Yosemite is one of America’s most beautiful National Parks… but it’s also one of the country’s most haunted. And we’re not just talking about ghosts, either; be wary of curses, cryptids, and otherworldly demons as you explore the stunning park. And, look on the bright side: If you happen to camp out in Yosemite National Park, these legends and tales make for some pretty terrifying ghost stories to tell around the campfire.
The Curse of Tenaya Canyon
One of the most dramatic natural features in Yosemite is Tenaya Canyon. Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest are along the canyon, rising up from its deep and rocky depths. Tenaya Creek flows through the feature, over cascades and through deep pools. The NPS strongly warns against the 10-mile hike all the ay through; it’s tricky to navigate the rough terrain, mandatory swims, and dangerous climbs, plus the numerous waterfalls and slippery glacier-polished granite rock make it downright dangerous, even for an experienced hiker.
And, adding to the notoriety of Tenaya Canyon is a legendary curse. The story holds that back in the 1850s, Chief Tenaya of the Ahwahnechee tribe placed the curse on the canyon as revenge for the death of his son at the hands of a battalion. The troops were sent by the state of California to relocate the tribe. Park rangers sometimes refer to Tenaya Canyon as the “Bermuda Triangle” of Yosemite, as hikers brave enough to attempt the canyon are known to disappear.
The spirit of the Ahwahnee
The Ahwahnee is one of the most historic and luxurious hotels in Yosemite, and it’s home to a few occasional guests who visit from beyond the grave. Mary Curry Tressider was a woman who was crucial to the development of the hotel and lived in an apartment on the hotel’s 6th floor until her death in the 1970s. Ever since her passing, apparitions and strange activity have been reported on the floor.
Others claim that the ghost of John F. Kennedy likes to show up from time to time. He stayed on the third floor during a 1962 visit to the park. He was brought a rocking chair to alleviate some of his back pain, and to this day, some guests report seeing a phantom rocking chair on the floor out of the corner of their eye, despite the fact that no room has been furnished with such a chair for years.
Po-Ho-No and Bridalveil Fall
As you admire the waterfalls of the park, keep an eye out for Po-Ho-No. Some translate its name as “The Spirit of the Evil Wind”, a demon who has attempted to lure innocent victims over the park’s Bridalveil Fall. There are a few variations of the Native American legend; sometimes, young women are picking berries or grass to weave baskets, when one is lured to the edge of the waterfall by a hypnotic misty rainbow… only to have the wind attempt to pull them off the falls. In some versions, Po-Ho-No even lures them all the way over the edge. There happens to be a Pohono Trail in the park, a 20-mile loop that connects Glacier Point with Dewey Point. If the thought of heading off on a trail named for the Spirit of the Evil Wind is a bit scary, fear not; others like to translate “Po-Ho-No” to the less-intimidating phrase “puffing wind”.
The ghost in Grouse Lake
Even Yosemite’s first Park Ranger, Galen Clark, thought that Yosemite was haunted. His experience, which took place around 1857, was with hearing a wailing sound coming from Grouse Lake. He reported it to the local Native Americans in the area, who warned him not to go into the lake; it is supposedly the spirit of a young boy from their tribe who drowned in the lake years ago. He lures victims into the water with his cries… and pulls them into the lake to drown them. Moral of the story: be careful, and report any suspicious activity to the pros.
Ghosts, vengeful spirits, curses and demons should be the least of worries on a Yosemite trip, though… because you very well might encounter something much, much larger and more intimidating. Like Bigfoot. The dense forests, rugged terrain, and massive size of the park make it a pretty ideal place for Sasquatch to hide out away from civilization. Dozens of sightings, some more compelling and believable than others, have been reported across Yosemite and the surrounding area, including the attached Stanislaus National Forest.
The Yosemite area is also the location of some pretty bizarre footage of creatures some call Nightcrawlers. They look… kind of like a walking pair of pants, actually. Whatever they are, they’re all legs and not much else. There are rumors that local Native American tribes believe these to be aliens from a swamp-planet come here to reunite humanity and nature in harmony. There are also images of statues and totem poles, reportedly of Native American origin, that seem to confirm that these bizarre beings have been here for some time.
Header image via Flickr/Thilo Wischmeyer
More strange happenings…