Zombie Road in Wildwood, Missouri
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Have you ever run across an old, overgrown road out in the middle of the woods? They can be pretty eerie during the day. After dark, places like that can turn downright creepy.
Places like this:
It's a place of legend. Some say it's haunted, others say it's dangerous to go there at night, while others claim it's the site of an ancient curse. Let's see how close we can get to uncovering the truth of this 100% absolutely evil, cursed, haunted, zombified, deadly, remote, and incredibly hard-to-find place they call "Zombie Road."
Where Is Wildwood, Missouri?
Old U.S. Route 66, depending on the year, used to run along a few different places. From 1926 to 1932, it ran straight through a town in Missouri named Wildwood. Wildwood is a small town with a population of only about 35,000 people, located about half an hour's drive west of St. Louis.
Like most places along old Route 66, it's full of strange stories about ghosts, monsters, and mysterious disappearances. The name itself, Wildwood, probably conjures images of European settlers fighting against the untamed wilderness, maybe even stage coaches, train robbers, and outlaws fighting the local lawmen.
Personally, it reminds me of a place in World of Warcraft named Duskwood: a small village near a fog-covered trail stalked by the undead and a giant reanimated NPC Elite hellbent on pulverizing unsuspecting wayward travelers.
As it turns out, sadly, both of those images are horribly wrong because Wildwood, Missouri, wasn't even a thing until 1995. There were people in the area, in other small towns, and historical evidence shows that indigenous people have been in that part of Missouri for something like 10,000 years—at least.
But knowing that Wildwood itself didn't exist until recently just brings up more questions about this legendarily dangerous place.
I solemnly swear that legendarily is a word. I challenge you to use it in everyday speech this week, especially in a Zoom meeting.
The Legends of Zombie Road
Near the Meramec River, on the edges of Wildwood, Missouri, there's a small path tucked away among hills and oak trees. It was originally built in the 1860s, over a hundred years before Wildwood even existed.
Our old friend "Legend Has It" says the 3.6-mile-long Zombie Road runs straight over an ancient Indian burial ground.
Which tribe(s), you ask? Hah! Legend Has It knows not of these "tribes" you speak of. It's just "Indians."
Hikers have reported feeling unsettled, as if they're constantly being watched, and have said there are unexplainable noises along the road, as well as "cold spots." Some have even said a mysterious old woman yells at passersby, only to vanish when they go investigate.
Legend has it that anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves there at night is bound to be chased and probably murdered by spectral American Indians, undead Confederate rebels, packs of child ghosts, and even the tortured souls of railroad and quarry workers killed in accidents. And it's not just the undead; there are also rumors of shadowy figures, non-human entities, and even a giant serial killer zombie.
Okay, so I bet you're wondering about the giant serial killer zombie. Supposedly, back in the 1950s, Zombie Road was a local hotspot for teens to make out. Around that same time, a crazed man from a nearby mental hospital escaped and disappeared somewhere along the road, leaving his bloody clothes on the side of the road. He set up residence in a worn-down shack, sometimes sneaking out at night to go murder teenagers. He lived out the rest of his days, happily holing up in a shack and engaging in his murder hobby, only to die an old man and then continue haunting the area as a giant serial killer zombie.
And that's where the "Zombie" in "Zombie Road" comes from.
I'm totally not making this up.
There's another variation of this same tale that says "Zombie" worked in "an orphanage run by sadists" and that, inexplicably, there was a nearby cemetery specifically for murdered children. Something vague and hand-wavy...and there you have it: Zombie Road.
If any of this is true, then Zombie Road sounds terrifying. But, they say truth is stranger than fiction, and in the case of Zombie Road, the truth is scarier than fiction.
Wildwood's Official Stance on Zombie Road
Wildwood's official stance?
Zombie Road is off-limits after dark.
Also, Zombie Road doesn't exist.
That's probably because there never was a place officially called Zombie Road. It was actually called Lawler Ford Road, and it was created back in the 1800s as an access road for the Meramec River. In ancient times, way back in 2010, it was freshly paved, renamed Rock Hollow Trail, and is now a bike path. Legend has it that it's hard to find. Lucky for us, you can just punch in "Rock Hollow Trail" on Google Maps, and it'll take you straight there. It's right off a place called Al Foster Memorial Trail, where you can head for free parking, public restrooms, picnic tables, pavilions, and maps of the hiking trails in the area. If the amenities aren't scary enough, check out this fearsome group caught on camera wielding massive blades in what the locals call a "Ribbon Cutting."
The truth is that Zombie Road is a dangerous place at night because it's stalked by police looking for trespassers and vandals. The local law enforcement carries ticket books and will write you a ticket for trespassing, with fines of as much as $1,000 for a single incident.
Told you it was a scary place.
So, if you find yourself in Wildwood and want to visit "one of those most haunted places in Missouri" at night, you too can end up with a $1,000 memento of your terrifying experience.
Relevant & Related
- Don't miss a great ~6-minute walk along Rock Hollow Trail, aka Zombie Road, by Ides of March Adventures on YouTube.
- A paranormal documentary titled Children of the Grave, released in 2007 on the SyFy channel, sent a bunch of people running straight toward Zombie Road to get their own spooky sighting of strange phenomena. Those who ventured onto the Zombie Road left truly shooketh (because of the fine).
- You can read more about Zombie Road and other Missouri legends in Troy Taylor's book Weird Highway: Missouri: Route 66 History & Hauntings, Legends & Lore. There are a lot of great stories in it and some fascinating history of old Route 66.
- Want to read more about Route 66? Check out my article: U.S. Route 66: Hauntings & Strange Phenomena.
And for more local legends around the U.S., some of which have a lot more evidence than just rumors, try these: