Myths & Legends

A myth is a traditional, typically ancient story dealing with supernatural beings, ancestors, or heroes that serves as a fundamental type in the worldview of a people. The purpose of myths is to account for the origins of something, explain aspects of the natural world, or delineate the psychology, customs, or ideals of society. A legend is a traditional tale handed down from earlier times and believed to have an historical basis.





Myths & Legends



A Gift from Saint Nicholas

Claas Schlaschenschlinger was a wealthy cobbler living on New Street in New Amsterdam. He was a contented bachelor who could afford eight - eight mind you! - pairs of breeches and he had a little side business selling geese. He cut quite a figure in New Amsterdam society, and was happy being single, until he met the fair Anitje! She was as pretty as a picture, and Claas fell head over heels for her. He was not her only suitor, by any means. The local burgomaster was also courting the fair Anitje. But the burgomaster was a stingy, hard man, and in the end, Anitje gave her heart and hand to Claas...

Adventure On the Rogue

We were up-river with a tour group looking at all the natural beauties here on the Rogue River when I spied a young sasquatch hiding in the shadow of a tree near a gravel bank. I swung the tour-boat around so we could get a better look, and all the tourists exclaimed and took pictures. It’s not too unusual to see a sasquatch in the spring. That’s the time they migrate through here to their summer stomping grounds up North...

Arkansas Traveler

One rainy autumn, a traveler got lost in the mountains of Arkansas. He was tired and hungry, and so was his horse. Night was approaching. All at once, he saw a cabin. A squatter sat on the porch fiddling the same tune over and over...

Armadillo's Song

There once lived an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. After every rainfall, the armadillo would drag his shell over to the large pond filled with frogs and he would listen to the big green frogs singing back and forth, back and forth to each other in the most amazing voices.

Attack of the Mammoth

A man and his family were constantly on the move, hunting for beaver. They traveled from lake to lake, stream to stream, never staying any place long enough for it to become a home. The woman sometimes silently wished that they would find a village and settle down somewhere with their little baby, but her husband was restless, and so they kept moving.

Aunty Greenleaf and the White Deer

Aunty Greenleaf was a scrawny old woman with a wild thatch of gray hair and a crooked nose. She lived in a hut surrounded by pines just outside Brookhaven, and she sold herbal remedies to the folks in town. Mostly, people avoided her, except when someone got sick because it was said that Aunty Greenleaf was a witch. Her home remedies worked too well to be natural. Folks figured she had to have help from the devil or one of his familiars...

Babe the Blue Ox

Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before...

Bear Lake Monster

If you travel to Bear Lake in Utah on a quiet day, you just might catch a glimpse of the Bear Lake Monster. The monster looks like a huge brown snake and is nearly 90 feet long. It has ears that stick out from the side of its skinny head and a mouth big enough to eat a man. According to some, it has small legs and it kind of scurries when it ventures out on land. But in the water - watch out!...

Bigfoot Wallace and the Gray Bean

Turns out, the rough and tumble life of a Texas Ranger wasn’t enough to satisfy Bigfoot Wallace. No sir! He hungered for adventure, and he found it. First he fought against Mexican General Adrian Woll's invasion of Texas in 1842, then he volunteered for the retaliatory raid across the Rio Grande...

Birth of Paul Bunyan

Now I hear tell that Paul Bunyan was born in Bangor, Maine. It took five giant storks to deliver Paul to his parents. His first bed was a lumber wagon pulled by a team of horses. His father had to drive the wagon up to the top of Maine and back whenever he wanted to rock the baby to sleep...

Birth of the Jersey Devil

A storm was raging that night in 1735, when Mother Leeds was brought to bed in childbirth. The room was full of woman folk gathered to help her, more out of curiosity than good will. They had all heard the rumors that Mother Leeds was involved in witchcraft, and had sworn she would give birth to a devil.

Black Bartelmy's Ghost

Black Bartelmy was an evil, surly buccaneer who murdered his wife and children and went to sea with a band of pirates as nasty as he. He roamed the Atlantic coast, murdering and pillaging and laying waste to the countryside as he passed...

Black Dog of Hanging Hills

He smiled as he sipped at his coffee. It had been an excellent hike. He was glad his friend had recommended coming to the Hanging Hills in Connecticut; not the first place that had come to his mind when considering a vacation. But it was beautiful here. When his friend arrived tomorrow they would tackle some of the more challenging terrain.

Blackbeard's Ghost

The nefarious pirate Blackbeard (who's real name was Edward Teach) was a tall man with a very long black beard that covered most of his face and extended down to his waist. He tied his beard up in pigtails adorned with black ribbons...

Bloody Knife

Many and many a year ago, two Micmac warriors from rival villages got into a terrible argument. Harsh words were exchanged, and then knives were pulled. The warriors battled back and forth on the banks of a small creek...

Bloody Mary, Quite Contrary

“Mary, Mary…” the half-heard whisper woke her in the darkness before dawn. Darkness. How appropriate. These days, it seemed as if her whole life was in darkness.

Blue Hen's Chicks

A Delaware man went to war during the American Revolution. For entertainment, he brought with him two fighting cocks. When asked about these chickens, the soldier said slyly: "They are the chick's of a blue hen I have at home." ...

Casey Jones

Casey Jones, that heroic railroad engineer of the Cannonball, was known as the man who always brought the train in on time. He would blow the whistle so it started off soft but would increase to a wail louder than a banshee before dying off. Got so as people would recognize that whistle and know when Casey was driving past.

