Eerie Stories From US National Parks That Give Us Chills
By Jack Ripley | October 12, 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.
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.
A Disappearance In The Chiricahua Mountains
On January 13, 1980, ranger Paul Fugate went missing during a regular hike in Arizona's Chiricahua National Monument. Paul was someone who loved nature and his job as a ranger, but he had disagreements with his bosses and had even taken legal action against the government in the past.
Paul was last seen around 2:00 pm when he headed out to check a trail. However, he didn't come back as expected. His girlfriend became worried and alerted the authorities, who started searching for him. Initially, they thought he might have had an accident and gotten hurt or stuck in a remote area of the park.
As the search continued without finding any clues, suspicions grew. A park volunteer mentioned seeing Paul in a truck with two unfamiliar men. This led some people to wonder if Paul had been abducted. There were speculations that he might have encountered drug traffickers, who were starting to move into the region around that time. Maybe Paul accidentally stumbled upon their activities or was involved in something gone wrong. Some even suggested, much to the dismay of his loved ones, that he might have intentionally left his old life behind. Regardless of the theories, no evidence or trace of Paul Fugate has been found since that day in 1980.
A Child Disappears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is often thought of as a place where people mainly stay on roads, marked viewpoints, and short trails near parking areas. However, there are more remote parts in the park covered in dense forest with thick rhododendron plants making it hard to see beyond the trail. It was in this challenging terrain that the Martin family was camping when their six-year-old son, Dennis, went missing in 1969.
During Father's Day weekend, the Martins camped with two other families in a backcountry area called Spence Field, about five miles away from the nearest road. Dennis, his older brother, and some other boys decided to play a prank on their parents by hiding in the bushes and surprising them. Dennis's dad saw him step off the trail into the bushes, and that was the last time anyone saw him.
After a few minutes, when the other boys jumped out of the bushes to scare their parents, Dennis was nowhere to be found. The family searched for him for four hours before going to a ranger station to seek help. A massive search effort began, involving over 1,000 people, but they couldn't find any trace of the missing boy.
This search for Dennis Martin remains the biggest one ever conducted in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and it changed how national parks handle search operations. Nowadays, when someone goes missing in a park, experienced trackers are sent in first, and larger search parties are brought in only later, as it's understood that a large number of inexperienced searchers can unintentionally hinder efforts.
The FBI didn't suspect foul play in Dennis Martin's case. Despite some initial false reports that gave the family some hope, none of them led to a resolution. Early in the investigation, a witness reported hearing a child scream and seeing a strange man drive away in a white Chevy, but this incident was considered unrelated because it happened too far from where Dennis was last seen. In the 1980s, a hiker looking for ginseng reported finding a child's skeleton about 10 miles from Spence Field, but when park rangers looked into it, they found nothing.
Cary Stayner, The Yosemite Serial Killer
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.
Joe Halpern Disappeared In The Rocky Mountains
On August 15, 1933, a graduate student named Joe Halpern went missing while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. He began the hike with a partner named Sam Garrick, but they separated when Halpern wanted to continue to another peak while Garrick didn't want to. They planned to meet up at Bear Lake Trailhead later.
After waiting for hours and not seeing Halpern, Garrick got worried and informed park rangers, who initiated a search. Unfortunately, they couldn't find any sign of Halpern. He hadn't taken enough supplies for a long hike or bad weather, which made the situation even more concerning.
Over the years, some people have come to believe that Halpern might have gone off the established trail and faced the challenges of the rough terrain in the park. Others held onto the idea that he could have left the area and started a new life elsewhere. Despite these theories, no concrete information has emerged about what actually happened to Halpern.
Who Is The Yucca Man, The Bigfoot of the Mojave
In and around the Mojave desert, there have been reports of mysterious creatures, given different names like the Mojave Bigfoot, Sierra Highway Devil, and Marvin of the Mojave. Locals in the Antelope Valley area might recognize these terms as referring to a local cryptid known as the Yucca Man. This creature is believed to be a version of the legendary Bigfoot adapted to desert life. It's said to inhabit parts of Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona, with sightings dating back to the 1970s, particularly in the Antelope Valley area.
