It’s considered one of the most beautiful, breathtaking places in the United States, if not the world. But while the Grand Canyon has been the go-to destination for uncountable vacationing tourists (and thus the subject of far too many boring family gathering slide show presentations), the national park has its share of dark secrets. Grand Canyon legends abound, everything from ghost stories to Bigfoot encounters, UFO sightings, and even a murder (or several).
Furthermore, the Hopi people have numerous Grand Canyon myths in their folklore, in particular, the belief that the valleys and caves hide the entrance into the land of the dead.
Let’s take a look at some of the wildest, most interesting, and downright chilling Grand Canyon creepy stories…
There’s an Interactive Map of All Grand Canyon Deaths
In total, there have been 770 deaths in the Grand Canyon since 1869, though poor record-keeping and unreported murders, suicides, or accidents probably means the number is much higher than that. Still, for those curious about the grim details of every demise, there’s a map for that. It’s called
, and you’re able to click on any pinpoint on the map to read about the exact nature, as well as the date, of every Grand Canyon death on the books.
while blasting out a portion of rock on February 6, 1922. Griffiths reportedly loved the canyon so much, he requested to be buried there, a request that was fulfilled. Apparently, this deep love extended into the afterlife for Griffiths as well: trail walkers and campers have reported seeing his ghost walking his favorite trail on numerous occasions.
There’s a Guest Suite Inside a Cave That’s Reportedly Haunted
The Grand Canyon Cavern Suite allows visitors to stay in a luxurious hotel room 220 feet below the earth’s surface. While the set-up is certainly appealing, the numerous reports of hauntings in the room are not. Guests and paranormal investigators alike have reported rocks whizzing about of their own accord, strange noises and movements near the bed’s headboard, dancing shadow figures and the sounds of chanting, amongst other spooky phenomena.
It is also said the spirit of the cavern’s discoverer, Walter Peck, haunts the suite’s elevator.
Emery Kolb Kept a Skeleton in His Garage
Brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb opened a photography studio in the canyon’s South Rim in 1904. The latter brother, Emery, made Grand Canyon his home for the rest of his life. After his death in 1976, a
with a bullet hole in the skull’s temple was discovered in his garage. Emery’s daughter said her father had found the skeleton in the canyon sometime in 1931. He brought it home and began to reassemble it at the dining room table. Ever the shock artist, Emery loved to bring out the skeleton whenever he had guests over.
The Hopi Keeper of Death Resides in the Canyon
Maasaw, a Hopi god described as the keeper of death, is said to live in a
of the canyon. If you see strange lights coming toward you from deep in the canyon at night, or if you hear a tapping sound like rocks knocking against each other, be aware: Maasaw may be after you. Visitors reportedly experience nausea and anxiety and are more prone to accidents in this region of the canyon.
The Ghost of a Woman Haunts the North Rim
No one is quite sure of the identity of this woman, but she is said to wander the North Rim of the canyon, appearing most often on the Transept Trail and the Grand Canyon Lodge, where she reportedly slams a door every single night. She is described as wearing a white dress with blue flowers, and is prone to let out screams or wails in the night. It was also reported that her screaming face was seen in the flames during the 1932 lodge fire.
A Man Committed Suicide by Leaping Out of a Helicopter
in June 2004 by booking a flight on a scenic helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon. After enjoying the breathtaking views, on the way back to the landing spot Clam forced his way out of the cockpit and leaped into the canyon. He fell 4,000 feet. In total, 15 park service employees had to gather his body parts.
A Terrible Plane Disaster Occurred Over the Canyon in 1956
Two airplanes collided in the air over the Grand Canyon in 1956. It is believed the pilots of both planes had flown off course to give their passengers a view of the canyon. While many of the bodies were recovered, there is a mass grave within the canyon for some of the victims. As such, many visitors report ghosts wandering around aimlessly, murmuring to one another.
But that’s not all. According to Michael P. Ghiglieri, author of Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon, plane crashes are
in the area.
A Man Once Fell to His Death by Pretending to Fall
Greg Austin Gingrich fell to his death off a Grand Canyon guardrail in 1992. He had jumped onto the rail and began to frantically wind-mill his arms, as though he were losing his balance, all in an effort to scare his daughter.
To really sell the joke, he even leaped off the guardrail to a small slope just beyond the edge, likely believing he could land on the ridge safely before falling even further. However, Gingrich underestimated the steepness of the ridge. He slipped off the incline and plummeted 400 feet into the canyon.
The Jordan-Kinkaid Egyptian Artifact Controversy
On April 5, 1909, the Arizona Gazette ran a multi-page story on Smithsonian archeologists S.A. Jordan and G.E. Kinkaid, who had unearthed a secret tunnel containing numerous Egyptian artifacts, including tablets engraved with hieroglyphics and mummified humans. Asian-influenced items were also discovered, including a statue of a sitting figure not unlike Buddha.
The thing is, the Smithsonian Institute
not only the existence of such artifacts but also the existence of the supposed archeologists, Jordan and Kinkaid. While it is highly likely the Gazette merely published a late April Fool’s Day hoax, conspiracy theorists theorize the Smithsonian is covering up evidence of ancient civilizations not in line with our current accepted history, and those likely aliens and/or lizard people are involved.
The Brown Boys of Hopi House
are said to run around the upstairs area of the Mary Coulter-designed replica Hopi abode. Employees of the house state the boys turn off computers, throw merchandise on the floor, rearrange dolls for discovery the next morning, and other mischievous acts. The Brown Boys are not dangerous, just ornery.
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Serial Killer Robert Spangler Murdered His Fourth Victim There
His kill count is relatively low, and his targets are specific (he kills his spouses/children); nonetheless, Robert Spengler is one evil dude. He first killed in 1978, shooting his first wife and two teenage children with a .38 caliber pistol, expertly crafting the crime to appear as though his wife killed the children and then herself.
Police were suspicious, but there was hardly any evidence at all to even arrest Spangler, let alone convict him. Spangler then married and divorced a second woman, then married a third, Donna Sundling. Experiencing the same marital problems he’d seen with his first two wives, Spangler decided not to go the divorce route again and went back to good old-fashioned murder. During a hike at the Grand Canyon, Spangler pushed Sundling off a cliff.
Several years later, Spangler made a full confession when it was clear the FBI was on to him. He was convicted of all four murders and sentenced to life in prison, eventually dying of cancer in August 2001.
Strangely, Spangler had rekindled his relationship with his second wife after murdering his third. She too eventually died under suspicious circumstances, but Spangler vehemently denied killing her, though he admitted to killing the others.
Technically a staple of the Mogollon Rim area of Arizona, the aptly named Bigfoot-like creature made his first appearance near the Grand Canyon in 1904. The monster was described by Arizona Republic writer I.W. Stevens as such:
“[It had] long white hair and matted beard that reached to his knees. It wore no clothing, and upon his talon-like fingers were claws at least two inches long…[It also had] a coat of gray hair nearly covered his body, with here and there a spot of dirty skin showing.”
Stevens claimed to have observed the monster kill and drink the blood of two cougars, then let out an unearthly scream.
The Ghost of Fred Harvey Haunts the El Tovar Hotel
Fred Harvey, whose company built numerous hotels across the country, is said to haunt the El Tovar Hotel. Recognizable for his long black coat and top hat, Harvey has been spotted walking the trail outside the hotel, as well as occupying the third floor around Christmastime.
There Were Mysterious Cloud-Shaped UFO Sightings in 1982
In 1982, two vacationers observed two UFOs that were
. Friends of the pair told them other sightings had been reported throughout the previous week. These crafts or ships did not move for a period of six hours, before vanishing into thin air. It is theorized the UFOs were disguised as clouds so as to wait at the appropriate spot for a wormhole to open up and allow them passage to another time or possibly even dimension.