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10 Unexplained Mysteries Of The National Parks

by Joe Drury
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The United States National Park System has over 84 million acres of woods, mountains, deserts, and preserved wilderness, making it a prime place for mysterious happenings. Although people seek explanations, definitive conclusions have never been reached in a large number of these cases.

With hikers just vanishing into thin air, strange creatures being spotted among the trees, and whole groups disappearing without a trace, no other places carry quite the same eerie auras as the national parks.

10 The Devil’s Den

In 1946, Katherine Van Alst, an eight-year-old girl who was with her family at Devil’s Den State Park, disappeared from their camp and got lost. Six days later, she was found sitting in a cave approximately 48 kilometers (30 mi) away and 183 meters (600 ft) higher than the spot from which she had disappeared.

The thing that perplexed the search party was Katherine’s remarkable calmness when they found her. She was reported to have walked peacefully out of the cave and announced, “Here I am.”[1]

How an eight-year-old girl wearing only a bathing suit managed to travel such a distance and show no signs of harm is still a mystery. Many suggest that something chased Katherine, which was why she strayed so far from the camp. While it likely wasn’t a lumbering, radioactive Bigfoot, it cannot be denied that it was indeed mysterious and that something sinister could be lurking in the Devil’s Den park.

9 The Haunted Battleground

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Gettysburg National Military Park was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. During three days of brutal combat, casualties rose to over 50,000 and the creeks were said to have literally run red with blood. Today, hundreds of paranormal sightings are reported there every year. Many claim to have seen figures in Civil War uniforms, carrying old-looking weapons.

Civil War reenactor Ray Hock claimed that he and a friend were approached by a large haggard figure who handed them some cartridges. But when they looked up, he was gone. The cartridges were later confirmed to be genuine Civil War issue from 1863. Others claim to have found a figure, appearing to be a hazy mist lying facedown in a bush, shaking violently from the supposed pain he was in.[2]

While these occurrences likely have rational explanations, they have not yet been solved. Perhaps we will never know if an army of the dead really roams the grounds of Gettysburg National Military Park.

8 Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta is located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest of California and is a place shrouded by mysteries and legends. The tribes who lived on the mountain once thought of it as the center of creation and all life, while New Age believers see it as the Earth’s main point of spiritual energy.

In 1931, a huge forest fire swept across the mountain, only to be stopped by a strange fog that arose suddenly. It was later realized that the fog had stopped the fire directly in line with the Central Time Zone. This occurrence has never been explained scientifically.[3]

The mountain is also said to be an entry point to the fifth dimension and an energy supply base for extraterrestrial craft, with local villages reporting large humanoid figures observing them from a distance. People also link these sightings to the Karuk legend of the “big people,” a race of superhuman individuals who fled their destroyed city of Lemuria and are responsible for the mysterious occurrences on the mountain.

7 Hopi Keeper Of Death

Grand Canyon National Park is perhaps one of the most famous parks in the world. With just under 5,000 square kilometers (1,930 mi2), the canyon is riddled with mysteries and folklore.

One of the tribes that inhabited the canyon was the Hopi, comprised of elders, workers, and hunters. They thrived there, with some writers speculating that the tribe had built an underground citadel within the canyon.

The Hopi believed in the god Maasaw, the supposed keeper of death. Maasaw is said to reside in a specific region of the canyon. If you see strange lights coming toward you from within the canyon at night or you hear a faint tapping of rocks, Maasaw is after you.[4]

While this sounds like superstitious nonsense, many have experienced nausea and anxiety in the region shortly after hearing the rocks clanging. Although the area is level and not considered to be dangerous, a large number of accidents have occurred there.

6 Strange Structures

Santa Fe National Forest has recently become plagued by unexplained wooden structures randomly appearing in the woods. Each structure is said to be made up of over 1,000 pieces of wood, with some over 6 meters (20 ft) tall and 4 meters (12 ft) in diameter.

Made of fallen trees and tree limbs, the structures have left forest officials at a loss. They complain that the wood could cause a forest fire and threaten that anyone caught building these cone-shaped designs could be fined $5,000 or spend six months in jail.[5]

No one knows who is building these structures or why. But many have suggested that they are the work of a cult that uses the wooden frameworks for ritualistic purposes.