The Yucca Man was first sighted on a night in 1971 at the Twentynine Palms Marine base. Different versions of the story exist, but generally, it's told that a marine guard who was on duty was found the next morning unconscious, with his rifle bent in half. According to the Marine, a large, hairy figure emerged from the darkness and approached him. The Marine tried to stop the figure by raising his rifle and giving orders, but the creature took the rifle and bent it in half. The Marine was then knocked out. The creature was described as having glowing red eyes and a foul smell.
Both the FBI and CIA were involved in investigating the incident, but the details of their findings remain unclear. There were apparently at least two other sightings of similar figures on that same night. One report mentioned a 12-foot-tall figure accompanied by a smaller one. Other accounts came from people whose dogs were constantly barking at something in the area.
Mammoth Cave National Park's Ghosts
The caverns in Mammoth Cave National Park have had more than 150 reported paranormal incidents, leading to claims that it's the most haunted natural site globally. Park rangers have witnessed ghostly figures resembling guides who led cave tours before the Civil War. One common sighting is of Stephan Bishop, a former slave and renowned cave explorer, who's buried near the cave.
In the 1800s, Mammoth Cave was briefly used as a hospital for tuberculosis patients. The remains of cabins where these patients stayed can still be seen. Outside one cabin is a stone slab where deceased patients were placed before burial. This spot, now called Corpse Rock, is believed by some to emit phantom coughing sounds.
The Newlyweds Who Disappeared in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
One of the most puzzling incidents to occur in the Grand Canyon took place in 1928 when newlyweds Glen and Bessie Hyde decided to explore the national park on their honeymoon. Glen had built a boat, and they aimed to set a speed record by navigating the canyon, which would also make Bessie the first woman to achieve this feat. Their last sighting was on November 18, and a month later, on December 19, their boat was discovered with all their belongings untouched. Everything was intact, including Bessie's diary.
Despite extensive searches, the couple's bodies were never found. Some speculate that during a rapid, they might have been washed out of the boat while it continued downstream. However, both Glen and Bessie were experienced with hitting the water.
One theory suggests that Bessie might have killed her husband within the canyon. In 1971, a woman named Elizabeth Cutler claimed to be Bessie Hyde, confessing to stabbing her husband during an argument and assuming a new identity. She later retracted her statement, and there were even rumors that the trailblazing river runner Georgie Clark, the first woman to own a commercial rafting business in the Grand Canyon, was actually Bessie Hyde.
After Georgie Clark's death in 1992, researchers found the Hydes' marriage license and a birth certificate indicating that Clark was born as Bessie DeRoss, according to North Arizona University. While DeRoss was her original name, the reason she changed her first name to Georgie remains unknown. Clark was married twice and had a daughter who tragically died in a bike accident. However, we don't have enough evidence to confirm that Clark was the same Bessie who vanished in the Grand Canyon, and some historians doubt this possibility.
Katherine Van Alst: Girl Lost And Found
Located in West Fork, Arkansas, Devil's Den State Park is a part of the larger Ozark National Park. This park has been the site of mysterious disappearances for many years. In the 1940s, there was a case involving an 8-year-old girl named Katherine Van Alst. She went missing while camping in the park with her family. When she vanished, she was only wearing her swimsuit and didn't have any shoes on. Despite thorough searches conducted by many people, it took six days to find her.
When Van Alst was found, she was still in her swimsuit and barefoot, but thankfully completely unharmed. What's even more puzzling is that she had managed to travel over 30 miles and climb 600 feet without getting any injuries.
A Severed Hand in Yosemite National Park
In 1983, a family was exploring Summit Meadow near Glacier Road when one of their children found a severed hand and forearm. Despite thorough searches, investigators couldn't locate other body parts, and they couldn't identify the victim or make progress in solving the case. In 1988, a skull was discovered across the street from the original site, but authorities still couldn't figure out who the victim was.
Finally, in 2022, using DNA from the remains, the Park Service identified the victim as Patricia Hicks, a woman connected to a local cult leader who was accused of using LSD to exploit and disorient his victims. This man had been found guilty of assaulting women in the 1980s but disappeared before he could be imprisoned.