Cherokee Rose

We lost everything after the treaty was signed. The white men wanted the Indian's removed, and so we were Removed. We lost our homes, our sacred lands, our way of life. We were thrust out by greed, and our hearts broke on the long, long journey west. We only had the few precious belongings we could carry, and many of us were not even given time to fetch that much from our homes before we were forced into camps and then marched west.

Christmas Gift

Away down South, an old custom dictates that if someone comes up to you on Christmas Day and says "Christmas gift" before y'all do, why y'all are obliged to give that person a present. Mind you, the custom does not say what sort of present y'all should give! But those of us who hail from the South consider ourselves to be gentlefolk. The gifts given and received in this manner are good enough to keep the custom alive and well...

Connecticut Yankee

Now, here in the South, we all do not approve of your so-called Connecticut Yankee peddlers. So when one appeared in the yard of my tavern, I was not of a mind to give him room for the night. He was a scrawny fellow with a mop of white hair and a withered face. He did not seem like a crafty Yankee peddler.

Cow's Head

Oksana lived in a small house on the edge of town with her father, her stepmother and her stepsister. Oksana's stepmother disliked Oksana, favoring her true daughter, Olena...

Coyote and Wishpoosh

Now Wishpoosh the monster beaver lived in the beautiful Lake Cle-el-lum which was full of fish. Every day, the animal people would come to the lake, wanting to catch some fish, but Wishpoosh the giant beaver drove them away with many threats and great splashing. If they refused to leave, Wishpoosh would kill the animal people by dragging them deep into the lake so that they drowned.

Coyote and the Columbia

One day, Coyote was walking along. The sun was shining brightly, and Coyote felt very hot. "I would like a cloud," Coyote said. So a cloud came and made some shade for Coyote. Coyote was not satisfied.

Crow Brings the Daylight

Long, long ago, when the world was still new, the Inuit lived in darkness in their home in the fastness of the north. They had never heard of daylight, and when it was first explained to them by Crow, who traveled back and forth between the northlands and the south, they did not believe him.

Daniel Boone's Dear

Late one night, Daniel Boone and a friend went out fire hunting. Fire hunting involves the shining of the light from a fire pan (a pan full of blazing pine knots) into the woods. The light reflects in the eyes of the deer, which is too dazzled to run and the hunters can shoot it.

Death Coach

It is midnight. The streets of Cohoes grow silent as the citizens turn off their lights one by one and go to their well-earned rest. The night is dark, and the wind whispers softly, touching the trees and houses, rattling a window pane here and there...

Dem Bones

My granny was told as a child that Captain Kidd, knowing the law was on his trail, traveled up the Jersey coast looking for the perfect spot to bury his stolen booty. And he found it near a grove of gnarled, wind-swept pines on Sandy Hook. One moonless dark night, the Adventure Galley slid silently into harbor at Sandy Hook...

Der Belznickel

My sisters and my baby brother danced about the house, whispering to each other excitedly about the coming of der Belznickel on that snowy December 5th evening, the day before the Feast of Saint Nicholas. According to the stories, the good Saint Nicholas chains up the Devil on the eve of his Birthday – December 6th -- and makes him visit all of the children in the village to see if they have been behaving themselves and deserved the attention of Kirstkindel.

Echoes

Following the Homestead Act of 1862, many Scandinavians pioneered the lands of the mid-West. These frontier settlers worked hard, and were justly proud of their new home in America. They were not above boasting about their new country, especially to settlers who came from the old...

El Muerto

After getting the lay of the land, so to speak, frontier man Bigfoot Wallace moved from Austin to San Antonio, which was considered the extreme edge of the frontier, to sign up as a Texas Ranger under Jack Hayes. In them days, Texas was as wild as the west could get. There was danger from the south from the Mexicans, danger to the wet and north from the wild frontier filled with Indians and desperados, and to the east the settlements still had problems with the Cherokee Nation...

Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen, the leader of the Green Mountain Boys, who defeated the British at Fort Ticonderoga, was known as a gruff-mannered, hard-drinking man. But Ethan Allen had a gallant streak which would exhibit itself in unexpected ways.

Express Train to Hell

For days, a ragged old man had hung around the Newark Central Station. The stationmaster kept running him off, but night after night he would return. He kept accosting people, shouting: "It's coming for me! It's coming!"...

Fatal Glass Eye

My friend Liverpool Jarge was a small man, wiry and tough, but soft-spoken. Jarge had one glass eye that was an ugly shade of blue which clashed something terrible with his real eye, which was brown. Then one day Jarge met up with a glassblower, a real artist, who make him a special red eye with a star.

Fifty-Cent Piece

There is a story told in Troy and Albany about a couple returning home from a trip to New England. They were driving home in a carriage, and were somewhere near Spiegletown when the light failed and they knew they would have to seek shelter for the night...

Fire

In the beginning of the world, it was Bear who owned Fire. It warmed them on cold nights and gave them light when it was dark. Bear and his people carried fire with them wherever they went.

Frogs of Windham

Lawyer Elderkin stood on the porch looking up at the night sky. Clouds were rolling in, obscuring the stars, but for a few moments the moon still shone on the sleepy town of Windham. Elderkin fervently hoped that the clouds meant rain. There was a severe drought in the county, and if it didn't rain soon, the farmers would be in trouble...

Fur-Bearing Trout

Now it happened that there was a mining camp in Colorado where more than an average number of the miners were bald. An enterprising hair tonic salesman from Kentucky decided to take advantage of this golden opportunity, so he made the trip north. It was a rainy summer evening. The salesman was headed towards the mining camp with four bottles of hair tonic under his arm. As he was crossing one of the trout streams which lead to the Arkansas River, the salesman slipped and dropped two bottles of hair tonic into the water. The bottles broke, and the hair tonic spilled into the stream...

