The Many “Pig Man” Ghosts

Learn about Pigman, Tennessee's ghostIs “Pig Man” a ghost? An urban legend? Or something weird, somewhat hidden, and – perhaps – widespread, like Bigfoot?

I’m leaning towards this being an urban legend, but these stories are a little quirkier than the usual urban legends.

So, you may have a different opinion.

If you’re interested in “pig man” ghosts, you may want to start your research in Tennessee. That state’s hiking trails can be spectacular… or spectacularly haunted.

A May 2018 article, This Haunted Hike in Tennessee Will Send You Running for the Hills, claimed that Germantown (TN) area has multiple ghost stories.

One of them… well, one reason I think this is an urban legend is: In 2016,  a similar story was part of “American Horror Story: Roanoke.”

But where do these stories start, and do they have any basis in fact?

The 2018 article says:

“… Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park is located in Germantown, Tennessee, on the western side of the state. It’s a beautiful place that boasts over 13,000 acres of land.”

According to that article, the area’s most infamous ghost is “Pigman.” If you think he’s just some spectral figure with an unattractive nose or tiny, piercing eyes, think again.

The article says:

“The most well-known ghost is that of a man who worked at a local explosives plant during the second world war. He was horribly, wickedly disfigured during an accident, and was given the nickname “Pigman.”
It’s just the right kind of scare to offset such deep Tennessee beauty. There are stories of the Pigman, that he wanders around in the dead of night wearing the face of a pig.

“He is said to be looking for his next victim. “

But Wait… There’s More!

Another version of the story – also located in Tennessee – describes Pig Man as a deranged recluse who put dead pigs’ heads on pikes around his property, to scare away visitors. (He killed visitors who weren’t scared away… and then put their heads on pikes, too. Sounds a lot like Dracula.)

And, in death, he’s still up to his old tricks, scaring people.

Yet another story says that Pig Man was a circus animal trainer. He was mauled when his pigs turned on him and killed him. I’m not sure why he’d haunt with a pig’s head on. (Apparitions usually look exactly as the ghosts want to appear to you… and a pig’s head doesn’t seem a likely choice.)

The Tennessee story seems more detailed than counterparts in other areas, which could give it more credibility.

Or maybe that’s just a reporter’s creative writing. It needs to be verified in the actual areas where Pig Man has been reported.

But, no matter who Pig Man (or “Pigman”) was, or where he lived, the rest of the story is the same:

  • After death, he’s appeared with a human body.
  • People note the vile stench, even before he appears.
  • He’s wearing a pig’s head. (Not a mask, but an actual pig’s head instead of a human one… or maybe it’s wrapped around his head.)

Stay Far Away

Approaching him is not advised. In fact, if anything looks or smells like him, get out of there as fast as you can.

(That’s true whether he’s a real ghost or someone playing a sick prank.)

A ghost like this…? It might not be a ghost. It could be something more sinister.

Of course, some researchers will explore this version of the Pig Man story. (It’s a good excuse to visit some spectacular locations, right…?)

From my research, the Tennessee pig-faced ghost is usually seen around “Pigman Bridge” in Millington (TN).

According to reports, if you park in the middle of Pigman Bridge and shout, “Pigman!” three times, he’ll appear. (Some claim it helps to flash your lights three times, as well.)

Related Ghost Stories - Haunted bridges, mirrors, and more

Related, Non-Porcine Urban Legends

First of all, no one should ever park their car in the middle of a bridge, especially at night. That’s a major safety concern, and probably against the law.

Houston, Texas’ Most Haunted Bridge

This story has a strong resemblance to a couple of Houston legends, including Langham Creek Bridge, on Patterson Road in Bear Creek Park. According to stories, dead Civil War soldiers tap on cars.

Some say the sound is from rifles or canteens, or something else metallic, carried by each soldier, and hitting the car as they pass.

Others say the soldiers are tapping as if to say, “Move along, it’s not safe here.” After all, those soldiers died, and some may have encountered something other than a human enemy.

Yes, I’ve heard the tapping on my car at Bear Creek Bridge, when no one was around.  The taps were noisy and intermittent. The sounds came from my car. The metallic sound was definitely on my car, not inside and not from the bridge itself.

