Eerie Stories From US National Parks That Give Us Chills

By Jack Ripley | August 8, 2023

The Unsolved Murders O Julianne Marie Williams and Laura Winans

Beyond their breathtaking landscapes and tranquil vistas, the National Parks of the United States hold secrets that echo with chilling mysteries and unsolved crimes that continue to baffle both the curious and the courageous.

In these captivating stories we delve into a realm where reality and mystery intermingle, revealing stories that have transcended time and captivated the imaginations of those who dare to venture into the unknown. Some of you may already be acquainted with these haunting tales, whispered around campfires and discussed in hushed tones, while others may be embarking on a journey of eerie discovery for the first time.

From the depths of untamed wilderness to the heart of seemingly serene parklands, the stories you'll encounter here encompass a diverse array of the unexplained. We'll traverse the chilling trails of unsolved murders that have left investigators baffled, where darkness and danger overcame innocence and joy. Cryptid sightings that blur the lines between folklore and fact will beckon you into the realm of the uncharted. Ghostly echoes from the past will send shivers down your spine as you ponder the thin veil that separates the living from the lingering. The truth may be elusive, but the journey promises to be an unforgettable one. Your adventure begins now—click on, and immerse yourself in the enigma of US National Parks.

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The murders of Julianne Marie Williams and Laura “Lollie” Winans, which happened two decades ago in Shenandoah National Park, are still unresolved today. At one point, authorities believed they had identified the perpetrator. The two women, both in their twenties from New England, arrived at the park on May 19, planning to stay for the Memorial Day weekend. When they didn't show up for work on May 28, it was discovered they were missing. On June 1, their bodies were found at their secluded campsite, facing Stony Man Mountain. They were bound with duct tape and had their mouths covered, both unclothed with their throats slashed. Despite generating considerable attention and tips, the case remained unsolved.

A year later, Darrell David Rice was arrested and convicted of stalking and assaulting a woman biking on Skyline Drive, near Shenandoah National Park. Surveillance cameras placed him entering and leaving the park around the time of the murders. He was indicted in 2002 based on information from an inmate who claimed Rice spoke of killing a woman in the park.

However, charges against Rice were dropped two years later due to a lack of evidence. One potential witness identified Rice from a lineup photo, but with only around 65 to 70 percent certainty. Another witness reported seeing a strange man while camping in the park but provided uncertain details. DNA testing of a male hair found on the duct tape did not match Rice's DNA. Despite this, U.S. Attorney Thomas Bondurant still considered Rice a suspect.

Cary Stayner, The Yosemite Serial Killer

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In 1997, Cary Stayner began working as a handyman at Cedar Lodge in El Portal, near Yosemite National Park. On February 15, 1999, three guests at the motel, Carole Sund (42 years old), her daughter Juli (15 years old), and their family friend Silvina Pelosso (16 years old), disappeared. In March, the burned remains of Carole Sund and Silvina Pelosso were found in the trunk of their rented car in a remote area far from Cedar Lodge. Juli Sund's body was discovered on March 25 in a separate location, not far from the rental car. Stayner was initially questioned by investigators but wasn't considered a suspect due to his clean record.

Rather than focus on Stayner, the investigation looked to Cedar Lodge employees and individuals in the town of Modesto, where Carole Sund's wallet was found. Then, on July 22, 1999, the body of Joie Armstrong, a 26-year-old Yosemite naturalist, was found near her cabin. Stayner was questioned and his truck was searched, but he was released. Authorities later located him at a nudist camp and he confessed to FBI agent Jeff Rinek that he was responsible for all four murders. He revealed that he had thought about killing women since he was a child.

During his trial, Stayner's defense argued that he suffered from mental illness, childhood sexual abuse, and the trauma of his brother's kidnapping. Despite this, he was convicted of all four murders and received the death penalty.