Scariest Place Names in the US

This is an interactive map of place names related with Halloween in United States. It shows the locations of places named Dead, Muerte, Muertos, Death, Magic, Enchanted, Wizard, Magical, Halloween, Salem, Witch, Ghost, Phantom, Spirit, Bloody, Kill, Slaughter, Pumpkin, Calabaza, Hell, Devil, Demon, Bone, Devil, Scar, Fear, and Savage. For names, location, and type of feature hover over the map. Zoom out to see Alaska and Hawaii. Zoom in to see all places in detail.
Legend
Dead, Muerte, Muertos, Death, Tombstone
Witch, Magic, Enchanted, Wizard, Magical, Halloween, Salem
Ghost, Phantom, Spirit
Bloody, Kill, Slaughter, Murder
Pumpkin, Calabaza
Hell, Devil, Demon, Satan
Bone, Skull, Skelleton
Scar
Fear, Savage

Inspiration


This map is part of a sequence of maps about place names in the US. It started with Swamps and Bayous but a Reddit Viewer, suggested I used the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), for a more complete dataset. Since then, I have screened this dataset for different name projects. These maps are: Lakes and Ponds, Wetlands of the United States, and Hills and Summits. This map, Scariest Places in the US, was just an obvious sequel. In this occasion I did not limit the search to natural features. It includes places like hospitals, mines, Post Offices, and churches. For detailed information on the type of feature hover over the place.

This is not the first map of its kind. There is Canada's Spookiest Place Names, and How 13 U.S. Towns Got Their Spooky Names.

This map has a larger collection of spooky words than other maps. Therefore, it is easy to see a clear trend of "Salem" names on the East Coast and Central Region. "Death" and related sites towards the West Coast. Some similar names are clumped. This is probably because it starts with the original Geographical feature, followed by a town, then a school, church, Post Office etc. Hence the difficulty in differentiating some of the places.

"Kill" names are clumped in New York state. According to Enacademic: As a body of water, a kill is a creek. The word comes from the Middle Dutch "kille", meaning "riverbed" or "water channel." The modern Dutch term is "kil". The term is used in areas of Dutch influence in New York, New Jersey and other areas of the former New Netherland colony of Dutch America to describe a strait, river, or arm of the sea. Examples are Kill Van Kull and Arthur Kill, both separating Staten Island, New York from New Jersey, and used as a composite name, "Wallkill River" in Orange County, New York and the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania. Humorously, in Delaware, there exists a Murderkill River."

I screened for more names than those shown, but these are the ones that appeared in the list. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to see how many names are not conventional but quite common. In fact it was almost gruesome to find so many places named after Satan, Hell, Kill, or Devil. Spooky names in Spanish were included, since a large portion of the US was at some point a Spanish colony, and I happen to speak Spanish. For French or other languages, I need suggestions, so send your spooky words to @Databayou!.

Here is the Story behind some of these spooky places found on ESRI Thirteen Spooky Halloween Haunts, and rent.com.

- Devil's Tower, Wyoming: Apparently got its name when an explorer's interpreter misunderstood a Native American, thinking its indigenous name was Bad God's Tower

- Dead Woman's Crossing, Oklahoma: Named after a man who was fishing with his son along Deer Creek found a fully clothed skeleton under a wooden wagon crossing. The skull lay three feet away with a bullet just behind the right ear and a .38 caliber gun was found nearby, it was concluded that the body belonged to Katy DeWitt James and was left there after Norton killed her the month beforehand.

- Seven Devils Mountains, Idaho: This range of the Rocky Mountains isn't far from Hells Canyon, the deepest in North America. It's definitely a scary place in this world.


Resources


- Death Valley, California: A group of pioneers became lost here in the winter of 1849-50; one of their party died. As they left the area, one of the pioneers said, "Goodbye, Death Valley."

- Gnaw Bone, Indiana: According to some depression records an itinerant musician having visited the area, and who was quoted saying, "they ain't nuddin' here; how dis people stayin' alive without any more than a bone to gnaw?"

- Murder Creek, Alabama: During the Revolutionary war, a group of loyalists fled South Carolina bound for Pensacola, with plans to settle in Spanish Louisiana. According to a 19th-century history of Alabama, the party was robbed and murdered at their campsite near this stream.

- Devil's Den, Pennsylvania: In the mid-1800s this rocky hill was thought by locals to be the home of a very large snake. They named the reptile "The Devil", and, by logical extension, his lair became Devil's Den. It was the scene of bloody fighting during the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

- Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina: Came about in the 1700s, according to “The Outer Banks of North Carolina” by a local historian David Stick. According to Stick, rum-carrying ships from Virginia would sink along the banks. The locals would take the rum and many dubbed it so bad it would “kill the devil.”

- Skull Valley, Arizona: When Skull Valley was founded, settlers discovered human bones on the land.

- Slaughter Beach, Delaware: One of the stories explaining its name, is because in spring and early summer, when horseshoe crabs come ashore to spawn, the crabs are flipped over where they’re left to die in the hot sun, thus giving the town its murderous name.

Here are narrated some of the origins of just a few towns and sites. Their story is fascinating and entwined in history and superstition. Definitely worth planning a trip around the US looking into these places!

The data was downloaded from the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), maintained by USGS. Data cleaning was done with the tidyverse library from the R Project for Statistical Computing. The Shapefiles for this map were downloaded from Natural Earth. The code was obtained and altered from Chris Williams’s Block.

So if you if you want to find: Where are the most haunted trails? Where are the most spooky places? Where are the scariest locations in the United States? It is all here in this map! If you like theme maps, then check this animated Halloween Costumes Map.

Made by Luz K. Molina with D3.js.

map of places and features with scary names in the USA