When it comes to beauty, it’s hard to compete with Mother Nature. Nothing beats kicking back on a sunny afternoon, drink in hand, reading a book while cozied up in the middle of a welcoming park.
However, not all land is created equal. Some parks were doomed for a dark existence from the moment they were officially created.
10 Griffith Park
Los Angeles, California
Griffith Park is a Los Angeles institution, boasting a world-famous observatory, a renowned zoo, and the famous “Hollywood” sign. However, Griffith Park has a dark history and an extremely active spiritual presence. In fact, so many spirits have reportedly been found at Griffith Park that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them all.
The most significant one is the ghost of Don Antonio Feliz, the original owner of the land. His niece Dona Petranilla was left poverty-stricken after being cheated out of an inheritance upon her uncle’s death. Supposedly, she placed a curse on the land, which reportedly affected each successive owner in one way or another.
Both Feliz and Petranilla’s spirits have been spotted numerous times over the years. In one infamous encounter, the ghost of Don Antonio gave chase on horseback to a group of businessmen who had gathered in the park for a fiesta.
There have also been other apparitions in the park, such as the eponymous Griffith J. Griffith, a ghostly wandering girl who may have been left in the park to die by her parents, a phantom who frequents the merry-go-round, and failed actress Peg Entwistle who committed suicide by jumping from the Hollywood sign in 1932.
Within the park, both Travel Town and the observatory have had so many spectral encounters that paranormal teams were brought in to investigate. Another paranormal hot spot is the picnic bench where Rand Garrett and Nancy Jeanson were crushed to death by a falling tree on October 31, 1976.
Tree trimmers and park rangers claim that a paranormal force is stopping them from removing the tree. Workers have reported hearing disembodied moaning and spooky whispers. They have also received ghostly messages written on their car windows, even while working alone.
A ghastly, black-eyed humanoid figure has also been spotted wandering about the park. Along with tales of satanic worship and animal sacrifice, these hauntings have contributed to Griffith Park’s ranking as the most haunted park in America.
9 Gitchie Manitou State Preserve
Lyon County, Iowa
In the northwest corner of Iowa, Gitchie Manitou State Preserve is a small, beautiful nature preserve filled with lush greenery, a flowing river, and outcroppings of Sioux quartzite that are around 1.6 billion years old. However, the land has plenty of dark history to contrast with this beauty.
On November 17, 1973, five teenagers were camping at the park—smoking marijuana and singing campfire songs—when the local Fryer brothers suddenly opened fire on the group with their shotguns. By the end of the night, four of the five friends were dead. The three brothers brought the lone survivor, Sandra Cheskey, to their farm, where they raped her before letting her go.
The park is also home to multiple Native American burial mounds. The name Gitchie Manitou means “great spirit” in Anishinabe, the language of the tribe that once occupied the area.
With all of this violence and death, Gitchie Manitou is considered to be one of the most haunted places in the Midwest. Visitors to the park have reported many disturbing spiritual phenomena, including the sound of disembodied drums. There have also been sightings of a pitch-black figure lurking in the trees. He is over 200 centimeters (7 ft) tall and may be a protective Native American spirit.
Most thrill-seekers visit the cabin where the Fryers began their murder spree. The cabin has decayed into ruin and is covered with graffiti and satanic markings. The most paranormal activity is reported in this area. Visitors have heard disembodied growls, witnessed ghostly mists forming over the river on clear nights, and felt like they were being closely watched.
The park was also the site of a supposed UFO and alien sighting in 1976.
8 Hummel Park
At the beautiful Hummel Park in Omaha, Nebraska, there have been multiple deaths, cases of satanic worship, and even a tribe of off-the-grid albino people. The place is a paranormal gold mine.
The horrific origins of the park can be traced to the pre–civil rights era when most African Americans in Omaha lived near Hummel Park. Although never confirmed, it was reported that multiple people were lynched in the park, an ideal place to carry out the crime because the overhanging tree branches are sturdy and low. For decades, people have reported seeing ghostly hanging bodies swinging from the gnarled branches.
