Every state harbors unpleasant secrets—here are 50 of the strangest ones from around the country, and why we may never learn the real truth.
Alabama: The Brasher-Dye Disappearance
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The Dye brothers, Billy Howard and Robert, disappeared in 1956 along with their cousin, Dan Brasher. They were last seen leaving a relative’s house in rural Jefferson County in a 1947 green Ford, but no one even noticed they were missing because they were known to be heavy drinkers and often disappeared for days while sleeping off a binge. When a missing person’s report was filed, investigators’ questions were met with silence or tall tales—for example, of a bulldozer burying a car under a highway. The case remains unsolved. Check out these missing person mysteries that were eventually solved.
Alaska: The Investor murders
In 1982, an $850,000 fishing boat named the Investor was seen burning off of the coast of Craig. Inside, eight bodies were found (the owner, his pregnant wife, their two daughters, and four crewmen) They’d been shot to death and left to burn. One possible suspect was tried, but he’s been acquitted due to a lack of hard evidence. Authorities still haven’t determined a motive. The case is Alaska’s biggest and most famous unsolved mystery.
Arizona: Searching for Robert Fisher
Robert William Fisher (born 1961) is one of the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives. He’s wanted for the murder of his wife and two kids and for blowing up the house in which they lived in Scottsdale on April 10, 2001. Fisher, the only suspect in the case, disappeared the night of the fire and hasn’t been seen since. It’s possible he committed suicide, but equally possible he’s living under an assumed identity. The FBI is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest. Check out the 45 things police officers want you to know.
Arkansas: The Gurdon Light
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Ever since the 1930s, a floating light appears above the railroad tracks near Gurdon sometime in late October. It’s not in dispute whether the light appears because thousands of people have seen it. What remains a mystery is what causes the light. Some believe it’s the ghost of William McClain, a railroad worker murdered in 1931, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Others believe it’s a natural phenomenon caused by swamp gas or rock quartz beneath the land. It was featured on television’s Unsolved Mysteries in 1994 and remains unsolved to this day.
California: Did anyone survive the “Escape From Alcatraz”?
The supposedly escape-proof prison named for Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay claimed the lives of 33 prisoners who attempted to flee. But not necessarily John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, and Frank Morris: In 1962, they escaped from their cells through holes they’d drilled in the wall of their cell. Unfortunately, that’s where the story ends. “What happened next remains a mystery,” reads a portion of an FBI history of the investigation, according to NBC News. The case was closed in 1979, but people (including the families of the escapees) still wonder.
Colorado: The Black Forest haunting
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Within weeks of moving into their home in the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs, “all hell broke loose” for the Lee family, according to Our Community Now. There were flashing lights, footsteps, orchestra music, strange smells, and even sightings of ghostly faces. The Lee family lives there to this day, still reporting the same phenomena. No one can explain what it is, although a Hopi shaman who was called in to consult claims the house is located on a “rip in the space-time continuum,” where spirits can move freely between worlds.
Connecticut: The shallow graves beneath New Haven Green
In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused a tree to fall on New Haven Green. Tangled in the roots was a human skull, dating back around 200 years. An archeological dig followed, yielding more body fragments, as well as coffin nails. It’s suspected more than 5,000 bodies are buried under the Green and that they may have been “dragged out in the middle of the night, wrapped in a sheet, and buried in shallow, unmarked graves.” Some theorize the people died during a terrible epidemic—though no one’s sure of what. Here are the diseases you probably didn’t realize still exist today.
Delaware: The inexplicable murder of Jane Marie Prichard
Jane Marie Prichard was conducting botany experiments in Blackbird State Forest in September 1986 when she was shot to death; campers stumbled across her body later. Many hunters were in the forest that day, but investigators quickly ruled out an accidental shooting, according to Delaware Online. What they couldn’t figure out and still haven’t is why someone wanted Prichard dead, and who might have killed her. The case remains cold to this day.
Florida: The spontaneous combustion of Mary Reeser
In July of 1951, authorities found the body of 67-year-old Mary Reeser in her St. Petersburg apartment. Or more accurately, the pile of mostly ash that once was Mary Reeser’s body (part of her lower leg and some of her spine remained). Apparently, her body had been almost entirely cremated, which is mind-boggling when you consider that cremation requires three hours of burning in a 3,000-degree fire. Even more bizarre—only Reeser’s body had burned: The rest of her apartment was intact, even a pile of newspapers beside her body.