Garlic: Superstitions, Folklore and Fact

According to Pliny, garlic and onions were invoked as deities by the Egyptians at the taking of oaths. The inhabitants of Pelusium in lower Egypt, who worshipped the onion, are said to have held both it and garlic in aversion as food.

Ghost Handprints

My wife Jill and I were driving home from a friend's party late one evening in early May. It was a beautiful night with a full moon. We were laughing and discussing the party when the engine started to cough and the emergency light went on. We had just reached the railroad crossing where Villamain Road becomes Shane Road...

Ghost Pilots of Times Square

He had just graduated from Harvard University and was living in Manhattan. He loved the city and was beginning to feel at home on its streets. World War II was raging in Europe, and like all other good citizens, he followed the headlines daily and did his part for the boys overseas...

Ghost Ship of Captain Sandovate

When Captain Don Sandovate voyaged from Spain to the New World in search of treasure, he found gold in abundance. But among his crew there were many sailors who did not wish to share the new-found wealth with the monarchs of Spain...

Ghost Train

I was a railway fireman back in those days, working on the CPR line in Alberta. I did a hard day's work and earned me a fair wage. I was young then, and my pretty little bride was just setting up housekeeping in the little cottage that was all we could afford. Life was good, and I thought everything would continue rolling along that way...

Ghost in the Stacks

saw her out of the corner of my eye while I was studying in a remote corner of the second-level stacks in the library. She was pretty, with reddish hair and pensive, wide eyes in an intelligent face. I straightened up, patted my hair to make sure it was smooth, and took another look. She was gone...

Ghost of Pearl White

When I was a kid, my grandparent’s bought a huge old boarding house in Jersey City. It had once housed the actresses working for a big silent film studio across the street, but the film studio was long gone, and the boarding house was unused. My grandparents converted it into a 3-family home...

Ghosts of Ringwood Manor

Ringwood Manor you say? A lovely old house. But no place, my child, to go on a dark night with no moon. Built in the 1700's, the original house was a collection of smaller buildings patched together to create a Manor. The current Manor House was built by Martin Ryerson in 1807...

Girl in White

He was sulking a little, standing at the sidelines while all the other men danced with their pretty partners. His girl had not come to the dance that night. Her mother was ill, and so his girl had remained at her side. A fine pious act, he thought sourly, but it left him at loose ends.

Gollywhopper's Eggs

Well now, when old Johnson came to town, I knew there'd be trouble. That Yankee Peddler was a scoundrel if ever I saw one. But I was laid up with my rheumatism when he arrived, so I couldn't do anything about it.

Green Lantern

There once was a lighthouse keeper who had lived on St. Martin's Island with his children, whom he loved dearly. They were all alone there, for the mother had died long before. Wanting the best for his daughter and son, the keeper had insisted that they continue their education, and for this purpose had purchased a small dory for them, which they rowed across to the mainland each day to attend school.

Guardian of Yosemite

For many nights and many days, the guardian spirit of Tisayac watched over the beautiful valley of Yosemite. Often, the gentle spirit would drift invisibly among the good folk of the valley, and it was during one of these visits that she noticed a tall, proud man named Tutokanula. He was a strong leader who greatly enhanced the lot of his people, and Tisayac came more often to the valley so that she could watch him.

Henry Hudson and the Catskill Gnomes

On September 3rd of 1609, Henry Hudson sailed the Half Moon into the mouth of the great New York river that later bore his name. The explorer and his crew journeyed north for several days, trading with the native residents and searching for the fabled northwest passage to the Orient. By the time he reached the area that would become present-day Albany, Hudson knew that he had not found the passage for which he sought. Reluctantly, he turned the Half Moon and sailed back down the river...

Heron and the Hummingbird

Heron and Hummingbird were very good friends, even though one was tall and gangly and awkward and one was small and sleek and fast. They both loved to eat fish. The Hummingbird preferred small fish like minnows and Heron liked the large ones.

Hoop Snakes

Now the Pennsylvania hoop snake is something to be reckoned with. It is long, and its colors vary with the type of whisky you've been drinking. But everyone agrees that you can tell a hoop snake from a regular snake by the way it moves. When a hoop snake travels around, it grabs its tail (with the poison stinger at the end) in its mouth and rolls along until it sees something it wants to sting. Then it whips the stinger out of its mouth quick enough and lashes out with its tail...

Hoosiers

There's an ongoing debate here in the great state of Indiana over the origins of the word "Hoosiers". My Granddad, he falls into the first camp, and me, I fall into the second...

How Selfishness was Rewarded

A young warrior came to the coast with his wife and mother one summer and settled in the place where Sitka now stands. It was a summer of hardship for the family because the fish stayed away from the coast and the game had moved far away over the mountains. The warrior set traps and laid nets in the water and wandered many miles hunting for food, but he found nothing. The family had to eat berries and green sprouts and dig for roots to eat. Even so, there was barely enough each day to keep the family going.

How the Rainbow Was Made

One day when the earth was new, Nanabozho looked out the window of his house beside the wide waterfall and realized that all of the flowers in his meadow were exactly the same off-white color. How boring! He decided to make a change, so he gathered up his paints and his paintbrushes and went out to the meadow.

I'm All Right

We knew right from the start that Johnny was going to be a soldier. Even as a child, all his concentration was on the military. So we weren't surprised when he joined the Marines right out of high school...

Idaho Potatoes

We here in Idaho are right proud of our potatoes. Our fields are so chock full of potatoes that you can hear them grumbling when you stick your ear on the ground. "Roll over, yer crowding me," they say...