Since the 1980s, two more people have been found murdered at Hummel Park—a prostitute who was killed on-site and a 12-year-old girl whose skeletal remains were uncovered in 2006. People now report hearing tortured screams emanating from the woods, seeing spectral figures floating among the trees, and feeling dark energy in all areas of the park.
One of the most visited locations in Hummel Park is the “morphing stairs,” a long stone staircase at the top of the park. The stairs lead down to an opening in the woods where occultists have been performing rituals for years. According to legend, the staircase was nicknamed the “morphing stairs” because you will never count the same number of steps going down as going up.
Evidence of satanic worship appears all over the park. Slaughtered animals are routinely discovered by walkers and park officials. There are also graffiti pentagrams and symbols on the park’s structures. On the opposite side of the park, the “Devil’s slide” is a steep cliffside where multiple suicides may have occurred.
7 Jackson Park
Jackson Park in Atchinson, Kansas, is home to one solid legend that is frightening enough to create a permanent impact in people’s minds. The tale of Molly’s Hollow has two chilling versions.
The more popular one begins with a girl named Molly getting into a fight with her boyfriend in Jackson Park after their senior prom. Acting out of anger, he drove off in his car without her. She was found the next day hanging from one of the park’s gnarled trees.
The other version of the legend states that Molly was a young African-American girl who was hanged from one of the park’s trees in a lynching. Whichever way you spin it, the tale is chilling enough to send a shiver down your spine.
Around midnight, visitors to the park have reported hearing a phantom voice that cries out “Molly” and is accompanied by the horrific apparition of a woman hanging from a tree.
6 Cameron Park
Cameron Park in Waco, Texas, is breathtakingly beautiful, with amazing views of the Brazos River, limestone cliffs, and thick patches of enchanting wilderness. There’s also a resident undead population. With its legends of biking accidents and vigilante justice, Cameron Park is considered to be one of the most haunted spots in Texas.
At Lover’s Leap, two Native American lovers from warring tribes supposedly committed suicide by jumping to their deaths from these scenic cliffs. Even today, people say that you can hear their whispers and feel their presence in the area.
Then there’s Jacob’s Ladder, a decrepit stone staircase on the south end of the park. Women climbing the stairs supposedly feel a phantom grope or tug on their clothing.
Witch’s Castle, the most well-known site in the park, is a crumbling stone structure deep in the woods. Its origins are not known, but it is covered with strange graffiti. At night, there are rotten smells, disembodied screams, and the occasional appearance of the witch’s ghost wandering the woods in search of her next victim.
Lindsay Hollow Road, which runs through the park, was supposedly named after the Lindsay brothers, a pair of cattle thieves who were slain by rancher vigilantes shortly after the Civil War. According to legend, they were buried in the woods near the road and their restless spirits now roam the land in search of revenge.
In the 1970s, motorcyclists often gathered at the tar pits in the park to jump their bikes and perform white-knuckle tricks. Supposedly, one unlucky motorcyclist died while attempting a dangerous stunt.
His grief-stricken mother visited the spot every day to mourn until she died decades later. People now report hearing disembodied weeping and roaring engines as well as seeing phantom orbs in the surrounding woods.
5 Horseshoe Bend National Military Park
Tallapoosa County, Alabama
From 1813 to 1814, the Muscogee Creek tribe was involved in an extremely bloody civil war within their Native American nation. Called the Creek War, this dispute eventually drew white Americans and their Native American allies into the mix. It ended with an all-out bloodbath on March 27, 1814.
On that day, a group of Red Stick fighters tried to fend off the American troops and their Native American allies on the banks of the Tallapoosa River (which is now Horseshoe Bend National Military Park). It ended in disaster when almost all of the nearly 800 Red Stick warriors were slaughtered in cold blood.
Since then, visitors to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park routinely report foul stenches, strange noises, and sightings of apparitions at locations throughout the property.
The Alabama Ghost Hunters have investigated the park. Their findings include a photo of a white apparition and a chilling, inhuman scream captured on video. You can view their full report here.
