The United States is filled with many spectacular sites and landmarks, from Mount Rushmore to the Grand Canyon. These well-known places have explainable backstories about how they were created, whether by a person or by nature. However, there are sites in the US that aren’t as easily explained.
From underwater pyramids and musical stones to moving rocks and giant snake figurines, the US has many mysterious places to visit. Some are thousands of years old, and others only appeared less than a century ago. So, pack your bags, and let’s hit the road as we look at the most mysterious sites across the United States.
Ringing Rocks Park – Upper Black Eddy, PA
If you are looking for a mysterious and musical destination, add Ringing Rocks Park to your road trip. The Ringing Rocks were formed over thousands of years due to water erosion. Each rock gives off a “bell-like” tone when they are tapped lightly with a hammer, and the size and shape of the boulder changes the tone.
Many have been tempted to take one of the musical rocks home, but the sign warns that the boulders will not have the same quality if removed from the site. No one understood why the rocks made musical sounds, causing the floodgates to open for many questions.
The Ringing Rocks first became known in 1890 when JJ Ott performed near the site. He fashioned one of the rocks into an instrument, creating a beautiful sound when he struck the rock with a hammer. Everyone wanted to know where the rock was from and why it made such a sound.
As the mystery unfolded, people discovered a seven-acre field with ten-feet worth of rocks piled on top of each other. It was strange because only one-third of the rocks made a sound. Scientists aren’t sure what causes the rocks to ring, but they have come up with a few theories.
Although no one is sure why the rocks make a sound, scientists believe it may be due to the freeze-thaw process of this rock field. The sound is often described as metallic, most likely due to a combination of the density of the rock and a high degree of internal stress.
While it was formerly believed that only one-third of the rocks rang, that was debunked. All of the rocks in Ringing Rock Park make a sound, but the other two-thirds ring at a frequency humans cannot hear. It’s still a mystery why the rocks lose this ability when they are removed from the field.
Coral Castle – Homestead, FL
Although it sounds like something straight out of The Little Mermaid, Coral Castle is completely on land. The Latvian-American eccentric Edward Leedskalnin created the 2.2 million-pound oolite limestone structure. Leedskalnin was 26 when his fiancé kicked him out of their home in Latvia a day before their wedding.
He left for the United States, where he reportedly caught terminal tuberculosis. However, Leedskalnin miraculously recovered and started to build Coral Castle. He spent 28 years working on his masterpiece, which is comprised of stones shaped into walls, tables, chairs, a crescent moon, and more. He didn’t let anyone view it until he finished.
Leedskalnin worked tirelessly to finish his castle. He was determined to show his worth, but there was one thing no one ever understood. The Latvian native was only five feet tall and weighed 100 pounds. How could he move such large stones?
There were conspiracies surrounding how Leedskalnin built Coral Castle. People thought he might have had unnatural powers, but Leedskalnin claimed he only used hand tools, lots of sweat, and his knowledge from working in a lumber camp. He said he understood the laws of weight and leverage.
It Baffles Engineers
There are no records or witnesses who saw Leedskalnin building the castle, which has baffled engineers and scientists. He only had a fourth-grade education but managed to build an AC current generator. He finally finished his massive project in 1951, before he became ill.
In December 1951, Leedskalnin put a sign on the door of Coral Castle that read, “Going to the hospital.” He took a bus to a hospital in Miami and died three days later at age 64. His nephew from Michigan inherited the castle, but he sold it in 1953.
An Interesting Discovery
When Leedskalnin’s nephew sold the castle to a family from Illinois, a box of his personal items were discovered with instructions on how to locate his life savings. He left behind 35 $100 bills, which he made from giving tours, selling pamphlets, and from the sale of the land where Highway 1 passes the castle.
Leedskalnin’s work has been compared to Stonehenge and the great pyramids. He was a simple man who touched the lives of many in unusual ways. His legacy is forever carved in stone in honor of his endless love for his former bride.
America’s Stonehenge – Salem, NH
Originally called Mystery Hill, the site is now referred to as “America’s Stonehenge.” The archeological site consists of several large rocks and stone structures scattered over 30 acres in Salem, New Hampshire. However, don’t expect a circle of stone slabs if you visit.
Unlike the other Stonehenge, America’s Stonehenge is a combination of stone chambers, walls, and arrangements spread out. The mystery comes from various possible explanations for why the stone structures exist. The site only became known in the 1930s when William Goodwin purchased the land.
When Goodwin found the stone structures, he claimed that the site was built by Irish monks who fled from the Vikings. Although he had no evidence to support his theory, he sought to publicize his idea. He strongly believed in his Irish monk theory and possibly rearranged stones to support it.
Goodwin was so adamant about his idea because of a rumor that Irish people sailed to North America in the late 500s or early 600s. However, there is no archeological evidence to support that it ever happened. Therefore, the rumor cannot be confirmed.
Goodwin’s claims opened the floodgates for many other theories. A marine biologist claimed it was the home of ancient scripts, while other scientists have said the stones’ astronomical alignment could be representative of people from thousands of years ago. But this idea was discounted.
Others think the structures were built by indigenous people who once occupied the land. Archaeologists’ radio-carbon analysis of charcoal on the site shows that humans lived there 4,000 years ago, thousands of years before colonial settlers came to North America in 1492.
The public may never know who built this site, but archaeologists have tried to understand more about the structures. The surface of the stones suggests that they were quarried by indigenous stone workers with stone tools rather than the metal tools used by European settlers.
This supports the theory that indigenous people might have built the structures. Unfortunately, in 2019, the site was vandalized with power tools, with police saying the person tried to re-enact a scene from a fictional work. We may never have answers, but it hasn’t stopped tourists from visiting.
The Blythe Intaglios – Blythe, CA
If you have heard of the Nazca Lines in Peru, then the Blythe Intaglios might seem familiar. The ground drawings, or geoglyphs, were created by humans for an unknown reason. Archeologists have figured out that the lines were made with simple tools, but they don’t know the purpose.
The Blythe Intaglios contain three human figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral. These are the most well-known intaglios in the Colorado Desert. They were first rediscovered in 1932 by George Palmer, a pilot who was flying between Las Vegas and California.
It Attracted Tourists
Palmer’s discovery led to a survey of the land and attracted archeologists to study the drawings. In 1952, National Geographic published an article about the Blythe Intaglios, which attracted tourists, leading to some destruction of the area. It also helped to uncover more geoglyphs in the desert.
The geoglyphs date back 450 to 2,000 years ago and are believed to be created by the Mohave or Quechan. Archaeologists think the drawings represent Mastamho, the Creator of Life. Based on the famous Nasca Lines, the drawings might have been part of a water system.
Oregon Vortex – Gold Hill, OR
The Oregon Vortex is one of the few places where the improbable is commonplace and everyday physics are reversed. Visitors are typically confused about why they suddenly feel nauseous or feel an unexpected release of their back pain. The strange site is a spherical force field.
It is half above ground and half below ground. The area is called the Oregon Vortex because it is a whirlpool of force, like a swirling mass of water. In the early 1900s, the land owner and an engineer claimed the area defied the rules of gravity.
The land owner said a 165-foot magnet radius caused strange things to happen, leading tourists to flock to the location. For example, if one person is on a level platform and moves away from you towards magnetic south, they appear taller. When they come closer, they seem shorter.
It defies the laws of perspective and must be seen to be believed. While some felt it was a stunt to make money from tourists, others have pointed out that the area was quite remote in the 1930s. They could have chosen a better spot if it was just for the money.
Is It an Optical Illusion?
Russ Donnelly, a physics professor at the University of Oregon, visited the Oregon Vortex in 1966. He was convinced it was all an optical illusion. The owner, Maria Cooper, agreed with Donnelly that things inside the House of Mystery were an optical illusion, but something was different outside.
People seemingly grew and shrank depending on their location. It could be an optical illusion, but local legend said that Native Americans in the area referred to the site as “forbidden” land. Additionally, travelers said horses refused to go through the area.
The Great Serpent Mound – Hillsboro, OH
Ohio is proudly the home to the world’s biggest earthwork effigy, thanks to the Great Serpent Mound. The massive mound is shaped like a snake and stretches a quarter mile. While it might look like a random hill, the site is more special than you might think.
Researchers believe the snake mound was built by the Adena people around 300 BC. The area is also a 300 million-year-old meteor impact site. While many things are known about the site, no one truly understands why it was built or what purpose it was meant to serve.
Trying to Explain the Mystery
Some archaeologists thought it was built for burial purposes but didn’t find any artifacts inside. Another explanation was that the snake mound was used to mark the seasons. The head of the serpent is angled where the summer solstice sets, and the tail is where the winter solstice rises.
The serpent might have even pointed out true north for its builders. The mound was rebuilt or repaired around 1,100 AD, during the Fort Ancient period. Based on the timing, some archeologists think the light from a supernova could have influenced the mound’s creation.
Bighorn Medicine Wheel – Lovell, WY
Bighorn Medicine Wheel has a fitting name because it is quite large. Located near the crest of the Bighorn Mountains in north central Wyoming, the medicine wheel consists of stones placed in a wheel pattern. The 80-foot formation was reportedly built 300 to 800 years ago.
The Bighorn Medicine Wheel sits 9,600 feet above sea level, so it is typically covered in snow because of the high elevation. Scientists say the wheel was built for ritual or astronomical purposes because the specific wheel is fairly accurate regarding the sky and stars.
Designated a Landmark
Although the wheel has been there for hundreds of years, it was only declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970 because of its unique scientific research values. There are as many as 150 medicine wheels in Montana, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Alberta, Canada.
While many of them exist, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is unique because it has been so well preserved. It was the first medicine wheel to be mentioned in popular literature and studied by the scientific community. Tribal ceremonial activity continues to this day in the area.
Underwater Stonehenge – Lake Michigan, MI
Lake Michigan is one of the most incredible bodies of water in North America. Spanning 22,000 square miles, the lake holds many mysteries below its surface, including what has been nicknamed Underwater Stonehenge. The mysterious site is a line of stones far below the lake’s surface.
The stones are shaped in a V pattern, which some suggest may be a carving of a mastodon, a large, extinct elephant-like mammal. Scientists haven’t concluded if it is a manmade carving or just the natural shape of the rock.
A Random Discovery
Archaeologists stumbled upon Underwater Stonehenge when they were scanning Lake Michigan for shipwrecks. Many things, including cars and a Civil War-era pier, have been found in the waters of Lake Michigan, but no one expected to find this prehistoric surprise.
The boulder with the markings is 3.5 to 4 feet wide and about 5 feet long. Archeologists couldn’t believe what they were looking at, but they needed to confirm the markings were an ancient petroglyph. The rock could be about 10,000 years old.
Similar Structures Found
Researchers discovered dozens of artifacts and similar stone structures not far from the Underwater Stonehenge. In Lake Huron, they found stone structures believed to be over 9,000 years old. Anthropology professor John O’Shea said everything was well preserved because of the cold fresh water.
O’Shea shared: “It’s a Pompeii-type of situation. Everything is totally preserved in cold, clear freshwater. You don’t get that often in archeology.” Things like this have been found in various places around the world, but the location is very strange. It is also incredibly well preserved compared to others.
Spain Has One Too
When Europe experienced a scorching summer in 2019, the shoreline of the Tagus River receded, revealing what has been dubbed the Spanish Stonehenge. The structure consists of more than 100 granite stones that no one knew existed. Archaeologists believe it could have been created for a variety of purposes.
Experts suspect the structure was used as a temple, burial site, or trading spot. They also think the Romans ransacked it at some point. The stones are arranged in a 26m-diameter circle, which is different from the one found in Michigan but still as fascinating.
Racetrack Playa’s Moving Stones – Death Valley, CA
It might not sound like a big deal to see stones moving across the desert on their own, but imagine large boulders moving without any help. In the hottest desert on earth, hundreds of rocks, some weighing about 700 pounds, move on their own.