Invisible Hands

A couple of Welsh miners came to Nevada to help mine the Comstock Load. They were quite a pair of tricksters, yes sir! It got so bad that no one would believe anything they said, 'cause if'n they did, the Welshman would make them look like a fool. But they were popular. The miners dearly loved a laugh after a hard day working in the mine...

Jack and the Corn Stalk

Once, a Kansas farmer sent his son Jack to check on the growth of the corn in the field. Now Jack was not a tall lad, so he decided to take a ladder with him. When he found a nice big stalk of corn, he leaned the ladder against it and climbed up until he could reach the first joint. From there, he proceeded to the top of the cornstalk, and looked out over the field. There was enough corn there for a rich harvest...

Jack and the Devil

Jack was a nasty fellow who beat his wife and kids and was an all around bad chap. So the Devil came and hauled the poor fellow away with him. On their way to hell, Jack asked the Devil if he was thirsty, and ol' Lucifer said he was. So Jack somehow persuaded the Devil to turn himself into a coin so Jack could buy them both a drink from a handy tavern.

Jean Sot Guards the Door

One day, Jean Sot's mother wanted to go to town. "Now Jean," she said, "I want you to guard the door. "Yes, Mama," Jean Sot agreed.

Jesse James and the Widow

One day, as Jesse James and his gang were riding through Missouri, they saw a farmhouse and stopped to ask for something to eat. A widow lived there with three small children. She didn't have much in the house, but shared with them what she had.

Joaquin Murietta: Bandit of the Goldfields

Joaquin Murietta and wife Rosita lived with his older brother Carlos in California. The three Mexican immigrants were living on a small, successful farm and the men were also working a claim near Hangtown. However, the other miners living nearby tried to run them off, telling them that it was illegal for Mexicans to pan for gold or hold a claim. The Murietta brother's ignored their threats and continued to live peacefully on their farm and work in the gold-fields.

John Henry: The Steel Driving Man

Now John Henry was a mighty man, yes sir. He was born a slave in the 1840's but was freed after the war. He went to work as a steel-driver for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, don't ya know. And John Henry was the strongest, the most powerful man working the rails.

Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed was a hermit and a wanderer who was welcomed wherever he went in the Ohio territory. Everyone loved him, in spite of his unkempt appearance. He always carried a sack full of apple seeds to plant, and walked barefoot all year round. He knew the frontier woods better than anyone. Even the Indians respected Johnny Appleseed for his courage.

Joseph Bonaparte and the Jersey Devil

Joseph Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon, was the King of Spain. Unsuccessful in defending Spain against England during the Peninsular Wars, he was forced to abdicate his throne in 1813. Following Napoleon's defeat, he went into exile in America. Joseph purchased eight-hundred acres at Bordentown, New Jersey because it was between the two great sea ports of New York and Philadelphia. From this place, he could obtain the very latest news from France and Spain.

Kate Shelley Saves the Train

One night, in 1881, a fierce storm broke over the Des Moines river valley. The storm raged through the night, flooding the river and the nearby creeks. Along about 11 p.m., a "pusher" train was sent to search for any wash-outs along the track. After it passed the home of the Shelley family, a railroad widow raising five children, the family heard a terrible crashing sound. The bridge over Honey Creek had collapsed, taking the pusher train with it.

La Llorona

Once there was a widow who wished to marry a rich nobleman. However, the nobleman did not want to raise another man's children and he dismissed her. The widow was determined to have the nobleman for her own, so the widow drowned her children to be free of them...

Lady in Lace

There is a ghost that walks along the Seventeen Mile Drive on foggy nights. She is called the Lady in Lace. People say she is the ghost of Dona Maria del Carmen Barreto, the woman who used to own much of the land on that stretch of the California coast, returned to keep watch over her land. Others disagree...

Lincoln Death Train

I'd been transferred to the Hudson Division of the New York Central system, and was working the rails on the main line between New York and Albany. I was on the late shift to start with, since I was a bit of a night owl. After six weeks of stomping the tracks and mending the rails, I was feeling right at home in my new job...

Llorona, Omen of Death

They say that the Llorona was once a poor young girl who loved a rich nobleman, and together they had three children. The girl wished to marry the nobleman, but he refused her. He told her that he might have considered marrying her if she had not born the three out-of-wedlock children, which he considered a disgrace...

Lost

They say that there once was a prospector wandering through the Yukon with his two dogs, searching for gold. One evening as it neared dusk, he found himself mired down in the muskeg - boggy country with water just underneath the surface of the semi-frozen ground and just above the permafrost...

Milk Bottles

She was just another poor, bedraggled woman, struggling to feed her family. He saw them all the time, their faces careworn, and blank. The Depression had created hundreds of them. He was one of the lucky ones who still had his grocery and money coming in to feed his family...

Mississippi Mosquitoes

A visitor to Mississippi decided to take a walk along the river in the cool of the evening. His host warned him that the mosquitoes in the area had been acting up lately, tormenting the alligators until they moved down the river. But the visitor just laughed and told his host he wasn't to be put off from his evening constitutional by a few mosquitoes...

Moll DeGrow

Moll DeGrow was a wicked witch who once lived on Gully Road in what is now Newark, New Jersey. She took delight in the misery of others, and made things miserable for the folks living near her. If a neighbor slighted her, she would sour their milk. If anyone called her a witch, she made their dogs turn vicious. People were very cautious around Moll De Grow...

Never Mind Them Watermelons

Well now, old Sam Gibb, he didn't believe in ghosts. Not one bit. Everyone in town knew the old log cabin back in the woods was haunted, but Sam Gibb just laughed whenever folks talked about it. Finally, the blacksmith dared Sam Gibb to spend the night in the haunted log cabin...

