One Of The Most Haunted Trails In America Is Located In This Surprising Midwest State

When you think of haunted hiking trails, you may think of the ghost towns of northern California, Revolutionary War-era inns of New England, or the swamps around New Orleans. You probably don't think of a park in Illinois. However, one park in the southeastern part of the state is home to one of the most haunted trails in America. Not only are there supposed to be ghosts on this trail, but it was the site of some wild revelry, pirates, and some really terrible criminals. It's no wonder people tend to hear screams and moans in the area at night. This haunted site is called Cave-In-Rock, and it's a pretty spooky place. Set right at the edge of the Ohio River, in Cave-In-Rock Park, it's a very short hike to the spot where these 18th- and 19th-century crimes and doings took place. How could any self-respecting amateur ghost hunter resist?

We know some of the names and deeds of the notorious people who committed crimes here and hid out from the law. We also know the tale of a dark burial for one of the worst of these people. America's first serial killers even hid out there. Get your ghost detection tools ready, and let's look at the haunted history of Cave-In-Rock.

About the hike to Cave-In-Rock

First, let's talk about the cave itself. It was formed thousands of years ago by the waters of the Ohio River. There are a bunch of hiking trails at Cave-In-Rock Park, though, of course, the cave is the big draw. There are also playgrounds for kids, fishing, and the Cave-In-Rock Restaurant and Lodge where you can grab dinner and/or stay the night. However, if you're just in it for the ghostly activity, head to the first parking lot after the park entrance next to the playground, and walk a mere eighth of a mile to the cave. (One thing to keep in mind is that if the Ohio River is flooding, you won't be able to access the cave.)

The cave, once considered a sacred place by Native Americans in the area, was "discovered" by M. de Lery of France in 1729. After the Revolutionary War, it was a stopping point for weary travelers and pioneers. Of course, when you have people traveling with everything they own, there will usually be other people working to relieve those travelers of their items. It was the perfect spot for pirates to take down the unwary and a few well-known unsavory characters.

Ghostly history at Cave-In-Rock

The screams and moans that people have heard could be from someone buried here, upside down. That person was James Ford. He was a "slave catcher;" a person who hunted down escaped enslaved people. He also owned Ford's Ferry nearby, and he was supposedly working with pirates living in the caves to steal the passengers' belongings. He was shot and died after being hit by 17 bullets. During his burial in 1834, the person holding the body was startled by a thunderstorm and dropped the coffin so Ford was "standing" on his head. He was left that way, and it certainly seems like a recipe for haunting. Another criminal, Samuel Mason, reportedly killed without remorse and set up the cave as his gang's hangout, a tavern, and a brothel, luring travelers into the cave to be robbed and killed.

Micajah "Big" Harpe and Wiley "Little" Harpe are known as the first American serial killers, who worked Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Illinois at the end of the 18th century. Their crime spree ended with many people dead. They admitted to 39 murders, but it may have been more than that. In 1799, after the Governor of Kentucky offered a reward for them, they and their families hid at Cave-In-Rock with the Samuel Mason gang. The legend says they would take their captives naked to the cliff above and throw them off, leading even the criminal Mason to kick them out. Are the ghosts crime victims? Ford? Either way, it's no wonder people hear things in this cave.