Each time, I rolled my window down to be sure nothing (like a persistent, hard-shelled insect) was actually there. But the tapping repeated.

They were single taps, and then two or three taps in a row, and so on. I can’t explain it, but it was real, and someone else (someone usually skeptical) witnessed it. I’m still looking for a reasonable explanation that fits what happened, but – for now – that ghost story seems true.

Nashua, New Hampshire’s Colonial Ghost

The Tennessee legend also resonates with a Gilson Road Cemetery (Nashua, NH) story:  Supposedly, if you’re on Gilson Road, the ghost of Betty Gilson can be summoned by shouting three times, “Betty Gilson, I have your baby.”

Most frequent reports claim she’s dressed in Colonial garb – complete with a mob cap – and dashes out from behind a nearby tree. Or, she just peers out from behind it, so you just see her cap, some of her hair, and her glowing eyes.

Haunted University Mirrors

Haunted university mirrors

Various universities have stories similar to the “Betty Gilson” legend.

At those colleges & universities, student claim if you summon a spirit while looking in a haunted mirror, calling the ghost’s name three times, she’ll appear.

I’ve seen ghosts in mirrors, but these university tales seem silly, and possibly dangerous. (Those dangers – of mirrors and possible demonic doorways – are a topic for another article.)

Sometimes, the name of the ghost is just “Bloody Mary.” That may (or may not) summon the grisly ghost of Mary Tudor (the Queen of England before Queen Elizabeth I).

Most related university legends give this advice:

  1. At night, around 10 PM, turn off all lights in the room with the mirror. (Usually, the mirror is in a dorm.)
  2. Then, look in the mirror and say, “Bloody Mary” either three or five times. (The number varies with the storyteller.)

The ghost’s image should appear within seconds.

If that doesn’t work, say “Bloody Mary, I have your baby,” or “I stole your baby, Bloody Mary.” (This references Queen Mary Tudor’s faux pregnancy.)

Other college and university haunted mirror stories advise using the name of a deceased student who – according to the stories – died by suicide. (Some Bradford College ghost stories described a student’s ghost in a mirror. Apparently, there really had been a suicide in that dorm.)

Additional “haunted mirror” ghost stories include different names and different tragic stories that explain them.

Usually, whether it’s Bloody Mary or some other spectre, the face of the ghost is a gruesome image. Luckily, it’s there for less than a second, and rarely appears more than two or three times, per night.

There are at least two major problems with these stories:

  1. Ghosts usually appear as they want to be remembered. I suppose a spirit might be bitter enough to remind people of his or her gruesome death, but that’s very rare. I’d guess they’re less than 1% of all reported apparitions. Most ghosts appear as attractive young people, or as beloved elderly archetypes.
  2. Ghosts rarely travel from one place to another. In fact, I know of only a few in the U.S. and the U.K. I can’t think of a single good reason for England’s Queen Mary Tudor to appear in American university mirrors.

That’s why I’m leaning towards these stories being urban legends.

More Pigman Tales?

One of the biggest problems with the Tennessee story is this: An almost identical tale is told about Pigman Road in Angola, New York. It has a similar history, including heads on spikes, and a lingering,  pig-faced ghost hiding in the woods, waiting to kill teens.

I don’t watch “American Horror Story,” but a Mental Floss article (linked below) suggested the TV “Pig Man” episode was based on the NY story.

So, maybe it is more credible than the TN counterpart.

I wanted to get to the bottom of this, so Pig-faced woman in the 17th centuryI searched Tennessee newspapers for a reference to “pig man” – with or without a reference to Millington – and found nothing.

A similar search of New York newspapers, with “pig man” and a reference to Angola, New York, turned up nothing, either.

So, at this point, I have no historical support for either legend.

However, I did uncover a “Pig-faced woman” legend… though it’s from the 17th century, and appeared in Holland, England, and France.

Initially, I thought this was parody, insulting some particular woman. Further research suggested that – in western Europe – several, reclusive people had “pig heads.”

Was it the result of a disease? A deformity? Were they aliens, or some version of “mole people”?

I have no idea. But, whatever it was… maybe that’s the basis of the New York, Tennessee, and other stories.

