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10 Chilling Missouri Legends
Urban legends are passed down from generation to generation, often with a twist of truth entwined in the fiction. Not surprisingly, this lore is everywhere, and Missouri is no exception. Here are 10 urban legends from the Show-Me State, written by a life-long Missourian, to send shivers down your spine!
10/span> The Devil’s Chair
Devil’s Chairs are a legend one can find across Europe and in many other parts of the world. But at the Highland Park Cemetery in Kirksville, Missouri, legend has it this stone chair can pull someone who sits in it straight to Hell. William Baird, a respected banker in Kirksville, commissioned this chair to be built sometime in the late 1800s, with the exact date remaining a mystery.
Baird used his own company to perform the masonry, but the reason a Devil’s Chair legend has formed around the seat is unknown. If one takes a seat in the chair on Halloween, or another night sacred to dark forces, it is said hands will erupt from the earth, tear into the victim, and drag their body and soul to Hell itself.
However, whether you want to give Mr. Baird himself a thank you or a curse, you won’t find him at Highland Park. He is buried at the Forest-Llewellyn Cemetery instead.
9 The Witch of St. Louis
St. Louis is home to one of the nation’s most mysterious witchcraft stories. The origin story and specifics surrounding the infamous witch, Molly Crenshaw, vary widely from source to source. However, most of the tales agree that her body was butchered, and its separate parts were buried in different locations throughout the wooded countryside. Legend has it that the body parts still move under the earth, attempting to reassemble the witch, so she might return once again and enact her revenge against her persecutors.
The legend has stayed alive for many decades. A popular story in the area tells of several high school football players, who went looking for her grave, found it, and attempted to steal the tombstone. Their bodies were later found impaled on the iron fence of the graveyard. With locating the grave becoming a favorite activity of local kids because of the gruesome stories surrounding it, the Crenshaw family supposedly removed the headstone from their private cemetery in the 1970s to prevent more misfortune. 
8 The Missouri Monster
This creature, also known as Momo, is said to inhabit the forests near Louisiana, Missouri. It is described as a hairy, ape-like creature with a putrid smell. However, in recent years, Momo took on another life online, often being depicted as a gangly, unproportionate, naked creature with a beak-like mouth and massive eyes. Sightings of Momo have been reported for decades, and many believe it to be an undiscovered primate species.
But the legend isn’t restrained to Louisiana, Missouri. Sightings of Momo have been reported across the state, from the Kansas City area to the deep woods of the Ozarks. Momo is Missouri’s own Bigfoot. Or perhaps, as some believe, they are kin. After all, Colorado is only one state away, and it is full of its own Bigfoot stories.
7 Zombie Road
In Wildwood, not far from St. Louis, is Zombie Road, now a series of trails that cover a long-ago road. Based on the number of reports alone, Zombie Road is one of the most haunted sites in all of Missouri. Originally constructed in the mid-1800s, the road is renowned for producing ghost sightings for both ghost hunters and visiting cyclists and hikers. The trail is officially closed at night, but that doesn’t stop the intrepid few from traveling its shadowy path.
Sightings include ghostly shadows and lights lurking in the forest, some that even follow travelers at a distance. Della Hamilton McCullough, whose 1876 death is verified by local records, is said to wander along the train tracks where she was struck and killed.
6 The Demon of Mark Twain Cave
In quiet Hannibal, Missouri, the Mark Twain Cave is a popular tourist attraction in Twain’s hometown. According to legend, a demon lurks in the cave’s shadows, preying on unsuspecting visitors. Which is terrifying when you consider the caves open for tourists most of the year.
Guests can stare into the vast pit, a seemingly endless drop, which inspired the death scene of Injun Joe in Huckleberry Finn. Many suspect the cosmic depths of this pit are what inspired Twain, or maybe there is something more sinister still lurking in the dark.
5 The 1859 Jail
Independence, Missouri, is home to the 1859 Jail, which rests on the corner of the historic square, the same area the Donner party set out from before perishing on their own dark journey. Throughout the years it was in operation, many people perished within the 1859 jail.
Locals report heavy iron cell doors swinging on their own, some even trapping tourists inside. Footsteps and voices are commonly heard, and strange scents, like smoke and food, often fill the air. Ghost tours are open to the public as well as traditional historical tours.
4 The Phantom of Route 66
This legend tells of a ghostly hitchhiker said to appear on Route 66 as it runs through Missouri. The hitchhiker is said to be a young woman killed in a car accident who now haunts the road. Some even report speaking with the woman, letting her in for a ride, only to find she vanishes shortly after the car returns to the road. This particular kind of phantom seems to be its own archetype of spirit in American folklore.
This story and others of similar construction very well may have inspired similar stories seen on popular horror anthology shows such as The Twilight Zone. Wandering spirits are a common theme in our collective human lore, so one might conclude it makes sense for wandering spirits to congregate around large passageways such as Route 66.
3 The Missouri Scream & Joplin Ghost Light
This is an eerie and unexplained phenomenon reported throughout the state. It is described as a blood-curdling scream echoing through the night, with no source. It’s been reportedly heard alongside the Joplin ghost light, also known as the Missouri spook light. A lantern-like light, yellow and orange like a burning flame, drifts over open fields in Joplin. Many have tried to explain both Missouri ghost light and then scream, but most explanations fall short of satisfactory.
A light or natural gas phenomenon would be predictable, testable, or reproducible. And cattle and other animals likely to produce such sounds would be easily trackable. Yet the Missouri scream and Joplin ghost light continue to haunt Missourians with seemingly no plausible explanation for their source or origin. On the bright side, while both of these hauntings are incredibly chilling, neither seem to be out to harm anyone outside of evoking a burst of sudden terror.
2 The Ghost of the Elms Hotel
The Elms Hotel is a historic hotel in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. According to the stories, a ghostly bride can be seen wandering the halls of the hotel, still searching for her groom, who died on their wedding day. Additionally, staff reports a dark shadow that lurks in the halls. Staff members have been shoved and scratched. And on the top floor in the manager’s suite, a maid in historic garb is said to appear so life-like people often attempt to interact with her. Interactions are met with silence until the maid turns a corner, vanishing and leaving her very real cart behind.
Staff at the Elms are happy to talk about their experiences with the supernatural. Many of them have their own explanations and theories about the mini ghost sightings inside the hotel. Mob boss, Al Capone, held mini-meetings inside the hotel, and the building burned to the ground twice—one of those times due to a boiler explosion.
With many deaths occurring in and around the hotel, it’s no wonder there are so many ghost sightings and experiences. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there is something powerful about looking at the old boiler face plate on display on the manager’s private floor in the guest lounge. The foreboding ironwork is a physical testament to the horrific tragedy.
1 Harry S Truman’s Ghost
While former President of the United States Harry S Truman has long retired from the Earth, many staff members maintaining his former residence in Independence, Missouri, have reported seeing him alive and well. From smelling Truman’s favorite brandy wafting through the house to occasionally seeing him relaxing in a chair in the living room or taking a stroll on the sidewalk outside, Truman’s ghost has been spotted by many in Independence.
In fact, Truman’s ghost is not confined to the walls of his former residence. Independence, Missouri, sports a walking trail that recreates Harry Truman’s daily walk, which he took every morning after his presidency. Many residents have reported seeing Mr. Truman in the early morning, walking along the sidewalk with his cane in hand, trudging through the mists, and enjoying retirement in his hometown after a long and arduous presidency.
While these stories are simply legends, they add to Missouri’s rich history and culture. They also serve as a reminder of the power of imagination and how easily it can be sparked by the unknown. Often considered a flyover state, Missouri is full of supernatural legends, both urban and rural.