“Pig Man” Ghosts – Real or Urban Legend? The Mystery Continues

Learn about Pigman, Tennessee's ghost

Is “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

One thought on ““Pig Man” Ghosts – Real or Urban Legend? The Mystery Continues”

  1. The Pigman legend has its roots in Angola, NY (From what I know). I grew up across the street from the urban legend Holland Rd. I always believed (the same stories that you told above) to be works of fiction because there are no newspaper articles to back the original incidents – yet there are newspapers that predate those stories about a horrific train derailment off a bridge (that actually did happen in Holland Rd, Angola, NY area). Ironically New York and Tennessee are the only two states I have ever lived in…

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