Every area of the world has its own myths and legends that are passed down through the ages, twisted by decades-long games of telephone. These stories may have some truthful origin or could simply be one of many tall tales uttered by a natural-born storyteller with a knapsack and a grizzled beard. The stories might have deep metaphors meant to endow a sense of virtue on the listener, bring a sense of beauty and wonder to a certain locale, or, more often than not, scare the living daylights out of children and teens.

These myths may have ancient roots in the indigenous cultures that once inhabited the land or the mother countries that colonized them later, and if so, you can expect stories of ancient monsters and tricksters with lessons attached to traditions almost forgotten. If the stories are derived from more modern times, they tend to exaggerate real-life tragedies, often with bits and pieces stolen from Hollywood-driven narratives. Regardless, these tales have a tendency to sit as seeds in the back of your mind, waiting to grow into a full-blown panic when darkness falls and the shivers of loneliness set in, and every one of the 50 United States has its own creepy myths. These are the creepiest among them.



Empty playground covered in fog

If you want your blood to instantly run cold, the sound of disembodied children’s laughter will surely do it for you. This is why a small playground connected to the Maple Hill Cemetery outside of Huntsville, Alabama, wins the list for the state. According to Atlas Obscura, the playground exists to give bored children something to do while older relatives visit the plots of their deceased loved ones, but the living children aren’t the only ones said to visit the little park.

Some believe, as Advance Local explains, the spirits of dead children play on the equipment at least as often as the visitors. Many claim to have seen the swings moving on their own, the telltale orbs of spectral inhabitants, or even the apparitions of the child ghosts themselves. Local lore gives two backstories: Either the children buried in the cemetery haunt these grounds or, the eerier of the two, the bodies of children abducted in the ’60s were buried where the playground now sits, and their restless spirits entertain themselves how any child at such a location would.



Fog rising off water

In Alaska, it’s not the tale of spectral beings that sends chills up the locals’ spines. This myth has a corporeal monster at its core. As Sky History UK tells it, there are creatures known as the Kushtaka inhabiting the Alaskan waters. These beings are said to be shapeshifting creatures that turn into otters and mimic the sounds of women and children in distress in an effort to lure unsuspecting fishermen to their demise. The older legend from which this story was born, though, gets even darker.

According to EsoterX, Kushtaka tales come from the indigenous Tlingit and Tsimshian peoples of the Pacific Northwest. The actual legend says the Kushtaka would search out lost or drowning people within their hunting grounds and do one of three things: Turn them into Kushtaka (the preferable fate), rip their ill-fated victims to pieces, or simply take away their immortal soul, preventing them from continuing the cycle of reincarnation and sentencing them to an eternity of oblivion. The nothingness of empty eternity is a fate more horrific than an early death.



Ghost woman in fog

This Arizona myth, according to Only in Your State, has roots in Aztec lore and has since been made popular across the state as a way to keep children indoors after nightfall. The story of La Llorona is terrifying enough to have been made into the popular horror film “The Curse of La Llorona.”

According to Vanity Fair, the tale goes like this: A long time ago, a woman named Maria married a rich suitor and bore him two children. The husband stopped paying attention to Maria on the rare occasion he was home and noticed only the children. Soon, Maria discovered him with another woman, the real reason behind his neglect. Enraged by what she’d learned, Maria drowned her children. Regret filled her almost immediately, and she screamed out to them in grief before, in some versions, drowning herself as well. Her spirit was denied the luxury of heaven, sentenced to walk the Earth as a restless shade in search of her children.

If children pass by a body of water at night, it’s said La Llorona will drag them in and drown them like she did her own brood. Some say she does the same to cheating husbands. All in all, it’s best to avoid her in general, just in case.



ghost woman

You never know what you’re going to get when you pick up a hitchhiker. There’s a chance they’ll be smelly, a chance they’ll be the perfect road companion, a slim chance they’ll be a wanted criminal, and so on. But things get a little more chilling along Arkansas Highway 365, where the hitchhiker you pick up could be the wandering spirit of a deceased young woman.

Legend has it, according to KFSM 5 News, the figure of a young woman is seen walking across an eerie bridge south of Little Rock, her white dress torn. With the woman looking so down on her luck, passersby are more than willing to give her a lift to the house she always seems to be going to, but once they arrive, the woman vanishes into the chilly night air. The house is said to be that of her mother, who will gladly explain about her daughter’s death and her periodic hitchhike home to anyone who knocks on the door.

