When you think of the American South, images of the Texas badlands and country music lyrics might just pop into your head. You might also muse over bluegrass tunes, amazing state parks, college basketball, and Elvis Presley songs.
The states that make up the American South have a lot to offer citizens and tourists alike, including legendary mysteries to argue about on cold nights around the campfire.
10 The Gloria Colita
In the late 1930s, Reg Michell designed and built the largest sailing vessel in the Caribbean. He named the wooden vessel the Gloria Colita. Her length was 50 meters (165 ft), and she weighed 175 tons beneath her impressive three masts.
The Gloria Colita had her maiden service voyage in 1939 during which she sailed to British Guyana and then to Cuba. She would sail this route for the next two years—continuing from Cuba, where her crew loaded sugar cane, to Mobile, Alabama, where they sold it.
In Alabama, the crew would load lumber and then return to Cuba to sell it. On one of these familiar trips, Captain Mitchell loaded rice in British Guyana and sugar in Havana. Then he sailed to Venezuela. There, he let his Bequia crew go and hired a Spanish crew. He and the new crew sailed back to Mobile with the intention of loading lumber to be sold in Havana.
This was the last time that anyone heard from or saw Captain Mitchell and his crew. After leaving Mobile, the Gloria Colita never reached Cuba. During a search, a US Coast Guard plane pilot spotted the vessel in the Gulf Stream. Upon investigation, it was found that the ship was completely abandoned.
The Gloria Colita was towed back to Alabama and eventually sold as scrap. Despite a multitude of conspiracy theories about what may have happened to her captain and crew, their true fate remains unknown.
9 Valley Hill Lights
On April 6, 1995, Ann Mudd, a Sunday school teacher, visited Valley Hill in Springfield, Kentucky, along with eight of her students. One of the girls, Mandy Mattingly, soon caused a commotion when she pointed at the sky and told the rest of the party that she was seeing strange colors around the Sun. She also said that she could see the Sun pulsating.
The teacher then allegedly saw gold colors appearing on her students, and she took photos of them. When the photos were developed, it was claimed that angels surrounded one of the girls in one picture. Meanwhile, another depicted Jesus and Mary wearing veils.
One of the students also claimed that another picture reflected the name of her deceased cousin on a tombstone. It is said that the mothers of the students didn’t believe the story at all, but after having several visions, they changed their tune.
Although the incident has mostly been written off as mass hysteria and pareidolia, it has never been satisfactorily explained. People still visit Valley Hill in the hopes of seeing the Virgin Mary immersed in gold or rainbow colors.
8 White Things
Boone County, West Virginia
The world is full of monsters, real and imaginary. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell if a creature is truly out of this world or if you’re mistaking an ordinary animal for something monstrous.
Such is the case in West Virginia, where there have been several reports of mean-looking creatures roaming the woods. Some people describe these beasts as humanoid. Others claim that these monsters have catlike, doglike, or even demonic features. In the mid-1990s, there was a flurry of sightings in Boone County. The creatures were given the name “White Things” due to their long, dirty, white hair.
More details suggested that the White Things had claws, smelled like sulfur, and ran extremely fast—on two legs according to some reports. Even creepier, their calls (or more accurately, their screams) were said to sound like those of a woman in distress.
In 1994, a Navy seaman reported having seen a White Thing in the forest. It ran through the trees and then drank from a stream. That same year, two children saw a similar creature while they were playing in their yard in Boone County.
In 1995, a couple driving through Boone County spotted a White Thing sitting inside a ditch along the road. After the pair exited the vehicle to get a closer look, the monster leaped up and jumped on their car. Luckily, the couple was able to get back into the car and drive away after the beast jumped off and disappeared.
Sightings continued until 2015. But the exact nature of the White Things remains a mystery.
7 The Delta Queen
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Delta Queen is a stately old sternwheel steamboat built during the 1920s. During World War II, the boat transported wounded soldiers to various hospitals. Later, it became a leisure boat.
In June 1985, Myra Fruge, one of the employees of the Delta Queen, received a call from Cabin 109. The occupant was an elderly lady who asked for a blanket because she was very cold. Myra sent Mike Williams, the first mate, to assist the old woman.
After Mike set off for the cabin, Myra looked up to see a face staring at her from the deck. Believing it to be the woman from Cabin 109 wandering about looking for a blanket, Myra went out to help her. However, she could not find anyone on the deck.
Just then, Mike returned. He said that Cabin 109 was unoccupied. As Myra walked back with Mike, she saw a portrait that had been on the ship all along. Suddenly, Myra realized that the woman in the portrait was the same lady who had been looking at Myra from the deck. Mary Green (some spell it “Greene”) had been in charge of the Delta Queen in 1947 at age 79. She died in Cabin 109 just two years later.
Myra and Mike fell in love and married soon afterward. They always claimed that the spirit of Mary Green played matchmaker. However, whether they truly encountered the ghost of a long-dead elderly woman in 1985 remains a mystery.
6 Mystery Object
Seabrook Island, South Carolina
In late 2018, a huge object washed ashore on Seabrook Island, South Carolina. The object seemed to be made of concrete. But it was almost squishy and soft to the touch. The Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network was alerted. They went to investigate but were unable to determine what the object was.
Soon after, town officials took the object away but not before the Marine Mammal Network loaded a picture of it on their Facebook page. They hoped that someone might identify it.
Soon, the theories exploded. Some claimed that the object was part of a NASA rocket, while others believed it to be a spaceship. There were also those who had more mundane explanations in the form of a buoy or “space junk.”
Whatever the object was, it has yet to be identified.
