Everyday Halloween: Five Weird Legends of the American Midwest

Halloween comes and goes, but every place and every corner of the world has a perpetual touch of fear’s season if you know where to look. To those who have never lived there, the heartland of America seems like a weird and frightening place, with customs, culture, and political leanings that baffle the denizens of the East and West Coast alike. The real surprise, however, is that the Midwest is full of things that baffle lifelong inhabitants just as much. It is an area dense with history from the country’s formative years and that history has a way of hanging on, sometimes in supernatural form. Here for your perusal are a selection of the American Midwest’s most enduring supernatural legends.

Kansas – Sauer Castle, Kansas City

Named for the family of Austrian immigrants who built and inhabited it for generations, Sauer Castle is a looming, eerie old structure rising from the landscape of Wyandotte County that looks like something right out of a haunted house story book. For some reason, the Sauer family’s ancestral abode has built up a host of ghost stories over the generations. Perhaps they stem from one member of the family’s tragic suicide by hanging in the 1800’s. Or perhaps it was the demise of patriarch Anton Sauer who followed his infant daughter into death a month after her passing. Whatever the reason, legends hang about the place to this day, with neighbors reporting spectral figures and phantasmal lights roaming the castle’s tower. Sadly, all these tales have had a very real tragic effect on the majestic old building, which is the frequent target of vandalism while a plan to restore the structure languishes in limbo.

Missouri – Momo, Pike County

Missouri is known for a lot of things, but one thing it deserves to be more well-known for is having its own cryptid. Momo – short for the imaginative name of “Missouri Monster – is a humanoid, Bigfoot-style creature that was sighted at various locations along the Mississippi river from 1971-72. The entity loomed seven feet tall, had a massive lump of a head similar in shape to a pumpkin, and was covered from head to toe in black fur. It emitted a loud howl, a powerful stench, and was carnivorous, having been seen devouring a dead dog on at least one occasion. Momo left behind a wealth of physical evidence in the form of hair fibers and footprints, the latter of which professionals classified as belonging to an unknown primate species. Whatever Momo was, however, it seems that he is not coming back. The footprints that the creature left at its final encounter in August of 1973 ended abruptly as though the being had simply vanished into thin air.

Illinois – Seven Gates of Hell, Collinsville

Old bridges and tunnels make for great horror stories just as they are. But somewhere on the back roads east of Collinsville, Illinois are a set of bridges and underpasses that function together like some Voltron of supernatural evil! These so-called “Seven Gates of Hell” are said to have the power to permanently transfer the curious driver to Satan’s realm if driven through in just the right order, being careful to drive through the last gate exactly at the stroke of midnight. One group of teenagers may even have found what they were looking for… from a certain point of view, if you consider them perishing in a fiery crash as they collided with the last bridge to be finding Hell. Thankfully, none of these rumors have been substantiated. Also, thankfully, the rumors of the bridges once having been used for Ku Klux Klan lynchings have never been substantiated either.

Iowa – Edinburgh Manor, Monticello

Naming something “The Joker” just seems like asking for trouble. But if you’re going to do it, go for broke and have it be the name of a violent ghost who lives in the basement of a decommissioned insane asylum. That is exactly what someone did for the most infamous resident of Edinburgh Manor, a mental institution with a history of patient abuse that is now infested with violent spirits. This Iowa edifice has gained quite a bit of notoriety, having attracted bands of professional ghost hunters hoping to get a glimpse of The Joker and the spirits he shares his home with.

Nebraska – Hummel Park, Omaha

A vast, sprawling, beautiful park in the city of Omaha, Hummel Park’s unsettling history has spawned a variety of supernatural legends. Said to have figured heavily in racist lynchings in the early 20th century, Hummel Park is now said to be inhabited by Satanic cultists and all manner of menacing ghosts and powerful entities. The most enduring legend is that it is somehow home to a clan of albino cannibals, eager to prey on human flesh. Not that there are a lot of reports of preyed-on flesh coming out of the park these days. But it definitely is a weird place that attracts its share of unsettling graffiti.

This is just a tiny sampling of the odd legends that inhabit the American landscape. They barely scratch the surface. But if you dare scratch further, what will you find?