Georgia: The Bleeding House
One night in 1987, Minnie Winston saw blood on the floor of her Atlanta house. Terrified, she ran to find her husband. He was fine, but there was more blood… everywhere. On the walls, oozing from the floor, seeping up from under kitchen appliances. She and her husband called the police, who found no evidence of a break-in. What they were able to surmise was that the blood had come from a living human. No one has ever figured out where or whom the blood came from. Here’s what your fears reveal about your personality.
Hawaii: What happened to Lisa Au
More than 35 years ago, 19-year-old Lisa Au disappeared without a trace, her car abandoned along a highway in Kailua. Her body turned up ten days later, naked and decomposing. The coroner couldn’t determine the cause of death, but police consider the case a homicide—perhaps Hawaii’s most notorious since the police believe that Lisa may have been abducted by someone posing as a police officer.
Idaho: Strange mutilations
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The towns of Jerome and Bliss have been plagued by bizarre mutilations since the 1970s—human, cattle, and deer (genitals removed, the bodies drained entirely of blood, and no discernable footprints or other forensic evidence left at the scene). The official explanation by law enforcement is “cult killings,” but no arrest has ever been made, and no cult has ever been identified.
Illinois: The Mad Gasser of Mattoon
During the 1940s, law enforcement received more than two dozen cases of “gassings,” in which the victims reported paralysis, coughing, nausea, and vomiting after smelling a strange, noxious odor in their homes. No physical evidence was ever found, however, and the victims always survived. Some believe the “attacks” were a case of mass hysteria. Others believe the “Mad Gasser” actually existed or that the “attacks” were really the result of paranormal activity. The truth may or may not be “out there.” Don’t miss these baffling forensic cases that have everyone stumped.
Indiana: The mysterious fire poltergeist
In 1941, a farmer in Odon had breakfast with his family and then headed out to his barn to begin his chores. Then he noticed smoke coming out of an upstairs window in his house. He ran back, and with the help of the volunteer fire department put out the fire in an upstairs bedroom—only to have another fire break out in another room. All day long, as soon as they put out one fire, another would start elsewhere in the house—28 in all. Believing his house to be haunted by poltergeists, the farmer tore it down and built a new one. The cause of the fires has never been determined. Here are some more real-life ghost stories that will make you believe.
Iowa: The boy with no appetite
In Cedar Falls, there lives a boy who never gets hungry or thirsty. It all started in 2013, when the boy, Landon Jones, who’d been completely fine up until then, came down with a bacterial infection in his left lung. Ever since then, he’s never felt hunger or thirst. He only eats and drinks because he is reminded to do so. No one knows what caused this affliction.
Kansas: The baffling disappearance of Randy Leach
In 1988, Randy Leach, a teenager from Leavenworth County, disappeared from a high school party and has never been found. What makes the case stranger is there’d been rumors of satanic cult activity in the county in the days before Randy’s disappearance, and the party site had been cleaned meticulously before investigators arrived; soon after, it burned to the ground. Most people who’ve cooperated in the investigation have turned up dead, and county officials decline to pursue further leads. There are theories about what really happened that night, but we may never know the truth.
Kentucky: The meat shower
Not a meteor shower—a meat shower. One day in 1876 over a farm in Kentucky, the sky rained down chunks of meat of indeterminate origin (was it bear? mutton? No one knew). The only explanation anyone has ever been able to offer is that the meat was the prey of vultures, who had gorged themselves and then vomited while flying overhead. Check out 16 of the strangest unsolved mysteries.
Louisiana: The Unknowable Marie Laveau
Marie Laveau lived in New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century, and charmed, titillated, and unnerved the community with her practice of voodoo. Laveau told fortunes and created potions and charms on request. She held spiritual ceremonies that led people to become possessed; she also could magically heal the sick. However, stories of her feats have been passed along from one generation of voodoo practitioners to the next, making it impossible to know the truth behind the tales.
Maine: What happened to Sarah Ware?
In 1898, the brutally beaten body of 52-year-old Sarah Ware was discovered in a wooded area of Bucksport. She’d been missing for two weeks. Her killer is believed to have been a neighbor, but when the blood-stained hammer believed to be the murder weapon disappeared, the neighbor was acquitted. The case still haunts the town to this day, not just because the case was never solved, but also because the circumstances of her burial are so strange: her head and body are buried separately, with no gravestone.
