Deserts are not to be messed with. Many have ventured or gotten lost in the desert and have never been seen again. People wonder what happens to those brave souls that never come back, while the other lucky few who do happen to return, usually have a strange tale about what occurs in those vast and barren wastelands. As a result, deserts have been linked with ghost stories for centuries, and spooky legends have been spread about them that have crept into the minds of people all over the world.
Life in the desert is extremely difficult. It is a surreal and remorseless place, filled with terrifying creatures that have adapted their way of life to the most extreme habitats. It’s no wonder everyone fears the desert, since all the animals and creatures that live there are out to kill you. There have been cases, however, where those creatures are not of the natural kind. Some tell of mysterious beasts with piercing red eyes that resemble Big Foot. Others have encountered ghosts that haunt their every night, driving them mad with terror. Some desert towns have dealt with these anomalies for years.
Here is a list of the most popular horror stories in desert lore. You may take these tales as true or false, but whatever the case is, you can be certain that if you do venture into the desert, peril and danger will wait for you there.
15. The Lady in White
The deserts in California are home to many horrific tales and ghost stories. One of the most popular ones is the tale of The Lady in White. In the 1850s, a woman arrived at the Vallecito Station in the Anza-Borrego Desert, in California. She had traveled from far away and was waiting to be picked up by a stage to meet her fiancé in Sacramento in order to get married together. That wedding never took place, however. During her travels the woman got terminally ill because of malnutrition and lack of water, so she was unable to finish her trip to Sacramento. She eventually died in that station and was buried in her wedding dress in an unmarked grave near Campo Santo. Since then, her ghost walks the adobe floors, haunting the town and its people. Those who visit the place where the Vallecito Station once stood still claim to see The Lady in White pacing through the dirt in her wedding gown, waiting for her stage to pick her up.
14. The Borrego Sasquatch
Imagine you’re camping in the desert and suddenly you come face-to-face with Big Foot. Seems like kind of a long shot, but there have been some campers who have recalled sighting creatures that resemble the legendary Sasquatch in the deserts of southern California. In the Anza-Borrego area, many reports have been made of people who have encountered a strange beast in the land. The first case ever reported was in 1939, when a man set off to camp alone in one of the dry valleys of the area. The man was suddenly awoken by not one, but a whole band of two legged creatures that lurked around the campfire. He recalls those creatures as hairy, with silver fur, and devilish red eyes that seemed to glow in the dark. Noticeably afraid of the fire, the beasts eventually kept on their way, causing no harm to the camper. 30 years later, a man by the name of Harold Lancaster told of a similar encounter with a hairy, two-footed beast who approached him in an aggressive manner. Harold fired some warning shots that luckily made the creature jump in surprise before running away.
13. Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone is said to be one of the most haunted cities in America. There are a staggering number of ghost stories that have become part of the culture of its citizens. It’s cowboy territory over there, and they say that even the streets of the town are stalked by the spirits of those who have been killed over the years. One of the most notorious stories occurred in the city’s most famous spot, the O.K Corral. On October 28th, 1881, Vigil Earp and his men sought to disarm the rebel cowboys that were in his town. The confrontation ended up in a 30-second gunfight between the two factions that left many dead from both sides. Over the years, some have reported seeing the ghosts of those cowboys, who still appear with their guns drawn, seemingly locked in their confrontation with the Earps. Among the lawmen who participated in the shootout was Wyatt Earp, whose central role in the event made him a part of U.S. history.
12. Humanoid Creatures In Chihuahua, Mexico
The sasquatch isn’t the only big creature that stalks its prey in the desert. In 1990, a group of teenagers were camping in the desert of Chihuahua when they stumbled across a couple of deer carcasses. The bloodied corpses seemed recent, and they had three triangular shaped perforations on their necks. The kids noticed a couple of footprints nearby that they thought belonged to a puma, since they are the most formidable predator in the area. However, those fears turned to sheer terror when they were suddenly faced with a strange humanoid creature right in front of them. The beast was hunched over, eating something 15 meters away. The apparent monster started walking towards them, when one of the teenagers emptied his pistol. The gun had no effect on the creature, so the group of kids started running for their lives. On their way, they encountered another of those mysterious beasts. They recall it being metallic green in color and only 80cms in height.