Investigators now believe that Hicks was actually murdered by the infamous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to hundreds of killings across the country. When Lucas was arrested, he shared specific details about the Summit Meadow crime scene that hadn't been publicly released. Still, the information Lucas provided regarding the incident and the victim's details were considered indirect, so the murder case remains unsolved.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most beloved national parks in the world. Covering an area of almost 2,000 square miles in Arizona, this park holds some of the oldest and deepest mysteries that humans know about. While exploring the park, people often see and hear strange lights and sounds. This is especially true if you're in the part of the park that used to belong to the Hopi people. They believed that a God named Maasaw liked to move around there. According to a story, Maasaw doesn't want strangers on his land. The legend says that if you go onto his land without permission, he'll throw rocks at you and use spells to make you sick so you leave. It might sound like a made-up story, but the interesting part is that many people who got too close to his territory have said they felt sick and heard rocks falling. Is this just a coincidence, or is it really Maasaw?
In 1971, an 8-year-old boy named Douglas Legg disappeared from his family's summer home in the Adirondacks. He was with his family for a hike when his uncle instructed him to go back to the cabin and put on pants to protect himself from poison ivy. However, Douglas never returned from this short walk.
Douglas was known for his love of hiking and familiarity with the area, which was the Santanoni Preserve in Newcomb. This is different from most cases of missing persons, which usually involve inexperienced hikers in unfamiliar places.
The disappearance triggered the largest manhunt ever in the Adirondacks. Over 600 rescuers scoured the dense woods, and even US Air Force planes were used with infrared technology to search for body heat. An article from July 1971 mentioned that an aircraft used a special device to see through the foliage, similar to technology used in Vietnam. The family even brought in the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Unit from California.
Despite the extensive search, Douglas was never found, and after 33 days, the search was called off. The family eventually sold their property a few months later. The case remains unsolved to this day, and Patrick Kelleher, the State Police senior investigator, noted the challenge of searching in such a vast wilderness area.
The Mysterious Structures In Santa Fe National Forest
In Santa Fe National Forest many hikers have come across strange wooden structures placed throughout the grounds. These structures don't follow a specific pattern in terms of where they're placed; they simply appear without rhyme or reason. They come in different sizes and shapes, but they all have a few things in common. The most puzzling aspect of these structures is that they're made from thousands of pieces of wood, yet it's not clear why they're built.
Forest rangers have been on the lookout for anyone caught building these wooden structures, not because they're eyesores but because they pose a fire risk. However, strangely enough, they've never managed to catch anyone in the act. The question of who builds these structures and why they do it remains a mystery up to the present day.
A Murder in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Sheila Kearns was a 43-year-old season worker in Mount Rainier National Park in 1996 when she was booked from August to the winter. At the end of the work season, employees at Mount Rainier usually have a bonfire and party. The last time anyone saw Sheila Kearns was at one of these parties on October 4, 1996. During the event, she told a coworker about her excitement to stay on for the winter. In the following days, Kearns was in the process of moving into her new employee housing, but she vanished. On October 6, she didn't come to work, even though her belongings were in her new room.
Despite a three-day search in the park, there were no leads. Initially, park officials thought Kearns might have gotten lost on a trail, but they later considered the possibility of abduction. The winters in Mount Rainier are harsh, and snow started falling shortly after the search. Around seven months later, in May 1997, after the snow melted, a volunteer setting up a navigation course for park rangers stumbled upon skeletal remains near the old Longmire campground, about a mile from the inn. The remains were scattered over a 300-yard area.
Nearly 40 years later, the mystery of what happened to Sheila Kearns remains unsolved. The FBI investigated potential suspects at the time, but they still haven't identified a person of interest in the case.
The Haunted Battlefield Of Gettysburg National Military
At Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, the site of one of the deadliest and most haunted battlefields during the Civil War, there are thousands of stories of people who claim to see ghosts on this land. Some people have done more than see apparitions, they claim to actually have had conversations with the ghosts.
In the grassy fields marked by stone monuments, the battlefield at Gettysburg holds more than just stories told on signs and markers. Some people say that among all the places in America, Gettysburg might be the most haunted spot. People have reported seeing ghostly groups of soldiers, horseback riders that aren't really there, and even faces and figures from the 18th century appearing unexpectedly in photos taken by tourists. These sightings and other ghostly occurrences from the Civil War era have led to the idea that the spirits of the soldiers who died in the battle might have been so affected by the intense violence that even after they passed away, their spirits lingered in our world. Some believe they are still searching for a sense of victory or redemption. There are even rumors that attempts to drive these spirits away, called exorcisms, have taken place in the area.
