The world’s most famous mountains have been featured on TV, in movies, and sometimes even in song. They inspire people to test their limits of endurance and tenacity, occasionally breaking them completely in the process. Mountains are fascinating, dominating, and—as the following stories prove—often downright eerie.
The Great Smoky Mountains are a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains along the Tennessee–North Carolina border. The adjacent Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited park in the US, with millions enjoying the hiking trails, plant and animal life, and simply getting away from the bustle of the city life and immersing themselves completely in nature.
These mountains also have several tales surrounding them, and some of them are quite creepy. Should you decide to hike along the Norton Creek Trail, you might find yourself running into Spearfinger. If you do, you should hide your kids as best you can; legend has it that this old witch has a penchant for cutting out little children’s livers with her one long, spearlike finger and having them for dinner. Another version of the tale has it that Spearfinger can take on the appearance of whatever is around her. Sometimes, she takes on the form of a particular rock formation on the east side of Whiteside Mountain, known as the Devil’s Courthouse. By doing this, she can spring her nasty self upon unsuspecting folk while they are out hiking and enjoying the fresh air.
According to legend, the witch used to always have flies swarming about her, because of a horrible stench that followed her wherever she went. Locals came to realize that hearing the hum of flies nearby could mean that Spearfinger was on their trail. When children disappeared on their way to picking fruit, the witch would be blamed. Spearfinger was said to appear to the kids as an old lady, asking them to spend some time with her. One particularly gruesome tale has it that a little girl allowed the witch to play with her hair, enjoying it so much that she fell asleep in the witch’s lap. The witch fatally stabbed the girl with her long, sharp finger, removed her liver, and ate it raw.
Eventually, local warriors were able to trap the witch and slay her by shooting deadly arrows into the hand she’d used to kill so many. But it is believed that her spirit lives on in the rocks that are strewn around the pit where she died.
A horrific tale from Kentucky has it that a miner in the 1930s was leading a unionization effort near Black Mountain. The miner successfully convinced his fellow workers to stand up to the unfair treatment they were receiving and the terrible conditions they had to work in. Sadly, he was punished for this by having high-up employees of the company abduct, rape, and decapitate his wife and child in front of him.
When they finished their horrific deeds, they simply threw the severed heads and bodies off a ravine while laughing in the miner’s face, telling him that this was the consequence of him trying to stand up to them. They proceeded to hack off the man’s legs, string him up in a tree, and leave him to bleed to death.
The aftermath of this horror led to the ghostly tale of Headless Annie, who is thought to be the specter of the miner’s daughter haunting Black Mountain. She runs out in front of cars, scaring drivers and passengers witless when they set eyes upon her headless, see-through form. She is said to wear a white nightdress, trying to flag down passing cars. If she has no luck, she simply appears in the backseat, imploring drivers to stop and help her.
8Ghosts Of Aokigahara
At the base of the majestic Mount Fuji lies arguably the creepiest forest in the world, known for many suicides and unexplained paranormal sightings. Aokigahara is the perfect setting for a horror movie, and many of those who’d visited the forest have vowed never to set their foot anywhere near it again. One woman claimed that the tape she rolled out behind her while venturing into the forest was deliberately cut by an unseen force, leaving her lost and terrified. Others tell of bloodcurdling screams and finding corpses in the direction of the screaming or body parts strewn throughout the place.
It is said that some of the deeply unhappy souls who venture into this forest with the sole aim of taking their own lives do not wish for those who remain behind to be happy in their absence. Therefore, they leave a curse behind when they die. One of these curses was found while a documentary was being filmed inside the forest. Someone had nailed an upside-down doll to a tree, mimicking a crucifixion. The doll had its face cut off as a show of hatred and contempt for the living.
What might be one of the creepiest Mount Fuji tales comes from Hideo Watanabe, a shopkeeper operating right by the entrance to the forest of death. He told the Japan Times that he’d encountered many people who failed to execute their own suicides. One woman in particular still had a piece of rope around her neck and bulging eyes from the pressure of hanging. Being so used to seeing things like this, Watanabe offered her some tea while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
7Ghosts On Everest
The Sherpa people residing high up in the Himalayas in Nepal are highly regarded and valued as expert mountaineers, having served as guides to climbers for many years, especially to those who wish to climb Mount Everest. Living mostly in obscurity, the lives of the Sherpa people were thrust into the spotlight in 2014, when an avalanche on Everest cost the lives of 16 guides, most of whom were Sherpas. Following this tragedy, some Sherpa guides refused to continue working on the mountain.