11. Giant Snakes Of The Sahara Desert
On the other side of the world, nomads of the Sahara Desert have suffered the terror of horrific giant snakes. The tribes refer to these snakes as taguerga, describing them being up to 4 meters long. According to the nomads, the snakes ate their goats, sheep, and even camels. These snakes might have even snatched some of the locals. The nomads had so much trouble with these creatures that they asked the French for help. The French offered them soldiers to help take care of the issue, and they set out to hunt the snakes. One of these reptiles was reportedly as long as 20 meters in length and was so fierce that a machine gun was required to kill it. On another reported case, a man killed a 15-foot long snake that had horns and a crest. The man reportedly kept the skin, until he sold it to a private collector. The problem seemed to have been solved, until stories of the snakes resurfaced again in 1967, when a man in a bulldozer noticed a 9-meter-long snake along his path and decided to kill it with his bulldozer blade. In 1968, another 10-meter-long snake sighting was reported by a local, and a 15 meter one again in 1969.
10. Phantom Train In The Dragoon Mountains
A young miner was traveling with his donkey to the town of Dos Cabezas, when he suddenly got lost just north of the Dragoon Mountains. With no food or water to survive, his donkey died of heatstroke, and the miner would soon share the same fate. He was dehydrated, and was almost passing out because of the heat. With the sun of the mid-summer day upon him, it was hard for him to stay sane. Suddenly, he heard the clear sound of a train approaching. He discarded the idea immediately, being sure that no train would ever be able to pass through this inhospitable place, and he couldn’t see any tracks anywhere. Sure enough, a train slowed down just before the man, and offered him a ride on a passenger car. The miner happily agreed, and sat down in one of the seats, falling asleep almost immediately. Feeling a sudden splash of water, he awoke to find himself laying on the ground, with a sheriff standing on top of him. The sheriff told him he was in Wilcox, Arizona, and had been found five miles out of town. The miner was dumbfounded and asked if that was one of the train’s stops, but the sheriff replied that there were no trains for miles. Even today, there are some people who claim to see the phantom train in that place, where no tracks have ever been laid down.
9. Phantom Stagecoach Of Carrizo
In a place called Carrizo Wash, near the town of Vallecito, townsfolk claim to see a phantom stagecoach driven by a ghost and his four mules. The carriage is believed to be seen slowing down on the place where the Carrizo Station once stood, only to realize it’s not there anymore and continue on its way. A scary detail about this phantom stage is that it seems to leave behind rut marks and hoof prints in the dirt. This tale is also linked to another legend. During the 1860’s, a stagecoach was carrying a treasure of gold coins from El Paso to San Diego, when it was held up by robbers near The Coyote Mountains. The robbers allegedly shot the driver, and the horses got so spooked that they rode off with the dead driver still in its seat. Some people believe the Phantom Stagecoach is that stagecoach, eternally circling its original route.
8. The Phantom Caburé
Stagecoaches and trains are not the only mode of transportation that have been linked with ghost stories. In the barren northern regions of Brazil’s Maranhao, people report seeing a phantom jeep that they refer to as caburé that roams through the wasteland, in parts where no off-road vehicle would be able to drive on. The caburé has no fixed destination, and it often drives at high speeds, doing donuts on its way. It appears to have a mischievous spirit, too. Townsfolk have said that the Phantom Jeep seems to speed up whenever it sees people walking in its path, only to slow down and disappear just before running them over. The ghostly vehicle is said to have incredibly bright headlights, that are able to blind anyone who comes across it. Horror stories plague this region of Brazil, other people reporting seeing phantom ships along the coast as well.
7. Legend Of The Lost Dutchman Mine
The Indians of Superstitious Mountain have always proclaimed that gold is hidden somewhere in this mountainous region in Phoenix, Arizona, but have never helped any explorers find it. The Apaches live in fear of the Thunder God they say lives in those parts. It all started when the Spanish Conquistadors lay foot in their land, still looking for the 7 Golden Cities of Cibola, when they heard about the hidden treasure. The Indians warned them not to go after it, for they would not return. Of course, the Spaniards did not listen and went seeking the treasure. One by one, the conquistadors vanished without a trace, and those few lucky to survive recalled how their companions disappeared as soon as they were left alone, and the others would later find their bodies mutilated, with their heads cut off. These events led to the Spaniards dubbing that region as Superstitious Mountain. Centuries have passed, and people who go looking for the Lost Dutchman Mine still vanish without a trace.
