Haunt in the Horseshoe—Sanford, North Carolina

House in the Horseshoe State Park
288 Alston House Road
Sanford, North Carolina

By all accounts, Philip Alston was trouble. A member of the prominent Alston family, some might describe him as a spoiled brat. The house Alston constructed at this horseshoe bend in the Deep River was among the first large plantation homes constructed in this region when it was built in 1772. As revolutionary tensions heated up throughout the colonies, Alston sided with the Patriot cause. Though he was fighting for the same ideals, even the Patriots took umbrage with Philip Alston. Another Patriot, Robert Rowan, even spoke to the governor of his dislike for Alston’s “domineering” and “tyrannical” attitude.

With the outbreak of fighting, squabbles between neighbors took on more deadly overtones throughout the frontier. Planter David Fanning of South Carolina remained loyal to the British crown and steadfastly rooted out Patriots throughout the area. A small militia under Fanning’s command attacked Alston’s home on the morning of August 5, 1781 in retaliation for the death of one of his men at the hands of some of Alston’s comrades. That morning, Alston, his wife Temperance, two children, and a small band of his men were at the large white house. When Fanning’s men attempted to attack the house one of the Tories was quickly felled by a bullet to the heart. Soon gunfire poured from the home’s windows while Alston’s children cowered in a fireplace inside.

A cart of straw was set alight and pushed towards the house which began to burn. Fearful of being burned out of the house, Alston sent his wife with a flag of truce to arrange surrender. Fanning agreed to allow Alston and his men to surrender. The Tories plundered the bullet-riddled house but did not burn it.

House in the Horseshoe, 2007, by Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Philip Alston remained on his plantation for some years after the war and served in the state senate, though his roguish attitude lead to his fall from grace and in 1790, he was forced to sell his beloved home. Some believe that the rascal spirit of Alston may remain here in the form of footsteps heard in the home, disembodied whispers in the fireplace where the children were hidden, and orbs of light seen in the yard.


  • Barefoot, Daniel W. Spirits of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair. 2009.
  • Bishir, Catherine W. and Michael T. Southern. A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Hauck, Dennis William. Haunted Places: The National Directory. NYC: Penguin, 1996.
  • House in the Horseshoe: Overview.” NC Historic Sites. Accessed 3 January 2016.
  • Thompson, Jessica Lee. “House in the Horseshoe.” North Carolina History Project. Accessed 3 January 2016.

Apparitions at Allatoona—Cartersville, Georgia

Allatoona Pass Battlefield
Old Allatoona Road
Cartersville, Georgia

Despite Atlanta’s sprawl and the construction of the nearby I-75 corridor, Allatoona Pass Battlefield remains as one of the most pristine battlefields in the country. Located about a mile and a half from bustling I-75, the battlefield seems remote and almost lost in time. The village of Allatoona that existed in 1864 is mostly gone, replaced instead by the Lake Allatoona reservoir and a few buildings of more recent vintage. Even the railroad has abandoned the area, having been rerouted with the building of the reservoir.

Allatoona Pass by George Bernard, 1864. The house on the far left is still standing.
The same house from the photograph above, 2011. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
The railroad cut, 2011. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

At the time of the Civil War, the Western & Atlantic Railroad provided the vital link between Atlanta and Chattanooga, Tennessee which found itself very close to Union territory following the Confederate defeat at Shiloh. This somewhat mountainous region provided one of the first obstacles as the railroad made its way north. Just north of the tiny village of Allatoona slave labor was used to dig a cut through the Allatoona Mountains allowing trains to move easily towards Chattanooga. The village at the south end of the cut mostly consisted of a depot, some warehouses and an odd assortment of houses and shops. After the pass was captured by Federal forces in June of 1864, Sherman ordered that the pass be heavily fortified and three star-shaped earthen forts were constructed to stand guard.

