Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends

By Melanie Moyer.

Urban legends are often the stuff that makes small towns go round. Everyone has heard at least one, many areas have their own versions of various stories and some towns have their very own legends, specific to horrific histories within the town. We tell these stories on the darkest of nights, around a campfire or during sleepovers with friends and while urban legends are rarely factually true, they do reveal important truths about our deepest, darkest fears.

If you need something to give your friends and family a good scare with bonfire season on the way, here’s ten of America’s scariest urban legends guaranteed to rattle your bones with shivers.

1. The Grave of Lillian Gray

Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends
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This urban legend has captured the imaginations of the people of the Salt Lake City area for years, not because the tale is horrifying, but because the mystery seems that much scarier. In a nondescript cemetery in Salt Lake City, Utah a gravestone marks the burial spot of Lilly E. Gray who died in 1958. Nothing seems out of the ordinary, until you read the last line “VICTIM OF THE BEAST 666.” No one has any substantial reasons for why her gravestone is marked that way. According to hospital records, she died of natural causes.

Related: The Most Horrific Urban Legends that Turned Out to be True

2. The Donkey Lady

This creepy tale comes out of San Antonio, Texas. The legend of the Donkey Lady goes that a local woman who suffered from severe burns that left her face horribly disfigured and her fingers fused together to create the look of stumps for hands. Supposedly, she ostracized herself as a result of her appearance and grew hostile to anyone who approached her. It’s said she haunts the nearby woods, in particular, the bridge over Elm Creek and is often the cause of motorcycle accidents in the area when unsuspecting cyclists noticed her horrifying appearance in their rearview mirror.

3. Suscon Road

Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends
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Pennsylvania is home to some of the country’s most prevalent urban legends, from Centralia to the Hellham County Gates. This story comes from Pittston and its nicknamed “Black Bridge” that formally functioned as a railroad bridge. The story goes if you park under the bridge a ghoulish woman in white will appear in your rearview and let out an ear shattering scream, giving her the name Suscon Screamer. Supposedly the ghost is that of a woman who hung herself long ago after being rejected by her lover.

4. The Clown Statue

This urban legend combines some of the scariest stories we all grew up with: the creepy clown and the babysitter and the man upstairs. The story goes that a young babysitter is fulfilling her duties at a local home when she calls the parents and asks if she can switch the room she’s staying in for the night because the life-sized clown statue is giving her the creeps. The father tells her to take the kids and get out of the house immediately before explaining that they don’t own a clown statue. In some variations of the story after the police arrive and apprehend the clown in question, they learn he’s a homeless man who sneaks into houses and pretends to be a statue to avoid getting caught, surviving off the family’s food and shelter. In other, far darker versions of the legend when the police arrive they find the babysitter and the children butchered, the latest victims of an escaped mental patient roaming the area.

5. The Stow Lake Ghost

Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends
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This San Francisco legend is a hundred years old and has been tempting Californians to test their courage at Stow Lake for generations. The legend of Stow Lake goes that a woman and her child were walking near the lake, and during a moment of distraction the child disappeared. The mother searched frantically all day for the child until nightfall when she finally returned to the lake and was never seen again. Now it’s said that her apparition can be seen by those who travel to the lake at night, where the woman will ask if you have seen her child. There’s also another tradition where if one chants “white lady, white lady, I have your baby” then she will appear but when she finds out you’re lying, she’ll pull you into the lake and drown you.

6. Patterson Road

This infamous stretch of road in Texas runs between Highway 6 and Eldridge. Like many haunted roads, a bridge is involved. This story comes from the time of the Civil War and according to believers, if you go to the Langham Creek Bridge located on the road and park with the car’s lights off you will hear strange sounds and see the misty apparition of Civil War soldiers marching to war.

7. Portal to Hell in Bobby Mackey’s Music World

Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends
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The music hall in Kentucky is so haunted that a sign hanging above the entrance acts a waiver, warning patrons that the establishment is not responsible for any harm that may come to them from ghostly activities. But a terrifying urban legend sits at the heart of this ghostly music hall. Before it was a music hall, the building served as a slaughter house in the mid 19th century. Sitting in the hall today is the remnants of this literal bloody history in the form of a sealed up well in the basement, its even claimed to be still stained with blood. The legend goes on to say the well was a gathering place for Satanists who used it in the ritual execution of a pregnant woman who was beheaded and her head placed in the well, as a sacrifice to the dark entities the occultists worshiped.

There is some truth to the legend here, in 1896, 22-year-old Pearl Bryan’s body was found decapitated on the property. Pregnant at the time of her death, her boyfriend Scott Jackson and his friend Alonzo Walling had attempted to conduct an abortion on their own. After Pearl died, they removed her head with the hopes of throwing the police off the scent but both men were caught and later executed for their crime. Today, visitors to the music club say the sealed well is a portal to hell, some even claim to hear the sound of deep growling coming from the depths of the well.

8. Char-Man

In the stunning valley of Ojai, California, a creepy urban legend is waiting. The area is one of the most wildfire-prone parts of California and in 1948 a substantial one burned through the valley. The story goes that a man living alone in a cabin just outside of town was a victim of the fire and burned to death while his son survived with horrifying burns. People say as a result of his disfigurement and constant pain, he went mad and murdered a local man, flaying him alive. The police tracked him deep into the woods by following the sounds of inhuman wheezing. But the Char-Man escaped and fled into the wilderness where it’s said he still lurks to this day preying on unsuspecting hikers.

Related: The Origins Behind 9 Terrifying American Urban Legends

9. The Green Man

Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends
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Out in Beaver County, Pennsylvania there is an urban legend with more truth to it than most. Raymond Robinson was the victim of a childhood electrical accident that left him so horribly disfigured he never went out in daylight out of fear that he might cause a panic among the community. He took to taking walks at night and became a figure of legend for locals who would drive around at night looking for “the Green Man” walking around at night. Though the myths built up a much scarier version of him, he was actually a real person and member of the community, if a little bit secretive.

10. The Goatman

Around the Campfire: 10 Scariest American Urban Legends
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Possibly one of the strangest and most well-known urban legends out there is the Goatman who is said to roam the back roads of Beltsville, Maryland. According to legend, the 8-foot tall creature is said to be half-animal half-man and wields an axe. It was first spotted in 1957 by a couple who spotted the beast in their driveway.  Then sometime in the 1960’s the Goatman appeared again when it attacked a young couple who were parked off Flechertown Road.  The story goes that after hearing strange noises from the outside the car the boyfriend headed out into the woods to investigate. He never returned. The next day, police found his severed head hanging in a tree above where the car was parked, but his body was never found. In the 1970’s the Goatman came to public awareness again after it was claimed the creature had attacked a dog. Its head was found not far from its home but in similar fashion to the previous attack, its body was never found.

Theories range of what the creature could be but the most popular seem’s to be that he was a former scientist from Beltsville who took an experiment too far and mutated into the creature now known as Goatman. Whatever the case may be the legend of the Goatman continues to enthrall the people of Maryland who claim it still roams the wilderness to this day, frightening local teenagers who park their cars to close to its hunting grounds.

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