Ocean-Born Mary

Elizabeth and James Wilson were Irish immigrants from Londonderry, Ireland. In 1720 they set sail for America. They had been granted some land in Londonderry, New Hampshire, and were hoping to start a new life there...

Ogopogo, the Lake Monster

His mind was full of dark thoughts and the demons spoke to him. His wild eyes and words frightened his people, and he became an outcast, shunned by all. One day in a fury of rage and pain, he attacked old Kan-He-Kan, a local wise man. The demon-possessed man killed the venerable sage on the shores of a beautiful lake near his home, and then ran away, afraid of what the people would do to him when they found out...

Old Man Moses

It's not hard to catch a meal in New Hampshire, no sir. Take my neighbor, Old Man Moses, who lives down a piece from me. One morning, Old Man Moses went out his kitchen door and found twelve turkeys on his fence...

Old Stormalong

Now everyone knows that Alfred Bulltop Stormalong was the ultimate sailor. He was the captain of a mighty ship known as the Courser, which was so wide that she couldn't sail into Boston Harbor and so tall that the mast was hinged into the middle so it could be taken down to avoid the sun and the moon whenever they passed by.

Old Stormalong and the Octopus

One day Old Stormalong, the ultimate sailor, was sailing the Courser through the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean when a particularly large wave knocked the anchor loose. The anchor plunged right down to the bottom before the sailors could reel her in, and it got caught on something.

Palatine

The Palatine gleamed in the sunlight as she set out with a full crew, a long list of passengers, and a hull full of merchandise for the American Colonies the winter of 1750-1751. Certainly, there was no indication that morning of the destiny fate had in store for her...

Paul Bunyan and the Frozen Flames

One winter, shortly after Paul Bunyan dug Lake Michigan as a drinking hole for his blue ox, Babe, he decided to camp out in the Upper Peninsula. It was so cold in that there logging camp, that...

Paul Bunyan and the Log Jam

One spring day, the loggers on the Wisconsin River discovered a huge log jam, the biggest they'd ever seen. The logs were piled about two hundred feet high and the jam went upriver for a mile or more. Those loggers chopped and hauled at the jam, but it wouldn't budge an inch. So they called for Paul Bunyan to give them a hand.

Paul Bunyan's Kitchen

One winter, Paul Bunyan came to log along the Little Gimlet in Oregon. Ask any old timer who was logging that winter, and they'll tell you I ain't lying when I say his kitchen covered about ten miles of territory.

Pecos Bill and Slue-foot Sue

Now, Pecos Bill had a way with wimmen. No doubt. He had dozens of wives during his time. But his one true love was Slue-foot Sue. She was his first wife - and she could ride almost as good as Bill himself...

Pecos Bill finds a Hard Outfit

Well now, Texas jest became too tame for Pecos Bill once he killed off all the bad men, so he struck out for New Mexico, looking for a hard outfit. He asked an old trapper he met on the way where he could find a hard outfit, and the trapper directed Bill to a place where the fellers bit nails in half for fun. It sounded like a promisin' place to Bill, so he set off. But his durned fool hoss got its neck broke on the way, and Bill found himself afoot...

Pele's Revenge

Ohi'a and Lehua loved each other from the moment they first saw each other at a village dance. Ohi'a was a tall strong man with a handsome face and lithe form. He was something of a trickster and was first in all the sports played by all the young men. Lehua was gentle and sweet and as fragile as a flower. Her beauty was the talk of the island, and her father was quite protective of his only child.

Phantom Drummer

Now when Colonel Howell of the British Army chanced to meet the daughter of the wealthy farmer Jarrett, who owned land near Valley Forge, he fell head-over-heels in love. Howell had a bit of a reputation as a womanizer, but it faded away after he met Ruth. The girl had a brother serving under Washington and none of her family liked the red coats, but so overwhelming was Howell's love for her that it conquered the reluctant maiden's heart...

Phantom Lovers of Dismal Swamp

He couldn't believe it when she fell ill just a few short weeks before their marriage. His betrothed was beautiful, strong, and healthy, but she just faded away before his eyes. He held her in his arms as she gasped out her last breathe, and was inconsolable long after her body lay buried beside the Dismal Swamp...

Phantom Train Wreck

The passengers were grumpy and heavy-eyed as they boarded the train in Salisbury during the early morning of August 27, 1891. The train was headed to Asheville, and the riders settled into their seats and tried to catch a few more minutes of sleep...

Pickled!

Dr. William Kiel, a radical preacher who broke from the Methodist church, formed his own church and decided to emigrate with his followers to the Pacific Northwest. He promised his nineteen year old son Willie that he could lead the wagon train, but his son died of malaria four days before the departure date. Determined to keep his word to his son, the doctor had his son's coffin lined with lead and filled with One Hundred Proof Golden Rule Whiskey.

Piece By Piece

There once was a crazy ghost over Poughkeepsie way that got folks so plumb scared that nobody would stay more than one night in its house. It was a nice old place, or was, until the ghost began making its presence known. It got so no one would enter the house, not even kids on a dare, and you know what they are like!...

Presumed Drowned

In 1914, the Newfoundland sailed up to the Ice with a crew of 250 men. On March 30th, seventy-seven men went out on the Ice to kill seals. A mighty storm came up while the men were out, that lasted two days, and the men could not make it back to the ship...

Rabbit Plays Tug-of-War

Now Rabbit had a favorite place on the river where he always went to drink water. It was on a bend in the river, and two Snakes lived there, one on the upper side of the bend and one on the lower. Rabbit soon learned that neither of the Snakes knew that the other Snake lived there.