5 Peter Dromgoole
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Legend has it that after Peter Dromgoole arrived at the University of North Carolina in 1833, he soon fell in love with Fanny, a girl from Chapel Hill. The two became a couple and started meeting at a flat rock near a cliff. Their love seemed one for the ages until a third wheel soured it. Peter noticed that another student, who happened to be a good friend, was making moves on Fanny.
Peter became extremely jealous and didn’t know how to handle the situation. He tried to avoid his friend, but the friend was interested only in annoying Peter. When they met one day on a narrow campus path, the rival hit Peter with his shoulder, causing Peter’s hat to fall to the ground. After a heated argument, the rival challenged Peter to a duel.
It ended with Peter being shot to death by his rival. The man panicked. With two of his cronies, the former rival placed Peter’s lifeless body on the flat rock that was meant for Peter and Fanny’s trysts. Then the men dug a shallow grave and buried Peter hastily.
Peter’s remains were never found. It is said that Fanny waited at the rock many an afternoon. But she only saw the red-brown stains on the rock itself and never knew the fate that had befallen her lover.
This tale inspired the Order of Gimghoul, a secret society for students. It has a logo with a gargoyle and a castle in the woods. In fact, the story seems to be a legend designed to spice up the true story.
The real Peter Dromgoole did disappear from Chapel Hill under mysterious circumstances. It was discovered that he owed money to at least one person and had failed his examinations.
He was never seen again.
4 Lawton Werewolf
On February 27, 1971, 35-year-old Donald Childs stared ahead in terror as he clutched his chest. He was having a heart attack as he watched a horrifying creature rummaging around in his front garden in Lawton, Oklahoma. The creature resembled a canine humanoid figure and was drinking water out of Donald’s fishpond.
Fortunately, Donald survived the heart attack and was released from the hospital after two days. He then reported to the police what he had seen: a humanoid monster, with hair over its face, that was wearing multiple layers of clothing.
Soon, more reports followed. People called the police in panic, claiming to have seen the creature running down roads and perching on apartment railings. The creature, now referred to as the “Lawton Werewolf,” also ran all the way to Fort Sill. There, a group of men encountered it.
Theories for the sightings included people dressing up in hairy suits as a hoax. Some don’t believe this because one of the reports claimed that the creature survived a 5-meter (17 ft) jump from an apartment building. Others believe that the creature may be more of a Bigfoot than a werewolf. Either way, the mystery remains.
3 Jacob’s Well
Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring that flows out of a natural underground reservoir and has been revered by Native Americans for at least 1,000 years. The spring’s “mouth” is around 4 meters (13 ft) wide, and the water inside is 10 meters (33 ft) deep.
It is said that Jacob’s Well has four chambers and that the first one is 9 meters (30 ft) deep. The second one is 24 meters (80 ft) deep. However, the third and fourth chambers remain a mystery to most people as only very experienced divers have ever seen them. The cave systems of Jacob’s Well also remain a puzzle to scientists.
This has encouraged people to try to explore the spring. So far, nine divers have lost their lives after diving into Jacob’s Well to uncover its mysteries. Don Dibble, a local dive shop owner, has pulled remains out of Jacob’s Well.
He has also tried to dissuade people from jumping into it by building a grate of rebar and concrete and covering the entrance of the third chamber. A mere six months later, the grating was dismantled. On a plastic slate, someone left a note for Don: “You can’t keep us out.”
Why Jacob’s Well holds such an attraction for people, causing them to jump in while knowing its dangers, has yet to be determined.
2 Old House Woods
Haven Beach Road leads away from Diggs toward a 50-acre woods and marshland area known as Old House Woods. The forest has a rich history, including that of the creepy variety. It dates to the 1700s when soldiers and pirates took refuge among the thick greens.
Inside Old House Woods stood the Frannie Knight house. It had a reputation for repeatedly setting itself on fire and then extinguishing the blaze on its own. Eventually, the house burned to the ground. The cause of the fires remains unexplained.
In 1929, a man by the name of Jesse Hudgins reported that he had been walking through the forest when a group of men with glowing lanterns approached him. When they came close, Hudgins saw that they were skeletons wearing ancient armor. Hudgins also claimed that one of the skeletons threatened him with a sword.
Another visitor had some bad luck when his car broke down in the Old House Woods. He also claimed to have been approached by a skeleton in armor. The skeleton asked if the road was the King’s Highway and said that he had lost his ship. The visitor turned on his heels and fled.
Many more unexplained events have taken place in these woods, including floating lights, spectral figures appearing and disappearing, and faint sounds of cannon fire in the distance. This has caused the Old House Woods to become known as one of the most haunted forests in America.
1 The Bell Witch
In 1804, John Bell moved his family to Adams, Tennessee, and settled on 300 acres of land. They lived there happily and peacefully for 13 years before the trouble began. It started out as any old haunting with doors slamming, weird sounds coming from within the walls of their home, and chains rattling in the distance.
Then a weird animal, something between a rabbit and a dog, showed up at the Bell place. Suddenly, the paranormal activity kicked up several notches. John’s daughter bore the brunt of the weirdness, with invisible hands slapping and pinching her until she was black-and-blue.
After a committee was formed to investigate the Bell home, the entity revealed its name to them: Kate Batts.
Evidently, Kate used to be a neighbor of the Bells. She felt animosity toward John Bell and his family because of business deals gone wrong. Kate “vowed” to torment John and his family. In 1820, John was poisoned, allegedly by Kate (who was then also known as the “Bell Witch”).
The Bell Witch story is arguably the best-known paranormal mystery in the American South. In 2015, a clairvoyant from Mississippi claimed that she knew the truth about the Bell Witch murder. She alleged that Betsy Bell, John’s youngest daughter, had appeared to her and told her that John had been poisoned by a slave.
We may never know if John Bell really was poisoned by a slave or murdered by a disembodied spook.