The railroad cut looking south, 2012. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Panoramic view of one of the star forts built to guard the cut with the author standing by. Photo 2011, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

In a last-ditch attempt by the Confederates to capture and destroy Sherman’s supply line to federally held Atlanta, they attacked these forts on October 5th. Under the command of Major General Samuel G. French, the Point Coupee Artillery from Louisiana poured shells onto the well-entrenched units from Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota under the command of Brigadier General John M. Corse. After two hours, French sent an order for Corse to surrender, which was refused.

Grave of the Unknown Soldier, who may be one of the spirits haunting this battlefield. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Legends at this site date to not long after the war when a Confederate soldier (believed to be the spirit of an unknown soldier buried next to the tracks) was seen. More recently, the sounds of battle, cries of the wounded, spectral soldiers and an overpowering sense of dread have been reported here.


  • Battle of Allatoona. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 15 April 2011.
  • Lake Allatoona. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 8 April 2011.
  • Scaife, William R. Allatoona Pass Battlefield: The Official Website. 2000.
  • Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.

A Tasteful Spirit—Greensboro, North Carolina

Guilford County Sheriff’s Office
400 West Washington Street
Greensboro, North Carolina

 In a recent article about the strange goings-on at the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, the niece of Otto Zenke reported that his spirit may not approve of the vertical blinds used throughout the building. “He would never have approved of all those vertical blinds,” Ginia Zenke responded. “Not when his workrooms churned out beautiful draperies and furnishings for decades.” The sheriff’s office occupies a building that once served as noted interior designer Otto Zenke’s showroom and residence in his final years.

Brooklyn-born Otto Zenke arrived in Greensboro in 1937 to work for a furniture store. After going into business for himself with his brother in 1946, Zenke made a name for himself as one of the leading interior designers of the day as he worked on projects for wealthy clients in the area. He collected fine antiques and acquired the delicate, Italianate-styled Eugene Morehead House at 215 South Eugene Street which he turned into a local showplace. In the European style, the home’s library featured murals and paneling. The exquisitely executed gardens surrounding the house became a noted feature on the tours of local garden clubs. Sadly, city officials didn’t see this home as a treasure in their city.

In the 1960s as Greensboro began to execute a plan for “urban development” Zenke’s magnificent home and gardens sat smack dab in the middle of a proposed government center. The property was seized under eminent domain in 1968 and replaced with a Brutalist monstrosity by Argentine modernist Eduardo Catalano. The delicate cottage was razed over two days and the unadorned cast concrete walls of the government center rose over the next few years in its place. While the city did well in hiring a noted architect for the design, the bold architectural lines have always stood very harshly against the more classically based traditional architecture of the city; so much so that Preservation Greensboro remarked in its blog that the style, “has never been at ease” in the city.

Zenke, never one to back down from a challenge, moved across the street into the series of buildings that housed his showrooms and workshops. There, he created a fine residence that rivaled any in the city, though his heart still longed for the delicate cottage that he had lost. Otto Zenke died of cancer in 1984. Not long after his death, when the city bought Zenke’s last residence and converted it to the sheriff’s office, locals noted the irony of the situation.

The building behind the trees with the chimney is the sheriff’s office, formerly Otto Zenke’s residence.

Otto Zenke has a good reason to stalk the halls of the sheriff’s office and he seems to be particularly active. Law enforcement officials and staff have reported having items on their desks and in their offices rearranged, perhaps to suit Mr. Zenke’s taste. Some employees have had their names called by a male voice while working in the building after hours. Others have heard distinct footsteps rambling through empty rooms and hallways. While the spirit may not be malevolent, it does seem he may be a bit judgmental. If you work in the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, you may want to keep your office tidy.


  • Associated Press. “Could ‘weird things’ at Guilford County Sheriff’s Office be a ghost?” Burlington Times-News. 13 September 2015.
  • Bishir, Catherine W. and Michael T. Southern. A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina. Chapel Hill NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2003.
  • Zenke, Ginia. “Lost to progress: The Otto Zenke Buildings.” Let me get this straight… 25 March 2012.