3 Popular Oklahoma Urban Legends that Will Keep You Up at Night

People gathered around the campfire | Urban Legends Oklahoma featured image

Have you ever found yourself huddled around a campfire, the darkness of night pressing in from all sides, while someone spins a tale so eerie it sends shivers down your spine?

Or maybe you’ve been tucked into bed on a stormy night when the power goes out, and suddenly every creak and groan of your house seems to whisper secrets meant to unsettle.

Well, buckle up because Oklahoma has its own collection of urban legends that are bound to keep lake goers, campers, and hikers alike wide-eyed long after bedtime.

From haunted hideaways where spirits linger to mysterious entities lurking in shadowed woods—Oklahoma’s lore is rich with stories that blur the line between reality and nightmare. These tales have woven themselves into local culture over generations; they’re whispered among elders and believed by many.

Here are the legends of the Great Oklahoma Octopus, Little People of the Cherokee, and Hornet Spooklight. Let’s jump in.

The Great Oklahoma Octopus

#1 The Great Oklahoma Octopus

The Great Oklahoma Octopus is a creepy story that makes Oklahoma’s lakes extra mysterious. Imagine an octopus unlike any other that can survive in freshwater lakes, like Lake Thunderbird, Lake Oolagah, and Lake Tenkiller.

Legend has it, a giant octopus lives in Oklahoma’s lakes. That’s right, lakes plural! This creature is reportedly huge and can blend right in with the muddy water thanks to its reddish-brown skin. Its massive tentacles are large enough to easily grab a hold of nearby swimmers or wrap around small boats. People who’ve seen an octopus say this sneaky alien-like creature might be why some folks have vanished in these waters.

Some believe that the Great Oklahoma Octopus is a cryptid, like the Loch Ness Monster and its long-lost relative, Champ, from Lake Champlain. These stories pop up because sometimes people see odd stuff in lakes, imagine wild things, and really want to believe in something out-of-this-world.

Some even believe the Great Oklahoma Octopus is simply a big fish or just trash floating on the lake. But even without solid proof, this story keeps getting bigger and more scary with each encounter. Nowadays, both locals and tourists love to chat about the overgrown squid, often peeking over their shoulders when they’re near the water.

The Little People of the Cherokee

#2 The Little People of the Cherokee

The Yunwi Tsunsdi, or Little People, are a widely recognized phenomenon in Cherokee culture. The accounts are  not just spooky stories passed down from generations, but tales that hold deep meanings about nature and beliefs for the Cherokee Nation.

The Yunwi Tsunsdi’ are tiny, no bigger than your school backpack. But don’t let their size fool you – they’re very aware of your presence and if you see one, it’s intentional. With amazing strength and supernatural abilities, these little creatures are believed to be Earth’s guardians. They protect the forests, keep animals safe, and show humans how their lives are intertwined with nature.

Cherokee recognize three specific types of Little People. Rock People who live near rocks and are super friendly, offering help or guidance when you need it. Then, there’s the Laurel People who like to hang out in thick bushes and are known to be mischievous and enjoy playing tricks on passerbyers. Lastly, Dogwood People are the most rarely seen ones; they reside where dogwood trees grow and are very cautious of humans.

Some believe that only children and those with the shine can see Little People and that most adults are inept. These tiny helpers often show up for people with kind hearts or those who are, metaphorically, lost. But be careful as Little People are not to be trifled with. If you try to sneak a peek at them or invade their forest, their tricks have been known to be less playful. If you encounter the Little People, remember this rule: “Look, but don’t stare.”

The Hornet Spooklight

#3 The Spooklight

The Spooklight, or as some call it, the Hornet Spooklight or Joplin Spooklight, is a light show that’s supposedly caused by ghosts in a place called “Devil’s Promenade.” It’s near this tiny town called Hornet in Missouri, right where Oklahoma and Kansas meet. No one really knows where it comes from. People have seen this spooky light since way back in the 1800s. Even Native Americans knew about these lights long before European settlers arrived.

The Spooklight is described as a glowing ball zipping through the air, changing colors from blue to red and even yellow or white. The light often appears shortly after the sun goes down, floating, zigzagging, and bobbing up and down, throughout the night. Sometimes, it splits into mini-lights, performs mid-air maneuvers, then reassembles before disappearing!

People have come up with many theories to explain the Spooklight, from scientific to supernatural reasons. Some suggest weather changes, swamp gas, or even car lights bouncing off surfaces are the cause. But these are assumptions that don’t always make sense because people see the Spooklight even when there aren’t nearby cars and the orb doesn’t always appear when these theories suggest it should.

Others suggest the mysterious Spooklight is caused by ghostly glows from lost Native American spirits.

Regardless of what you believe, the Spooklight is a big deal in local folklore, attracting travelers from all over the world who love a good mystery and a bit of a fright. You’ll often find visitors hanging out at Devil’s Promenade when the sky is clear, hoping to see this strange phenomenon for themselves.


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