Route 66 is America's Mother Road. Established in 1926, the highway connected Chicago to Los Angeles and passed through eight states. The two-lane road represented freedom and the great migration west. Several small towns grew due to their proximity to Route 66.
Although it was decommissioned in the 1980s, Route 66 still holds an allure for road trippers who want to relive the highway's heyday. And for every neon-lit roadside diner along the road's 2,448, there's at least 10 ghost stories of spirits of travelers past haunting America's main street. If you like your road trips with a side of ghost hunting, here are 10 creepy stories and places centered around Route 66.
10. Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Ariz.
The Hotel Monte Vista opened in 1927 and hosted guests such as John Wayne, Bing Crosby and Harry Truman. It was the Duke himself who is said to have made the hotel's earliest ghost sightings. The movie star reported seeing a friendly ghost in his hotel room during his stay. Guests who stay in Room 210, the Zane Grey room, report getting a knock on the door from a phantom bellboy calling for room service. But when guests open the door, there's no one there.
9. Meramec Caverns in Stanton, Mo.
This 4.6 mile cavern system near Stanton, Mo. was one of the primary tourist attractions along Route 66 and is the most visited cave in Missouri. It's also famous for being the hideout of choice for the outlaw Jesse James. Visitors have reported seeing a mysterious man dressed in black who is believed to be the spirit of the notorious bank robber.
8. Belvidere Mansion in Claremore, Okla.
John M. Bayless began construction on the Victorian-style Belvidere Mansion in the early 1900s. He died before he could see it completed. His family completed the home after his death and continued to live there until 1919. However, some say their spirits never left. Today, the mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors have heard toilets flush on their own and felt someone touch them when they were completely alone.
7. Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Ariz.
The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, was originally called the Drulin Hotel and had a booming business providing rooms to area miners. After the mines closed down, Route 66 travelers filled the rooms of the Oatman. Among the travelers were Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. The celebrity couple apparently loved their time at the Oatman Hotel so much they never checked out. For years after Gable and Lombard died, the hotel staff reported hearing the couple laughing and whispering together when their room was empty.
6. The Natatorium in Amarillo, Texas
Known as "The Nat," the Natatorium was opened in 1922. It started as a night club and became a popular music venue, attracting artists such as Buddy Holly and Little Richard over the years. The Nat closed as a public venue in the 1960s but continued to hold occasional events. However, the party never really stopped. In the decades past, The Nat staff has witnessed ghost couples still twirling around the dance floor and spotted a 1930s spirit with a wine stain on her dress walking through the venue.
5. Rialto Theater in South Pasadena, Calif.
Built in 1924, the Rialto Theater is an icon of Route 66. It seated 1,200 people and hosted popular vaudeville acts and trapeze acts in the 1930s. In the 70s, the Rialto began screening independent movies and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Over the years the theater has been a hub of paranormal activity. The women's bathroom stalls are said to shake on their own and the ghost of a man who went insane in the projector room has been seen wandering the theater.
4. The Inn at 835 in Springfield, Ill.
Built in the early 1900s, the Inn at 835 was the brainchild of businesswoman Bell Miller. The Inn first housed apartments for Springfield's elite. The apartments were later renovated into seven guest rooms. The Inn's caretaker, Bell Miller, is said to still maintain her beloved property. Miller has been seen pattering around the Inn, repairing ripped wallpaper and removing her favorite book from the bookshelf.
3. Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Okla.
The Gilcrease Museum holds an extensive collection of Native American artifacts. The museum was a passion project of Thomas Gilcrease, who passed away in 1962. Museum visitors have spotted Gilcrease still wandering the grounds. Museum staff have numerous stories of doors slamming on their own and ghostly children running around the historic site.
2. The Ghost Light of Joplin, Mo.
The Joplin ghost light, also called the Hornet light, has been spotted since the 19th century and can be seen near the Missouri-Oklahoma border. The best place to see the eerie glow is on Oklahoma's East 5o Road. On a clear night, you can see a ball of light dancing on the horizon. Some say the light is the result of atmospheric gases or headlights traveling on Route 66 across the interstate. But several area residents are convinced something supernatural is at work. In the 1960s and 70s cars would park along East 50 to watch for a glimpse of the glowing orb.
1. Route 666 outside Gallup, N.M.
While not technically part of Route 66, the devilishly named Route 666 is in close proximity to the historic road. The supposedly satanic stretch of highway runs from Utah to New Mexico, where it meets the mother road outside Gallup. It should come as no surprise that Route 666 is the site of some truly creepy unexplained phenomena. Drivers have reported being chased by a pack of vicious, rabid dogs running at high speed. There have also been several stories of a mysterious black sedan speeding down the highway. When the vehicle seems to rapidly speed toward them, drivers pull over to avoid getting hit. Seconds later, the phantom car seems to disappear without a trace.
Route 666 was renamed U.S. 491 in 2003, but the creepiness still endures.