It’s that time of year again — Halloween! The time when we immerse ourselves in all things spooky. Everybody loves a good urban legend, and, thankfully, the Midwest is chock full of them. I chalk it up to the desolate, expansive cornfields, those small towns untouched by time and unpredictable weather patterns.
Below, I’ve compiled a list of Midwestern urban legends, ones that’ll surely keep you up at night. And if they don’t, then you’ve got a more robust constitution than most. Proceed at your peril.
The Legend of Black Annie: In the 1930s, Black Annie perished in a house fire in Boonville. According to legend, the ghost of Black Annie stalks the streets to this day, appearing as a figure dressed head to toe in black. Not only that, but she jumps on folks’ cars and wanders the cemetery where she eternally rests. She even haunts what’s left of her old home. Boonville recently organized a “Black Annie Walk” event to search for her.
Murphysboro Mud Monster: The summer of 1973 ushered in a terrifying beast for the residents of Murphysboro. One couple parked near a boat ramp saw a massive, matted beast lurching toward them while emitting horrific noises. While the police didn’t believe the couple, they still went to the scene and spotted large footprints. Later, they, too, heard awful sounds.
A few other folks reported seeing the creature at the time, but no sightings have been recorded since the 1970s.
Stony Hollow Cliff: In Burlington, urban legend reveals a woman named Lucinda jumped off Stony Hollow Cliff after suffering immense heartbreak. The said legend dictates if you climb to the top of the cliff and say her name three times, she’ll appear. If she drops a rose at your feet, you’ll die the following day.
Hamburger Man: No, not the hamburger-obsessed McDonald’s character — something much worse. The Hamburger Man is a half-ghost, half-monster who stalks Hutchinson with one objective: attack helpless victims with a hook, drag them to his shack nestled in Sand Hills State Park and grind their bodies into delicious hamburger meat. Yummy?
Dogman: This beast might give Bigfoot a run for his money. “Dogman” is a massive, canine-like creature with piercing eyes and a terrifying howl. He stalks the northern woods of the Lower Peninsula. A Traverse City DJ claimed to start the urban legend as an April Fool’s Day joke in 1987.
However, folks came forward, verifying the Dogman myth as fact, with one man recounting an incident with Dogman in 1938. Some reports date back to 1887, but French fur traders had similar stories in the early 1800s. The DJ mentioned above predicted Dogman attacks occurring on a 10-year cycle, but video footage in 2007 following a 1997 attack debunked that theory.
Glensheen Mansion: Minnesota’s most notorious homicide took place at the Glensheen Mansion in 1977. Heiress Elisabeth Congdon and her nurse, Velma Pietila, were murdered in June of that year. Congdon was suffocated with a satin pillow while Pietila was beaten with a candlestick.
Now, the University of Minnesota-Duluth owns the mansion, and employees have heard screaming after hours. Additionally, some claim to see a “white lady, dressed in period clothing, wandering through the mansion.“
Zombie Road: This road outside of St. Louis was called “Lawler Ford Road,” but its current moniker, “Zombie Road,” came about in the 1950s. Stories of a “zombie killer” circulated — a creepy man living in a shack would attack young lovers. Other terrifying elements were thrown into the mix over the years, including ghosts, strange noises and vanishings. It’s purported that Della Hamilton-McCullough, the wife of a local judge hit by a train in 1876, haunts Zombie Road.
The Hatchet House: Here’s an urban legend that’s about 50 shades of gruesome. Portal, south of Papillion, was home to a one-room schoolhouse. Initially called “Portal School,” it’s now known as “The Hatchet House.” According to legend, the school teacher had a breakdown; she decapitated all of her students and placed their heads on their desks.
Then, she carved out their hearts and tossed them into the waters below “Heartbeat Bridge.” If you travel across the bridge today, the rickety boards sound like the beating hearts of those children floating in the water. To this day, the schoolhouse still stands.
Frank Briggs’ Mansion: Former Bismarck Governor Frank Briggs died of tuberculosis in 1898 in his mansion. After his death, the butler refused to sleep in the house alone because Briggs still resided within as a ghost. Later, the house underwent restorations; folks claim they’ve seen disturbances like the curtains moving when there’s no breeze or without help. In addition, people report they hear footsteps on the stairs leading to the attic and basement.
Helltown: Once known as Boston Mills, “Helltown” was purchased by the US government to “make way for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.” According to urban legend, the government closed the town after a chemical accident mutated its citizens. Some folks claim to see disfigured, mutated people still in the area. Not only that, but a dilapidated church with an upside-down cross in the abandoned town is purportedly used for satanic worship.
The Orpheum Theatre: A ghost called Larry haunts The Orpheum Theatre in Sioux Falls. This urban legend states that Larry danced with a woman whose husband was fighting in a war. The said husband returned and killed Larry, and the ghost of Larry lurks about the Orpheum to this day. If you hear Larry whistle “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on the opening night of any performance at the theatre, it’s considered good luck.
University of Wisconsin Mass Murder: Legend has it, a famous psychic predicted on a talk show that 12 students would perish on Halloween at the University of Wisconsin. While some students steered clear of any party, others didn’t heed the psychic’s prediction, and, the following morning, 12 students were found brutally murdered.
What are your favorite Midwestern urban legends? Sound off in the comments below!
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