from National Geographic

Haunted Appalachia? These ancient mountains witnessed the birth of man and monster

The supernatural creatures said to roam these forests are intimately tied to the landscape, which is older than most of life on Earth.


clouds roll over the tree tops of a mountain range
Legend has it the forest is full of cryptids and the paranormal—horror stories set in the Appalachian Mountains are rampant on social media, particularly on TikTok under #HauntedAppalachia. PHOTOGRAPH BY GERD LUDWIG, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

From the Mothman, Wampus Cat, and Raven Mocker to the Grafton and Flatwoods Monsters, the Appalachians are teeming with supernatural creatures. TikTok is flooded with stories of #hauntedappalachia. And many people believe the high rate of mysterious phenomena in the Appalachian Mountains, a 2,000-mile range that spans Newfoundland to northern Alabama, is due to their geological age. 

How old, you ask? Older than Saturn’s rings. Older than the ozone layer. Older than sexually reproducing organisms. Old enough to remember when days on Earth were shorter than 24 hours. The rocks at the core of the Appalachians formed nearly 1.2 billion years ago when all the continents were still one. 

“About 750 million years ago, the supercontinent began to thin and pull apart like warm taffy because of expansion of the continental crust,” Sandra H.B. Clark, U.S. Geological Survey research geologist eloquently explained in the story of the birth of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. When the continents eventually broke off, a deep basin from the Carolinas to Georgia filled with seawater. (The rest of the mountain range shoved off to become the Scottish Highlands.) 

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