Winding its way over mountains and valleys, it is beloved by hikers keen to experience the peace and solitude of the wilderness.
Leaving the hurly-burly of everyday life behind them, thousands travel here each year keen to immerse themselves in the stunning scenery and be at one with nature.
Steeped in supernatural mythology and history, this wild untamed territory is also rich in paranormal events.
Camping beneath a canopy of stars or bunking down in the isolated cabins dotted along the trail, visitors to the area have lately taken up an old tradition.
Like the generations of pioneers that came to tame this land, on ink black evenings with only the light of a fire to illuminate their campsite, they recount the terrifying tales of the ghosts of the Appalachian Trail.
In a land once inhabited by Native American Indians and later the pioneering Scotch Irish, story-telling is woven into the very soul of the Appalachian Mountains.
Isolated, forbidding and harsh beyond belief, to sit around a warm crackling fire on a cold winter’s evening and tell tales from the past must have been deeply comforting.
For the pioneers 3,000 miles from a homeland they would never see again, stirring up the ghosts of their old lives must have been a way of preserving their proud history.
Tales were shared between family members and neighbors, tales of spirits past, phantoms and specters.
In time new ghosts replaced the old, the tales of the American Indians and the Scotch Irish became entwined and a thousand new ghost stories were born.
The Great Smoky Mountains: North Carolina
The tale of Spearfinger has been used to terrify the children of North Carolina for centuries. With her origins in the stories of the Cherokee Indians, you would not want to meet this old hag on your travels.
Spearfinger is reported to be a witch-like character who can take on the gentle persona of a kindly grandmother.
Roaming the highest peaks of the Smoky Mountains, she is on the lookout for unsuspecting children who have wandered away from their parents.
Lost, alone and terrified she lures children to her by promising to return them to her parents. Once she has caught her unsuspecting victims, Spearfinger rocks and sings them to sleep.
When they are unconscious, the wicked Spearfinger uses a finger as sharp as stone to gouge out the livers of her poor victims, before greedily devouring her prize.
Fortunately, Spearfinger is not the only ghost roaming the area, hikers who have found themselves lost near Norton Creek have reported a kindly ghost who helps and guides them on their way.
Big Ridge State Park: Tennessee
Deep in the forest of Big Ridge State Park, the crumbling ruins of an old homestead can still be seen. Once the home of the Hutchinson family, visitors to the area report disturbing paranormal activity around the decaying building.
During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the daughter of the household, Mary, became gravely ill. One evening a group of neighbors decided to visit the sick girl, concerned for her welfare.
As they walked the trail to the isolated homestead they heard a dog running towards them. Lifting up their lanterns in the fading evening light they were bewildered when they could see no sign of the animal.
Eventually, the group continued to the house and arrived some time later. Sadly, they were not in time to say goodbye to the dying child.
Mary had passed away at the precise time that the visitors had heard the dog in the forest. To this day, the sound of a dog crying and running frantically through the trees can be heard in the area around the ruined house.
Crampton’s Gap, Fox’s Gap and Spook Hill: Maryland
Like many sites across North America, Maryland saw many battles during the American Civil War. In 1862 three battles were fought over the strategic passes of Compton’s and Fox’s Gap on the Appalachian Trail.
After many lives were lost the confederates retreated, leaving behind a scene of bloodshed and carnage.
Visitors to the area have since reported ghost soldiers, camp fires and the sound of canon fire. Travel a few miles away to Spook Hill and you may experience another strange paranormal phenomenon.
After suffering their heavy defeat, the confederates decided to destroy their canons so they would not fall into enemy hands.
Pushing them up Spook Hill, the canons were dismantled and destroyed at the top. Visitors to the area report that if you turn off the engine of your car on Spook Hill, ghostly hands will push your car uphill.
Sprinkle the trunk of your car with a little flour and you may even discover the hand prints of a long dead confederate soldier impressed upon it.
The battle at Fox’s Gap took place partly on the farm of a man called Daniel Wise. Returning to his house after the battle was over, he discovered his property littered with the decaying bodies of hundreds of soldiers.
The union army keen to move on paid wise $5 for each body he buried on his land. Unfortunately 58 bodies were not given a proper burial, but tossed down an old well.
Whether or not it was the decision of Daniel Wise or an act committed by the army immediately after the battle, it is not known.