Those Pig Man Sites May Still Be Haunted

The Pig Man story is an interesting tale, but – being a little cynical – I wonder how many communities are trying to attract tourists who watch “American Horror.”

Or, maybe the current “pig man” stories evolved from earlier, sordid ghost stories in each area. It’s possible. Sometimes, a colorful ghost story may be fictional, but its roots might be authentic.

For example, Snallygaster stories related to the Blair Witch seem to echo Native American Thunderbird lore from distant parts of the U.S. They also sound eerily like some Bell Witch reports.

So, I wouldn’t dismiss the basic concept: a malicious entity with a grotesque, pig-like face. And, I wouldn’t go looking for one.

Like Bigfoot, Pig Men might appear (or even dwell) at multiple locations, and behave similarly in each one… complete with pigs’ heads on pikes.

Is he a ghost…? He doesn’t fit the usual profile. Not even close.

If he exists, I’d probably categorize him with other crypto-zoological creatures like Bigfoot.

And that’s a “best case” scenario.  When I first read about “Pig Man,” I immediately thought of demons.

For example, in the Bible, there’s a story of Jesus casting demons into a herd of pigs: Matthew 8:30-37; Mark 5:1-20; and Luke 8:27-38.

In Homer’s The Odyssey, Circe turned some of Odysseus’ men into pigs.

A casual search of “men turned into pigs” will show many similar references, across multiple eras & cultures.

Those kinds of stories often have a very real foundation. What I don’t know is… why pigs? 

Should You Investigate Pig Man? Maybe.

To verify this story, I’d investigate the Tennessee location because it sounds lovely… whether or not an unattractive ghost is in the woods.

By contrast, Angola, New York, was the site of a well-documented 19th-century tragedy. So, there’s provenance (credible evidence) for ghosts in that area.

If that “Pigman” site is truly haunted – and it might be, at least with residual energy – I’m not likely to investigate it. What happened there is just too sad.

(But that’s my personal preference. You may have more tolerance for research at disaster sites.)

Of course, those axe-wielding, pig-related legends are difficult to believe, without some first-person stories to support them.

That’s another reason to visit areas where “Pig Man” has been reported: To find out if anyone has a credible, first-person story of seeing him.

This might be an interesting example of how urban legends migrate, nearly intact.

Or… maybe all the stories are true. (Cue the Twilight Zone music…?)

If you’ve seen “Pig Man” in Georgia, New York, Tennessee, Texas, or Vermont, or know a similar ghost story – true or urban legend – please leave a comment at this website.

Pig man resources: additional reading

Illustration credit: Pig-faced woman, By Anonymous – Print given free with the 7 January 1882 issue of Illustrated Police News, reproduced in Fortean Times, April 2007, PD-US, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28115837

Haunted Places in Pennsylvania

As I’m writing this on the fourth of July, it wouldn’t be a historic holiday without a ghost story or two.

And, since the 4th of July is so closely associated with Philadelphia (PA) – where the Declaration of Independence was signed – here’s a YouTube video about Philadelphia’s haunts.

Philadelphia Ghosts

The first half of the following video highlights haunted places you might visit if you’re exploring 4th of July ghosts in Philadelphia, “the City of Brotherly Love.”

The second half was filmed at Eastern State Penitentiary. That’s not a surprise; it’s one of America’s most haunted places.

More Pennsylvania Ghosts

Next, here’s another video featuring some interesting Pennsylvania haunts. The state is large, so most of these sites aren’t actually in Philadelphia. Still, if you’re in Pennsylvania, some of these ghost stories are interesting and could be worth checking out. (Also, I recommend reading about Brandywine Valley ghosts.)

Most Haunted Places In Pennsylvania

Join me as I show you the ten most haunted places in the 2nd state! SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE PARANORMAL ACTIVITY!

Haunted Centralia, PA

Centralia (PA) is over two hours from Philadelphia. Also, it’s not a place to visit (though it might be haunted). Anyone going there is risking his life; it’s not worth taking that chance.

(I want to make it very clear: I advise against going anywhere near Centralia, for any reason.)