The Arkansas state website adds more to the story, saying there’s a rumor of a boy who’d given this girl a ride home. He handed her his jacket to help warm her after her walk in the crisp rain. Like always, she disappeared, he knocked, and the mother explained. Afterward, he visited her grave, only to find his jacket hanging on her tombstone.



Embers flaring up

Wildfires are a somewhat common occurrence in California, but only one of these ravaging natural disasters has produced the psychopath known to the Ojai Valley as the Char-Man.

Some time ago, more specifically in the summer of 1948, a large fire blazed through the valley, according to the myth (as detailed by Backpackerverse). The area was isolated due to the limited technology of the era, and some households were forced to wait days for assistance. One such place was a small cabin where a father and son lived alone.

The building was devoured by the fire, the father killed by the flames, leaving the son as the sole survivor. He’d been badly burned, some might say “charred,” but he made it through. Something more than his flesh was changed by the heat, the smoke, and the pain he endured, though. A piece of his mind was broken, turning him into a monster. As testament, when the police arrived on the scene, they found the corpse of his father hanging, skin flayed from his body, from a nearby tree.

It’s said the Char-Man, the creature the son became, still terrorizes the Ojai Valley and will attack unsuspecting hikers and campers so he can collect their skins like he did his father’s.



Person walking down dark road

Riverdale Road, an 11-mile stretch of road running between Thornton and Brighton, Colorado, is said to be one of the most haunted roads in the United States, and there are plenty of creepy myths to surround it. It’s thought to be so haunted, in fact, that many, according to KUSA 9 News, suspect the road houses the actual gates of hell somewhere along its winding curves.

The most prominent urban myth about this road has to do with a phantom jogger who attacks cars traveling its pavement or parked on the thin, graveled shoulders. The jogger is said to be the spirit of a poor soul who became the victim of a hit-and-run while trying to catch a little exercise, or so Our Community Now claims. The restless shade now travels the road at night banging on the sides of traveling cars, or worse if you’re unfortunate to park along his street. The footsteps are all you’ll hear as the jogger approaches your vehicle to beat on its doors and windows, and if you should be unlucky enough to let the specter reach the driver’s-side door, you might just join him in the in-between.

Between the ghost jogger and a spectral Camaro said to race drivers to their deaths, it might be best to avoid Riverdale Road altogether.



Connecticut woods

Hidden away in the woods of Connecticut are a group of people you’d never want to meet. The Melon Heads, as they’re called by the locals, live down thin country roads on the outskirts of towns where the woods get thick. According to the New England Historical Society, they rarely ever come out of hiding, but CTPost says they’ll toss rocks at your car to drive you away from their land if you get too close. And that’s far from the worst these people will do.

There are several theories about where the Melon Heads come from: escapees from a mental institution, a group of lost colonizers, or possibly a family banished from a nearby town for the crime of witchcraft. No one knows for certain, but most agree these people have suffered strange physical abnormalities after generations of inbreeding. These people are said to be small, but with giant heads and a hunger to match. They’ll eat anything from small, crawling critters to the flesh of people. Supposedly, they have a taste for teens and are often blamed by the more superstitious folk when a teenager or a hiker disappears in the woods.



Lums Pond at dusk

Most ghost stories involve an unfortunate person who met a terrible demise, the pain of which trapped their souls in a purgatory here on Earth, and the ghost rumored to haunt Lums Pond in Delaware is no different.

The story, as told by Only in Your State, says that during the 19th century, a young girl ran away from a bad home situation to seek refuge in the woods around Lums Pond, an area that’s now the Swamp Trail. Well, what looked like a wilderness haven from the trouble of her home life turned out to be the haven of someone more sinister than the young girl meant to encounter. Having escaped her hardships for mere moments, the girl ran across a camper. The man attacked the young girl, sexually assaulted her, and killed her. Her body was found shortly after, but despite a full manhunt, the murderer was never captured.

It’s rumored that the inconsolable shade of the young girl is still wandering the trail. Her cries can be heard echoing through the trees, sending a chill down the spines of even the most courageous.