Many people who live in Gettysburg today say they can still sense the presence of those who lost their lives in the battle that happened so many years ago.
The UFOs Of Yosemite
For many years, people have reported seeing unidentified flying objects (UFOs) in Yosemite National Park, located in California. These UFO sightings involve strange lights and round objects that resemble disks, floating in the sky. These objects often vanish quickly, but some visitors have been able to capture photos and videos that support their claims.
In 2002, multiple individuals in different parts of the park witnessed a disk-shaped object with lights flying across the sky. After a few minutes, it disappeared. Following its disappearance, Air Force jets arrived and circled the area for a while before departing. Despite these events, there's no information about what might have been discovered. Nevertheless, the photos and videos captured during these incidents serve as evidence that something unusual was indeed present.
The Legend Of Spearfinger
In the misty Great Smoky Mountains, there's a scary Cherokee legend about Spearfinger. This witch-like figure had a stone finger and pretended to be an old lady, tricking children who strayed from their village. She'd put them to sleep and then use her stone finger to remove their livers, which she ate. Another story is about a settler who was killed while searching for his daughter near Lake Fontana's north shore. Lost hikers have also seen a strange light that guides them.
To witness these lights and hike where Spearfinger's tale is told, you can explore the Norton Creek Trail. This trail passes by several cemeteries and an old roadbed, and it's used during "Decoration Days" when families visit to decorate the graves of their loved ones.
The Rumbling Sounds of Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park in Washington holds its own share of mysteries, primarily revolving around strange noises that people say they hear. These sounds are often described as a deep rumbling, like the ground itself is opening up. Scientists haven't been able to determine a specific cause for these sounds, even though people have come up with their own ideas, such as suggesting aliens or Bigfoot might be involved.
In 2018, the rumbling sound occurred once again, but this time something new was discovered by the park rangers. More than 100 trees were found knocked down, completely torn out of the ground by their roots. Interestingly, no earthquakes or unusual weather patterns were reported on that day. The exact reason for what happened to these trees and why it occurred remains a mystery that nobody has been able to explain.
Is Mount Shasta An Entrance To The Lost City Of Lemuria?
Mount Shasta has inspired legends beyond those of the Native American tribes. One such tale involves a hidden city named Telos, inhabited by advanced beings from the lost continent of Lemuria. This legend started casually mentioning Lemuria in the 1880s. In 1899, Frederick Spencer Oliver published a book titled "A Dweller on Two Planets," in which he claimed that survivors from the sunken continent of Lemuria were residing on or within Mount Shasta. According to Oliver, these Lemurians lived underground in a network of tunnels beneath the mountain. They had walls adorned with jewels and floors covered in fur carpets. Sometimes, these Lemurians were seen on the mountain's surface, dressed in white robes.
In 1931, Harvey Spencer Lewis, using the name Wishar S. Cerve, wrote a book, published by AMORC, about the hidden Lemurians of Mount Shasta. This work is believed to have significantly contributed to the widespread popularity of the legend. Over time, this belief has been embraced by various esoteric and spiritual groups, including "I AM" Activity, The Summit Lighthouse, Church Universal and Triumphant, Love Has Won, and Kryon.
The Curse Of Yosemite National Park
According to a legend, a chief named Tenaya from the Ahwahnechee tribe cursed the canyon in Yosemite National Park that now bears his name. This curse is said to stem from violent attempts by American forces to relocate his tribe to a reservation. The rugged terrain of the canyon has experienced multiple disappearances and near-misses, causing speculation about the authenticity of the curse.
Even John Muir, a Scottish naturalist and a key figure in establishing the U.S. National Park system, had a close call in the canyon. In the 1870s, Muir explored the canyon and mentioned in a letter from 1873 that he couldn't recall what caused his fall. He wrote that he could have fallen to the bottom if he had rolled a bit further.
Unfortunately, not everyone has been as fortunate as Muir. Accidental deaths and numerous accidents in the area have led some to refer to it as the "Bermuda Triangle of Yosemite." Some of these unfortunate events can be attributed to the canyon's steep sides, lack of preparation by hikers, and the challenging and remote backcountry conditions in Yosemite.
The Bermuda Triangle of Florida
Everglades National Park, located in Southern Florida, covers a vast area of water and jungle-like landscapes, spanning 1.5 million acres. With more than 175 unsolved murder cases, this vast expanse of beauty is genuinely one of the freakiest national parks in America.
