Legend tripping

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Legend tripping is a name bestowed by folklorists and anthropologists on an adolescent practice (containing elements of a rite of passage) in which a usually furtive nocturnal pilgrimage is made to a site which is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting. The practice has been documented most thoroughly to date in the United States.[1]

Sites for legend trips[edit]

While the stories that attach to the sites of legend tripping vary from place to place, and sometimes contain a kernel of historical truth, there are a number of motifs and recurring themes in the legends and the sites. Abandoned buildings, remote bridges, tunnels, caves, rural roads, specific woods or other uninhabited (or semi-uninhabited) areas, and especially cemeteries are frequent sites of legend-tripping pilgrimages.

Reactions and controversies[edit]

Legend-tripping is a mostly harmless, perhaps even beneficial, youth recreation. It allows young people to demonstrate their courage in a place where the actual physical risk is likely slight.[2] However, in what Ellis calls "ostensive abuse," the rituals enacted at the legend-tripping sites sometimes involve trespassing, vandalism, and other misdemeanors, and sometimes acts of animal sacrifice or other blood ritual.[3] These transgressions then sometimes lead to local moral panics that involve adults in the community, and sometimes even the mass media. These panics often further embellish the prestige of the legend trip to the adolescent mind.[2] In at least one notorious case, years of destructive legend-tripping, amounting to an "ostensive frenzy," led to the fatal shooting of a legend-tripper near Lincoln, Nebraska followed by the wounding of the woman whose house had become the focus of the ostension.[4] The panic over youth Satanism in the 1980s was fueled in part by graffiti and other ritual activities engaged in by legend-tripping youths.[2]

Associated places in the United States[edit]

Pope Lick Trestle in Louisville, Kentucky, the reputed home of the Pope Lick Monster
The "Bunny Man Bridge"

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Monaghan, "The Surprising Online Life of Legends" The Chronicle of Higher Education Dec 12, 2011 [1]
  2. ^ a b c Ellis, Bill. "Legend Trips and Satanism: Adolescents' Ostensive Traditions as 'Cult' Activity." In The Satanism Scare, ed. James T. Richardson, Joel Best, and David G. Bromley, 279-95. NY: Aldme DeGreyter
  3. ^ Ellis, Bill (July 1989). "Death by Folklore: Ostension, Contemporary Legend, and Murder". Western Folklore. 48 (3): 201–220. doi:10.2307/1499739.
  4. ^ Summers, Wynne, L. "Bloody Mary: When Ostension Becomes a Deadly and Destructive Teen Ritual." Midwestern Folklore 26 (2000):1 19-26.
  5. ^ Mikkelson, David. "Black Agnes". Snopes.
  6. ^ "Captain McHarry's Vault - New Albany, IN - Weird Story Locations on Waymarking.com". Waymarking.com.
  7. ^ Tremeear, Janice (16 August 2011). Haunted Ozarks. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 1625841736.
  8. ^ "The Gore Orphanage". Forgotten Ohio.
  9. ^ "Our Lady of the Angels School fire December 1 1958 Chicago Illinois".
  10. ^ Kinsella, Michael (2011). Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong's Hat. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1604739831.
  11. ^ "The Witch's Ball of Myrtle Hill Cemetery". Forgotten Ohio.
  12. ^ "Hexenkopf: The Witch's Head". horrorfind.com. Archived from the original on 2013-01-26.
  13. ^ "THE DEVIL'S CHAIR". October 3, 1996. Archived from the original on August 20, 2006.
  14. ^ "THE HORNET SPOOK LIGHT". prairieghosts.com.
  15. ^ "STULL CEMETERY! ONE OF THE SEVEN GATEWAYS TO HELL?". prairieghosts.com.
  16. ^ "The Truth About Bunnyman Bridge". Center for Paranormal Research.
  17. ^ Brian A. Conley. "The Bunny Man Unmasked - Fairfax County, Virginia". Fairfax County Public Library.
  • Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults: Legends We Live, by Bill Ellis (2001) ISBN 1-57806-325-6
  • "Legend trip", entry in American Folklore: An Encyclopedia, ed. Jan Harold Brunvand (1996) ISBN 0-8153-3350-1
  • Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture, by Bill Ellis (2004) ISBN 0-8131-2289-9
  • Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media, by Bill Ellis (2000) ISBN 0-8131-2170-1
  • What's in a coin?: Reading the Material Culture of Legend Tripping and Other Activities (2007), by Donald H. Holly and Casey E. Cordy. The Journal of American Folklore 120 (477):335-354.
  • "What is Legend Tripping?": Robinson, Robert C. "Legend Tripping: The Ultimate Family Experience 2014. IBN 978-1-889137-60-

Further reading[edit]

  • Bill Ellis. Aliens Ghosts and Cults, Legends we Live. 2001.
  • Bill Ellis. Raising the Devil, Satanism, New Religions and the Media. 2000.
  • Fine, Gary Alan (Spring 1991). "Redemption Rumors and the Power of Ostension". The Journal of American Folklore. 104 (412): 179–181. doi:10.2307/541227.
  • McNeill, Lynne S. and Elizabeth Tucker, eds. 2018. Legend Tripping: A Contemporary Legend Casebook. Logan: Utah State University Press.
  • Michael Kinsella. Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong's Hat. (2011) ISBN 978-1604739831
  • Kobrowski, Nicole Encyclopedia of Haunted Indiana 2008. ISBN 978-0-9774130-2-7
  • Robinson, Robert C. "Legend Tripping: The Ultimate Family Experience 2014. ISBN 978-1-889137-60-5

External links[edit]