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Scary & Bizarre Mysteries in our National Parks

| Updated May 31, 2023

Legends, ancient curses, aliens, unsolved mysteries in our National Parks? Visitors had some spooky sightings and experiences over the last century, and for the brave and curious, they may even inspire your next RV trip.

America’s National Parks are forces of nature, mostly untainted by humans and mind-boggling in scope. 

Its power is humbling to us mere mortals. So naturally they make a ripe place for legends to grow and unsolved mysteries to flourish.

Maybe this explains why when night falls upon a day of taking in the natural beauty of the National Parks, nothing beats a good old scary story around the campfire. 

After all, the wilderness setting only heightens the allure of The Great Unknown. 

Mysteries in our National Parks

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Stories around the campfire.

Here are a few stories, sightings, and theories that may send shivers down your spine next time you park your RV for the night at a National Park.

Wailing Woman of the Grand Canyon

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Grand Canyon at night.

On average, twelve people die per year at the Grand Canyon. Around two to three of these die from falling off the rim.

While visiting, there is ample signage warning you of the dangers of getting too close or careless around the cliff’s edges.

Perhaps this is why the tale of the Wailing Woman is so resonant.

The legend goes that around a century ago a father and son were hiking the North Rim’s Transept Trail. The weather turned and they tragically fell to their deaths.

The widowed wife and mother searched for their remains for weeks throughout the canyon, ultimately giving up and taking her own life at the Grand Canyon Lodge.

Now on dark, stormy nights (a cliché for a reason), hikers have reportedly spotted a luminous, wandering apparition in a white dress carrying blue flowers, still searching for her lost family. 

Pele’s Curse at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Pele's Volcano

On the Big Island of Hawaii sits Mount Kilauea, an active volcano. Legend has it that it’s also home to Pele, the goddess of fire who allegedly dresses in white (I’m sensing a trend here).

Given the occasional eruptions, Pele developed the reputation of being a vengeful deity, punishing the locals for not properly respecting the land.

Pele would also punish you if you stole some volcanic rock to take home as a souvenir. 

While this makes a fascinating story (and one even replicated in “The Brady Bunch”), there have been thousands of people over the years who felt as if a curse was placed on them after removing a piece of Pele’s domain.

Rangers have received hundreds of letters a year apologizing while enclosing the cursed rocks to be returned. Sadly, there hasn’t been enough data about whether this tactic worked in ending these unfortunate tourists’ strokes of bad luck. 

For some good luck, check out our RV Lifestyle clothing. We don't have any white dresses, but we do have great selections for hiking!

The Yucca Man of Joshua Tree

No, Bigfoot isn’t even close to being the only mysterious, unproven ape-man in the game.

There’s also the Yeti, and less famously, Joshua Tree National Park’s Yucca Man.

The legend began in 1971, when a Marine guarding the base in Twentynine Palms was attacked by what he claimed was a gigantic, hairy man coming out of the darkness.

The Marine ordered the creature to halt, threatening it with his rifle, but it took the rifle from him, bent it in half and knocked the Marine unconscious. 

There were even a couple other sightings that night matching this mysterious being’s description. So the FBI and CIA reportedly investigated.

Eight years later, a couple claims they were driving to their Desert Springs condo one night when a huge man with long, tan hair stepped out from behind a yucca bush in front of their car, stopping them.

They claimed the creature’s chest was the size of a refrigerator and had long arms that hung below its knees. 

The Yucca Man is pretty intriguing, so why does Sasquatch get all the love? Where are all its television shows?

The Jersey Devil, and I’m Not Talking About Hockey

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By Vectorized by Kj1595 – Philadelphia Bulletin, Public Domain,

The New Jersey Pinelands is America’s first national nature reserve, comprising more than one million acres of wetlands and forests.

So it sounds like a perfect place for a demonic creature with a tail, hooves and horns to cause mischief without detection for hundreds of years.

The legend of the Jersey Devil began in the 1700s, when a local woman Mrs. Leeds was pregnant with her 13th child. 

That is certainly a lot of children, which must be why Mrs. Leeds cursed this child, wishing it be taken away by the devil upon its birth. When this child was born it turned into an ugly winged creature and flew away into the swamp.

Newspapers still report from time to time sightings of the creature and its terrifying scream. Some believe it’s protecting the Pinelands, its home. I like this interpretation.

This goat/lizard concoction captured the imagination to such a degree it became the obvious choice for the state’s decorated NHL franchise team. And the Jersey Devil shows up as one of the fearsome critters in the game Fearsome Wilderness.

And of course, UFOs

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Lenticular Clouds Look Like UFOs

With the recent video releases from the Pentagon, UFOs have taken on a new national interest.

But for decades, there have been repeated claims of sightings at many locations, including National Parks.

At the Great Sand Dunes National Park in the San Luis Valley in southern Colorado, strange lights and what appears to be flying saucers are spotted regularly.

This park has some of the tallest dunes in America, the tallest being Star Dune. 

So be sure to visit this dune if you want the best chance at spotting something (hopefully friendly) in the sky.

And for the especially intrigued, visit the UFO Watchtower and Campground, still compiling research on sightings.

Also, on June 9th 2017, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming captured what appears to be a UFO on their CCTV

And some boys exploring Redwood National Park taking pictures discovered later what appeared to be an alien gray.

All these Mysteries in our National Parks. Are You a Believer?

While I’m not claiming to really believe in any of this, I can’t deny the fun in connecting with others in fascination with what we don’t know about the universe.

Perhaps this curiosity is why we choose this RV lifestyle. We’re searching for experiences, to make discoveries, and to be awed by nature, even when it’s frightening.

Have you heard of any supernatural or extraterrestrial occurrences at any National Parks? Have you seen any yourself? Let us know in the comments!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Big Foot, The Dogman and the Paulding Light.

Looking for more ideas for road trips? Maybe check out some of these mysteries in our National Parks?

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2021-06-01

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

2 Responses to “Scary & Bizarre Mysteries in our National Parks”

June 01, 2021at9:33 pm, Nancy said:

Looking to download the RV packing list. We are beginners!! 2 small trips n forgot so many things. We’re learning.
Thank you

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