A chill autumn wind rustles dry leaves in the dark heart of the forest. Or was that a footstep? A raspy voice whispers your name as a clammy hand closes on your shoulder. Fear seizes your heart as you repent your decision to visit the haunted forest.
Take a Halloween trip with Discovery News to some of America's most supernatural natural areas and paranormal parks. Here are the best places to tell ghost stories this weekend:
First stop is Dudleytown, Conn. Legend has it that a royal curse caused the founders of the town, the Dudley family, to go mad in the 1850s. Or maybe it was the high concentration of lead in the groundwater. One way or the other, the town was reportedly the site of numerous murders and suicides. By 1899, everyone had either died or run away.
The forest moved back in and the town disappeared, but ghost hunters say orbs of light ply the gloomy shadows of Dudleytown's ruins. Hikers report an eerie silence in the area because animals and birds avoid the town limits, according to the book Connecticut Curiosities by Susan Campbell and colleagues.
As we flee south with the ghosts of Dudleytown hot on our heels, we come to Bluff Mountain, Va., in the George Washington National Forest. In 1892, 4-year-old Ottie Cline Powell was found dead on the peak. The doomed tot had wandered off from his schoolhouse seven miles away, then died of exposure during an ice storm, reported Blue Ridge Country magazine.
Hikers have reported strange events while camped on Bluff Mountian, especially at the hiker's shelter near the peak.
While camping at the shelter, one man awoke and thought he saw a young boy looking through his backpack. According to the story written in the trail's log book,the boy then disappeared, David Helms of the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trails Club told Discovery News.
Poor Ottie seems to still be looking for shelter after 100 years. Will you invite him into your tent?
Crossing the misty Appalachian Mountains, more American apparitions await. Near St. Louis, at Creve Coeur Lake Park, a Native American woman awaits the return of her husband from a hunting trip. She has been waiting and weeping for centuries.
Legend has it the hunter died on his trip. The grief proved too much for his widow. She leaped to her death off a cliff near Creve Coeur Lake. A trickle of water now falls over the cliff, like the bereaved lover's tears. And that is how the lake got its name. Creve Coeur means broken heart in French.
According to local stories, visitors have reported seeing a woman leap off the cliff. However, when they arrive at the base, they find no one, but hear a woman weeping.
After you shed a tear for the broken-hearted mademoiselle, head north and you'll find St. Louis isn't the only city with a haunted natural area.
Robinson Wood near Chicago is a favorite of ghost hunters. The phantasm-infested forest was once the home of Che-Che-Pin-Qua, also known as Alexander Robinson, chief of the combined Potawatomi, Ottawa and Chippewa tribes. Paranormal investigators have reported seeing apparitions near the chief's family burial ground, reported Chicago Wilderness magazine.
If camping isn't for you, head for Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and stay at nearby Stanley Hotel. Relax in room 217 with a nice glass of red rum, and remember that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But beware, the hotel was the inspiration for Stephen King's The Shining and is said to be haunted by several ghosts, including its founder Freelan O. Stanley's wife, who likes to play piano in the empty ballroom.
No matter where you go in the United States, supernatural nature will be waiting. Perhaps the spirits will guide you to a beautiful park where you can take in the autumn colors and rest … or rest in peace.
Blurry figure in the woods. (Corbis Images).
A hand-painted wooden sign stands on the edge of the Haunted Forest, a Halloween event for kids in Vermont. (Corbis Images).
George Washington National Forest, Virginia. (Wikimedia Commons).
Creve Coeur Lake Park, near St. Louis. (Wikimedia Commons).
The Stanley Hotel in winter. (Wikimedia Commons).