The Four Most Haunted Dams in the United States

Halloween is just around the corner, and with it comes ghosts, goblins, and all things haunted – even dams. This year, we are taking a look at the four most haunted dams in the United States. Did we miss any? If so, let us know in the comments. Happy Halloween!

This memorial plaque commemorates those who died during the construction of the Hoover Dam
This memorial plaque, located on the Nevada side of the dam near the two winged figures, commemorates those who died during the construction of the Hoover Dam

Haunted Hoover

Arguably the most well-known dam on our list, the Hoover Dam has a long history of haunted happenings. Constructed on the Colorado River on the border between Nevada and Arizona during the Great Depression and one of the Seven Modern Engineering Wonders of the World, the Hoover Dam employed thousands of people at a time when it was needed most. It was not without its problems, however, as 112 workers lost their lives during its construction, although not from being entombed in the concrete during construction as promulgated by one popular urban legend. The deaths occurred in more typical ways such as falling, drowning, and being struck by equipment and debris. In addition to the 112 who perished from industrial accidents, 42 workers were said to have died from pneumonia; however, not a single non-worker in the area died from pneumonia during this time. Workers allege that the construction company made up the whole pneumonia story in order to avoid any lawsuits, as the workers had actually perished from carbon monoxide poisoning while operating vehicles inside the diversion tunnels. Considering that approximately four people per year commit suicide by jumping from the dam as well, it should come as little surprise that tales of spirits and hauntings at the dam are commonplace. There have been numerous reports of crying sounds and footsteps inside the facility, and apparitions of men wearing old-fashioned work clothes have been seen, although no photos have been captured.

The Hales Bar Dam old hydroelectric plant is now used as a dry dock
The Hales Bar Dam old hydroelectric plant is now used as a dry dock

Horrifying Hales Bar

Constructed from 1905-1913 primarily to hold back the whirlpools along the Tennessee River, the Hales Bar Dam in Tennessee was the nation’s first hydroelectric dam. Unfortunately, it was also built on cursed land. According to legend, Native American War Chief Dragging Canoe cursed the land on March 17, 1775 after the controversial Treaty of Sycamore Shoals was signed. He said that the land would be “dark and bloody” to any who attempted to live there. In addition, the waters surrounding the dam were considered sacred by Native Americans. In fact, Native Americans believed that they could see the souls of their ancestors being sucked into one of the largest whirlpools, nicknamed The Suck, and that any who were unfortunate enough to get too close to The Suck would be pulled down into the whirlpool by their dead ancestors. Like the Hoover Dam, legend also says that many workers fell to their deaths during the construction of the dam and were entombed in the concrete, but there are no actual historical accounts to corroborate the legend.

The construction of the dam encountered numerous issues, including soft bedrock and shale on which the dam was constructed; accidents, illnesses, racial tension, and deaths of workers; and even numerous leaks springing up immediately after construction was completed. Also, the town that the creation of the dam flooded contained the old town graveyard, and none of the bodies were disentombed. The Hales Bar Dam never functioned properly, and after a failure in the 1960s, the dam was demolished, flooding the area behind it, which included a cemetery filled with hundreds of graves of mostly children who had died during the 1918-1919 Spanish Flu epidemic. With such a strange history, it is no wonder that the Hales Bar Dam is considered a haunted hotspot. Visitors and employees have seen apparitions and shadows, have heard and seen footsteps that actually kicked up dust, and have heard children’s voices chanting and crying. Some unlucky visitors have even felt hands reach out and touch them from the whirlpool, while others have reported seeing a strange figure in the cat walk, believed to be the restless spirit of War Chief Dragging Canoe himself.


Devil’s Gate Dam

Daunting Devil’s Gate

Devil’s Gate Dam was constructed on the Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, California in 1920 as Los Angeles’ first flood control dam. Where the dam was built was a natural rock formation bearing resemblance to a side profile of a devil, hence the name. The gate, a steel structure that is part of the dam, is believed by some to be a portal to the spiritual world, with some going so far as to say it is one of the Seven Gates of Hell. The reasons for the theory are numerous. Jack Parsons, a rocket scientist who co-founded Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was a practicing occultist who believed the Devil’s Gate Dam to be a portal to the otherworld. He frequently practiced occult rituals, along with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, which some say triggered the opening of the portal. They even went so far as to try to summon a “moonchild,” but were not-so-surprisingly unsuccessful. Furthering the superstition surrounding the dam was the disappearance of four children within a one-year period in the 1950s. Two of the children were never found, while serial killer and road construction worker Mack Ray Edwards confessed to killing the other two and of burying their bodies beneath the asphalt of a newly paved freeway. In addition, Devil’s Gate Dam is part of what is considered Pasadena’s haunted triangle, which includes the dam, the Colorado Street “Suicide” Bridge, and the Enchanted Forest/Cob Estate. The triangle is called Demon’s Gate, and is believed to be the driver of all spiritual activity in the region.

The Teton Dam failure

Terrifying Teton

Constructed on the Teton River in Idaho by the Bureau of Reclamation, the Teton Dam catastrophically failed on June 5, 1976 as it was filling for the very first time. Having only 40 minutes to warn residents prior to the dam’s collapse, 11 people and 13,000 cattle perished in the disaster. Also, thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed and damages were estimated to be about $2 billion. BJ’s Bayou Restaurant was once a hotel that was destroyed during the dam failure and never reopened. It was converted to a restaurant, bar, and residence in the 1980s, and is said to have been haunted ever since its opening. Visitors tell tales of seeing the ghosts of both a young girl and an older man in uniform, both of whom are believed to have been victims of the flood. In addition, the dam itself is said to be haunted by demons as a result of occult activities that took place there, with witnesses reporting having very strongly negative feelings when they are inside the spillway. There is good that came from the Teton Dam failure, however. The Bureau of Reclamation’s Dam Safety Program was instituted in 1978 as a direct result of the disaster. Less than a year later, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created, and in 1986, dam safety was addressed in the Water Resources Act. FEMA’s National Dam Safety Program, passed in 1996, was the first national legislation to address dam safety, the purpose of which is to “reduce the risks to life and property from dam failure in the United States through the establishment and maintenance of an effective national dam safety program to bring together the expertise and resources of the Federal and non-Federal communities in achieving national dam safety hazard reduction.”