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Route 666 is one of the nation’s scariest roads. It widely comes up in conversation and has appeared in movies and other fictional works. The U.S. highway, which officials eventually renamed Route 191, is controversial for a few reasons. Notably, an absurd number of car accidents occurred on the notorious stretch. That reputation, in part, gained it the nickname “The Devil’s Highway.”

But that’s not why officials renamed Route 666. Here’s the real reason.

What made Route 666 so controversial?

Former Route 666 - Devil's Highway - US Highway 191 name change
A car drives on Route 191, formerly Route 666, through Utah’s Red Rock Country | Marica van der Meer/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The former U.S. Highway 666 is infamous for various reasons. Perhaps the biggest is the most obvious to Bible readers. Known as the Devil’s Highway, the numeral “666” in the road’s original name unintentionally referenced the “number of the Beast,” aka the Devil, mentioned in the Book of Revelation (13:15–18). Many people who lived near or traveled the highway were against its seemingly Satan-invoking name. Far and wide, people considered Route 666 cursed and a threat to car safety.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, the so-called Devil’s Highway got its original name simply due to the road-numbering system in 1926. These routes received their numerical designations based on location. For the most part, it’s only random that officials called the highway “666.”

The intriguing thing about the former Route 666’s negative reputation is that the car crash numbers appeared to support its diabolical name. Many locals, including lawmakers, were against “666” after several notable accidents happened on the highway. However, eventual road improvements decreased the number of collisions.

Regardless, in 2003, officials renamed the highway, which runs about 200 miles through parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah, after receiving multiple complaints about the moniker. Since then, it’s been known by the benign but forgettable “Route 191.”

3 creepy tales of the Devil’s Highway

Among the strange stories about the old Route 666 is “Satan’s Sedan.” According to lore, some people driving on the road spotted a pair of mysterious headlights in the review mirror. Of course, they soon realized they couldn’t see the car because it was black and blended into the darkness. Unfortunately, regardless of how fast the victims would go, the black sedan would catch up and try to rear-end them. In most iterations of the story, the motorists would pull over. Some claimed they witnessed the car speeding past, while others said they no longer saw a vehicle and began to think they had imagined it.

Another creepy tale about Route 666 is “The Hounds of Hell.” Many motorists reported seeing a pack of vicious dogs. The witnesses assumed the canines were supernatural because they could run as fast as a vehicle. Additionally, the myth mentions instances of the dogs jumping through car windows as people drove. Many believers think the hellhounds caused some of the many wrecks.

Perhaps the eeriest phenomenon on Route 666 was travelers claiming to have disappeared and experienced time loss. Disappearances allegedly happened in many situations, with the alleged victim later showing up and experiencing confusion. Sometimes, the person’s belongings would mysteriously appear on the road. But in other instances, there was no physical proof they were even on Highway 666. Quite a few drivers said their travel time was much longer than expected, yet they had no sense of how long their trip lasted.

Route 666 today

Over the decades, U.S. Highway 666 became a spooky road that frightened many people. It even inspired the 2001 zombie flick Route 666, starring Lou Diamond Phillips. Despite its new name and fewer documented crashes, some travelers who still believe the road is cursed try to avoid it. Though much of the creepy lore is a thing of the past, Route 666’s legend endures, continuing to inspire works of fiction.