Continuing with our annual tradition of finding the scariest and most haunted campgrounds to spend your Halloween (or any other time); our ghost-camp hunters have spent the last several months researching campgrounds that might give you the best chance of encountering an incorporeal being. Without further adieu, here’s a few you may want to consider…if you dare.
Montgomery Bell State Park is our first stop along the haunted camp trail and is located in Dickinson County, Tennessee. The park includes 3,782 acres of spooky forests, lakes, meadows and 21 miles of trails to explore. The campground (also known as 4-Mile Creek Camp) has 111 campsites, most of which have electric hookups. The campground also has a laundry, flush toilets and hot showers.
Visitors can enjoy a wide variety of recreational activities and there are also some historic sites to check out including the site of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (built in 1810). Oh, and lets not forget about the 19th century cemetery that conveniently sites on a hill above 4-Mile Creek Camp.
The cemetery is one of the locations in the park where some have experienced paranormal activity. On moonless nights, visitors have reported seeing ghosts and hearing disembodied voices among the trees surrounding the graves. However, the cemetery is not the main (ghost) attraction at the Park. Rather, it’s the wildlife – as in the “Wild Men of Borneo”.
The story starts in 1856, when a circus train passing through the area jumped the tracks. Fortunately none of the people or animals were injured, but several of the circus animals did escape into the forest of what is now part of Montgomery Bell State Park. Over the next several days the handlers were able to capture all of the animals except two – billed as the “Wild Men of Borneo”. Expert trackers were brought in to help find the Wild Men, but it seemed as if they had disappeared into thin air.
Several days later people began hearing strange howls during the night. As time passed, they also started losing livestock. Some went missing and others were found brutally killed and dismembered. The locals feared they might have a Werewolf on their hands so they called in another professional hunter. The hunter did manage to shoot a large wolf like animal, but it escaped into the forest without a trace.
Today, campers and visitors report hearing howling and primordial screams during the night around the area of Werewolf Springs (also known as Hall Springs). Others have seen large bear-like footprints in the area. You can access the area via a trailhead starting at the end of Halls Cemetery road. There is a path leading from the cemetery into the woods and toward Werewolf Springs. The springs are said to have other mystical powers and may also been one of the hangouts of the infamous Bell Witch (of which the Blair Witch Project was loosely based).
Keep in mind that it is always a good thing to hike with a partner, especially at night in a haunted forest. Local police have documented dozens of mysterious disappearances in the area, as well as finding over 20 mutilated human carcasses and over 500 animal carcasses. It might be best to hike to the springs during the day. The last thing you want to have happen during your camping trip is end up as a human carcass.
Anza Borrego State Park has been described as the jewel of the California State Park system and it also may be one with the most paranormal activity.
Even before it was a state park, Anza Borrego was known for things that go bump in the camp. Mysterious “ghost lights” were first reported in the mid 1800s by Butterfield Stage drivers. Over the years the ghost lights have been spotted by prospectors, soldiers, explorers and modern-day visitors. Most of the recent activity seems to occur near Oriflamme Mountain. Fireballs or orbs have also been spotted near Grapevine Canyon at the entrance to the Narrows.
Scientists have attempted to determine an explanation for the ghost or “phantom lights”, with some suggesting they may be caused by blowing sand striking quartz outcroppings, creating static electricity or sparks during the night. Others believe they are the departed souls of the Kumeyaay people.
The ghost or phantom lights of Anza Borrego are pale in comparison to the hauntings at and near a county campground located in the park. The Vallecito County Park Campground may just be one of the most haunted campgrounds in the California.
Vallecito County Park includes 71 acres around the reconstruction of the historic Butterfield stage station. Vallecito (“little valley”, as the Spanish name is translated) has been used as a campsite for a hundred years, beginning with the native Kumeyaay people. Explorers and prospectors have also used the oasis as a water source and campsite. Today, there are 41 campsites located around the Butterfield stage station and cemetery. That’s right, there’s an old cemetery located smack dab in the middle of the Vallecito campground. Campsites 14 and 15 are closest to the cemetery and offer prime locations for listening to the ghost whispers that many have heard over the years.
The “Lady in White” has also been known to make an appearance now and then. The young lady first arrived (in the flesh) in the 1850s while traveling on a Butterfield stagecoach heading west to meet up with her future husband in Sacramento. Unfortunately the journey was hard on her and her frail condition was no match for the harsh desert environment. She was helped from the stage to a back bedroom of the station but didn’t last the night.
The next morning her baggage was examined and a new white wedding dress was found. She was dressed in this and buried in the small Campo Santo (Spanish for cemetery) a few hundred feet from the station. Her spirit does not rest though and has been seen walking about the station, apparently waiting for the next stagecoach to take her to Sacramento.
Campers have heard footsteps, a woman crying and seen a ghostly apparition of a woman in a white dress. The activity seems to be more prominent during windy nights when the moon is mostly full. Campsites 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are closest to the station and offer the best chance of hearing or seeing her from your campfire chair. Take care to keep your campfire low because she apparently doesn’t like large campfires. More than a few campers have sworn that an unseen hand poked, tugged or grabbed their shoulders as they sat around their roaring campfire.
If you don’t happen to see the Lady in White, you may chance upon seeing a ghost of a white horse, as well as a phantom stage passing through the Carrizo Wash near the mud ruins of the original stagecoach station. Both the ghost horse and phantom stage are related to a robbery that occurred here.
In the 1860s, a stage from El Paso was headed for San Diego with a payroll of coins estimated at the time to be worth $65,000. The stage had no passengers, but did have a driver and one guard. Some reports say that the guard fell ill in Yuma, leaving only the driver to continue on to San Diego. Unfortunately, before the driver could reach his destination, the stage was held up by bandits in Carrizo Wash. The driver was shot during the robbery and the bandits hid the coins somewhere in the vicinity. After hiding their loot, the bandits made their way to the Vallecito stage station to resupply and have a few drinks. Soon the bandits began arguing and one of the robbers left saying he was going to check on his mount. A short time later he busted through the doors of the station on his large white horse, guns blazing and shot the other bandits. Before he could ride away, one of the bandits managed to fire off a few rounds killing the horse and rider.
Although rare, campers have reported hearing the phantom stage in the dead of night in the nearby Carrizo Wash. Others have said they’ve actually seen the phantom stage with a lone driver slumped over as a team of mules pull it through the wash. The spirit of the white horse has also been seen, appearing from nowhere, galloping through the sand and disappearing without a trace.
About 42 miles east of San Diego and close to the Mexican border, Lake Morena County Park & Campground has been a hotbed of ghostly activity.
The park is located southwest of the Laguna Mountains and includes 3,250 acres of chaparral, oak woods and grassland. The campground has approximately 86 mixed-used campsites for RVs, trailers and tents. There are also walk/bike-in sites; a youth group camp and cabins available for rent. Outdoor recreation includes fishing and boating in the reservoir, hiking and wildlife watching.
In addition to viewing some wildlife, you may also experience an honest to goodness apparition. One of the hauntings is none other than a young lady in a white dress. Not sure if she’s the same one that haunts the stage station at Vallecito, but she does seem to get around.
Your best chances of seeing her is in the wooded area across from the campsites. On a warm summer night this July a man ventured over to the trees to do his business and upon looking up he saw a ghostly figure of a lady in white staring back at him. This gave him quite a fright and he quickly turned away to skip on back to the campground. Before he got too far he glanced back and she had vanished, but he could still feel her presence. Other campers who have visited the woods have felt a cold and eerie presence near some boulders that are close to the trees. On other occasions, campers have heard footsteps around their tents, as well as the voice of a woman laughing and singing. Photos have captured strange orbs floating through the campground.
Perhaps the creepiest paranormal activity at Lake Morena County Park is the often-reported sightings of levitating bodies. These floating ghosts are mostly seen in groups and about 10 feet above the ground. Usually they are seen at night, but some people have seen ghostly bodies levitating during the early morning hours just after sunrise. A possible explanation may be related to when San Diego hired conman Charles Hatfield to produce rain in order too fill up the Morena Reservoir in 1916. Coincidentally, epic storms did hit the area and filled up the reservoir, but they also caused a devastating flood.
The flood killed more than 50 people in the area, many of whom were never found and presumed to have sunk to the bottom of the murky reservoir. It seems the levitating ghosts have been seen more often this year – perhaps coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of the tragedy.
Hunting Island State Park is South Carolina’s most visited State Park and for good reason. The 5,000 acres include a beautiful coastal ecosystem with white sandy beaches, marshes, a wildlife preserve and many outdoor recreational activities to enjoy. The campground is located at the northern end of the park near the ocean. It is first rate and has 171 campsites, each with water and electrical hookups. Cabins, tent camping and group campsites are also available.
It is also home to a haunted lighthouse that was built in 1873. The lighthouse has been featured in paranormal investigation shows over the years and they usually have captured some pretty compelling evidence of hauntings. Many other visitors to the lighthouse have seen apparitions, and heard ghostly voices.
Several stories surround the Hunting Island lighthouse. One tells of a lighthouse keeper who failed to save a drowning boy, and in his grief, still walks the beaches a hundred years later searching the water for the boy’s cries. Another says a lighthouse keeper’s daughter (she was not dressed in white) threw herself from the lighthouse, and her moans can be heard coming from the spiral staircase that climbs the spire.
The campground is not void of ghostly encounters either. More than a few campers have experienced high-strangeness like loud bangs or knocks on their RVs in the middle of the night. Others have reported seeing orbs floating in the woods, heavy footsteps around their tents and hearing disembodied singing. Ghostly figures have also been known to haunt some of the old rental cabins.
If you’re up for a good scare, give Hunting Island State Park a try. Just don’t get fooled by all those pesky raccoons that like to prowl the campground during the night.
China Camp State Park is located in a very quiet and scenic spot along the shores of San Francisco Bay. It was once home to the Miwok people before it became a small fishing village and outpost of the Bay Area’s Chinese immigrant population in the mid 1800s. In its heyday, there were more than 500 people living there, a few general stores, a post office and many homes.
Today, the Park seems to offer the perfect setting for a scary movie. There’s a ghost town, creepy trails through forests, a campground set in a wooded area along a creek and a spooky old guy that’s been seen walking on the trails in the middle of the night. The weather often adds to the spooky factor with fog and drizzle.
But don’t let the peaceful and idyllic setting lull you to sleep because this place is very haunted. Many campers and daytime visitors who hike and bike at the Park report an overwhelming feeling of dread and being watched by unseen entities. The feeling is especially prevalent up by the radio towers closer to Glenwood. There are also plenty of other ghost-encounters throughout the park including seeing demonic-like beings in the woods and misty apparitions by the old buildings. Campers have also heard disembodied voices and screams echoing through the hills during the night.
The hauntings could be traced to a number of sources including cult murders in 1975 (the “barbecue murders”) with the victims bodies being burned in a campfire at China Camp, Chinese immigrants killed in a racially fueled fight in 1956, and the hundreds of Miwok who died from disease…just to name a few.
And if you happen to be on an evening stroll and see an old man (some of said he looks Chinese, others have described him as being a Native American) walking by himself along the Gold Hill Fire Road, it might be best to keep any friendly how-de-dos to yourself. I’m just saying…