and mentally attacked people that have wandered into the cemetery after dark.
Canyonlands National Park (Utah)
Another National Park that doesn't get enough notoriety and that has plenty of paranormal activity is Canyonlands National Park, situated in the southeastern region of Utah. Like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, this high desert landscape was also magnificently carved millions of years ago by the Green and Colorado Rivers. For thousands of years, several different Native American tribes (including the Paleoindians, Ute, Navajo, and Piaute) called this barren terrain home. Canyonlands was aptly named, as it is 275 square miles of mesas, canyons, buttes, spirals, and arches. It also hosts several different kinds of paranormal activity.
Visitors to the park have claimed that they have experienced a phenomenon known as time-slips. Those that are caught in this time-slip have said that they seemed to be caught in a mysterious loop and keep reliving the same moment over and over.
There are stories of people driving through Canyonlands National Park during the dead of night who have encountered a large semi truck that appears out of nowhere and terrorizes anyone who gets in its way. This phantom truck has been described as having flames and sparks shooting from its smoke stacks and tires.
Canyonlands is also known for its Native American petroglyphs that are between fifteen-hundred- and four-thousand-years old. Hikers who visit these protected sites have heard disembodied voices that are only heard around the area of these ancient drawings.
Last, but not least, for those that say "Hey, how come you never hear about ghost of animal?" well here you go. In the four corners region of the United States, wild horses, burros, and mustangs run wild and free. Dead Horse State Park is eighteen miles from Canyonlands National Park and is rumored to be the home to ghostly mustangs and one hauntingly beautiful white horse. In the 1800s, it was common for cowboys to round up the roaming mustangs and choose which ones they were going to keep and release the rest back into the wild. One unfortunate time, the cowboys (for some unknown reason) didn't release the ones they didn't want and forgot about them. The mustangs all died due to dehydration. Since that dreadful event, visitors and park staff have heard the cries of mustangs when there are none reported to be in the area, and a ghostly specter of a magnificent white horse is seen perched on the top of rugged cliffs where access is impossible.
Everglades National Park (Florida)
Everglades National Park is in the southern-most point within the United States. This park is known for its tropical wetlands and is infested with some of the most dangerous reptiles (alligators, cottonmouths, coral snakes, and Burmese pythons), animals (panthers, wild boars, and black bears) and insects (mosquitoes, kissing bugs, fire ants, and deadly spiders) on the planet. The Calusa Indians had called these forbidden swamplands home until the Spaniards arrived in the year 1513. It isn't just the wildlife, quicksand, and hurricanes that visitors need to worry about in this park—paranormal activity also abounds. It should come as no surprise that since the Calusa Indians lived and died in these swamps, the area is one large, watery grave.
Many people live near the Everglades. In 1969, a fourteen-year-old boy and his family lived next to the park, and the boy loved to explore the swamps. One day he stumbled upon an old grave that held the remains of one of the area's original inhabitants, a Native American. The remains had been buried with a gold medallion, and the boy decided to removed the necklace from the skeleton and take it home with him. Soon after the medallion entered the home, the family began to suffer from terrifying nightmares. Then, the once-happy young boy committed suicide by hanging himself. The family believed that when the boy took the medallion from the grave, he unleashed a deadly curse. However, instead of returning the medallion back to its original burial spot, the family sold it. Every person who owned it after the young boy fell to its curse. It is unknown where the medallion is today.
Ed Watson was known to his neighbors as Bloody Ed. In 1896, Ed Watson (known to his neighbors as, "Bloody Ed") moved onto Chokoloskee Island in the Everglades to start a sugarcane plantation. His neighbors stayed far away from him, as Watson was not a friendly man. Case in point: one day, two men were squatting on one of the islands, called Lost Key. Watson did not own this island, but he still killed the men for trespassing. To run his sugarcane crop, Watson would find workers, but would only hire people that were not from that area, and his neighbors noticed that he was going through employees like a revolving door. One day, some men from Chokoloskee were in the swamplands doing some work when they discovered a woman's dead body floating in the water, and recognized her as one of Watsons employees. The people in the town believed that Watson was murdering his hired hands so he didn't have to pay them. When Watson came into the town for supplies, he was confronted by the people in the town, who informed him that they knew he was killing his employees. When Watson tried to defend himself, the vigilantes pulled out their guns and riddled Watson with bullets; they then took his body out to Rabbit Key and buried him. The area around the island where Bloody Ed lived is supposedly haunted by his many victims. It is believed that Ed Watson himself had actually been possessed by evil spirits and his ghost still haunts the area.
In 2009, a young man reported that while he and his family went canoeing through the swamps of the Everglades, he looked into the shallow, murky, alligator-infested waters and saw a boy around thirteen-years-old that seemed to be floating under their canoe. When the two boys locked eyes, the boy in the canoe was terrified—he saw that the whatever he was looking at under the water had bright red eyes and the look of pure hate. It then swam away. The young man let out a gasp, which made his mother ask him if he was alright. He didn't want to worry everyone, so he said that he thought he saw something in the water but had been mistaken. A few minutes later, the boy saw the ghost boy again watching him, but this time on the land behind some trees. Out of nowhere, a strong wind blew in and knocked his female cousin out of the canoe and into the water. Thankfully, the young boy was able to pull his cousin out of the water and back into the canoe. The family quickly paddled to dry land, where the young girl started claiming her back was hurting her. Lifting her shirt up the family was shocked to see that the girl's back was covered in bruises. Several weeks later the young man became obsessed with finding out who the evil spirit might be. His research paid off when he discovered that a young boy drowned decades earlier in the same area that he encountered the ghost. It has been widely known that for many years the Everglades has been used by criminals to dispose of their victims bodies and that the chance of any remains being found in these swamplands is slim to none.
While Grand Canyon National Park is most definitely haunted, it is certainly not the only national park to have its share of paranormal activity; you can easily find restless spirits all over the country that want to make their presence known. It just seems like the Grand Canyon gets all the attention (with good reason). BJ and I were fortunate to call this majestic landscape home, and we were even more fortunate to have such good friends who were willing to share their personal experiences with us. If you ever find yourself in Northern Arizona, try to visit the park at least once. But don't feel rushed to visit right away if you're not. There's likely a national park already near you that's ready to share its ghostly secrets.