Rainbow Crow

It was so cold. Snow fell constantly, and ice formed over all the waters. The animals had never seen snow before. At first, it was a novelty, something to play in. But the cold increased tenfold, and they began to worry. The little animals were being buried in the snow drifts and the larger animals could hardly walk because the snow was so deep. Soon, all would perish if something were not done.

Red Dwarf of Detroit

The infamous Red Dwarf (Nain Rouge) of Detroit was reputed to be the foul offspring of the Stone God, who only appeared when there was to be trouble. The Red Dwarf was called "The Demon of the Strait" and its appearance heralded disaster. Cadillac, founder of Detroit, encountered the Nain Rouge while sitting on the bank of the Detroit River.

Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett Bests Mike Fink

Davy Crockett done married the prettiest, the sassiest, the toughest gal in the West, don't ya know! Her name was Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and she was all that and then some! She was tougher than a grumpy she-bear and faster than a wildcat with his tail on fire and sweeter than honey, so that even hornets would let her use their nest for a Sunday-go-to-Meeting hat.

Sam Hyde

Many years before the American Revolution, there was an old man named Sam Hyde who became famous throughout New England as a jester. He told so many tall tales that he was called the greatest of all liars. In fact, people were apt to say: "You lie like Sam Hyde" when they didn't believe a friend's tall tale.

Sasquatch

I got up at the crack of dawn and drove to Larry's place to pick him up. We were going hiking along our favorite trail in the back of beyond. It was a sunny day, but not too hot; a perfect day for hiking. Larry and I walked along the rugged path leading into the woods, chatting off and on as the mood struck us...

Shadow Train

A miner was on his way to Dos Cabezas, where here heard there was good prospecting, when he found himself lost and alone in the flats just north of the Dragoon Mountains. In the blistering sun of midday, his burro dropped dead from heatstroke and the prospector knew that he would shortly follow if he did not find shelter and something to drink.

Sinks

Nevada rivers empty into a series of small lakes which have no visible outlets. These lakes are called sinks because the water just sinks away...

Slide-Rock Bolters

Way up in the mountains of Colorado lurks the slide-rock bolter. This creature has a huge head, slits where its eyes should be and a wide mouth with long, sharp teeth...

Spirit Lodge

The great chief Quaquahela lived in peace with his people on the banks of the River Styx where it entered the lake waters. Their lives were busy and full. The warriors hunted and fished, the women cooked and cared for the old and the young, and all lived in peace with the natural world around them.

Spuyten Duyvil

Once in old New Amsterdam, there was a brave trumpeter named Anthony Van Corlaer who would blow his trumpet when Peter Stuyvesant wanted to call the people together...

Swept Over: Ghosts of the Lower Falls

Today the water drums of the Lower Falls in Yellowstone beat strongly, just as they did back in 1870 when the story which became a legend first took place. In those days, a group of five militia men and their Crow guide who decided to explore the little known Canyon of the Yellowstone. The explorers penetrate deep into the canyon region, keeping an eye out for signs of gold while they explored...

Telltale Seaweed

Two sisters were motoring through Cape Cod late one stormy night in the early 1900's when their car broke down in an unpopulated area. Seeing an old, neglected house nearby, they went to the door and tugged on the bell-pull. When no one answered, they looked through a nearby window whose shutter was banging in the bitter wind. The window was broken. Through the window, they could see a library. The dust lay heavy over everything...

Ten Red Crows

First the world was in darkness, my son. All who dwelt in the shadow of the East Mulberry Tree had never seen the light, nor could they imagine what it was. And so ten red crows – each with three paws – began a perilous journey away from the tree seeking to bring light to this dark world.

The Bells

There once was an evil priest who did not fear God or man. His duties for the church included counting the offerings and ringing the bells to summon people to Mass. But his heart was filled with greed, and he began to take advantage of the good people of his parish. The priest stole money out of the offerings to keep for himself, and when he had filled a chest full of gold, he killed a man and buried him with the chest so the murdered man's ghost would guard it. Anyone who tried to dig for the treasure would be devoured by the skeleton of the murdered man.

The Bloodstain

The Phelps place was an old, abandoned property with a monstrous, decrepit Victorian house that was supposed to be haunted. It should have been a good resting place for the local deer hunters, but they would not go near it. A few that tried came away before midnight with tales of ghostly thumping noises, gasps, moans, and a terrible wet bloodstain that appeared on the floor of the front porch and could not be wiped away.

The Bloody Mary Ritual

We were having a sleepover at my house that Saturday night. Me and my four best friends; Alex, Bianca, Sabrina, and Lacey. We made cookies and watched movies and did our hair and makeup. By midnight, we’d run out of planned activities. It was time to improvise. “Let’s try that Bloody Mary thing,” Lacey suggested.

The Crows are in the Corn

It happened in Georgia not long ago, that a farmer and his wife decided to sleep late, like the rich folk do. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, the kind that brings all God's creatures out to play. But not these farm folk. No, they just slept and slept and slept...

The Crystal Mountain

According to the latest reports, there is a crystal mountain residing somewhere in Wyoming. You can't see nothing of it, it being clear straight through. But folks hereabouts reckon its about three miles around at the base, on account of all the bones of birds which killed themselves crashing into the danged thing...

The Cut-off

The devil was in the Mississippi River that night. You could feel it with every eddy swirling against the helm of the boat. You could hear it in every jangle of the bell. You could see it in the dim light of the lantern as it tried to pierce the swirling fog...