Maryland: House of horrors
In 2017, a Bethesda house fire revealed a disturbing find: The body of a man in the basement. Further investigation revealed a mysterious network of tunnels below the foundation of the house that extended all the way to the street. The house owner, Daniel Beckwitt, has since been charged with the death of Askia Khafra (the body in the basement); investigators allege that Beckwitt hired Khafra to dig the tunnels but put him in danger due to the unsafe work environment. But the purpose of the tunnels and Beckwitt’s motives remain a mystery. Find out about these 13 haunted house mysteries no one can explain.
Massachusetts: The Black Flash of Provincetown
From 1939 to 1945, the people of Provincetown were terrorized by a being they called the “Black Flash.” The figure first appeared to a group of children—tall, dressed in black, and growling ominously. In 1945, a group of policemen actually reported seeing the figure leap a 10-foot fence. About a month later, a man threw boiling water at the figure, sending it screaming into the night. It was never seen again.
Michigan: What exactly is the Paulding Light?
In 1966, a group of teens reported having seen a mysterious light above a valley in Paulding. Scientific explanations such as swamp gas have been rejected in favor of the more popular paranormal theory that the light is from the lantern belonging to local brakeman who was killed while attempting to stop an oncoming train. Michigan Tech students believe it’s a phenomenon created by headlights from a nearby road, but the mystery remains officially unsolved. These true stories of Lake Superior shipwrecks are guaranteed to give you goosebumps.
Minnesota: The frozen girl, defrosted
In 1981, Jean Hillard’s car went off the road near Langby, and the next day, her frozen body was discovered, her eyes wide open, her flesh frozen so solid that doctors couldn’t pierce it with a hypodermic needle. Her body temperature was too low to register on a thermometer. But when Hillard thawed, she was very much alive and made a full recovery.
Mississippi: Phantom Barber of Pascagoula
In 1942, Pascagoula was plagued by a series of peculiar home invasions: “The intruder took locks of hair from each of the people whose homes he broke into,” according to Southern Living. Although one man became a suspect, he was never formally charged and passed a lie-detector test; no one has ever figured out who the Phantom Barber really was or why he did what he did.
Missouri: How Robert Rayford contracted AIDS
In 1969, 16-year-old Robert Rayford was hospitalized in St. Louis for extreme, unintended weight loss and a host of infections. The doctors had no answers, and Rayford died. A few years later, HIV, the virus that causes AIDS was discovered in this country; subsequently, medical testing of Rayford’s blood revealed that he had the virus. Somehow, Rayford, who’d never been out of the country and never had a transfusion, had died of AIDS nearly a decade before it was discovered.
Montana: The Vortex and House of Mystery
Just 13 miles from Glacier National Park you can pass through a portal in which the laws of nature are set aside: A gravitational anomaly forces trees to grow sideways and makes people appear as much as six inches shorter. A shack in the Vortex—called the House of Mystery—is the home to bizarre phenomenon: A marble rolled on an incline will travel upward, and a rope hanging from the ceiling falls in a curve. Don’t miss these other mysteries about planet Earth that scientists haven’t figured out.
Nebraska: The Lucky 15
On March 1, 1950, the 15 members of the Beatrice’s West Side Baptist Church choir were supposed to meet for practice. All of the 15 were known for their timeliness, but on this day, they were all running late—every single one of them. The reasons varied, but not a single one was present when a natural gas leak caused the complete destruction of the church. Even Snopes can’t discount the mystery here: Why and how were every single one of the 15 spared a grisly death?
Nevada: Who murdered Tupac Shakur?
In 1996, hip-hop star Tupac Shakur was killed in Las Vegas during a drive-by shooting. “The story…begins with a failed attempt on his life two years earlier,” according to History, which Shakur blamed on producer Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and rival rapper, Christopher Wallace (“Notorious B.I.G.”). Wallace was murdered six months later in Los Angeles; no arrest has ever been made in either case.
New Hampshire: The disappearance of Rachel Garden
In 1980, 15-year-old Rachel Garden bought a pack of cigarettes at a market in Newton and was never seen again. The friend whom Rachel told her family she was going to be spending the night with denied having plans with Rachel that night. A witness claimed to have seen Rachel talking to three young men outside the market, but none of the men were ever charged. In fact, no one has ever been charged, and there are no suspects. Nearly 40 years later, the case appears to be hopelessly cold.
New Jersey: The phantom sniper
In 1927, Camden was terrorized by what’s been described as phantom- or ghost-sniper. Bus and car windows were shattered and even a policeman was struck, but no bullets or casings were ever found and no one ever saw an actual sniper. One witness reported hearing a man’s laughter. But no one else saw or heard a thing. The attacks suddenly stopped in 1928. To this day, no one knows why they began or what they really were. This school actually caught a ghost on camera, and no, it’s not a prank.
New Mexico: What was really going on in Roswell?
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It all started in the summer of 1947 when a Roswell rancher found mysterious debris in his sheep pasture. The Air Force claimed the debris belonged to a crashed weather balloon, but the citizens of Roswell didn’t buy it. They believed it came from a UFO. Fifty years later, the military revealed that the debris came from a top-secret atomic project. So it probably wasn’t a UFO—but what was it? And why has the U.S. government come up with at least two different stories about it? Here are the UFO myths scientists wish you’d stop believing.
New York: Who was the Leatherman?
During the second half of the 1800s, a leather-clad hermit wandered around Westchester and Putnam Counties, never speaking, and unlike other wanderers of that time period, not looking for work. He was, however, happy to accept a meal and returned once a year—on the same day—to the homes that were generous to him. He was known to sleep in caves; his body was discovered in 1889 in a cave on the Dell family farm in Briarcliff. To this day, no one’s sure who he was or why he wandered.
North Carolina: The shadow of the bear
Going bear-hunting has its own unique meaning in Cashiers: During the autumn months, when the sun is shining, the shadow of a bear is visible on Whiteside Mountain just before sunset. Romantic Asheville suggests you “shoot” this unexplained phenomenon with your camera. These are the world’s most haunted bodies of water.
North Dakota: Eugene Butler’s crawl space
Niagara, about 40 miles west of Grand Forks, was founded in 1882 and has never been a big town. In fact, today, it has less than 100 residents. But back in the early 1900s, there were at least six more people there than anyone knew about at the time. In 1915, the bodies of six people who’d been bludgeoned to death were discovered in the crawl space of a house that had once belonged to the reclusive Eugene Butler. He died in 1911, several years after being committed to a mental hospital. Their identities remain a mystery to this day.
Ohio: The Circleville letters
In 1976, residents of Circleville began receiving harassing letters, taunting and threatening them with tidbits about their personal lives. After the murder of one resident and the attempted murder of another, police arrested Paul Freshour, but while he was in prison, the letters continued. Six months after Freshour’s release, television’s Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment—only to receive its own short letter: “Forget Circleville, Ohio… if you come to Ohio, you el sickos will pay. The Circleville Writer.” The identity of the letter writer remains unknown.
Oklahoma: The Jamison Family
In 2014, Bobby and Sherilynn Jamison drove out to look at a property in Red Oak they were interested in purchasing. Their truck was discovered days later, along with their wallets, IDs, phones, $32,000 in cash, and their dog. Their remains, along with their young daughter’s, were discovered by hunters a month later. No cause of death could be determined, and no one knows what happened to them, although theories abound, including that the family faked their deaths and joined the witness protection program, and the family’s supposed involvement with cults and/or witchcraft.
Oregon: The mysterious shrieks of Forest Grove
The small town of Forest Grove is generally a quiet town, but in 2016, the quiet was shattered by reports of an otherworldly shrieking sound that seemed to emanate from nowhere and everywhere all at the same time. Some managed to record the screeching sound, which has been described as being like that of a train careening wildly on metal tracks—except there’s no train nearby. The shrieks ceased soon after, and no one has ever been able to figure out what caused them or where they might have been coming from.
Pennsylvania: Boy in the box
In 1957, the body of a young boy was discovered in a cardboard box in the woods outside Philadelphia. Authorities failed to identify him, and no one came forward looking for a boy that fit his description. The crime scene yielded no clues, but in 1960, a psychic led the police to a foster home where the boy might have lived. But a definitive connection between the boy and the foster home couldn’t be made, and the case remains cold all these years later. Find out the most notorious criminals in each state.
Rhode Island: Where is Adam Emery?
In 1993, Adam Emery disappeared just hours after being convicted of murdering 20-year-old Jason Bass in a road rage incident. (Emery was out on bail pending formal sentencing.) Police found his car abandoned on Newport Bridge. Less than a year later, his wife’s remains were found in Narragansett Bay. Some believe Adam and his wife jumped to their deaths from that bridge, but the FBI still considers Emery one of America’s most wanted criminals. Check out these 11 facts about the FBI you probably never knew.
South Carolina: The Lizard Man
Starting in the summer of 1988, Browntown residents began seeing what’s now referred to as the “Lizard Man,” a seven-foot-tall creature with red eyes and incredible, superhuman strength. The first sighting involved a car being “mauled” by the creature. “To this day, the mystery hasn’t been solved,” reports the Smithsonian, and there have been sightings as recently as 2015.
South Dakota: The strange fate of Tom Keuter
In 1994, Tina Marcotte called a friend to say she had a flat tire but that her coworker, Tom Kueter, was going to help her out. Tina was never seen or heard from again, and when Tom was questioned by police, he disputed that he’d been in touch with Tina on that day. The next day, Tom was found dead: He had been run over by his own forklift. Was it an accident? Suicide? Homicide? And what happened to Tina Marcotte?
Tennessee: The Craigmiles Mausoleum
In 1871, Nina Craigmiles was killed at the age of seven when the buggy she was riding in was hit by a train. Her family had a mausoleum built for her (and future deceased members of the Craigmiles family) of fine white Italian marble. Shortly after Nina was placed there, red streaks and splotches began to appear in the marble. Efforts to clean the marble failed, and each time a family member’s body was placed in the mausoleum, more red stains appeared. There’s no scientific explanation for the stains; some believe they are Nina’s tears.
Texas: The girl behind the Amber Alerts
Amber Hagerman was a nine-year-old Arlington Girl Scout when she was kidnapped while riding her bike on January 13, 1996. A witness quickly told the police he’d seen a girl being forced into a black van. Despite a massive search, Amber was never seen alive again. Her body was found five days later about four miles from where she had been taken. Her killer has never been found, but her abduction led to the invention of “Amber Alerts.”
Utah: Jean Baptiste’s great escape
Jean Baptiste was a notorious grave robber in Utah. When his grave-pillaging came to light in the late 1800s, Baptiste was banished to a remote island in the Great Salt Lake (the equivalent of solitary confinement). Three weeks later, he was gone. What little evidence authorities could find indicated that he might have built a raft in order to escape. But he was never seen or heard from again. Be wary of the 22 things a funeral director won’t tell you.
Vermont: The Bennington Triangle
The Bennington Triangle refers to an area of Vermont surrounding Glastenbury Mountain where several people have disappeared without a trace. These include a trail guide who vanished in 1945 while leading a hunting party, college student Paula Jean Weldon, who disappeared the following year from a hiking trail, and James Tedford, who seemingly vanished from a bus headed for Bennington. Since the disappearances were clustered in the 1940s, there’s speculation of a serial killer. But others believe paranormal forces are at work.
Virginia: The Old House Woods
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In the quaint seaside town of Diggs, Virginia’s “Old House Woods” was once a popular hiding place for soldiers and pirates, so naturally, it’s become a hotspot for paranormal activity, including sightings of a ghostly woman and accounts of skeletons dressed in armor wandering the woods. People have reported finding themselves filled with dread while walking in the forest. Horses are known to become spooked for no apparent reason. Even paranormal investigators are creeped out, often unable to continue their investigations. Don’t miss these true ghost stories from the world’s most haunted places.
Washington: How Jason Padgett became a math genius
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In 2002, Jason Padgett, a furniture salesman, jock, and self-described “partier” from Tacoma, was savagely attacked by two men outside a bar, leaving him with a severe concussion. When he recovered, he had acquired the ability to “visualize complex mathematical objects and physics concepts intuitively,” according to Live Science. Padgett is now one of 15 to 25 cases of so-called “acquired savant syndrome”—people who developed abilities after suffering a head injury.
West Virginia: The Octopus mystery
Danny Casolaro was a freelance writer who came to Martinsburg, West Virginia in 1991 to meet with a source about a story he code-named “the Octopus,” which involved high-ranking government officials and an international cabal. Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room. Authorities labeled it a suicide, but Casolaro’s family believe he was murdered.
Wisconsin: The demon bunkbed in the Tallman house
In 1987, the Tallman family brought a secondhand bunk bed to their home in Horicon. For the next nine months, the family was haunted by what appeared to be poltergeists—clock radios turning on by themselves, a paintbrush that dipped itself in paint—and worse, including the children becoming ill despite no previous health problems and an unexplained fire. The hauntings ceased only when the Tallman family destroyed the bunk bed. Check out these famous ghost stories with logical explanations.
Wyoming: Devil’s Tower
Various Native American tribes view the Devil’s Tower National Monument as a sacred site and have their own origination stories about the massive stone structure. And science fiction fans may recall that the mythology of the structure played an important role in the film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Geologically speaking, it’s made of volcanic material and is connected in some way to an existing or previously-existing volcano. But precisely how it came to exist continues to confound scientists. Next, check out the spookiest urban legends from each state.
(Originally Published on Readers Digest)