Rumor has it that the sound of the 58 bodies being thrown down the well can still be heard on Daniel Wise’s property to this day.
Bluff Mountain and the Punchbowl Shelter: Virginia
The saddest of all spirits haunts the area around the Punchbowl Shelter on Bluff Mountain, the ghost of a four year old boy.
Commemorated on a plaque in the area, the story of Ottie Cline Powell is a tragic one.
In the winter of 1891 four year old Ottie was gathering kindling in the yard of his tiny school, when he followed his older brothers deep into the dark woods that surrounded the building.
Chided by his older brothers and told to return to the safety of the schoolyard, the tiny child wandered in the wrong direction and was lost.
Despite a frantic search of the forest, no trace of Ottie was found until the following April when his little body was discovered by hunters. It is thought he died of exposure on the night he was lost.
Hikers who take advantage of the Punchbowl Shelter often report seeing or hearing a little boy in the area who disappears as suddenly as he appears.
Dudleytown, Connecticut is often called the Village of the Damned because of its unfortunate history.
Founded by the descendants of Edmund Dudley who was beheaded for treason by Henry VIII, the land and the family are said to be cursed.
Built in the eighteenth century and abandoned in the nineteenth century little remains of the settlement. Past residents are reported to have gone insane whilst others committed suicide after believing they were possessed by demons.
Visitors to the area have reported seeing strange lights and orbs as well as an eerie absence of birds and other wildlife.
Tyrone Forge: Pennsylvania
Many years ago, two young men went out hunting on the ridge above an old railroad at Tyrone Forge. After a day’s hunting the two men tired and hungry followed the tracks as they made their way home.
One man carried a small lantern to light the way while the other walked behind carrying his rifle in the crook of his arm. As they made their way along the track the second man tripped on a sleeper and discharged his weapon.
Shockingly, the power of the shot decapitated the first young man. On dark nights a faint but unexplained light can be seen bobbing on the mountain above Tyrone Forge.
Locals to the area swear it is the spirit of the poor unfortunate young man who lost his head and cannot rest in peace until he discovers it again.
The Sarver Cabin: Virginia
Remote and inaccessible, only the most determined of hikers make their way up to The Sarver Cabin in Virginia. Built by Henry Sarver in the 1850’s, his family lived here until they eventually abandoned the property in the 1930’s.
Until recently the little house where the family lived remained largely intact. However, in the 1990’s it collapsed.
Now all that remains is the shell of the building, the old stone fireplace and the little cemetery where the bodies of the family were laid to rest.
Those who make the long trek up to the old property to camp overnight have reported being awoken from their sleep by a ghost called George.
It is not known whether George is a member of the Sarver family or not.
Whoever George is he clearly doesn’t mind guests staying over but be sure to be up and on your way early or you may get a nasty awakening.
Mammoth Cave: Kentucky
Described as the largest haunted place in the world, the spectacular Mammoth Cave lies deep within the forests of Kentucky.
Inside, thousands of passages lead to caverns and grottos many of which have never been investigated.
For 12,000 years humans have sought shelter in the cave or used it as a burial place for the dead. Mined for saltpetre in the eighteenth century, it later became an attraction for visitors keen to investigate the Haunted Chambers and the Bottomless Pit.
Dark and spooky, those that have entered the cave have reported strange lights, orbs, disembodied voices, unexplained footsteps and ghostly encounters.
In the strange cavernous depths of this natural phenomenon it would be easy to explain paranormal events as the imaginings of an over active imagination.
There is just one problem with this theory though, many of the experiences reported in the cave have been made by geologists, scientists and park rangers, not people easily deceived or fooled.
The Appalachian Trail must surely have a ghost story for each of its two thousand miles. Along its route you will discover abandoned homesteads, battlefields, cemeteries, sites of murder and strange geological formations.
Woven into these and the natural but often desolate beauty of the land are tales of death, loss and sadness.
Inspired by the rich story telling culture of those who made their homes here, the ghosts of the Appalachian Trail are more than a work of fiction or a tale to be told on a dark stormy night.
They are a testament to the American Indians and Scotch Irish pioneers who came and made their lives in this unconquerable wilderness, their history recorded forever in the stories and tales passed on from person to person to person, hiker to hiker.