However, long before the Everest horror of 2014, a Sherpa claiming to have broken the ascent record on Mount Everest shared another dark tale when he returned from the famous mountain in 2004. He claimed to have run into dark shadows that approached him with outstretched arms, begging him for food.
Speaking to AFP, Pemba Dorji Sherpa claimed to have seen many bodies as he was nearing the summit, including one still hanging from a rope after falling. He believed the black shadows that approached him were the ghosts of those climbers. The president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Ang Tshering Sherpa, affirmed to AFP that his people believed in spirits and performed death rituals if they happened to come across bodies.
6Queensland’s Black Mountain
The Black Mountain in Queensland is less of a natural beauty by visitors’ standards than it is an eerie collection of massive dark boulders that seem to harbor sinister secrets. The mountain was formed from magma millions of years ago and has algae covering it in large parts. Some say the mountain looks as though hellfire has gone over it, leading to tales of otherworldly screams emanating from its underground cavities. Naturally, having a terrible stench reaching up from the bowels of the mountain has only increased the number of spooky stories surrounding it.
Aboriginal folk tell many eerie stories, including that of a wicked man called the Eater of Flesh who roams the Black Mountain. The story goes that a medicine man developed a taste for human flesh. After killing and eating an aboriginal chief, the man was chased off and banished to the mountain. This did not deter the wicked man from devouring people of his own tribe. Eventually, he could no longer escape the wrath of the people when he surfaced from his hiding place. He turned himself into a goanna (an Australian monitor lizard) to try and avoid being killed. However, as karma would have it, he was struck by lightning and exploded into a heap of charred boulders, which is how the Black Mountain came to be.
Other terrible tales have it that ghosts roam the mountain and that those who do not ignore the warnings and insist on approaching it will be dragged into the cavities by ghostly, outstretched hands. These ghosts are thought to be the spirits of the aboriginal people who were murdered by European settlers. To this day, aborigines refuse to go near the place they call Kalkajaka.
The movie The Hills Have Eyes may have drawn its inspiration from “Ghost Mountain” (real name: Haycock Mountain) in Pennsylvania. It is thought that a clan of albino cannibals live in the woods up on this mountain and feast on the flesh of those unfortunate enough to get lost there. Naturally, most take the albino cannibal tale with a pinch of salt, but that has not deterred the stories from getting a little out of hand. These cannibals are said to be inbreds, and even the evidence of their feeding habits (both human and animals) has not convinced local authorities to investigate the murders or venture into the woods to the mountain residence of the alleged killers.
Legend has it that the cannibals hide in a windowless house built entirely of concrete. They hide in the trees like animals and fall from them onto people who hike up the mountain trails.
The story of albino cannibals is not limited to mountain residences, either. Tales also abound of a similar family of albinos that lives in a red house on Buckout Road in Westchester, New York. Supposedly, they will come out and pounce on you if you dare to honk your car horn three times while parked in front of their dwelling.
In the village of Bemni up high in the Himalayas, there is a strong belief among the villagers in the existence of ghosts and evil spirits. People here tell tales of seeing foxes with human heads and large snakes hovering over pots of gold. One man claimed he was attacked by a ghost who changed size the entire time they were fighting. He alleged that the ghost’s fingers went right through him and said the spirit eventually possessed him.
In 2013, a BBC writer on a research trip was visiting a shop in the village when the shopkeeper’s large dog started barking at the researcher’s son. When the young boy started screaming out of pure fear, the shopkeeper brought in an ancient-looking woman who began throwing ash on the boy while chanting something over him. The writer and her son found themselves at the center of an impromptu exorcism.
Then there are the Sherpa-told Yeti tales. Some of the Sherpa guides that travel the Himalayas believe that climate change is to blame for the lack of Yeti sightings in recent years. However, they firmly believe that Yetis used to roam the mountains. Folklore of Nepal depicts some Yetis as very violent creatures that are not above brutally killing children by smashing them against large rocks as revenge for other humans escaping their claws.
