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8 creepiest places in U.S. national parks

By: Laura Moss on Oct. 4, 2012, 7:10 p.m.
cemetery in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Photo: Jason Sturner 72/flickr

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Norton Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains

The misty ridges of the Great Smoky Mountains are home to many ghost stories, but few are as terrifying as the Cherokee legend of Spearfinger. According to legend, the witch had a long, sharp finger made of stone, and she walked the Smokies’ trails disguised as an elderly woman and lured children who wandered too far from their village. She’d hold the children and sing them to sleep and then used her stone finger to cut out their livers, which she would eat. There’s also the tale of a settler who was murdered on the north shore of Lake Fontana while looking for his daughter, and lost hikers have reported a mysterious light that leads them back.

If you want to see the lights yourself — and walk the mountains where Spearfinger was said to live — hike the Norton Creek Trail, which will lead you past several cemeteries. An old roadbed, the trail is still used during “Decoration Days” when the families of the cemeteries’ dead come to decorate the graves.