Centralia’s story is both horrifying and compelling. I’m not sure any city or ghost town has a similar history. (I hope not, anyway.)

A YouTube video – removed as of 2019 –  showed what’s left of Centralia. (If you know the video’s new URL, leave a comment so I can link to it.)

I thought the scene showing coal residue in the foreground – and a wind farm in the distance – was especially eerie.

I don’t know if ghosts will linger there, long enough for investigators who’ll visit when Centralia is finally safe. It seems unlikely. (For example, I haven’t heard any trustworthy ghost stories about Pompeii.)

Still, if we’re talking about creepy places in Pennsylvania, Centralia has to be on the top 10 list.

Even More Ghosts in Pennsylvania

Pennyslvania Ghost StoriesDo you love true ghost stories?

If you’d like to discover more haunted places in Pennsylvania, here’s one book on the subject, and it has some favorable reviews.

It’s loaded with ghost stories about Gettysburg, but you’ll find other interesting locations in it, too.

The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories

More Videos?

If you post a YouTube video showing your paranormal Philadelphia investigations, let me know. When I looked for some  to share with readers, I was astonished at how few good, Philadelphia ghost videos are online.

In a historical city like Philadelphia, I’d expect far more haunted places… and videos of people exploring them.

(Note: If you’re investigating rural Pennsylvania, remember that the “Snallygaster” legend – probably more cryptozoology than ghost – is recorded there, as well as in Maryland.)

More resources

Photos from the Haunted Laconia House

Hashmarks scratched into an attic door in Laconia, NH.Here are three photos you’ve never seen from my Laconia investigation, and a larger copy of one you may have seen.

These pictures are from the haunted house near Laconia’s Parade Road. It’s a private residence, but in Colonial times, it had been a tavern.

Much later, according to stories told by the homeowners, someone was locked in the attic, possibly for years.

There’s plenty of physical evidence, including personal belongings from long ago. It’s difficult to tell which had been left there by previous homeowners, and which belong to the current residents.

But few attics have so many marks scraped into the walls and door.


Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NHThis is a follow-up from my post about Rue Cote’s book, Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NH. It includes some of my story about an investigation in a private – and very haunted – home in Laconia, near Parade Road.

The scratch marks at that home’s attic were some of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen in a private home. It was reminiscent of hash marks carved into prison walls and in orphanages and hospitals where people were practically imprisoned.


The first photo shows the wall near the attic door, close to an old-school light switch. I’m not sure if the scratched-in date (near the top of the wall) says 1895 or 1896. I think it’s probably 1896.

Either way, it’s creepy.

Laconia haunted house - scratch marks 1895
Haunted attic in Laconia. Is that date 1895 or 1896?

Next, here are the marks on the inside of the attic door (by someone inside the attic). Some look like they may have been etched with chalk.

More hash marks and scratches inside haunted Laconia (NH) attic
Interior of the attic door, in that haunted Laconia house.

Next is a photo you may have seen before (in my article – Laconia, NH’s Ghostly Places) but this is a larger copy. It hasn’t been adjusted or changed in any way, aside from reducing it to fit on this webpage (and adding my name as photographer).

Haunted Laconia attic, with lots of scratch marks.
Even more hash marks and scratches. Some look almost frenzied.

The fourth (next) photo shows an area just to the left of the previous photo. I did adjust the contrast (and I added an arrow) so you can see the date scratched into the wall: 1892.

Haunted Laconia - 1892 scratches in attic
The date is clear: 1892. So, was someone up there for FOUR years…?

If the photo at the top of this article shows 1895 or 1896 scratched into the wood, it’s possible someone was locked in that attic for a very long time. Three or four years, at least. That’s sad, but also shocking.

You can read more of my Laconia story in Rue’s book.

For me, the most chilling part of this Laconia investigation was what people said, afterwards.

I talked about this house with several friends in Tilton. Every one of them had a story about a relative that had been locked in their family’s attic, years ago. Or, they knew a neighbor or nearby cousin with a relative locked in the attic.

I understand that in the 18th and 19th centuries, mental health facilities could be barbaric. It may have seemed more humane to keep the person at home.

But, in an attic…? And for years…?

That explains a lot about why Tilton and nearby towns are so very haunted.