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American history is rich with tall tales, legends and hauntings. A subject of movies, books and countless debates, these fantastical stories have captured our human curiosity for generations. And while they may be just stories, there is probably some truth to them too.

Here are some of the more frightening tales:

Photo Credit: Samuel Walker & Company, 1876

The Salem Witch Trials

Perhaps the most underplayed event in American history, the Salem witch trials and the large number of executions to follow, gave Colonial America its first few tastes of the supernatural. In the 1500s, hundreds of women were burned, hanged, drowned or beheaded after accusations of witchcraft. Though historians would later attribute the panic and outbreak to a bad crop during harvest, documented reports suggest these women possessed powers associated with the dark arts. From casting homemade spells to taking flight to falling into fits, there is a legacy of unexplained events. Now a tourist hot spot during autumn, Salem still possesses an eerie energy. Were these witch trials the result of settlers adjusting to a new world? Or did the early colonial women uncover something darker that had already been there lurking?

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Perhaps the most famous of the modern American legends, Bigfoot (sometimes referred to as Sasquatch) has been a topic of conversation for years. Biologists and animal experts have gone on record a number of times saying that it is possible for a creature like this to both exist and survive in the heavily wooded areas of our country. Since these areas are uninhabited by humans on a regular basis, it is not unlikely that a creature could live untouched by man. Many photos, footprints and reports of personal encounters have been proved to be hoaxes. However many other stories cannot be disproved and therefore must remain mysteries.

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The Stanley Hotel

Often hailed as one of the most haunted places in the country, The Stanley Hotel was the inspiration for Steven King’s novel The Shining. Reports of paranormal activity are daily occurrences, especially in the ballroom. Guests have reported seeing people walk the hallways and then suddenly disappear, hearing the sounds of children laughing in empty sections of the hotel and having objects move completely on their own. Many ghost hunting teams and researchers have done specials on the Stanley and come out with different and contradictory conclusions, meaning the cause of these events has yet to be determined. Keep this in mind next time you fall asleep in a strange bed far from home and hear something go bump in the night.

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The Jersey Devil

The woods of New Jersey hold many secrets, one of which is the legend of the Jersey Devil. Though there is no solid accurate description of what this entity looks like, it is often portrayed as a winged creature with demonic features. The legend states that an unknown woman gave birth to a child, who she immediately offered to the devil. Shortly thereafter, the child grew wings and flew off screaming into the night, where it has remained ever since. Every year, hundreds of eye witnesses report a flying creature in the Jersey woods. Some even say that it has claimed the lives of lost hikers and campers who wander too far. Whether or not you buy into the story, it’ll make you think twice about that evening woodland stroll.

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Tyler Paterson is a writer and performer out of Chicago who can be seen touring with his critically acclaimed comedy band The Shock T’s. Currently, he is working on a book documenting his family’s haunted history. It’s possible he’s a medium, but he’ll never admit it.