The 10 Best Myths and Urban Legends in New Hampshire

Every locale has its own lore—a mythology surrounding the history of its communities. In New Hampshire, things are no different, and our urban legends have become particularly important thanks to the long, lonely winters our ancestors endured without entertainment technology. Cold, dark days inside were passed by the telling of stories, leading to the development of a diverse and detailed folklore. From passionate love stories and unidentified creatures to mysterious disappearances and wrongful executions, New Hampshirites are heirs to a vast array of supernatural stories, just lurking in wait to terrify future generations. 

1. The Legend of Lake Winnipesaukee

Now one of the more popular destinations in New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee found its moniker the same way any good place-naming happens: A romantic occurrence in long ago days. In the 16th century, a Native American tribe on the north shore was led by a chief named Wonaton, whose greatest love was his daughter, Mineola. Mineola was desired by all the young men in the region, but it just so happens she fell in love with the chief of a tribe residing on the south shore, named Adiwando. When Chief Wonaton learned of his daughter’s forbidden love for a great enemy, he attacked the young man viciously. Mineola threw herself between her love and her father, begging him to spare Adiwando and allow them to be wed. Finally convinced, the chief gathered the entire village for a wedding, which was to take place in the center of the lake, between the lands of the two warring tribes. The day of the nuptials was stormy, threatening the tribespeople who had gathered in their canoes to witness the event. Suddenly, brilliant sunlight burst through the thick cloud cover and surrounded the canoe carrying Adiwando and Mineola’s canoe. Chief Wonaton declared it a sign from the Gods, and claimed the lake as Winnipesaukee, meaning “Smile of the Great Spirit.” 

2. The Legend of Goody Cole

Despite the 17th century frenzy in New England for hunting witches, the story holds that only one such woman was ever found guilty of witchcraft in the state of New Hampshire. Eunice “Goody” Cole was convicted in 1656 after having been accused by her neighbors in Hampton. Goody was sent to a Boston prison, but was released after several years due to failing health and returned to her hometown of Hampton, where she was given a hut to live out her days. After her death, Goody’s ghost was blamed for multiple travesties in the area, including the sinking of a ship that claimed the lives of eight locals. Some report having seen a ghost-like woman wandering the streets of Hampton, inquiring where she can find a memorial for Goody Cole. 

3. The Haunting of the Chase House

In the late 1800s, a refuge for orphaned and difficult children was constructed in Portsmouth, named the Chase House. Tragically, a young girl hanged herself in her bedroom, and has haunted the Chase House ever since. Reports of a child screaming have plagued the building, where doors also mysteriously come unlocked and ceiling fans switch on and off without prompting.

4. The Cocheco Falls Millworks Fire

After the Cocheco Falls Mill in Dover was almost destroyed by a fire that also killed several millworkers, the location became ripe for rumor. Since then, the building has been refurbished and transformed into offices and apartments. The restored building, however, is plagued by a persistent haunting: Lights turned on and off, strange voices, and a whirring similar to that produced by the machinery used in old fashioned mills. 

5. The Legend of Ruth Colbath

Toward the end of the 19th century, Ruth and Thomas Colbath lived happily in Carroll County, New Hampshire. On a normal day in 1891, Thomas left the homestead to run errands, and never again returned. For 39 long years, Ruth faithfully waited for her husband to come home, always leaving a lantern burning for him to find his way. Finally, Ruth passed away in 1930, never having the reunion she had so patiently hoped for. Three years later, Thomas casually returned to the Colbath home, unharmed and seemingly not having been detained or harassed during his absence. Thomas allegedly claimed to have gotten lost all those years past, and had been too embarrassed to return home after initially losing his way and going missing. Thus, the story of Ruth and Thomas Colbath became one of the earliest prime examples of woman’s hopeless romance, and of man’s inability to ask for directions. 

6. The Wood Devils of New Hampshire

Deep in Coos County backwoods along the Canadian border, strange creatures known as “Wood Devils” have been tracked and spotted for centuries. Similar to the Sasquatch characters found in other parts of the United States, Wood Devils are slim, tall, covered in grey hair, and notoriously difficult to spot. The peak of their popularity was in the 1970s, when hikers and other such outdoorsmen reported seeing both the animal and its huge footprints with some regularity.

7. The Legend of Mystery Hill

Also known as America’s Stonehenge, Mystery Hill is a 4,000-year-old monument in Salem, New Hampshire. While the exact origins of the site are unknown, much like those of its European counterpart, the stone formations are said to create an accurate astronomical calendar, including differentiation for solstices and equinoxes, as well as provide a True North orientation. The site itself is comprised of stone chambers, walls, and monoliths. While the origin story of Mystery Hill may never be uncovered, many have speculated as to its genesis. Some claim that Native Americans held the site sacred, while others insist migratory Europeans brought their knowledge of construction and astronomy to our New Hampshire woods, only to leave behind their mysterious formation. Further complicating the discussion is the broad variety of languages that have been found carved into the stones, ranging from Ogham to Phoenician to Iberian Punic Script. 

