From the Stanley Hotel to the Amityville House, the U.S. has plenty of iconic, haunted landmarks for budding paranormal investigators to visit. But, you likely have a supernatural site tucked away in your own backyard, too — you just have to listen to the local legends.
Every town and neighborhood has that eerie house, defunct warehouse, or plain old scary cemetery that people avoid when night falls — and, if they must pass by, hold their breath until it's far behind them. These are the sites that serve as inspiration for generations of spooky stories.
We asked Refinery29 readers to share their hometown's scariest story and they did not disappoint. Between apparitions, disappearances, and disembodied sounds, these tales prove that no town is without its share of eerie history.
Of course, for all the chills and thrills they bring, these creepy stories aren't without a tinge of sadness. A mother loses her daughter. A young woman dies by suicide. The state takes advantage of people with mental illnesses. We may only have rumors and memories to go on now, but there are often real people behind the legends (sometimes, that's what makes them so frightening).
Ahead, read eight local legends from around the U.S. and Canada. And then share your own hometown's haunted history in the comments.
Hometown: Sidney, IA
"There's a haunted home in a neighboring town known as the Villisca Axe Murder House. On June 10th, 1912, two adults and six children were bludgeoned and murdered in their beds there. This case is still unsolved, although rumors and theories abound about the identity of the killer. Today, the house has been restored to the condition it was in on the eve of the slayings, and it's now on the National Registrar of Historic Places. They do tours. However, I did not book in any official capacity. Instead, I visited the site late at night with my cheer squad back when I was in high school. We all were joking around and went up the the door, poking around to see if we could get a look inside. Then we heard a loud bump, and immediately screamed and sprinted away to the van we drove up in. I never went back. "
Hometown: Middletown, New Jersey
"There's this spooky dirt road called Whipporwhill Valley Road in my town. Everyone would joke about driving there at night in high school and seeing ghosts or phantom trucks, or even spotting the Devil. There are a ton of stories about this road, but the creepiest one is this: Legend has it that a baby drowned under the bridge that is now known as "Cry Baby Bridge." If you drive there at 1 a.m., you can apparently hear the baby start to cry. If you stop on the bridge and turn your car off, it also won't start back up again — leaving you to hear its ghostly cries."
Hometown: Storm Lake, Iowa
"There was this haunted house outside of town. We called it the Texas Chainsaw house, because there was a rumor that at night you could hear an echo of a chainsaw. And the home still had unopened cans of food in the cabinets and newspapers from 1980s on the kitchen table, almost as if the family up and left and didn't pack a thing. They tore it down because kids were going there and trespassing in this old abandoned creepy house with like a weird amount of dolls and toys from the '80s. I didn't believe in ghosts at the time, but, looking back, I'd bet money that it was actually haunted."
Hometown: Deer Isle, Maine
"There was the ghost of a lobsterman — a fisherman who went lobstering. He found one that was shaped like his wife and took it home to her. They laughed and boiled it and ate it, and when they were done, his wife had turned into a lobster. They had many children and still live up here."
Hometown: Ronkonkoma, New York
"Lake Ronkonkoma is Long Island’s largest freshwater lake and was a popular summer destination. According to legend, it is also cursed. This body of water is said to be the home of a vengeful spirit that claims one male life per year.
"Supposedly, Ronkonkoma was the name of a Native American princess who fell in love with a white settler who lived near the lake. [Ed. note: The princess is also known as Tuskawanta in some versions of the legend.] Upon their meeting, the princess and the settler immediately fell in love, but their union was forbidden by her father. Every night, they would sneak out to send messages of love to one another. Ronkonkoma would paddle her canoe out to the middle of the lake, where she would then float a message the rest of the way to her lover waiting on the opposite shore. This continued for years, until one day the princess was unable to deal with this arrangement. She sent a final farewell note to her lover. He received it on the shore and minutes later, the canoe washed up in front of him as well. Inside it was the princess’s body — she had died by suicide in the middle of the lake.
"Since that day Ronkonkoma has haunted the lake, becoming known to many as the Lady of the Lake. Angered because she wasn’t allowed to love in life, she now drags one man into the lake each year. People say that at least one person has drowned each year in Lake Ronkonkoma for the past 200 years, the large majority of them male. Many others have reported being drawn by some unseen force out to the center of the lake, as if something was trying to drag them in. These souls have been able to resist the pull of the Lady of the Lake, and have been lucky enough to live to report the existence of this strange phenomenon."
Hometown: Honolulu, Hawaii
"In Hawaii there are many local ghost stories, but the one that scared me the most as a child were the Night Marchers. They have been known to make appearances on several islands and in several areas in Honolulu. The most talked about place is along the Pali highway on Oahu where the final battle of King Kamehameha took place — one that ended with driving warriors off the cliff to their deaths. Legend says that during certain phases of the moon, a procession of ghost warriors marches through, and should you be unfortunate enough to encounter them, you are supposed to drop to the ground and avert your eyes. You cannot interrupt their march or look directly at them, or you or someone you know will die! It's a common warning to never walk along the Pali highway alone at night, or any location where Night Marchers are known to pass through."
Hometown: Dundas, Ontario, Canada
"My middle school (now condos) was haunted. A train crashed on Christmas Day, 1934, and the school's basement was used as a morgue. It's said a girl from the crash haunted the school.
"It was also haunted by a former janitor named Russell who would joke with other staff that whoever died first would haunt the school — he died first. One staircase was fully closed off because of strange events (named the Russell staircase) and janitors had to work in pairs. People would frequently hear whistling, banging, and clashing when nobody else was around, and motion detectors were similarly set off.
"The school puts on an excellent charity haunted house every year, always different and built by the students."
Hometown: Rochester, New York
"Growing up, my dad loved to tell scary stories. This story was my favorite, because my dad tried to find this scary ghost when he was a wild teenager. The tale goes back all the way to the 1800s and everyone in Rochester knows about the White Lady.
"According to the legend, the White Lady lived near Durand Eastman Park (a local park near Lake Ontario) and she had a teenage daughter and the daughter asked if she could walk down to the lake. As the story goes, she never came back home. The mother went out to search and she couldn't find her. The mother spent the rest of her life looking for her. It's said, on misty nights, she'd glide over the lake, all in white.
"Many people try to find her at night (like my teenage dad!), and it has been rumored that you can still hear her calling for her daughter. There's also a rumor that two big dogs accompany her on her hunt. People still search for the White Lady, and there was even a reported sighting last year! Every time I drive by, I feel chills and hope that one day, she finds her daughter."
Hometown: Exeter, Rhode Island
"The Ladd School in Rhode Island was the epitome of creep and was even featured on the Travel Channel. Originally, the Ladd School was an institution for 'the feeble minded' and operated from 1908 to 1986, when it was deinstitutionalized. The school was well known for horrible, immoral acts against its residents, such as forced sterilizations, lobotomies, electric shock therapy — and the patients themselves committed many criminal acts. By 1950, the population reached nearly 1,000. At this point they were overcrowded and ill-quipped. The location is now revered as one of the most haunted in New England. Car radios go haywire when driving by the restricted site. For those who trespass and try to get an up close glimpse at the abandoned premises, they come back with stories of orbs, disembodied voices, doors that close by themselves, and shapes or figures floating around."