Walpurgis Night Special:
…out there in the dark.
⁓The Voice before the Void
Legend tripping is a name recently 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 that is alleged to have been the scene of some tragic, horrific, and possibly supernatural event or haunting. To date, the practice has been documented most thoroughly in the United States.
Sites for legend trips
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 areas, and especially cemeteries are frequent sites of legend-tripping pilgrimages.
Some places associated with legend tripping in the United States include the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky; the New Jersey Pine Barrens, said to be home to the Jersey Devil; Mudhouse Mansion in Fairfield County, Ohio; the Hornet Spook Light twelve miles southwest of Joplin, Missouri; Stull Cemetery in Stull, Kansas, claimed to be a “gateway to Hell”; Bunny Man Bridge in Clifton, Virginia; and the Devil’s Tramping Ground south of Siler City, North Carolina, near Harper’s Crossroads.
Reactions and controversies
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. However, in what Bill 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. 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. The panic over youth Satanism in the 1980s was fueled in part by graffiti and other ritual activities engaged in by legend-tripping youths. 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.