8. The Danville Devil Monkeys

Native to small town Danville, the Danville Devil Monkey(s) haunts and terrorizes the local population. Legend holds that the creature is like a grotesque monkey, with horrifying claws and teeth like knives. What would usually be dismissed as hyperbolic rumblings of small town New England becomes further complicated based on upstanding witnesses. In 2001, the chief of Danville’s fire department reportedly came across the Devil Monkey. In the two weeks that followed, 10 others claimed the same. All reported the same visual experience, as well as the same haunting, howling noise emitted from the beast. Since then, nobody in the town of Danville has reported seeing the Devil Monkey, and legend holds that the creature moved on to the less populated White Mountains in search of solitude. 

9. The Haunting of Archer’s Pond

Myth engulfs both Archer’s Pond and the forest that surrounds it. While stories are varied and range from plague deaths to misguided teenage love, one of the most pervasive is the story of Polly. Polly lived in the woods with her husband, where they struggled to survive both the elements and their crushing poverty. Polly longed to buy a new pair of shoes to protect her feet from the snow, ice, and rocky terrain. Her husband refused, insisting they barely had funds to keep the couple alive. Despite his protests, Polly bought a pair of cheap shoes, and upon being discovered was brutally decapitated by her husband. Overcome by grief, the husband hanged himself exactly one week after having taken an ax to his wife’s neck. Legend holds that the ghosts of both Polly and her murderous husband roam the woods around Archer’s Pond, never finding eternal rest. 

10. The Haunting of South Street Cemetery

In Portsmouth, the South Street Cemetery is generally recognized as one of the city’s most haunted locations. Its paranormal reputation centers around the wrongful execution of young schoolteacher Ruth Blay, who was sentenced to death in 1768 after one of her students reported her for infanticide. In reality, poor Miss Blay had a stillborn baby after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Confused and wracked with grief, Ruth buried the baby under the floor of the schoolhouse, not knowing that a student was watching. The day of her hanging arrived, and the city of Portsmouth was abuzz with rumors of an impending pardon from the governor. Portsmouth’s sheriff, not eager to have a conviction overturned, or to delay his lunch break, moved the execution to take place earlier in the day. Minutes after Ruth was killed, her pardon arrived via messenger. Local myth says that the ghosts of both Miss Blay and her deceased child haunt the South Street Cemetery, disrupting the peace that they themselves were denied.  

New Hampshire Search
Best Things To Do Near You
Best Things To Do Near You
Best Places To Go Near You
Best Places To Go Near You
182 Central Avenue, Dover, NH
About Us:The Woodman Museum is operated by the Trustees of the Annie E. Woodman Trust a 501(c)(3) private operating foundation. Contributions to th... Read More
30 Academic Way, Durham, NH
The Museum of Art is the New Hampshire Seacoast's premier art museum a center for the visual arts where visitors gather to enjoy changing exhibitio... Read More
One Governors Lane, Exeter, NH
Located in historic downtown Exeter, the American Independence Museum comprises the 18th century Ladd-Gilman House, Folsom Tavern, and over an acre... Read More
14 Hancock Street, Portsmouth, NH
History & Mission:Visitors to Strawbery Banke have the opportunity to experience and imagine how people lived and worked in this typical Americ... Read More
28 Chestnut Street, Portsmouth, NH
Mission The mission of The Music Hall is to present the very best of diverse performing and related arts and to serve as an active and vital arts ... Read More
84 Main Street, New London, NH
History:The New London Barn Playhouse is the oldest, continuously operating Summer Stock theater in New Hampshire, a distinction which has gained i... Read More
55 Hadley Road, Peterborough, NH
The mission of the Peterborough Players, a nonprofit institution, is to provide professional theatre of high quality to a broad-based audience and ... Read More
229 Main Street, Keene, NH
The Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery is the dynamic, vital center for the visual arts in the Monadnock Region, encompassing the best of the traditiona... Read More
481 Daniel Webster Highway, Lincoln, NH
At the Whale's Tale Water Park, the whole family can play in the only wave pool in the White Mountains. Ride the big waves or relax in the gentle o... Read More
95 Main Street, Keene, NH
Mission: The Colonial Theatre is a historic performing arts center which brings the cultural and creative spirit of our community to life. The Col... Read More
2 Institute Drive, Concord, NH
Mission Statement: To educate, incite and entertain learners of all ages in the sciences and humanities by actively engaging them in the explorati... Read More
80 Hanover Street, Manchester, NH
Mission Statement: The mission of the Palace Theatre Trust is to enrich the region's cultural life and serve as a community resource through its st... Read More
528 Presidential Highway, Jefferson, NH
Come ride our signature rides like Rudy's Rapid Transit Roller Coaster, the Skyway Sleigh Monorail, and the Yule Log Flume! Yule enjoy them year af... Read More
44 South Main Street, Concord, NH
Mission Statement: Created and sustained by the people of New Hampshire, the Capitol Center for the Arts shall inspire, educate and entertain audie... Read More
399 Center Street, Wolfeboro, NH
About Us:The New Hampshire Boat Museum is an educational organization focusing on the boating heritage and life on the lakes and rivers of New Hamp... Read More
Show More
Select a New Hampshire town to find
the Best Things-To-Do and Places To Go around you