Nature is freakin’ creepy. It’s full of things that could outrun, out-fly, or out-climb feeble humans. It makes weird noises at night. It has bats, and spiders, and big-ass fish. Those are all fine in their place, but do we have to intrude on them with our big dumb clumsy flesh-suits? And look, fish just shouldn’t be that big! Where does it end.
That’s not even counting what lies on the other side of this dimension, ya know? In addition to all of the biological “nopes” that exist in the world, there’s a slew of paranormal WTF stuff out there, waiting for us to park our campers and stumble into the unknown. To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th birthday, let’s talk about it. Are you ready? *shines flashlight onto face* Here we go.
If ghosts were real, Civil War battlegrounds would be brimming with these intangible assholes, and Gettysburg, PA would be their capital city. At Devil’s Den, tourists to the spot report seeing a rifle-carrying, barefoot ghost who whispers, “What you’re looking for is over there.” Nah dude.
Mammoth Cave National Park claims the titles of most haunted. It’s got stories about lovesick girls dying of tuberculosis, strange visions of people who aren’t really there, and sagas involving tragic feuds. One story told by a tour guide stands out:
When they reached a point on the trail called the “Methodist Church”, they usually turned out all of the lights so that visitors could experience what the cave was like in pitch blackness. She was standing at the back of the group when the lights went out and she could hear the lead ranger talking about the experience. Then, she felt a strong shove against her shoulder. The assault was hard enough that she had to step forward to keep from falling over. She turned to another ranger, who was supposed to be standing next to her and she whispered to him to stop clowning around. A moment later, the lead ranger ignited the wick on a lantern and she saw that the other ranger, she had thought was close to her, was actually about 70 feet away. There was no way that he could have shoved her and then walked so far in complete darkness. “There was no one near me,” she said, “but it was a playful shove. There are a number of us who feel things in various parts of the cave. It’s not frightening — but it’s something else.”
I’d call that frightening, but that’s just me.
As if water shooting up from the Earth at random isn’t scary enough, this Yellowstone ranger tells the tale of finding an eerie campsite:
Inside I found a cloth sleeping back, some dirty clothes, LOTS of food (Big cans of spaghetti-o’s, and what looked like some leftovers from a refried beans and rice dinner), and a teddy bear. Everything reeked of cigarette smoke. […] I spent some time poking around the area, but never saw any other sign. It was obviously someone who was not prepared for camping out in the backcountry, judging by the food and equipment, and the teddy bear….I just don’t know.
Finding a teddy bear in a place where teddy bears shouldn’t be ups the creepy factor by 10.
Someone claiming to be a Search and Rescue officer for the US Forest Service posted several of their own stories on Reddit’s No Sleep subreddit, so there’s a good chance they’re fake, but they’re creepy enough to go here, anyway. One describes finding a woman curled up under a rotted log:
Along the way, she kept looking behind us and asking us why ‘that big man with black eyes’ was following us. We couldn’t see anyone, so we just wrote it off as some weird symptom of shock. But the closer we got to base, the more agitated this woman got. She kept asking me to tell him to stop ‘making faces’ at her. At one point she stopped and turned around and started yelling into the forest, saying that she wanted him to leave her alone. She wasn’t going to go with him, she said, and she wouldn’t give us to him. We finally got her to keep moving, but we started hearing these weird noises coming from all around us. It was almost like coughing, but more rhythmic and deeper. It was almost insect-like, I don’t really know how else to describe it. When we were within site of base ops, the woman turns to me, and her eyes are about as wide as I can imagine a human could open them. She touches my shoulder and says ‘He says to tell you to speed up. He doesn’t like looking at the scar on your neck.’ I have a very small scar on the base of my neck, but it’s mostly hidden under my collar, and I have no idea how this woman saw it. Right after she says it, I hear that weird coughing right in my ear, and I just about jumped out of my skin. I hustled her to ops, trying not to show how freaked out I was, but I have to say I was really happy when we left the area that night.
Another details the experience of a man who’d fallen down a cliff and got trapped:
He kept talking about how he’d been doing fine, and when he’d gotten to the top, a man had been there. He said the guy had no climbing equipment, and he was wearing a parka and ski pants. He walked up to the guy, and when the guy turned around, he said he had no face. It was just blank. He freaked out, and ended up trying to get off the mountain too fast, which is why he’d fallen. He said he could hear the guy all night, climbing down the mountain and letting out these horrible muffled screams.
Yosemite’s another national park that’s hella haunted. The former operator of the Ahwahnee Hotel is supposedly still floating up and down hallways, “checking in” on guests like a major creeper and rocking in chairs that don’t exist.
Near Yosemite’s Grouse Lake, a boy reportedly wanders and wails to passers-by. The park’s first ranger, Galen Clark, went for a long walk when he heard “a distinct wailing cry, somewhat like a puppy when lost.” He asked a nearby Native American hunting camp what they thought of this:
“They replied that it was not a dog—that a long time ago an Indian boy had been drowned in the lake, and that every time anyone passed there he always cried after them, and no one dared go into the lake, for (the boy) would catch them by the legs and pull them down and they would be drowned.”
Finally, The Fresh Toast’s own photo editor Roslyn shares her tale of park-related weirdness:
“We were camping in a tent at Big Bend National Park, in Chisos Basin Campground and I heard noises in the middle of the night. I thought I could feel a little girl spirit standing right at the foot of my head but it felt more like an endless shadow. I brushed it off and tried to get back to sleep, assuming it was a mountain lion or bear because we were told those come into the camp grounds. But there were no tracks when we woke up. Later, someone told me a similar thing happened to them in that park a year before.“
Chisos, the name of the mountains where she was camping, is a Native American word meaning “ghost” or “spirit.” Yep, probably definitely haunted!
So there you have it. We have two choices. Stay indoors where there’s Wi-Fi, or at least near enough to civilization that you can tweet about the messed-up X-Files stuff happening to you. Or venture out into your nearest National Park with one of those flashlights that double as a club, and let’s be real, a change of underwear.