The rocks make deep treads in the ground of the dry lake bed. It’s even more interesting because no human or animal prints have been found near the tracks. The Racetrack is nestled in a remote valley between the Cottonwood and Last Chance Ranges.
Not a Mystery
While many sites on this list remain a mystery, scientists have explained how the rocks move. The rocks move on their own due to a combination of rain, ice, and wind. Rain collects on the dry surface and freezes overnight as the temperature drops.
When the rocks are covered in a thin layer of ice, the temperature increases, and the wind picks up, pushing the slippery rocks across the desert. Although it is the hottest desert on earth, temperatures can drop to 3 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Judaculla Rock – Sylva, NC
Judaculla Rock was named after Judaculla, a legend from folklore. According to stories, he was a giant creature and the master of animals, who was reportedly born with seven fingers on each hand and seven toes on each foot. He apparently left his mark on this rock.
When he was jumping from one mountain to another, he made a handprint on the rock and continued on his journey. The Cherokee people have passed the story down for generations. They inhabited the land in the North Carolina mountains for hundreds of years.
The Judaculla Rock also has 1,500 designs carved into it by the Cherokee people. There are theories that the boulder served as a marker for Cherokee hunting grounds. They occupied the land for hundreds of years before European settlers arrived.
The legend also states that Judaculla guarded the hunting ground from his Judgement Seat, known today as Devil’s Courthouse. Archaeologists said some carvings were done 1,500 years ago, while others are as new as 300 years old. The Cherokee people left the area when settlers arrived.
Berkeley Mystery Walls – San Francisco, CA
About 50 miles of rock walls stretch over the hills of northern California. Some are as tall as five feet high and they are either straight, angular, or circular. The thing that has left everyone wondering is who built the walls.
People have wondered about the walls for hundreds of years, but no solid conclusions have ever been reached. Despite many speculations, there aren’t any scholarly studies on the walls. The Mystery Walls are made of varying boulder sizes, some weighing at least a ton.
Before the Settlers
When Spanish settlers arrived, they reported the walls were already there. The Spaniards asked local Ohlone Native Americans about the walls, and they didn’t know their purpose either. Therefore, the walls have been around since before the indigenous people. So, who built them?
The walls don’t serve a specific purpose because they are not continuous or high enough to act as an enclosure or defense system. They might have been higher hundreds of years ago because heavy stones have sunk into the ground, but that doesn’t explain much.
A Connection to Atlantis
Californians have been trying to uncover the source of the walls for decades. In 1904, writer Harold French thought the walls might have had a connection to Atlantis. He wondered if a colony from Atlantis once populated the Berkeley hills.
French pondered the idea that the ancient walls were remnants of Toltec or a pre-Toltec civilization. He also questioned if they could have been relics of the Stone Age. Many people accepted that they were from the Stone Age, but no one knew the truth.
Underwater Pyramids – Rock Lake, WI
The Underwater Pyramids might not be as grand as those in Egypt, but they are an interesting find. Some are as small as an upside-down ice cream cone, while others reach 18 feet high. Some scientists claim the town fabricated the story to gain tourism.
A few scientists claim the pyramids are left over from glaciers, and the pushback from the scientific community has slowed any real investigations. For now, people only know the story as told by the Lake Mills Chamber of Commerce for many years.
A Local Legend
The town states that the large stone structures lie beneath Rock Lake, dating back hundreds of years. Local legend says Native Americans built pyramids in a valley, hoping to end the drought. The gods responded by filling the valley with water.
The legend began in the 20th century when divers and local fishermen reported seeing structures in the lake that looked manmade. Wisconsin diving pioneer Max Nohl dove in the lake in 1937 and came across the stone structures he described as upside-down ice cream cones.
The scientific community hasn’t supported investigations into the pyramids. Archaeologist Bob Birmingham told the Wisconsin State Journal that the tales were “a bunch of baloney.” However, believers of the legend haven’t accepted this fact and have started their own investigations.
Those who believe the local legend have used sophisticated sonar systems to produce maps of the larger pyramids. They reported that the 18-foot-tall structure has a base that is 60 feet by 100 feet. However, their investigation hasn’t resulted in any answers.