Gather ’round the campfire for seven tales of ghostly sounds and spectral sightings deep in the woods and mountains of the Southeast. We’ve rounded up some of the most haunted hikes nearby to get you in the Halloween spirit.
1. Violet Lantern Tour, Mammoth Cave National Park
As the world’s longest known cave system, it’s no wonder that Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave is teeming with chilling history. This lantern-lit walking tour takes visitors through a part of the cave that was briefly used as an experimental tuberculosis hospital in the 1800s, under the belief that the cave possessed healing powers. When patients died, they were placed on Corpse Rock awaiting burial, and visitors still report sounds of coughing from near the rock.
Other ghostly residents are said to include “Lost John,” a Native American who perished in the cave, and Stephen Bishop, a well-known early slave guide. The three hour tour is not extremely strenuous, but is chilly and lacks restrooms.
2. Sarver Hollow Shelter, Virginia
Though this AT shelter is relatively new, it sits on a site with a storied past. The Sarver homestead was a two-story cabin built by Henry Sarver around the time of the Civil War, and his family lived there for the better part of a century. Many of the Sarver children died young, and were laid to rest in the nearby family cemetery. You can still find the graveyard and the ruins of the house near the shelter.
Campers tell stories of hearing footsteps around the shelter, being shaken awake in the middle of the night and even of eerie figures showing up in photos taken near the home.
3. Ghost House Trail, Tennessee
Big Ridge State Park in East Tennessee has its share of morbid stories, from an early settler who was scalped by Native Americans to a young witch who was allegedly hanged by her own father. However, the area’s primary haunted claim to fame stems from the Hutchinson house, which the Ghost House Trail was named for.
As the story goes, the Hutchinson’s adult daughter, Mary, died in the house of tuberculosis, but her cries from upstairs continued to emanate long after her death. The neighbors reported hearing noises from the Hutchinson house even after the family moved away, and were eventually driven away themselves. While Mary’s ghost doesn’t seem to have lingered, her dog is said to be seen and heard wandering the area. The hike is an easy 1.2 mile loop.
4. Corbin Cabin, Shenandoah National Park
Shenandoah National Park was established in 1935, and before that its wilderness was home to hundreds of farming families. Eventually, most of the homes were destroyed, though one of the few survivors is the cabin built by George Corbin in the early 1900s. In the winter of 1924, his wife, Nee Corbin, died during childbirth and it’s said that her ghost still wanders the old cabin and the surrounding woods.
Today the cabin is managed by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, which rents the Corbin Cabin to hikers who make reservations several months in advance.
5. Punchbowl Shelter, Virginia
In 1891, four year old Ottie Cline Powell went missing from the Tower Hill Schoolhouse while gathering firewood during recess. After months of searching, his body was eventually found seven miles away on Bluff Mountain. Now the Appalachian Trail passes right by the spot where he was found, which is commemorated with a large concrete marker.
Campers at nearby Punchbowl Shelter often come away with stories of seeing a little boy or sensing a young playful presence during their stay.
6. Norton Creek Trail, North Carolina
This little corner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is said to be home to two spirits: one friendly, and one… not so much. The benevolent ghost belongs to a settler who died while looking for his lost daughter in the woods. Many lost hikers have reported being lead to safety by a floating light.
On the other hand, the Cherokee who once lived in the area told their children tales of an evil witch named Spearfinger who lived high on the ridge. The witch would disguise herself as a friendly grandmother and prey on children who wandered too far from home. When she lured them in, she would use her one long, sharp finger to cut out and eat their livers.
7. South Mountain Battlefield, Maryland
The Battle for South Mountain was fought in 1862 near Fox’s Gap, where Daniel Wise lived in a cabin with his two children. When the battle was over, Union soldiers threw the bodies of 58 Confederates into Wise’s well. Legend has it that Wise was haunted by them for 12 years until the bodies were removed and buried in a Confederate Cemetery.
Today hikers on this section of the Appalachian Trail claim to see apparitions of soldiers on the battlefield, and to hear the sound of bodies being dumped into the well. This historical site can be reached via a 7-mile hike from Crampton Gap in Gathland State Park.