6. Roaming Skeleton Of Superstitious Mountain
Another legend that haunts Superstitious Mountain involves 8-foot high skeletal beings that haunt a place called Yaqui Well. According to the tale, three emigrants stumbled upon the well after almost dying of thirst. After drinking from it, one of the men fell ill and died shortly after. The other two examined the body and noticed a couple of gold nuggets falling from the pocket of their dead companion. Blinded by greed, the emigrants started arguing until one of them pushed the other into the well, drowning his fellow traveler. A nearby Indian witnessed the whole event, and said that the remaining survivor went crazy, and shouted in a frenzied enthusiasm before he ran towards the horizon, never to be seen again. Years have passed, but even today, when people come across that well during a full moon , they still recall three enormous skeletons that come out and dance around it holding hands. Legend says that first you will see one of the skeletons come out from a nearby bush, then you will see the next one arriving with a cool breeze, while the third one comes out from the well itself.
5. Santa Fe’s Headless Horseman
Townsfolk in Santa Fe, New Mexico live in fear of a ghost that roams around town. As the legend goes, a headless horseman travels through Alto Street during the nights, seemingly headed to the Santa Fe River. The ghost wields a sword, and people are terrified of him. Up to this day, however, the spectral has not killed or injured anybody. The story started when a man in Santa Fe went to a brujas (witches) store to buy a love potion. When he used that potion on the woman he fancied, he soon noticed that it did no effect, so he went back to the shop and complained to the brujas. After they started talking, the altercation quickly escalated and ended when one of the witches beheaded the man. Now, the ghost still haunts this town, unable to find love. Some say that he wears cowboy attire, while others say he’s dressed in traditional Spanish Clothing. Most people claim to witness the ghost in Alto Street, but some few have reported seeing him near the riverbank.
4. The Legend Of The Chupacabra
All along the desert regions of South and Central America, citizens have heard about the Chupacabra. Stories about the elusive creature roam back to the 1960s, and since then, sighting reports have spread all throughout the continents. Though it has never been caught on tape, many people have claimed to see the Chupacabra and those who have stood in its presence all give the same horrific description: a reptilian body with an oval face, piercing red eyes, enormous fangs, and a darting tongue. After killing its prey with one deadly bite, the Chupacabra drains the blood from the victim’s body. It is one of the most feared monsters in the desert, and tales have been told about the Chupacabra snatching goats, chickens, and even people, leaving the corpses mutilated after it’s done with them. It is a creature that has crossed cultures and languages and now lives among the folklore of all those Latin Americans who live in desert areas.
3. The Glowing Skeleton Of Arizona
Back in the U.S., another creature roams the desert plains and it takes the shape of an 8-foot-tall glowing skeleton. The apparition was first seen in 1800 by a man named Charlie Arizona. In the badlands between Superstitious Mountain and Seventeen Palms, the prospector has settled down with his burro to camp for the night, when he came across an enormous glowing skeleton with a lamp inside its ribcage. The specter paid no attention to Charlie Arizona, as it seemed to be searching for something in a nearby bush. Since then, many others have stumbled upon the skeleton, some have even gone out in search for it. Years after Arizona’s incident, two adventurers set out in search of the luminescent ghost, and after camping for three nights in the same area where the sightings had been, they finally found the 8-foot-tall skeleton walking nearby. One of the men shot the apparition, but it seemed impervious to bullets, and after following it for three miles, it suddenly vanished from their sight.
2. Ghost Lights Of Marfa, Texas
In Texas, a mysterious phenomenon has intrigued the residents for many years. In the Chihuahua Desert near the town of Marfa, people gather to see what is now known as the Ghost Lights of Marfa, some have even recorded this strange occurrence. People recall watching ethereal lights floating around the desert for no apparent reason, and an explanation for it has yet to be found. They were first reported in 1883 by a man named Robert Ellison. The Apache who live in the area also notice these luminous orbs and have long since believed that the glowing lights are stars falling to Earth. The topic has been subject to many theories, and many studies have been made on them, but most people differ when they try to explain this mystery. The incredible phenomenon has garnered national attention in recent years, and now thousands of people gather in what was once the small town of Marfa, just to see those glowing orbs.
1. Highway To Hell
Highway 666 has been dubbed one of the most haunted places in America, and it’s located in the four corners between the states of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. For years now, there have been an incredible number of strange events that have taken place on this highway. Accidents on it have been accredited to the evil that lurks in that road. One of the most common stories associated with Highway 666 is that of Satan’s Sedan. Those who travel in that remote region by night often claim to see a ghost car with blinding headlights that drives people off the road. Another tale involves a pack of vicious dogs that devour everything in their path. People have named these hounds the “Hounds of Hell” and they are blamed for causing accidents on the freeway and the death of those involved in them. There are many other spooky stories related to Highway 666, but these number of scary events started to decline since The United States changed the ominous name of this long stretch of road from Highway 666 to U.S Route 491.