Halloween's 16 scariest wild places and historic sites

Bryce Canyon National Park at night

flickr, kcolwell

During Halloween, no frightful lands featured in movies or books can compare to places where horror is reality.

This Halloween, you need only venture into wilderness to be chilled to the bone. These scary places are inhabited by a wild beauty, and most by a ghost or two as well. Here are some haunted wild places that are sure to raise some wild hairs:

 

1. Olympic National Park, Washington

photo: Olympic National Park. credit: flickr, gabri_micha.

Perhaps most famous as Bella's stomping ground in the Twilight series, Olympic National Park was once most feared for legendary sightings and stories of Sasquatch. The temperate rainforest and its gigantic trees are sure to inspire rich fantasies, even of the spooky kind.

 

2. Mammoth Cave National Park and Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky

photo: Mammoth Cave National Park. credit: flickr, blmurch.

The spirits of Chief Blackfish and Daniel Boone haunt the Sheltowee trail which runs along Laurel River Lake at the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area in Daniel Boone National Forest. A few hours away, however, is Mammoth Cave National Park, which takes the cake for scary wild places as the world's largest known network of caves. If it's winding, dark caverns aren't eerie enough, it is also supposedly inhabited by the ghosts of Stephen Bishop and Melissa and Floyd Collins, among others.

 

3. Gettysburg National Cemetery, Pennsylvania 

photo: Gettsburg Cemetery. credit: flickr, The Uprooted Photographer.

The famous three-day Civil War battle left thousands of men dead, which means there are plenty of ghosts in this haunted wild place. Legend is that if you risk photographing the war field your camera will either malfunction or worse- you'll capture a spirit that might haunt you for months.

 

4. Golden Trout Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, California 

photo: Public campsite in 1934 in present-day Inyo National Forest. credit: flickr, The Forest History Society.

Legend has it that that this land was shepherded by the Lewis family in the 1800s, and when Ms. Lewis died her ashes were spread across this favored place. Today backpackers and campers report her ghostly presence at the site on the Kern Plateau.

 

5. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico 

photo: Carlsbad Caverns National Park. credit: flickr, joevare.

When it comes to creatures of the night, none compare to the classically creepy bat, an animal who is renowned for its mysterious life in the dark. Rangers at Carlsbad Caverns offer nightly bat flight programs May through October, keeping this wild place scary for months before Halloween. This national park is also the next to be available for virtual tours via Google "Street View."

 

6. Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina

photo: Red wolf at Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. flickr, USFWS/Southeast.

The terrifying creatures that inhabit this refuge are not the ones suggested by its title. This is the only place in the world where endangered red wolves still exist in the wild, offering up chilling howls nightly. What could make a wild place scarier?

 

7. Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site, Pennsylvania 

photo: Edgar Allen Poe's burial site. credit: flickr, bittermelon.

The City of Brotherly Love is not only America's most historic but also its most haunted, including by the famous likes of John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. But the most eerie historic figure is that of the quintessentially spooky Edgar Allen Poe, writer of The Tell-Tale Heart and The Fall of the House of Usher, among others. Halloween offers plenty of tricks and treats to those who revel in this haunted place.

 

8. Big South Fork National River Recreation Area, Tennessee 

photo: "Ghost structure" and photograph of original building. credit: flickr, treewoman8.

"Ghost structures" of those built by the Army Corps of Engineers at the Blue Heron Mine are only visible at night, merely one part of the eerieness at the scary wild place known as Big South Fork National River. The Big South Fork Scenic Railway is one of the "Ghost Railroads of Kentucky," offering haunted trips around this popular place for camping.

 

9. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

photo: stars at Bryce Canyon National Park. credit: flickr, wenzday01.

Take a hike under a full moon at Bryce Canyon National Park and revel in the terrifying beauty of this wild scary place. But beware the skies - you may get a glimpse of extra-terrestrial life as UFOs are frequently spotted in this area.

 

10. Minute Man National Historical Park and the Wayside Home of Authors, Massachusetts

photo: Wayside Home. credit: flickr, juliejordanscott.

The Minute Man Park houses the grounds of the first battle of the Revolutionary War as well as the Wayside Home of Authors, where authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne once lived. Hawthorne's relationship with an ancestor involved in the Salem witch trials influenced his spooky stories like the House of the Seven Gables. Every year the park celebrates Halloween by having park rangers share ghost stories.

 

11. Alcatraz, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California

photo: Alcatraz. credit: flickr, eschipul.

Long ago, Native Americans kept well away from this island, believing it to be cursed. But in more recent years, this enigmatic, scary place has served as a Civil War fortress, San Francisco Arsenal, infamous federal prison, holding place for conscientious objectors to WWI, bird sanctuary, and a protest site for the American Indian Red Power movement. Most famous for being a jail, it held some of the most feared American criminals, like Al Capone, the "Birdman," and George "Machine Gun" Kelly, some of whom continue to haunt its halls. Spooky noises still come from bolted-shut Cell Block C, where prisoners once were shot down as they tried to escape. But no place is more feared than cell 14D, where an inmate was once locked in and later found mysteriously dead. Night tours could be especially creepy on Halloween.

 

12. Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, New York

photo: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. credit: flickr, toddxholmes.

This historic preservation site houses landmarks from Washington Irving's “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” Who can forget the story of that wild, scary forest? The cemetery encompasses the Old Dutch Burying Ground, resting place of the headless horseman, as well as the author's grave and those of Andrew Carnegie, Walter Chrysler, William Rockefeller and Elizabeth Arden, among others. 

 

13. George Washington National Forest, Virginia 

photo: Braley's Pond area. credit: USFS.

Braley’s Pond is one of the best known camping spots to see a ghost in this forest in the Shenandoah Valley. While inquiring about a murder in 2003, one member of the group apparently tried to commit suicide, causing an investigator to describe it as the scariest case she’d ever been involved with.

 

14. Ocala National Forest, Florida

photo: title shot for 1945 USDA film about Ocala National Forest. credit: USDA

The oldest national forest east of the Mississippi, the Ocala is said to be haunted by Ku Klux Klan members and their many victims, whose bodies were apparently taken to its Mud Lake. The forest also contains the ghost town of Kerr City and has been the location of several murders and unsolved mysteries. Wild and scary place, indeed!

 

15. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington 

photo: Mount Rainier National Park. credit: kern.justin.

As if the climb up Washington's highest peak isn't scary enough, this mountain is also known for Native American lore. The first to summit, Stevens and Van Trump, were warned by tribal Nisqually guides of the spirit of Tahoma, a scorned wife who apparently devoured visitors after sucking them into her cave-like stomach. Though many have braved its heights since, Mount Rainier remains wildly scary today.

 

16. Devil's Staircase proposed Wilderness, Oregon

photo: Devil's Staircase proposed Wilderness. credit: Tim Giraudier.

This area is considered the remotest of places named for the rarely sighted, mythical waterfall known as "The Devil's Staircase." While you won't see any chainsaws in this old-growth forest, it hosts the highest density of the threatened northern spotted owls in the region. A bill to protect it has been lingering in Congress for a few years, and passed the Senate this summer.

 

Get our 10 tips for an eco-friendly Halloween 

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