There are even theories involving the supernatural. In 1945, a group of five Navy bombers took off on a training flight from Fort Lauderdale in Florida. During the flight, the leader of the crew communicated with the control tower, reporting that they were lost. Despite frantic communications, contact with the crew was lost, and a rescue airship sent to find them also disappeared.
The mystery of these missing planes played a role in the creation of the Bermuda Triangle legend, an area where numerous ships and planes have disappeared under unexplained circumstances. This area intersects with a corner of the Everglades. Although the planes were never located, one theory suggests they veered off course and crashed in the Everglades.
Pele's CurseHaunts Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
In Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, there's a group of hotel buildings called Volcano House. The original building was constructed in 1846, but it has been replaced since then. Because of this long history, some people believe that Volcano House has spirits. Visitors have mentioned seeing the ghost of an elderly woman wandering around the property, mostly in the hallways and even in rooms where guests stay.
However, even these regular ghost stories are overshadowed by the tales of Pele, the Native Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire. Since she's associated with the active volcanic caldera nearby, many people at Volcano House take her presence seriously. The hotel owners often try to please Pele by offering her gin. They also sometimes return lava rocks that tourists took from the park. These rocks are believed to carry a curse for those who took them. Many people send the rocks back, hoping that apologizing will remove Pele's curse from their lives.
The Disappearance In Green Mountain National Forest
Paula Welden, a student at Vermont's Bennington College, wanted to go for a hike. She was probably familiar with the nearby Green Mountain National Forest east of her college town.
On December 1, 1946, Welden headed to the trail. She told her roommate that she was going for a long walk. She wore light clothing and apparently got a ride from Louis Knapp, a local, who dropped her off near the trail. The last person known to see her was a watchman named Ernie Whitman, who warned her about the cold weather.
After realizing that Welden had entered the forest but hadn't come out, a search was organized. However, according to "Weird New England," the search didn't find anything. Welden was one of six people who went missing near Bennington between 1945 and 1950. Their disappearances, which remain unsolved, led to the area being called the "Bennington Triangle."
The El Yunque Chupacabra
There are stories about a strange and blood-sucking creature called the chupacabra. Some of these stories link its origins to Puerto Rico's El Yunque National Forest, a thick rainforest in the eastern part of the island, as reported by the BBC. While the chupacabra sightings were first reported in Puerto Rico during the 1990s, there have been claims of its presence in other places, such as Texas and New Mexico.
However, there's a lot of doubt surrounding these stories of a lizard-like monster that supposedly emerges from the rainforest to drain the blood of goats and other small animals. Despite this skepticism, some people in Puerto Rico see the chupacabra as a symbol of the United States, taking from the land without giving anything back (like granting Puerto Rico statehood). For some, this serves as a metaphor for the political situation, while others believe that a secretive government facility hidden deep within El Yunque is behind all the chupacabra incidents.
The Missing Tribe Of Mesa Verde
Many centuries ago, a large population of American Indians lived in impressive cliff dwellings at what is now Mesa Verde National Park in southern Colorado. However, by the time settlers arrived in the 20th century, these dwellings were abandoned, raising the question: Where did the people of Mesa Verde go?
According to High Country News, Mesa Verde was a bustling settlement in the 13th century. Around 25,000 people lived in the area of 1,800 square miles around the present-day park. They built complex and prosperous villages in the region. But by the latter part of the century, they had disappeared. Archaeological findings show signs of violence at some sites, while others appear to have been left peacefully yet suddenly. Settlers from the white community created dramatic tales about the mysterious vanishing of these people, whom they believed were not connected to the modern tribes in the area.
However, if you consult modern Pueblo people, they will tell you that the people of Mesa Verde are their ancestors. High Country News highlights that the number of individuals who arrived in New Mexico's Tewa Basin in the 13th century matches the number who left the Mesa Verde area at the same time. Additionally, DNA evidence from turkey remains, as reported by The Denver Post, supports this migration. Still, there are unanswered questions. The reason behind this movement is still debated. Was it due to war, drought, or famine? This remains uncertain.
Scott Lilly's Mysterious Demise
Scott Lilly embarked on a hike along the Appalachian Trail, intending to journey from Maryland to Georgia for personal reflection. Unfortunately, his trek came to an end in northwest Amherst County, Virginia.