3Ghostly Choir Of Roan Mountain
The alleged haunting of Roan Mountain has divided the citizens of the towns closest to it. There is strange music emanating from the mountain, but people are undecided as to whether it sounds like an angel choir or music from the depths of Hell. Historically, herdsmen believed the music to be nothing other than strong winds blowing through rock formations. Local farmers added the tale of the ghostly choir over the years, saying that the cloud formations above the mountain were formed by a wind straight from the Devil himself.
A hotel was built on the peaks of Roan Mountain in the 1800s, and the guests here quickly spread the word about the creepy music they could hear and the wind that would literally move the building from side to side as it blew. One of the guests firmly believed in the story of the “Devil wind” and that this wind prevented the normal growth of trees at the top of the mountain. The young man, named Libourel, was determined to find the source of the music. One afternoon, he set off in search of it, in spite of many warnings from fellow guests.
As fate would have it, Libourel became caught in a thunderstorm and had to seek shelter under a rocky overhang while wind, rain, and overwhelming, ghostly music surrounded him. Suddenly, a black hole appeared at the back of the crag he was sheltering in, and he saw the ghostly choir. The members of this choir had broken bones sticking out of their flesh, deep cuts dripping blood, and jagged teeth in their gaping mouths. Some had body parts missing. Remembering that he had hit his head when the black hole appeared and he was forced backward into it, Libourel couldn’t be sure whether he dreamed the whole episode. But to say that it terrified him to his very soul would likely be an understatement.
2Haunted Peaks Of K2
Wanda Rutkiewicz made history in 1986 when she became the first woman to successfully climb K2 and make it back home alive. She let this experience serve as encouragement and inspiration to climb several other mountains around the world. Unfortunately, Kanchenjunga proved to be too much for the experienced climber, who lost her life there in 1992.
A book written about the successes and failures of female climbers included a tale about Rutkiewicz’s friend, Ewa Matuszewska, who allegedly received a phone call from Rutkiewicz after the latter had passed away on the mountain. Being overjoyed at hearing Rutkiewicz’s voice over the line, Matuszewska begged for her to explain where she was and come home. Rutkiewicz’s only response was that she was very cold but that Matuszewska shouldn’t cry because everything would be all right. When Matuszewska insisted on asking why Rutkiewicz couldn’t return, she simply replied, “I cannot now,” before the phone line cut out.
There is another insert in Savage Summit, a book that details the death of female climber Briton Julie Tullis, who died during her descent from K2 in 1986. Her body was never retrieved from the mountain. In 1992, two members of a climbing expedition were relaxing at base camp, when suddenly, a voice sounded loudly over the camp radio. It simply said, “Camp IV to Base Camp, do you read, over?”
Both men were terrified, seeing as they knew for sure there were no other climbers on the mountain at that point, and the voice that broke through the quiet of the camp had a British accent.
1The Big Gray Man
The story of the Big Gray Man haunting the Cairngorm Mountains created big excitement in 1925, when Professor Norman Collie told his story about the eerie creature. Collie stated that he was on his way back from the summit of Ben Macdhui, walking in the mist, when he heard a strange crunching sound behind him. He continued to hear the crunching wherever he went, as if someone was following him closely. Telling himself he was imagining things, Collie walked on, but the sounds kept following him. Being unable to see anything in the rolling mist, Collie became terrified and started running until he reached the forest at the bottom.
Collie ended his tale by saying that whether people believed him or not, there was something strange about Ben Macdhui, and he would not return there alone. Being a well-respected man, people felt encouraged to share their own experiences on the mountain, most of which were similar to that of Collie, with strange presences or sounds.
It is not known exactly why the legend has taken on the form of the Big Gray Man; some say it is probably a reference to the gray mist on the slopes of the mountain. However, there are accounts of people seeing an apelike figure in the mist. Some experts think that when a temperature inversion happens, some climbers are able to see their own shadow in the resulting clouds (or the mist), which may have led to the rise of the Gray Man tales.
Others, who feel that science has nothing to do with any of it, believe that the Gray Man is a manifestation of a spirit which has transformed from several imaginary tales into a ghostly being that roams the mountain.
Estelle lives in Gauteng, South Africa. She loves spooky stories but has recently been bitterly disappointed by the latest installment in the Paranormal Activity movie series.