The Death of Pecos Bill

Now, Pecos Bill didn't live forever. Nope, not even Bill could figure out how to do that. Here's how he died...

The Doctor and the Ghost

Little Simeon came running into the surgery. He bent over, winded, and gasped desperately several times before he could speak. "Doc. Doc! My paw got strychnine poison in his thumb. We amputated it right away, but the poison is still moving up his arm. You gotta come quick!"...

The First Tears

Once long ago, Man went hunting along the water's edge for seals. To Man's delight, many seals were crowded together along the seashore. He would certainly bring home a great feast for Woman and Son.

The Ghost that Followed Me Home

I have a fascination with genealogy, which is what started all the trouble. My next-door neighbor and I were fellow hobbyists, and we often supported each others search for long-lost ancestors. We would spend hours pouring over stacks of dusty country records, wandering through poison-ivy strewn graveyards, and getting lost on back lanes trying to find the homes of retirees who remembered what our forbearers were like way back when...

The Golden One

He was a bright, sunny child from birth, with blond curls and a sweet smile and fabulous, shining blue eyes. Everyone who met him loved him. The whole church and farming community watch with joy as he took his first steps, said his first words, became a mischievous toddler and then a bright and lovable schoolboy.

The Grave

A young woman lay suffering on her deathbed, her stillborn baby lying against her chest. Her young husband crouched close, stricken with grief. His beautiful wife crooned a lullaby to her dead baby, her voice growing fainter as death drew near. Finally, she looked at her husband and asked him to bury her back East, beside her dead mother. Choked with grief, the young husband agreed...

The Greenhorn and the Mule Egg

Well now, there was a chap that got real sick of working in the big city. One day, he quit his job, packed up his wife and kiddies, and hi-tailed it out to Kansas to become a farmer. Bought a big parcel of land with a grand old barn and some fields just ready to plow and plant...

The Gulls

In the year of our Lord 1848, vast swarms of crickets descended upon our settlement. Twas a judgment upon us, yea certain, for how else could you explain the desecration of our crops, the dimming hope of survival for the coming winter?

The Headless Bride

Once there was a lovely young woman growing up in a wealthy shipping family in New York. In those days, wealthy young women were expected to make their debut in society and to marry a wealthy young man from a good family. But our young lady was a bit of a rebel. When she grew old enough to marry, she scorned the wealthy young society men in favor of an older man who was working as a servant in her house.

The Headless Horseman

One cold winter night, early in the New Year, a certain Dutchman left the tavern in Tarrytown and started walking to his home in the hollow nearby. His path led next to the old Sleepy Hollow cemetery where a headless Hessian soldier was buried. At midnight, the Dutchman came within site of the graveyard...

The Jersey Devil and the Dog

It was a week of pandemonium! In January of 1909, the Jersey Devil emerged from the Pine Barrens and began terrorizing the local communities, both in New Jersey and in Pennsylvania. Devil hunts failed to catch the flying creature, which danced on rooftops, stalked small animals, and frightened the good people of the area with its unexpected appearances in their yards and businesses. The newspapers carried the reports along with sketches of the unusual creature.

The Jersey Devil and the Hat

I was putting the finishing touches on a nice big dinner - meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, pumpkin pie - when Charlie blew in the back door. He'd spent the day ice-fishing in the quarry, and I expected him to be in a jolly mood. But he stood there with his gray hair standing on end, his cheeks bright red with rage and his coat and pants covered with snow.

The King of Sharks

One day, the King of Sharks saw a beautiful girl swimming near the shore. He immediately fell in love with the girl. Transforming himself into a handsome man, he dressed himself in the feathered cape of a chief and followed her to her village...

The Maid of the Mist

She lost her husband and her hope at a young age, and the beautiful girl could not find her way through the sorrow upon sorrow that was her lot in life. So she stepped one day into her canoe, singing a death song softly to herself, and paddle out into the current. Soon the canoe was caught by the rough waves and hurtled toward the falls. But as it pitched over and she fell, Heno, the god of thunder who lived in the falls, caught the maiden gently in his arms and carried her to his home beneath the thundering veil of water.

The Nature of Legend

From the Yakama Nation Museum  The world of Giants prepared the way for the world we know today.The world of Giants is the subject of legend.  The legends tell the history of our People, andTeach us by example how to...

The Shaggy Dog

There once was a woman traveling home from England who lost her pooch somewhere between Salem and Springfield. He was just about the shaggiest dog in the entire world; so shaggy you couldn't tell which end was which until his tail started wagging...

The Skeleton's Lantern

We were on our way back to Yuma following a futile attempt to find Pegleg's lost gold mine out in the heat and dust of the desert. We stopped to make camp for the night between a rock and a hard place, and soon my friend Eddie was snoring loud enough to wake the dead. I drifted off myself, and started dreaming about the pretty girl I was engaged to marry...

The Talking Mule

A farmer owned a mule which he used for work all week. But being a Church-going man, he let the mule rest on Sunday. One Sunday, the farmer had to go to a funeral. So he sent his son to saddle the mule. "Since when do I have to work on Sunday?" asked the mule...

The Trickster Tricked

In which Terrapin the Turtle outwits the Trickster Rabbit

The Twist-Mouth Family

A while back there was a family I know of - a mother, a father, and several children. Four of them had mouths that were twisted into strange shapes. The mother's mouth twisted up while the father's mouth twisted down. The sister's mouth twisted left while the younger brother's mouth twisted right. The eldest son John's mouth was perfectly normal...