Lilly's last communication with the outside world was in July 2011, when he was climbing the Priest, a well-known mountain in Nelson County. In August of the same year, hikers found Lilly's body in a shallow grave near Cow Camp Gap, which is close to the trail in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area of George Washington National Forest. Oddly, his belongings, including his shoes and backpack, were missing.
A medical examiner determined that Lilly, who was known as "Stonewall" on the trail due to his interest in the Civil War and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, died from "asphyxia by suffocation," and ruled it a murder. Friends and family explained that Lilly, aged 30 and from South Bend, Indiana, was on the trail seeking self-discovery.
Following the discovery of his body, the FBI, responsible for investigating incidents on public lands, attempted to contact other hikers who had interacted with Lilly. These hikers were known by trail names such as "Mr. Coffee," "White Wolf," "Papa Smurf," "Combat Gizmo," and "Space Cadet."
Online discussions and forums related to true crime and the Appalachian Trail were abuzz with discussions about Lilly and the hikers mentioned by the FBI. However, even after five years, no arrests have been made in connection with the case.
The Disappearance Of Keith Reinhard
In 1988, Keith Reinhard, a sports reporter at the Daily Herald in Chicago, made a decision to take a 90-day break from his work. He expressed his desire to experience the mountains before his life ended in them in a letter to a friend. This led him to Silver Plume, a small mining town with about 200 residents situated within the Arapahoe National Forest, near the Rocky Mountains.
In Silver Plume, Colorado, Reinhard aimed to live out his lifelong dream of residing in the Rocky Mountains and also pursue writing a novel about Tom Young. Tom Young had mysteriously disappeared from the same town in September 1987. Upon his arrival in Silver Plume, Reinhard transformed Young's former bookstore into an antique store.
One day, while dealing with a hangover, Reinhard decided to go on a hike up Pendleton Mountain. Unfortunately, he never returned from that hike. Despite extensive efforts involving more than 100 individuals dedicating over 10,000 hours to the search, no clues were discovered regarding his disappearance.
Reflecting on the situation, Reinhard's widow, Carolyn O'Donnell, shared with the Daily Herald in 2008 that sometimes there are no clear answers to such mysteries.
The City Beneath Mount Shasta
Legend has it that in 1904, a British prospector named J. C. Brown stumbled upon a hidden city under Mount Shasta. Brown was working for the Lord Cowdray Mining Company from England, searching for gold. During his exploration, he came across a cave that went downward for about 11 miles (18 km). Inside the cave, he found a village below the ground, filled with gold, shields, and even mummies. Some of these mummies were reportedly as tall as 10 feet (3.0 meters).
Around 30 years later, Brown shared his story with a man named John C. Root. Root was inspired and gathered a team of explorers in Stockton, California, to investigate the underground city. Approximately 80 people joined this expedition team. However, when the day arrived for the team to begin their journey, J. C. Brown did not show up. Following this, there was no further communication from Brown, and he was never heard from again.
The Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve Is Full Of Weirdness
The area around the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is sometimes referred to as the "Bermuda Triangle of the West" due to unusual lights seen in the sky. There's even a place nearby called the UFO Watchtower and a campground where people gather to search for signs of aliens.
There are also stories about strange, web-footed wild horses that are said to run across the sand dunes. Additionally, there are multiple accounts of explorers, ranchers, and even whole families disappearing into the moving sands.
The Lost City Of The Everglades
One intriguing Everglades mystery involves a three-acre island named "The Lost City," situated in a remote part of the park south of Alligator Alley. Throughout history, this island has been reported to have been a Seminole settlement, a hideout for Confederate soldiers, and a site for moonshine production. Despite not appearing on any maps and lacking roads or known trails leading to it, the island is registered as an archaeological site in the Florida State Archives. State archaeologists and wildlife officers have discovered ruins of wooden structures, a canoe, Native artifacts, and a large iron kettle, often used for distilling moonshine from sugar cane.
While some artifacts date back hundreds of years, most are from the Prohibition era, suggesting the island might have been a center for bootlegging. The reason behind the Seminole settlement's abandonment remains uncertain. As for the Confederate soldiers, who were said to have hidden there after stealing Union gold, archaeologists believe they were killed by Native Americans for intruding on sacred land.