4 Hard Labor Creek State Park
Hard Labor Creek State Park, in Rutledge, Georgia, was once featured on an episode of the paranormal investigation show Ghost Hunters. Functioning in its early years as a sleepaway camp for youths and later as a nature preserve, this park is a beautiful place with an intriguing history.
It was even a film set for various “camp” movies, such as Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives. However, Jason isn’t the only one who supposedly lurks in these dark backwoods.
Local legends claim that there are two ghosts in the park—one of an elderly man and another of a small boy named Ethan. The man is said to slam doors, knock on walls, and walk around the outside of the park’s cabins late at night to frighten people off his land.
Meanwhile, the spirit of the young boy reportedly rolls a red ball toward shocked bystanders. There is also a small cemetery deep within the park where people have spotted a phantom figure walking around.
The land supposedly got its name from slaves who were forced to work the cotton fields that once covered this area in the pre–Civil War era.
3 Presidio Park
San Diego, California
Presidio Park in San Diego, California, is known to be haunted by suicide victims, hooded men, and even a beloved doe. Yes, a ghost deer is said to lurk deep within the park’s limits.
Lucy the deer was born in the San Diego Zoo in 1965. Her entire body was uniquely white in color. Lucy escaped captivity and took up residence in Presidio Park, becoming a beloved icon for whom locals would routinely leave food.
However, following complaints that Lucy was in danger, an animal control officer was sent to recapture her. Sadly, he misjudged the amount of tranquilizers that he had loaded into his gun. The officer delivered a fatal dose of sedatives to Lucy, and she died shortly afterward in December 1975.
A memorial was constructed in her honor, but Lucy’s presence seemed to linger in the park anyway. People began to report sightings of an all-white deer in the park that quickly disappeared into the bushes or the forest. Some residents even reported that their flowers had been eaten by what seemed like a deer.
Apart from the ghost doe, numerous other spirits have been spotted throughout Presidio Park. These include dark, cloaked figures darting about the Serra Museum and the Witches Tower and a ghost boy atop the mission tower.
The Witches Tower was named for the cobblestone pentagram on the floor of its landing. It has reportedly been the site of occult worship, with some paranormal investigative groups finding melted wax and other goods in the area.
2 Eden Park
On October 6, 1927, in Cincinnati, Ohio, local socialite Imogene Remus was on the way to her divorce hearing to become legally separated from her estranged husband, kingpin bootlegger George Remus. But her taxi was forced off the road into Eden Park by a black Cadillac.
After a brief chase, her husband cornered her and shot her to death on park grounds. It was at this moment that the legends of Eden Park began.
Since her death on that fateful October day, visitors to Eden Park have often reported seeing a woman in a long black dress floating sadly across the land. Her spirit supposedly appears mainly in the fall around the date of her murder, as if reminding the world of the park’s dark history.
She has also been sighted crying softly and staring out over the park’s reflecting pool, seemingly reflecting on her own fate.
1 Sunrise Park
Even in a small town like Bartlett, Illinois—with its population of around 37,000—the undead still make their presence known in the aptly named Sunrise Park.
Locals will be quick to tell you the legend of the schoolhouse killer. In the 1800s, a small schoolhouse sat on the land that would become Sunrise Park. A man in his forties lived in the surrounding woods and remained isolated from the Bartlett community.
Eventually, the parents complained about the man. They had experienced strange tingling feelings, heard screams echoing from the forest, and feared for their children’s safety. As a result, the locals had his house demolished.
The man didn’t like this. Soon, children began disappearing mysteriously on their way to and from the school. Although there is no conclusive proof, it’s said that the man kidnapped and murdered these children. Then he spread their bones around the park.
Besides this legend, the locals also report seeing a black demon dog with a human face, a ghostly woman in a white dress from the Victorian era, and the spirits of African Americans who were burned at the park by the KKK.
Colin Browen is a 19-year-old writer, film director, musician, and paranormal investigator. He currently hosts and produces his own serialized paranormal investigation show, The Paranormal Files, which can be viewed on YouTube here. His favorite things include death, ghosts, and One Direction. His debut album is also available on Spotify and iTunes.