5 Mysterious Force In The Washington Woods

On January 27, 2018, in Olympic National Park, an immensely powerful force knocked down over 100 trees. Experts immediately assumed that strong winds or another meteorological phenomenon was responsible. However, no weather data suggested that anything out of the ordinary had occurred.

The evening before, park visitors had reported hearing a huge rumbling sound. This led officials to believe that some kind of landslide or minor earthquake had taken place, but there was no evidence pointing to that, either.

In some areas, trees were knocked all the way down. In others, the trees were just broken and leaning severely. It is still unknown what caused so many trees to fall, but many people turn to more “out-there” explanations. Although we can safely say that it wasn’t Bigfoot out on an evening rampage, we cannot draw a final conclusion as to what happened in the Washington woods.[6]

4 The Yosemite UFO

Photo credit: The Telegraph

On the evening of September 19, 2002, a strange disk appeared in the sky over Yosemite National Park. A number of people captured the supposedly alien craft on video, and it is now widely regarded as some of the best UFO footage to date.

Moments after this strange object was seen in the sky, air force jets arrived and circled the area. But the pilots were unable to find anything. This incident is one of many that have occurred in Yosemite National Park, with numerous visitors claiming to have seen strange lights in the sky.

However, many experts have dismissed the sightings as meteors or simply optical illusions. As far as the public knows, this claim has never been properly investigated, so we still don’t know what was seen over Yosemite that evening.[7]

3 The Missing Germans

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Death Valley National Park is a vast area of barren land, sprawling over three million acres from California to Nevada. On a day that was 49 degrees Celsius (120 °F) in July 1996, four German tourists went missing without a trace. Their last known location was a small ghost town where they had written in a visitors’ book, “We are going through the pass.” Rangers assume that means the Mengel Pass.

When the family wasn’t on their flight home, Interpol was alerted. On August 14, they were officially reported missing. Their rental van was found abandoned on October 23 with three flat tires. No wallets or passports were ever found, leading many to believe that the group had been kidnapped.

However, in 2009, human bones were discovered in Death Valley. Authorities claimed that they were “fairly certain” that the bones belonged to the missing Germans. However, no one has heard any update on the case since.[8]

2 Smoky Mountains Mystery

The Smoky Mountains sit along the Tennessee and North Carolina border, with the national park covering over 187,000 acres of land. The site has been known for many disappearances over the years. Perhaps the strangest was the case of Dennis Martin in 1969.

The six-year-old boy and his family were on a hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains. Dennis and his three brothers decided to jump out at their parents when they walked past. The three brothers went one way, while Dennis went in the other direction because his bright red top made him more obvious.[9]

When the time came, the three brothers jumped out at their parents, but Dennis did not. They presumed that he had missed his cue and called his name while waiting for him to come out. Still, he did not.

They went looking for Dennis and found no trace of him. So they called for the search-and-rescue unit to assist in finding him. Dennis was not found by nighttime or in the many weeks of searching that followed. Some people reported seeing a small boy walking through the woods, while others reported finding various small items of clothing. But Dennis was never found.

Many speculate that he was kidnapped or dragged off by a wild animal, but there is no evidence to support these theories. He left absolutely no trace. To this day, no one knows what exactly happened to Dennis, but he is presumed dead by authorities. Unfortunately, his case was only one of many to happen in the Smoky Mountains.

1 Hawaiian Fireballs

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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park sits on Hawaii Island (aka the Big Island). While this is a place of immense wonder and beauty, it is also an area of superstition and mystery.

On March 27, 1998, a blue explosion of light lit the night sky along with a huge roaring sound. Hundreds of locals called it in as well as a pilot who was in the air at the time. He claimed that the object came within 3 kilometers (2 mi) of his plane and increased the temperature dramatically. This statement was supported by others in the cabin.

Authorities later announced that the explosion was a meteor. But some Hawaiian locals were not convinced, claiming that it was an awakened Hawaiian god who was angry with what humanity was doing to the world.[10]

This is only one of many mysterious occurrences on the island of Hawaii. Numerous visitors have taken rocks from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and then mailed them back due to odd events happening when they arrived home. This led them to believe that the rocks were cursed.

Others have reported encountering spirits while walking around late at night as well as seeing strange hazes in the distance. We don’t know whether these reports have a rational explanation. But one thing is sure: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is certainly the place to go if you want a good mystery.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater