5 Great Horror Movies Based On Urban Legends

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Horror movies are always more effective when reminiscent of, or straight up depicting, real world fears. What better way to terrify the masses than by visually portraying urban legends, some of the most widespread of superstitions and irrational paranoias? Many of these folk horror films are tackled by smaller directors looking to kickstart, though some bigger budget gems have been known to shine through. 

Triangle 2009

Triangle Folk Horror movie poster with girl holding axe on a boat with a bloody reflection

Triangle is a twisting, turning, chilling British horror/thriller from Christopher Smith, director of Severance (2006) and Black Death (2010). A potent hybrid of old school slasher à la Friday 13th (1980) and mind-bending science fiction in the vein of Predestination (2014) and Coherence (2013), this unsettling nautical romp is certain to please fans of both. When Jess, a single mother, embarks on a boating trip with her friends, a storm forces them to abandon their vessel for a seemingly deserted cruise liner. Once aboard, the group are faced with a deranged killer, along with waves of psychological mayhem and headache-inducing time loops. 

As the name may suggest, Triangle is centred around the infamous Bermuda Triangle, a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean. The region is said to have played setting to, and been the culprit of, a great number of obscure sightings and disappearances leading back to 1492. It was then that Christopher Columbus and the crew of the Santa Maria sailed through the triangle to arrive at Guanahani, though not before reportedly seeing a strange and unknown light in the sea fog. Since then a great deal of boats and aeroplanes have disappeared in the sinister sea-region, from the USS Wasp in 1814 to Turkish Airlines flight TK183 in 2017, some carrying upwards of a hundred passengers at the time of disappearance. 

Triangle does great justice to the eerie and unexplainable legend of the Bermuda Triangle, it’s warping story leaving viewers guessing and re-guessing until its bleak and poignant closing scene. Weight is added through Smith’s use of bloody violence and tense horror, creating a soft hybrid of a film which remains as entertaining and thought provoking now as it ever was. 

Bermuda is not the only area that has a mysterious triangle. The Alaska Triangle has similar tales albeit over land.

The Blair Witch Project 1999

Blair Witch Project 1999 Movie poster with scared face and text

This pioneer of the found-footage subgenre shocked audiences in 1999 with a claustrophobic and wholly believable portrayal of young adults falling victim to the legend of the mysterious Blair Witch. After setting off into rural Maryland to document and hopefully capture some evidence of the insidious figure, including interviewing locals and camping in some questionable spots, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams (playing themselves) soon become lost in the vast wilderness. Seemingly stalked and tormented by the very myth they sought to invoke, the three encounter dread and distress enough to make any viewer think twice about their next camping trip.

Of course, the legend of the Blair Witch is just that, a legend. That being said, it had more of an interesting start than most. Writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez fabricated an entire urban legend regarding the town of Burkittsville, Maryland, plastering missing-person posters around the 1999 Sundance Film Festival and claiming their footage was real. Sundance legally had to confirm the film as a work of fiction, though this did not lessen the impact the marketing ploy had. The rise of a $60,000 indie flick to $248,000,000 blockbuster is staggering, as is the influence the film has had on the horror scene long after its release. 

The Blair Witch Project relied on a strong cast utilising a lot of improvisation to help its desired effect come to life. Not just for the claims of authenticity (though it did help those) but for the raw and genuine atmosphere running through the flick. The actors camped for ten days in the Maryland wilderness while cremembers posed as their antagonist, leaving stick figures and bloody packages at camp, shaking their tents in the early hours. Only Heather, of the three, was given any information about the witch to ensure the others gave authentic reactions and asked plenty of questions. 

While this type of filmmaking can come with complications, such as the actors’ parents being sent sympathy cards over their children’s fictional deaths to this day, it shows a complete commitment from cast and crew. To make something with this impact, small sacrifices must sometimes be made, though we’ll leave it up to the creators to decide whether it was worth it.

Willow Creek 2013

Willow Creek Folk Horror Movie poster with a big foot imprint and red background

When Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) and Jim (Bryce Johnson) travel into Humboldt County, California on a camping trip to find the famous wildman, Bigfoot, their faith and will to survive are tested in equal measure. 

If Willow Creek isn’t a tribute to The Blair Witch Project then it’s at least a loving nod. Effectively sparse and utilising tireless and detailed acting from what is effectively a cast of two, prolific writer/director/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait’s directorial foray into tense horror is a potent one. It shares Blair Witch’s theme and structure almost to a tee, other than replacing Myrick and Sánchez’ fictitious urban legend with one very much known in the real world.

Bigfoot, also referred to as Sasquatch in Canadian and American folklore, is an ape-like wildman of worldwide legend and innumerable alleged sightings. While all accounts of the Bigfoot are anecdotal, or highly disputable video footage or photographs, it manages to retain one of the highest cult followings of any urban legend, with followers deeply entrenched in the culture of searching out and worshipping the elusive ape-man. 

Bigfoot has been a figurehead in popular culture for years, appearing on television, in films and countless pieces of merchandise. A few horror films such as Exists (2014) and Evidence (2012) have included the towering hair-covered phenomenon as an antagonist, though none quite so efficaciously as this one.

Ringu 1998 / The Ring 2002

The Ring Horror Movie poster showing a glowing supernatural ring

This Japanese frightfest and its American counterpart are a perfect example of a western adaptation done right. Japan has always had a distinct and dynamic take on horror as a genre, favouring dark spaces, pale ghosts with jet black hair and some truly unsettling signature sounds. One may think that a western attempt would completely miss the mark (or, as they tend to, miss the point completely) on such an unmistakable style, though Ringu’s remake The Ring proved to be as good if not a more accessible way to deliver its story to a wider audience. 

When journalist Rachael (Naomi Watts) comes across a videotape that allegedly kills people seven days after watching, she must act quickly to decipher the meaning behind the object before it claims her own life. Featuring a solid performance from Naomi Watts along with a morbidly bleak atmosphere and some horrendously chilling imagery, The Ring managed to take an age-old Japanese urban legend and present it in a way certain to scare the worldwide masses. As if Ringu wasn’t unnerving enough.

The story itself is, as you may have guessed, based on an old Japanese legend dating as far back as the 12th century. Somewhere between 1333 and 1346 a fort now known as Himeji Castle was erected on Himeyama hill in western Japan. A samurai named Tessan Aoyama was said to have taken a particular fancy to a young servant of his named Okiku, so much of a fancy in fact that he vowed to take her away and marry her. When she refused his advances, the samurai hid one of the ten priceless golden plates Okiku was charged with looking after. He told her that if she did not agree to marry him he would openly blame her for the plate’s disappearance, an accusation that would undoubtedly lead to her being tortured and executed. In full knowledge of her predicament, Okiku was said to have committed suicide by throwing herself into a well in the castle grounds. Each night, so the tale goes, she would crawl back out of the well, appearing to Aoyama on a nightly basis until he went mad from her haunts. She was regularly heard counting the plates she had sworn to protect, throwing a destructive tantrum whenever she realised that number ten was still missing. 

Ringu proves that a terrifying story does not have to be wholly original; sometimes a rework of an ancient tale will do just nicely. 

Candyman 1992

Candyman Urban Legend Horror Movie Poster with a bee in an eye

Candyman is the quintessential urban legend brought to life. Based on a 1985 Clive Barker short story entitled The Forbidden, the film shares a few similarities. The infamous Candyman, with his aura of bees and hook for a hand, will appear to anyone who either uses his name in vain or flat out refuses to believe in him. Say his name five times in a mirror (yep, that’s where that came from) and he’ll appear behind you, ready to drive his deadly hook into your tender form. That’s if you’re brave or stupid enough to even bother.

A graduate student named Helen comes across the Candyman legend while researching her thesis paper. Her examination into the insidious entity brings his attention right back on her, and soon she finds herself fighting for her life against an age-old evil that apparently only she didn’t know not to mess with.

Candyman has taken his share of inspiration from several sources, most notable of which being the Hookman legend. In the story, a young couple are getting steamy in a parked car when an emergency radio bulletin says that a mental patient with a hook for a hand has escaped the nearby asylum. The girl becomes terrified when she hears something scraping along the car, convincing the boy to drive off. When he does, neither of them notice the metal hook hanging from the door handle. While the similarities here are purely aesthetic, the Hookman appearance is unmistakable in any form.

The other clear inspiration for this 1992 classic is one of the many manifestations of the ‘say their name five times in a mirror’ dare, Bloody Mary. One of the most widely known tales to date, Bloody Mary is said to have been a witch who was burned for practicing black magic, though more modern retellings say that she was a young woman who died in a car crash. Every kid’s first sleepover isn’t complete without a game of Bloody Mary, making her one of the first spirits many of us will have encountered.

Links

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bermuda_Triangle_incidents

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1187064/

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0185937/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/blair-witch-project-true-story-burkittsville-maryland

https://www.mirror.co.uk/film/blair-witch-real-truth-behind-8844017

https://www.vice.com/en/article/8xzy4p/blair-witch-project-oral-history-20th-anniversary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji_Castle

https://screenrant.com/candyman-movie-real-urban-legends-inspiration-tony-todd/

https://www.popsugar.co.uk/entertainment/where-does-candyman-legend-come-from-47313482

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Anna Byrne: Chapter 02 – The Burden of a Witch’s Son

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Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

Urban Legends: The Curse of Lafayette

I looked up at the loft in my father’s study, my eyes burned from a lack of sleep, but if I was ever going to get broken in to some of the insane notions that my father spoke about the night before this was how I should do it. I felt his hand grasp my shoulder and the kiss he gave me on the back of my head, as he encouraged me to do the deed.

“Oh Anna, it’s not that bad,” he chuckled as he watched me climb the wooden loft steps.

“JESUS CHRI—”

“You watch your mouth young lady!” I heard him snap, as he stood in his office below.

“What is all of this stuff, Da’?” He couldn’t really blame me for my initial reaction, his loft seemed to extend the length of the entire house and not just over his own study. It was also filled with boxes, filing cabinets, and the odd armoire—speaking of which, how the hell did he even get that up there?

“Oh, don’ ye touch the armoire!” I heard him shout as he had read my mind when he settled back in front of his computer, “that’s a story fer another day!”

“You don’t expect me to get through all of this today do you?” the incredulous tone in my voice came out without my permission, but dad already knew the kind of sass that I brought to the table.

“Nah, jus’ find Oregon, seein’ ye already met Rue.” I heard him chuckle to himself, as if he had just remembered a funny joke and I could almost feel my eyes roll into the back of my head.

Oregon, Oregon—my eyes scanned the boxes, he told me he wasn’t going to help me go through anything, but that I had to go through it. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go through a few notes he’d collected on the subject. This, however, was far and away beyond a few notes that he had alluded to. Finally, I found a box against the wall that was labeled Oregon, it was sitting on a stack of boxes—also labeled Oregon—shit, I knew it, I was going to be here all night. I grabbed the top box and wrestled it over to the desk that sat in front of the octagonal loft window, where radiant light filtered through.

“Well, here goes nothing,” a sigh escaped my chest and I threw back the dusty lid of the first box of many that I was charged with reading through and memorizing. I quickly scanned the file names for the Heceta Head Lighthouse, but was disappointed to find there was nothing about it in this particular box. Another file name caught my eye though, LAFAYETTE, OR – WITCH’S CURSE, father’s handwriting neatly headed the label. My curiosity was piqued now, I had to read this one first.


The year was 1885 and the Willamette Queen had just pulled into the dock of Lafayette, Oregon. Despite the early hour, the skies were gloomy, overcast, and the clouds threatened to batter all that which laid below. Locals disembarked with a spring in their step to meet their families who had gathered to welcome them home, while others shuffled off in a daze as they attempted to gather themselves. One such family, a man as well as his wife and mother stepped off to the side; they looked around for a moment and after a brief conversation with a local street vendor, set off down one of the muddy dirt roads that led into downtown.

Sheriff Harris, propped up on his horse, eyed the newcomers into his town and noted all of the people with which he would become acquainted in the days to come. He was a relic of older times and practices; his hat, brown duster coat, and boots proved as much, the splatters of dried mud gave away his hands-on approach to his livelihood.


The Marple family had recently become settled in a home on the outskirts of town, the matron of the family, Anna Marple had already become a name on the lips of the townspeople. As a widow, it was not unusual for her to live with her son and his wife, but she never seemed to act her part. The other women of the town shunned her, gossip telephoned from one ear to the next, and there always seemed to be some small scandal or another lingering around her. This didn’t seem to matter to one David Corker, a lonely widowed shop owner; she had caught his eye nearly the first day she and her family disembarked from the Willamette Queen that dreary fall day in 1885. Anna had gained a reputation of being a very unchristian woman, her traditional black widow’s clothing turned heads, children ran when she came walking into town, and there always seemed to be a raggedy black cat that trailed behind her wherever she went.
Folks in those parts believed the widow Marple to be a witch, but the topic was never broached in proper company.

I am beginning to suspect my husband’s mother is making sinister plans for me; I fear that my mouth has become too much for her to stand to provide food for. I have no money to my name and my only contribution is that I keep a tidy home. I am quite proud of that fact, if I am to be frank, I was raised to be a homemaker after all. That of course seems to be of no consequence to my husband’s mother.

Julie Marple – May, 1886

Seasons had passed in the town of Lafayette, the summer had been a prolific one for the townspeople and consequently the burglaries had been numerous. The widow Marple had effortlessly acquired the company of the widower Corker, who had earlier that year begun the process of courting the target of his affections. This of course spawned more gossip and rumors, of the widow having Mr. Corker under some type of spell. The sheriff of course had more important things to worry about, mostly the burglaries that had been occurring in the middle of the night—and at present he only had a single suspect. It of course didn’t help that the description of the perpetrator had matched quite exactly with the lanky, sallow Mr. Marple with his dark and greasy long hair.

The Marple residence had been frequented by Sheriff Harris on many occasions, mostly due to complaints by other townspeople, but recently it had more to do with the fact that before their arrival the theft of property had been a rarity in his town. There was just nothing else that could be said on the matter, in fact, the only thing Harris could do was charge him with a crime—but the evidence supporting his theory was severely lacking. It would just have to wait.

The fall of 1886 came quickly, like the changing of the leaves, it was there before anyone could realize it was even happening. Sheriff Harris continued to get more reports of burglaries in the area and he knew he would have to do something about it soon, or risk his own unemployment. Luckily for Harris, what happened on November 1, 1886 was exactly what he needed to solidify a case that would take Marple off of his streets for good.

Let me start by saying I did it, of course, I did it. Who else could have? Who else would have? We haven’t been living in Lafayette for very long, but it feels like forever when no one will give you and job and let you keep it. That is to say—me—they won’t give me a job and let me keep it.

Richard Marple – November 1, 1886

The widow Marple had not been seen in town for a few weeks now, but her beau David Corker couldn’t leave his shop unattended. So it was to much of the surprise of his regular customers when, unlike his normal routine, Corker didn’t open the shop exactly at nine on the second morning of November. This was so odd to one of his patrons that they immediately went over to the house of the widower to see why he couldn’t purchase the much needed laudanum for his wife’s debilitating headaches. When the patron found the door to widower Corker’s home ajar, he stepped inside and realized why the store had not been opened on time that morning.

Suffice it to say, Sheriff Harris was called immediately; upon the discovery of a bloody, mutilated, and hacked Mr. Corker alongside a house that looked as if a herd of stampeding cattle had been driven through, he knew exactly who must have done it.


Sheriff Harris pounded heavily on the door of the Marple residence, the haunted silence and blackness of the night otherwise unsettled him. “Richard Marple!” He hollered into the thick wooden door before him, “This is Sheriff Harris, open up!” The plain and mousy Julie Marple opened the door in her pink floral night-coat. She held a chamberstick aloft in her hand and drew up the light to her pale and sunken expression to get a look at the Sheriff. The look on her face was one of bewilderment and exhaustion.

“What can I help you with Sheriff?” Julie’s voice was a small, melodic sound, but her confusion was thorough.

“My apologies Mrs. Marple for the late hour, but I was hoping you could tell me if your husband was in your company two nights ago?”

“I—uh—that is to say, he left early in the evening, he said that he had business to attend to in town, why is it that you ask?”

The Sheriff shook his head then further explained that he wasn’t at liberty to disclose the details of his visit, but that it was an urgent matter that required her husband’s attention. Within a moment she disappeared and the door closed with a solid thud in the sheriff’s face. When Julie’s husband appeared at the door, his expression was as sullen and bleak as could be expected—he knew what the sheriff was now at his doorstep, but his poor acting might have a fool believe that he was surprised.

“How can I help you Sheriff Harris?” Richard Marple feigned a look of foolish innocence, the lines on his pallid face were strikingly deep when the dim light of a half-moon fell upon them.

“Mr. Marple, I’m going to need you to come down to the jail with me, I’ve got several questions for you.”

“Oh, alright—let me just get my coat,” Richard of course could have used that time to establish an alibi with his mother and wife, so Harris couldn’t risk any more time spent allowing Richard the opportunity.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Mr. Marple.” The sheriff reached out and shackled his suspect, “let’s go.”


Julie watched as her mother-in-law deteriorated over the winter—there was no one left to financially support either of them and Julie wished that she had gotten out of that wretched household already. She swore to herself that the only reason she stayed in Lafayette was because she was needed for her testimony of the night in question. Otherwise she would have already hopped back on the Willamette Queen and taken it back to Corvallis to stay with her parents until she could find a way to make her own way in the world.

Her mother-in-law seemed to get smaller and smaller the longer Richard was in jail, but without his overbearing presence, Julie felt like she was thriving. She had taken the opportunity that was presented with his absence to take up a small side-business sewing and darning clothing for people in need; when the sheriff had searched her home and found the blood-soaked shirt, piece of paper, and tools of her husband’s thieving trade, however, she found she no longer had any customers. Her husband’s assumed guilt was apparently her own as well.

I must admit that I never loved David Corker—nor did I ever much enjoy his company. He was a sad older widower and a dullard at that. I sometimes suspect that his late wife passed simply to be rid of his intolerable presence. It soon became clear to me, however, when my son Richard could not find steady means of employment that it would fall to me to secure this family’s financial future. What better way than to lure in a lonely shopkeeper with my feminine gifts? Now you may be thinking that I am some sort of working lady, but I find those sorts of ladies to be utterly deplorable. I was a well-respected woman in my time, especially whilst my dear departed husband was still alive.

Anna Marple – January 7, 1887

From where Richard sat rotting in the cell at the Lafayette jail, he saw winter turn back into spring, the light slowly made its way through his barred window and he got a new cellmate often enough to keep the company fresh. Aside from not having bar-girls, tobacco, and drink, it was almost as if he wasn’t missing much of the outside world at all.

We moved here from Corvallis and you might now be imagining something awful that I must have done to drive us away from such a place. Well, I must confess that sleeping with the local tavern owner’s wife was not exactly an innocent affair, it was surely not as seedy as might be otherwise imagined. I may also, on more than one occasion, have liberated the random shop or home of certain valuables that need not have been immediately noticed. Regardless, nothing that I did in Corvallis was as terrible as what I am now suspected of.

Richard Marple – January 20, 1887

It wasn’t until early spring of 1887 that Sheriff Harris finally had enough to convict Richard Marple of the murder of shop owner David Corker—although with two witness who couldn’t corroborate his whereabouts, evidence stained with Corker’s blood, and the tools with which he broke into the home it would have seemed like an open-and-shut case. Richard, however, maintained his innocence from the time he was arrested; until he unwittingly divulged the facts of his own guilt to a cellmate, who was more than happy to give testimony in return for a reduced sentence of his own.

I wish I could tell you that I married well, that I married for love, and that I could, beyond a shadow of a doubt, trust my husband. There is a reason we moved away from Corvallis in 1885, though, and it was not a good one. My mother and father did not know Richard well enough when they gave me away, however, I trust that if they had understood the character of the man that they would have vehemently objected. My story may not be remembered but I have a strong suspicion that my husband and his mother will live on in history. After all, murderers usually do.

Julie Marple – April 10, 1887

The conviction of Richard Marple was unopposed after that final piece of the puzzle was fit roughly into the picture—a confession, even second-hand was enough to convince the jury of his peers. Even with the general disdain of the town for him and his family, they had otherwise been unwilling to suspect that one of their own was capable of committing such a crime. Corker had been a beloved member of their community though and his absence continued to be felt on a daily basis; the only recompense was someone would hang for the crime. Eventually the realization of the one they should hang became self-evident and he was sentenced to swing by the neck on November of that year.


The Gallows
The Gallows

The burly Sheriff Harris stepped up to Richard at the gallows, papers in his hand as he read off the convictions for which the man was to be executed. “For the robbery and most heinous murder of our own David Corker, Richard Marple shall now be executed by hanging!” This announcement was met by unwavering applause from the thirty or more men, women, and children that made up the crowd that stood before them.

Richard stood hunched next to the confident authority of the Sheriff, his shoulders slumped forward in defeat as the noose hung heavily around his neck. His beetle black eyes scanned the crowd which continued clapped heartily to watch him meet his demise. Several men shouted from the crowd, but Richard could only make out one man in particular, who told shouted to let “the murderer burn in hell!”

“Put the hood over the prisoner’s head,” Sheriff Harris ordered the executioner immediately, he was in no mood to let a murderer have his last words, but before the hood could be shoved over his head, Richard pulled roughly away.

“MURDER!” He shouted desperately into the crowd below him—his dehydrated lips cracked with his efforts, “May God judge you all!” Anything else that Richard may have said was muffled as his head was stuffed forcibly into the hood. The executioner stepped back to the lever of the trapdoor and on the Sheriff’s signal pulled forcefully to release it. “ACK!” The sound that escaped Richard’s throat was inhuman, as his feet fell out from beneath him and the rope snapped taut. His eyes bulged out of his face, the knot lodged directly under his throat, which prevented his neck from breaking and him from meeting a quick end.

Richard’s mother emerged from within the center of the crowd, her hair was wild and unkempt—her eyes were red with a year’s worth of tears. Her dress billowed around her as she fell to her knees, the people that surrounded her moved suddenly to give her a wider berth.

“Murderers! All of you! Murderers!” She bellowed, her grief-stricken voice cracked with a hoarse pain. “You shall all feel the pain of those you have wronged! Your town shall never prosper! I curse you and all of your children’s children to feel the fiery hell of my fury as your town burns around you time and time again!” Her head fell limp into the hands that now rested on her lap, her sobs shook her body viciously as Richard’s body twitched and seized. His wife, Julie, came behind his mother to comfort her, her own face streaked with tears, but Anna pulled away wailing for the loss of her only son.

Witch Burning a Village
Witch Burning a Village

“Hot damn,” I heard the words come out of my mouth after having reviewed the file at length. I folded up the file, but several news clippings fell out into my lap when I went to replace the file into the box. There was a clipping of every single fire that had occurred in Lafayette since the widow Marple had placed her verbal curse upon the town and its people. In fact not a decade had gone by since, that the town had not experienced some type of devastating fire—and there had been, I saw, on two separate occasions, fires so intense that they had leveled the entire town. “That was one pissed-off witch.”

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Beast of Bladenboro: The Vampire Cat of North Carolina

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Bladenboro, a quiet rural community, was established in 1857. To this day, it remains tucked away in the swamps and pine forests of the southeastern edge of the North Carolina Piedmont (Scary Truth). The population of the area remains limited to this day. In 1954 the peaceful community of Bladenboro experienced two weeks of terror that would put it on the map forever.

Newspapers all over the southeastern United States covered the mysterious incidents. Gallehugh mentioned that even the United Press International and Associated Press carried the story. Those articles were unable to be located for confirmation. The creature that stalked the countryside for those two weeks was never able to be accurately identified.

The authorities never successfully identified the creature. As such, the Beast of Bladenboro would continue to be

As a result, the monster panic that gripped the community would be remembered as a “standing joke” for North Carolinians (Gallehugh 53).

The Elusive Vampire Cat of North Carolina

Watch the story here on Youtube

The story of the vampire cat of North Carolina is one that stretches back seventy years. Unlike many urban legends which are based primarily on stories passed around verbally from person to person, this legend has a basis in fact. Whether the antagonist of the story was truly a vampire cat is up to you to decide. We here at Puzzle Box Horror believe that anything is possible, especially given the evidence.

December 29, 1953

A woman local to Clarkton in Bladen County heard the neighbor’s dogs barking and whimpering in the evening. Her curiosity spurred her to investigate since she didn’t often hear the dogs at all. She would later recall that what she saw was a sleek, black catlike animal. She believed it to be about five feet long with a round face just before it disappeared into the darkness. The creature had only eaten a piece of the body, according to Police Chief Roy Flores (Gallehugh 53).

Reports from D.G. Pait stated that he saw a dog being attacked by a large creature and subsequently dragged into the woods, from his service station.

New reports of canine death flooded Chief Flores’ office from all across the county. These reports varied between sightings of bears or panthers, but the description was consistent—three feet long, twenty inches high, long tail, and a face like a cat.

December 31, 1953

Woody Storm, a local farmer, called Chief Flores out to his property. Storm had found two of his dogs dead, slaughtered by something large and powerful. Flores found a disturbing similarity between Storm’s dogs and the victim from the day before. Something had completely drained their blood.

January 1, 1954

Gray Callihan, a local farmer, found his dog slaughtered. Just like the previous victims, the carcass had no blood and a crushed skull (Gallehugh 54). Two more dogs turned up dead and drained of their blood. Flores called in a team of professional hunters from Wilmington, NC to track down the animal. (NCG)

January 2, 1954

“Several imaginative townspeople” brought around the theory that they were dealing with a vampire-like creature, due to the state in which they found the bodies of the slaughtered animals. Despite his skepticism, Police Chief Flores organized a small search party. Their efforts to locate the animal before dark were hindered by the dense swampy land they had to cover. The town became noticeably more anxious as the creature continued to go undiscovered. (Gallehugh 54)

January 3, 1954

Flores examined the carcass of another dog that had been killed at a service station on the outskirts of Bladenboro. He concluded that “all except a drop or two of blood had been sucked.” A witness found another dead dog within city limits later that day. This would cause fear and rumors to begin to run wild. Mayor G. W. Fussell took more direct control over the investigation and ordered Flores to form a larger search party. Nearly thirty armed men and seven dogs scoured the Big Bay and Red Hill Swamp areas to find the creature. (Gallehugh 54)

The search party returned by nightfall, unsuccessful in their venture to find any sign of the creature. The failure of yet another search only served to bolster the apprehension the residents of Bladenboro felt in their own homes. This newfound fear for the residents of the small town caused them to lock their doors, concerned that the next victim might not be “just a good dog,” fortunately there were no new sightings that night. (Gallehugh 54)

An increasing number of newspapers had taken up the story of the mysterious “Vampire Beast of Bladenboro,” and the news spread like wildfire. Professional hunters throughout the state eagerly flocked to eastern North Carolina for a chance to kill the notorious creature. Speculation on what the beast really began to grow, some stating that it was a black panther, or a large bobcat, while still, others claimed that it was just a rabid dog or a wolf. None of these theories accounted for the immense force the beast possessed, nor did they consider the vampiric tendency to lust for blood. (Gallehugh 54)

January 4, 1954

The next morning, a citizen reported “unusual tracks” at the edge of the swamp behind the mill section. That same morning, three illustrious hunters arrived from Wilmington, fifty miles away, to aid in the hunt. The hunters brought their professionally trained dogs and began their search where they found fresh tracks. Their hunt for the creature was fruitless, but they gained some helpful insight into its behavior. They deduced from the evidence of the creature’s tracks that it traveled in a circular pattern and stayed within an approximately three-mile radius. The three men believed that this might indicate the creature had a mate and therefore presumed that there was more than one creature making the killings. (Gallehugh 55)

As the day passed more hunters joined the fray to locate the creature—before the end of the night, there were between forty and fifty men seeking out the elusive beast. When darkness fell, they gave up the hunt for the day. They knew that if it were indeed a large cat that it would undoubtedly be capable of eluding them under the cloak of darkness. (Gallehugh 55)

Mad Wolf Feared: Vampire Killer Roams At Large In Bladenboro Bladenboro, Jan 4 — This nervous town chewed its nails today, dreading night that might bring a return visit of a mystery killer-beast with a vampire lust. The killer, so far, has vented its depredations only on dogs. Three mutilated corpses have been found. Four other dogs are reported missing. Police Chief Roy Fores and a posse of eight or 10 officers and citizens are armed with pistols, rifles, and shotguns for a hunt tonight. This afternoon a band of youths beat bushes at the edge of town in an attempt to rout the bloodthirsty marauder. Chief Fores disclosed the vampire motive of the animal today. He said a dog killed last night was opened up today and not more that two or three drops of blood was found in the carcass. The chief believes the vampire beast is a mad wolf lurking in the wild reaches of Big Bay and Red Hill swamps skirting Bladenboro.
January 5, 1954

Despite no new incidents overnight—no unusual sounds, tracks, or drained animal carcasses to speak of—the hunting party continued to grow (Gallehugh 55). Most notably, a man by the name of Sam Spivey came from Tabor City and brought along with him his bear dogs.

Escalation of the problem…

The attitude of the hunting party changes dramatically when “a dog within a hundred feet of the hunting party was attacked by the vampire beast.” It was reported to have been dragged screaming into the swamp nearby before anyone could arrive to help it, or a shot could be fired at the creature.

Another Body Found…

Eventually, they found the dog with its head crushed and drained of all of its blood. They got a break in their search, however, when they found tracks that revealed claws that were at least an inch long. This indicated to the hunters that the beast was approximately a hundred pounds. When the hunt ended that night, the town was abuzz with inquisitive tourists, newspaper reporters, and an inpouring of hunters hoping to be the ones to catch the dreaded community menace. (Gallehugh 55)

‘Vampire’ Charges Woman A large marauding cat that has killed and sucked the blood of at least seven dogs charged a woman here tonight, but turned and fled back into a swamp when she screamed and her husband rushed onto the scene. Police Chief Roye Forbes said the animal charged into the yard of [Kinlaw] when she went out onto her front porch to investigate whimpering dogs in the street. After the incident occured, the armed posse that went out tonight to track down and kill the “vampire” swelled to some 500 people and scores of dogs. Mrs. Kinlaw, who lives in the mill village near Bladenboro Mills on Highway 211 one mile west of here, said she heard the dogs whimpering early tonight and went to investigate. Near the dogs, she said, was what looked like “a big mountain lion.” It raced from three doors down the dirt street in front of her house to a few feet from her porch, then turned back when she screamed and her husband rushed out of the house, she said. A neighbor also came to her aid. Chief Forbes said tracks in the dirt road in front of the Kinlaw home were “bigger than a silver dollar.” A search party from Wilmington which tracked the animal last night as it moved in a three-mile circle along the edges of swampy areas found tracks which revealed claws…
Cutting from News and Observer in Raleigh, NC from January 5, 1954
The Clemmons Incident…

Mill worker Lloyd Clemmons and his wife heard their two dogs growling that night and to them, it was highly unusual. Mr. Clemmons decided to investigate the commotion. Clemmons was on record saying, “I glanced out of the window and saw this thing … [the beast] had me plumb spellbound.”

Before Clemmons was able to load his shotgun the beast had already disappeared into the darkness, so he called the police to report his sighting and provide his description of the creature. In his words, it was “about three feet long and 20 inches high. It had a long tail, about 14 inches long. The color of it was dark … it had a face exactly like a cat … Only I ain’t never seen a cat that big.” (“Vampire on Loose” 1)

The Beast attacks a woman…
Bladenboro — Officers and armed citizens hunted today for a vampire beast that has killed at least three dogs and left their corpses bloodless. Police Chief Roy Fores said he believed the killer was a mad wolf lurking in the wilds of Big Ray and Red Hill swamps near here.
Cutting from The Daily Record in Dunn, NC from January 5, 1954

The story of the Beast of Bladenboro made front page news across several different news outlets across the state. One such report from the Raleigh News and Observer detailed an incredible close-call with the creature on the same day as the Clemmons sighting. Not too far from the Clemmons’ home, Mrs. C. E. Kinlaw heard two of her puppies whimpering outside of her house. The beast charged from the darkness the moment Kinlaw stepped out onto her porch to investigate.

Her screams prompted her husband to rush immediately to her aid, which gave the beast an opportunity to escape back into the night. When questioned by authorities as to what she saw near her dogs, she reported that there, “was what looked like a big mountain lion.” It had apparently raced from three houses down the dirt street on which she lived to just a few feet from her porch. When Chief Flores had a chance to investigate around the Kinlaw’s home he reportedly found tracks that were “bigger than a silver dollar.” (Gallehugh 56)

The Beast attacks a woman…

After this incident, an armed posse of around five to six hundred people and scores of dogs thoroughly searched the mill section that surrounded the Kinlaw home. They remained on the premises until daybreak and yet found no sign of the evasive beast. When hunters compared two sets of tracks found, they surmised two different animals created them. On that same night, D.G. Pait and Chief Flores were standing together in the mill section when they heard a dog yelping in pain. Flores believed the dog was being dragged into the thicket that enclosed the houses, but when Flores and Pait arrived to save the dog, there was no sign of either creature. That dog’s body was never found. (Gallehugh 56)

January 6, 1954

The continued search for the beast was hindered by the excessive amounts of armed hunters who were vying for the chance to claim the life of the beast for themselves. “By midafternoon, all hopes of killing the beast were given up,” but that didn’t keep the beast from attacking another pet. It was later found out that a pet rabbit had been killed, its head bitten off, and the blood sucked from its body. Even more disturbing, is the fact that the rabbit’s body was still warm and found in an area that had been covered by the search parties earlier in the day. (Gallehugh 56)

Bladenboro, N.C. — Citizens terrorized by a mysterious"vampire" beast pinned new hope for its annihilation today in a volunteer hunt with a pack of experienced"cat dogs." A two-pronged strategy of lure and chase last night resulted in another failure to shoot the creature that has killed at least eight dogs and drunk their blood and charged a woman on her front porch.

A new hope emerged to put an end to the monster panic. A group of volunteer hunters with their purported “cat dogs” (think bird dogs, but for hunting big cats). Their first tactic, the night previous had been a lure-and-chase strategy which unfortunately ended in failure (“News Shorts”). Traps were set and baited with dogs as a way to bring the beast out of hiding and lure it to its death. Police Chief Flores, Bladen County Sheriff John B. Allen, and the State Highway Patrol were tasked with crowd control. Despite the traps, people refused to move out of the area where they were set. The threat of the Beast of Bladenboro was superseded by the hundreds of nervous armed people milling around the outskirts of town. Chief Flores and Mayor Fussell decided to stop the hunt to avoid the possibility of someone getting accidentally shot. (Gallehugh 57)

BULLETINS — Bladenboro, N.C. — Authorities today planned to continue their hunt for the mysterious"vampire beast" which has killed dogs near here and drained their bodies of blood. Four packs of trained hunting dogs and hundreds of eager hunters have joined in the search for the beast. Police Chief Roy Rores said yesterday that the hunt for the animal had actually been hampered by the number of hunters taking part.
January 11, 1954

Two cars full of witnesses watched, shocked, as the “Beast of Bladenboro” crossed a road at its leisure near Bladenboro. Each of the six witnesses gave Chief Flores an expectedly similar description to those of the past two weeks. One of the witnesses, by the name of Jeff Evers, described the beast as having a large head with “runty-looking” ears. The road it crossed was near the bridge at Big Swamp, an area approximately four miles away from Bladenboro and near to the area where the creature and its tracks had been spotted frequently. (“Runty-Looking Ears”)

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January 13, 1954

Five days after the hunt had been called off, Luther Davis a local farmer brought in a 25-pound bobcat that he had trapped and killed around 8:30 that morning. The authorities believed that the bobcat fit all of the descriptions and tracks of the Beast of Bladenboro, but in retrospect, it seems as if they were trying to make it fit the descriptions so as to ease the townsfolk of their fears.

The only thing they could not manage to explain was how a wildcat so small could manage to take down dogs twice its size. Regardless, Mayor Fussel decided to report to the newspapers that the beast had been killed, as a means to quiet any remaining excitement over the creature.

Despite the claims that the bobcat was the infamous beast, townsfolk continued to report sightings of a large catlike creature in the Big Swamp section of Bladen County. The bobcat was nonetheless hung from a flagpole in the center of town by Flores and Fussell and displayed with a sign that read “This is the Beast of Bladenboro”. (Gallehugh 58)

Bladenboro, N.C. — Residents hoped today that a 25-pound bobcat killed near here was the"vampire" beast that kille deight dogs and drank their blood, terrorized townspeople, and attracted eager hunters in such numbers that officials attempts to slay him had to be cancelled. Luther Davis trapped the male bobcat near his home about three miles from here. He said the animal was so"scrappy" in the trap yesterday that he had to shoot it. The animal measured about 30 inches llong and matched closely descriptions give of the"vampire", except that it had a bob tail.
Cutting from The Daily Record in Dunn, NC from January 14, 1954
January 21, 1954

As an added curiosity to the claims that the beast had been killed, Berry Lewis, a farmer local to the area reported that he had found a half-grown hog killed near Big Swamp to Chief Flores. When examined, Flores saw that the hog’s bones had been crushed and part of its flesh eaten. (Gallehugh 58)

S. Ray Johnson Takes New Post S. Ray Johnson of Lillington has assumed new duties as Wildlife Protector for Bladen County and is stationed in Bladenboro. Johnson was graduated on Decemeber 19 from the Wildlife Protector's School sponsored this fall by the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina. Mrs. Johnson and their young son, Stanley Ray Johnson, II born December 25 have joined him in Bladenboro. She is the former Miss Lola Colman of Lillington. Johnson, who was here on a week end visit a week ago, had to take his share of razzing from friends about drawing for his first assignment, Bladen County, alleged "haunt of the beast of Bladen" which has captured a lot of headlines this month. So far stories of a strange vampire beast loose in the swamps has not been verified.
Cutting from The Daily Record in Dunn, NC from February 8, 1954
February 8, 1954

By February the entire incident would become akin to satire. Bladen County assigned S. Ray Johnson as its newest Wildlife Protector. People began to doubt the copious amounts of evidence collected and the beast would remain an unverified story. (“S. Ray Johnson”)

May 5, 1954

The Tabor City Tribune ran a story by W. Horace Carter about a trip he took to Burgaw on April 29, in order to attend a Junior Chamber of Commerce meeting. Carter stopped in Bladenboro to pick up Lumberton Jaycees, Jim Phillips and E.J. Britt. The meeting ran much longer than they expected, so they didn’t leave Burgaw until approximately 10:30 PM. (Carter)

The three drove through Elizabethtown toward Bladenboro and around a quarter to twelve they witnessed “a huge cat-like animal” jump out of the woods into the road around 100 feet in front of the car. It disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, but the three witnesses were positive that it wasn’t a bobcat, as they all saw it had a long tail, which “appeared to be about half the length of the cat itself”. The three witnesses described a creature remarkably similar to the vampire cat. Carter didn’t explicitly state that it was the Beast of Bladenboro. It was clear, however, that it was a frightening experience that he wished to not repeat. (Carter)

December 15, 1954

An alleged strike from the beast, had residents of Robeson concerned that the Beast of Bladenboro was back “on the prowl.” The attack happened “within shouting distance” of Robeson Memorial Hospital, where the beast killed five pigs and three chickens on a farm belonging to K. M. Biggs. The killings left behind no blood evidence. This indicated that there was a recurrence of the blood-sucking traits associated with the vampire cat. (“’Beast Of’”)

The Return of the Beast of Bladenboro

The shocking pattern returned with a vengeance in October 2007. More than fifty pets and livestock died in a strikingly similar way to the killings of 1954. The victims showed little sign of struggle, this indicated that they died instantly. Leading experts believe that the creature is an efficient predator. Those who examined the bodies postmortem would find that the victims not only had their blood drained, but their skulls crushed as well. (MonsterQuest)

The beast claimed a larger hunting ground and roamed an approximately two-hundred-mile range. This information shocked authorities, as it meant it had a larger range than any known predator of the region. Townspeople reported incidents in Bolivia, Bladenboro, Lexington, and Greensboro. A new name for the creature circulated—The Beast of Bolivia.

More Dogs found dead…

After the more recent attacks, new witness descriptions of the creature surfaced—with claims that it was dark brown, approximately 4.5 feet long, with the face of a cat, claws of a dog, and vampiric teeth. Due to the areas the creature has claimed as its hunting ground many assume that the predator dwells primarily in the swamps.

In Lexington, a local farmer found approximately sixty goats with their blood drained and heads crushed. Thirty miles away, in Greensboro, another farmer lost his goats in the same way. Residents of Bolivia became concerned that the vampire cat had returned after several dogs had turned up dead. One morning Bill Robinson, a resident of Bolivia, found his pitbull gutted in his yard. Robinson proceeded to bury his dog quite a distance from where he had found it laying dead. The next morning Robinson discovered his dog was back where it had been lying dead the day before. The beast allegedly unearthed and dragged the carcass back to the origin of the kill. Robinson’s dog was just one of ten that had been found slaughtered in the area, over a two-week period.

New tracks found…

Four days after Robinson found his dog dead in his backyard, another resident of Bolivia—Leon Williams—found his own pit bull dead, covered in blood, and missing a few body parts. There was no sign of a struggle which Williams found incredibly strange considering his dog’s breed. Around that time, Robinson found unidentifiable tracks in the surrounding area. Robinson measured the tracks and found that they were 4.5 inches in diameter. The town of Bolivia grew more apprehensive, due to the inexplicable dog deaths, and as a result, parents kept their children inside.

Scientists Remain Skeptical and Unimpressed

Over the decades this alleged vampire cat has had several eyewitnesses who have all come back with fairly similar descriptions. Skeptics theorize that it’s due to the Beast being a variety of Eastern Puma, since common descriptors include the beast being black in color, 3-4 feet in length, with an approximately 14-inch tail, and an estimated 20-inch shoulder height (Eberhart 37).

MonsterQuest aired an episode about the Beast of Bladenboro in 2008 due to a recurring pattern of animal deaths. In this episode, Tom Padget, a now-retired biologist from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission appeared to lend his expertise. He spoke on the claims that he received yearly calls on the death of wildlife and pets, but his scientific background leads him to question the existence of a vampiric beast. Instead, he hypothesizes that the killings are simply other, known predators and that it happens more regularly than most people are aware of. (MonsterQuest)

For Padgett, it was clear that the physiological abilities of cougars would surpass that of the dogs and other animals in the area. Extreme habitat loss and logging at the turn of the last century had all but extirpated the cougar from North Carolina. Up to that time, there had been no documented evidence that cougars existed in North Carolina for the past century.

New Evidence Surfaces…

The evidence came one month after the initial investigation when Bill Robinson and Brian Gardner received an update from a photographer that happened upon a startling find. Less than half a mile from the homes of Robinson and Williams, the photographer captured a blurry image of a cougar. MonsterQuest did not bother to authenticate the photo in question, but they concluded that people were experiencing a resurgence of cougars reclaiming territory. This, of course, took into consideration the fact that the cougar had been extinct through the east coast of America—except the tip of Florida—for the past century. (MonsterQuest)

Immortalized into Folklore

To this day, the Beast of Bladenboro remains a genuine terror to central North Carolinian communities. The North Carolina Folklore Society added the story of the Beast of Bladenboro to its annals in 1976. Over the last seventy years, the residents of Central North Carolina have pieced together a recurring pattern they have imputed to being the alleged vampire cat.

Related Creatures

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Check out this list of related creatures to learn more about Cryptids alive in legend and urban folklore:

  • Ball-tailed Cat
  • Chupacabra
  • Splintercat
  • Vampire
  • Wampus Cat
  • Wolpertinger

Works Cited

“Beast Fest.” Boost the Boro, Inc., https://www.boosttheboro.org/beast-fest.html. Accessed 9 May 2023.

“’Beast Of Bladenboro’ Type Killer Strikes In Robeson” The Robesonian [Lumberton, NC], 15 Dec. 1954, p. 9.

“Bulletins, Bladenboro, N.C.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 8 Jan. 1954, p. 1. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-01-08/ed-1/seq-1/.

“Bulletins, Bladenboro, N.C.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 14 Jan. 1954, p. 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-01-14/ed-1/seq-2/.

Byers, Thomas. “The Vampire Beast of North Carolina.” Exemplore, 16 Mar. 2023, https://exemplore.com/cryptids/The-Vampire-Beast-Of-North-Carolina.

Carter, W. Horace, “Carter’s Column: That Bladenboro Beast Again” Tabor City Tribune [NC], 5 May 1954, p 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn91068761/1954-05-05/ed-1/seq-2/.

Eberhart, George M., Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology, ABC-CLIO, Inc, 2012.

Gallehugh Jr., Joseph F., “The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro.” North Carolina Folklore, vol. 24, no. 2, Aug 1976, pp. 53-58.

Godfrey, Linda S., American Monsters: A History of Monster Lore, Legends, and Sightings in America, Penguin Publishing Group, Aug 2014.

“Mad Wolf Feared: Vampire Killer Roams At Large In Bladenboro,” Charlotte Observer [NC], 5 Jan. 1954, p. 1.

“News Shorts, Bladenboro, N.C.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 7 Jan. 1954, p. 2. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-01-07/ed-1/seq-2/.

“’Runty-Looking Ears’ Beast of Bladenboro Seen Again” The Daily Tar Heel [Chapel Hill, NC\

“S. Ray Johnson Takes New Post.” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 8 Feb. 1954, p. 5. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn88063132/1954-02-08/ed-1/seq-5/.

“State News Briefs, Bladenboro'” The Daily Record [Dunn, NC], 5 Jan. 1954, p. 6.

“The Beast of Bladenboro.” The Beast of Bladenboro | North Carolina Ghosts, https://northcarolinaghosts.com/piedmont/beast-bladenboro/. Accessed 5 May 2023.

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Catman – An Urban Legend

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore
newspaper clipping from Colonel Armwell Long's obituary

You may have heard about Catwoman, the iconic superhero known for her ultra-tight leather suits and wall-climbing abilities that look even better on the big screen. But there’s also another fictional feline that you should know about…a Delaware urban legend that’s far less sexy and far more scary. Like many other ghosts who haunt hallowed grounds, the Catman is said to hang around the Long Cemetery in Frankford, Delaware. But this graveyard is more than just a favorite spot; he has a special attachment to the property that is said to go back decades. 

The Long Cemetery

Located at the end of an old dirt road near Selbyville in Sussex County, Delaware, Long Cemetery dates back to the 1800’s.  Joe Long Cemetery, its full name, is also known as Colonel Armwell Long Cemetery. Long served in the War of 1812 and died in 1834 at the age of 80. He was the commandant of Sussex County, Delaware Militia and Waples Company during the War of 1812. He was executor of David Long’s will, and probably donated the land for the Col. Armwell Long Cemetery where it was turned into a public graveyard.

The Legend of Catman

Before he was one of the most famous ghostly figures and urban legends in Delaware, Catman was a caretaker on the cemetery grounds who took his job very seriously. He didn’t just look after graves and keep the place looking hauntingly beautiful – he also scared away teenagers who were causing trouble among the headstones. Any time a young adult would pull out the ouija board or try to get frisky among the dead, Catman was there to banish them…and it wasn’t exactly difficult to do with a face like his. While he wasn’t literally a human-cat hybrid like his name suggests, he had feline-like features that were very intimidating. His stare was as intense as any favorite feline, and people would generally run the other way at the sight of Catman.

Long Cemetery with gravestones near where catman was buried

When Catman died, it’s said that he was rewarded for his lifelong dedication to Long Cemetery with an above-ground tomb. This was sadly torn down in 1994 due to threats of vandalism, but those who saw the landmark prior to its destruction noted a few strange markings on the tomb. Like a set of cat scratches, perhaps? While his body may not be physically at the cemetery anymore, Catman still makes his presence very known throughout the grounds.

scary cat eyes

Not only have there been supposed sightings of his ghost throughout the years, mostly from teenagers and young adults, but there’s also a neat party trick for those who are brave enough. All you need to do is head over to the remains of the brick wall that sit at the back of the property, and knock three times. It’s said that doing this will cause the former caretaker to come mess with your car. Your vehicle will stall or fail to start, leaving you behind at the cemetery that Catman cherished so greatly. If this seems like a fairly harmless prank, that’s because it is…especially compared to other urban legends that involve bloody hatchets, cheating scandals, and escaped mental patients with a hook for a hand. But Catman’s goal is not to kill or hurt, only to scare away the mischief from Long Cemetery.

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Char Man Urban Legend

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore


Camp Comfort County Park can be found along the scenic Creek Road in Ventura County, California, not far south of Ojai. The park has been a resting spot for weary travelers for centuries, with its picturesque, oak-sheltered location and abundance of clear running water. It was commonly referred to by travelers as a “comfort spot”, which was where it got its name. Of course, even the greatest of comfort can never ensure true safety, just as the most peaceful of locations can house the darkest of secrets. The darkest perhaps being the legend of Char Man.

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Ojai

Ojai has a plethora of grim and unsettling urban legends under its belt, including the Ojai vampire which was said to have travelled there from either Italy or Spain in 1890. Another more common, and far more grisly, tale is that of the infamous Char Man. One particular bridge in Camp Comfort has been dubbed “Char Man Bridge”, legends telling that any motorist who dares get out and shout for the hideously burned spirit shall meet an agonizing death at his disfigured hand.

Char Man Legends

This particular legend is subject to far more speculation than most. Seemingly everyone has a different version of how the Char Man came to be. A few of these stories begin in a huge fire in 1948. Some surmise that a firefighter was tragically caught in that particular blaze, burning alive in his suit. Others say that a father and son were badly burned in the fire, the father being killed in the blaze while his son went mad from the pain and torment, peeling his fathers burned skin and hanging the corpse in a tree before retreating into the woods.

A third tale revolving around the same 1948 inferno was that a woman was trapped indoors while her husband, badly burned but still breathing, listened to her cries from outside as the fire slowly consumed her. Dark tales from the people of Ojai, to say the least.
That particular fire was reported to have no casualties, so unfortunately these theories into the dreaded Char Man’s origins don’t hold much weight.

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One common story told by locals is of a brutal automobile fire near Char Man Bridge, wherein a motorist escaped his car and fled into the woods, still enwreathed in flames. The unknown driver was said to survive the severe burns he endured and still stalks the roadside to this day.

Wherever the Char Man came from, his appearance is unmistakable: covered in horrific burns from head to toe, his skin blackened and peeling, clad only in a few charred bandages. Before unwary motorists see the spirit they shall smell his ghastly aroma of burned flesh, if they’re lucky. If not, the Char Man may just have another skin to replace his own.

Though for some, luck has nothing to do with it. Many locals have taken to the adrenalin-sport of stopping their cars on the bridge, getting out and calling “Help me!” to coax the flaming horror from the treeline. One thing is for sure, if an orange glow appears anywhere in the woodland by Creek Road, it would be best to keep right on driving.

References

Char Man | Creepy Urban Legends (quotev.com)
Creepy urban legends from around the USA (thevintagenews.com)

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