The Wampus Cat

They say that the Wampus cat used to be a beautiful Indian woman. The men of her tribe were always going on hunting trips, but the women had to stay home. The Indian woman secretly followed her husband one day when he went hunting with the other men. She hid herself behind a rock, clutching the hide of a mountain cat around her, and spied on the men as they sat around their campfires telling sacred stories and doing magic...

Thor's Wedding

"Hold still, Thor. I'm trying to fix your train." Loki folded a piece of white silk and applied the pins. "I look ridiculous," said Thor gloomily. The huge red-haired thunder god stared in the mirror at his muscular frame squeezed into the tight wedding gown. He frowned. Outside thunder growled in response.

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Snippity-snip, snap and swill, The tale begins upon a hill… The air was crisp and cool. The sky was an endless blue. The green meadow grass swayed in a gentle breeze. And Big Billy Goat Gruff was bored.

Tikki Tikki Tembo

Once there lived a family in ancient China that had two sons. The elder son, who was to inherit the family fortune, was given a very-long and very-impressive name, as befitted an elder son. He was called Tikki Tikki Tembo No Sarembo Hari Kari Pi Chi Pip Peri Pembo. The second son, who would have to make his own way in the world and was therefore not so important, though no less beloved, was named Ping.

Tolling of the Bell

In the wee hours of Friday morning, October 7, 1859, when all the good residents of Charlottetown should still be sleeping in their beds, a deep bell tone was heard from the bell tower in St. James Church. The somber sound rang out over the rooftops, waking many with the unexpectedness of its doom-laden ring. Then a second toll rang slowly overhead, followed by a third...

Tommy Knockers

Tommy Knockers are the spirits of departed miners that help miners find ore. They also knock on the walls of the mines right before a cave-in. When you hear a Tommy Knocker knocking, it's best to depart the area right quick. They have saved the life of many a miner who has been in a danger. Some folks say that the very first man to hear the sound is jinxed, but that is not always the case...

Trapper's Ghost

There once was a trapper who roamed the wilds of Labrador on a sleigh pulled by eight pure white Huskies. He was a tall man, dressed in layer upon layer of animal skins, who drove his team with a terrible ferocity across the frozen tundra...

Turnabout is Fairplay

Everyone laughed at jumpy Uncle Phil, who believed the world was largely populated with monsters and ghosts and spooks and witches and werewolves. But he was considered harmless, and no one much bothered about the poor fellow. Until one summer when a new family moved to town with two naughty sons.

Wait Until Emmet Comes

A preacher was riding to one of the churches on his circuit when darkness fell. It was about to storm, and the only house nearby was an old mansion which was reputed to be haunted. The preacher clutched his Bible and said: "The Lawd will take care o' me"...

White Horse

A Cree chief had a very beautiful daughter who was sought after by many brave warriors. There were two suitors who led the rivalry for her hand, a Cree chief from Lake Winnipegosis and a Sioux chief from Devil's Lake. The girl herself favored the Cree warrior, and when he brought a beautiful white horse from Mexico as a gift for her father, the man agreed to the marriage...

White House Ghosts

It is said that Lincoln's ghost haunts the White House. He appears in the room where the Lincoln bed is kept. Harry Truman once responded to a 3 o'clock knock on his door and found no one there. He attributed the knock to Lincoln...

White Lady

In the early 1800s, the White Lady and her daughter were supposed to have lived on the land where the Durand Eastman Park -- part of Irondequoit and Rochester -- now stands. One day, the daughter disappeared. Convinced that the girl had been raped and murdered by a local farmer, the mother searched the marshy lands day after day, trying to discover where her child's body was buried...

White Riders

They were not even close to the main camp when the sandstorm storm hit, blasting hot sand into their eyes, hair, and skin. The wind whirled above, around, and under the hasty shelter the two cowboys had set up, offering no protection at all. They took small sips of water every hour or so to relieve the dryness of their throats and to shift about to keep from being buried completely under the sand.

Who Calls?

By the time he finished his daily tasks, the light was failing. But everything he needed to accomplish before he made the journey to visit his betrothed was complete. He was eager to see his love, so he set out immediately, in spite of the growing darkness. He would paddle his canoe through the night and be with his beloved come the dawn...

Why Dogs Chase Cats

Once long ago, Dog was married to Cat. They were happy together, but every night when Dog came home from work, Cat said she was too sick to make him dinner...

Why Opossum Has A Bare Tail

One day, Opossum was walking in the woods around sunset when he spied Raccoon. Now Opossum had always admired Raccoon because he had a beautiful tail with rings all around it. So Opossum went up to Raccoon and said: "How did you get those pretty rings on your tail?"

Why Opossum has a Pouch

One evening, Opossum was playing in a field with her babies when Big Bat came swooping down and grabbed all of the little ones and carried them away. Opossum shouted and begged for Bat to bring her babies back to her, but he would not. Bat put the little opossums into a deep hole in the rock and watched over them there.

Wild Goose Island

In the middle of St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park is a small island halfway between two shores. Many moons ago now, there were two tribes living on either side of the lake. While there was no direct warfare between them, the two tribes avoided one another and had no dealings one with the other.

Winter Tales

The cold of winter creeps into these folktales from the United States and Canada.

Women in American Folklore

Read folktales about strong women, witches, legendary heroines, female ghosts and spooks, and some curious girls who get themselves in trouble! These are the women of American Folklore.

Yellowhammer

Once long ago, Sam, a young slave from Alabama, was sent to the market in Georgia with his master's cattle. After delivering the cattle to market, Sam was given some free time as a reward for good service. Sam decided to explore the city...

You Can't Get Out

One dark, windy night, the town drunk was meandering his way home after the bar closed. Somehow he got turned around and ended up walking through the churchyard instead of taking the road home...
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