Eerie Stories From US National Parks That Give Us Chills

By Jack Ripley | October 20, 2023

A Severed Hand in Yosemite National Park

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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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.

A Child Disappears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

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(crime wire)

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.