Notes on Haunted North Carolina

Seemingly, the pandemic has affected everything, including my own writing and research. While I have continued to research, my motivation and focus when writing has been severely undermined.

In my research for this blog I have amassed a tremendous amount of information in the form of books, as well as in periodical articles and blog entries. Yet, so much of this information hasn’t been utilized. When I write blog entries, I usually pour a great deal of research into my subject or subjects, which of course takes time. These entries, however, have been written in a “fast and furious” style and utilize just one or two sources. I expect that these may be used and expanded in the future. Please enjoy this “fast and furious” tour of North Carolina haunts!

Asheville

1889 WhiteGate Inn & Cottage
173 East Chestnut Street

This Asheville bed & breakfast has been in operation for many years. Over that time, guests have reported quite a bit of paranormal activity. A 2001 article in the Asheville Citizen-Times notes some of that activity including footsteps on the stairs and an old woman sitting on an outside chair.

Sources

  • Clark, Paul. “Ghosts luring guests to local bed and breakfasts.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 September 2001.

Lewis Memorial Park Cemetery
415 Beaverdam Road

Workers in this cemetery have reported a ghostly horse and rider as well as a phantom dog. Some believe the rider may be the spirit of Robert J. Lewis who created the park in 1927.

Sources

  • Bianchi, Melanie M. “Outdoors: Spooky outdoor spots.” Mountain Xpress. 29 October 2008.

Bath

Devil’s Hoofprints on the Cutler Farm (private)
NC 1334

These mysterious prints on the edge of the woods now on private property are believed to be those of the Devil. Sometime in the early 19th century, a local man by the name of Jesse Elliott was known for his fondness for horses and racing. He was approached by a stranger wearing black astride a black horse. The stranger made a wager with Elliott as to whose horse was faster.

Elliott soon found himself in the lead and he boasted to the stranger “Take me as the winner or take me to hell!” As soon as the words left his mouth, the stranger was next to him and Elliott’s horse stopped running. Jesse was thrown from his horse, his head hitting a pine tree killing him.

The stranger got off his horse and supposedly took ahold of his soul and disappeared. The only sign that the Devil had been there were hoofprints left in the soft earth. Like the Devil’s Tramping Ground in Bear Creek (also included in this article), debris falling into the hoofprints is quickly swept away by an unseen force.

Sources

  • Bianchi, Melanie M. “Outdoors: Spooky outdoor spots.” Mountain Xpress. 29 October 2008.
  • Carmichael, Sherman. Mysterious Tales of the North Carolina Coast. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2018.

Bear Creek

Devil’s Tramping Ground
4005 Devil’s Tramping Ground Road

Devil's Tramping Ground Bear Creek North Carol;ina
A view of the Devil’s Tramping Ground in 2007. Photo by Jason Horne, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In a state full of paranormal landmarks, the Devil’s Tramping Ground outside of Siler City is perhaps one of the most famous. This circular clearing in the woods oddly has no plant life or debris within it. Legend states that this is due to the nightly tramping of the Devil, though scientific investigation has not been able to find a reasonable answer. Curious visitors have left things within the mysterious space only to find it swept clean in the morning.

Sources

  • Devil’s Tramping Ground. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 January 2021.
  • “Spookiest spots in North Carolina.” 24 October 2019.

Burke and Caldwell Counties

Brown Mountain

Brown Mountain North Carolina
Brown Mountain in 2016. Photo by Thomson200, courtesy of Wikipedia.

On the border of Burke and Caldwell counties within the Pisgah National Forest is the famed Brown Mountain on whose flanks ghost lights have been seen for quite some time. One of first mentions of the lights in the media occurred in 1913 and an investigator with the U.S. Geological Survey determined that the lights were simply those of a train. Another investigation by the same government entity in 1922 put the blame squarely on trains, automobiles, and stationary lights. However, after a flood in the area cut off electricity and damaged railroads, the lights were still seen. In the years since, scientists have continued to ponder the mysteries and have discovered few answers to the famous Brown Mountain Lights.

Sources

Burlington

Paramount Theatre
128 East Front Street

As all good theatres have a ghost, Burlington’s Paramount Theatre is no exception. The kindly, yet mischievous, spirit has been dubbed “Herschel.” Some legends point to his identity as that of a customer who passed away in the men’s room, while others say that he is the spirit of a projectionist who was electrocuted in the projection booth. According to a 2011 article in the local paper, no one has died in the men’s room or projection booth. Despite the debunked legends, seat bottoms have been seen to move on their own, and lights sometimes act up, while actors onstage have seen a shadowy figure in the projection booth.

Sources

  • Boyd, Walter. “Burlington has more than its share of ghosts and goblins.” Times-News. 28 October 2011.

Buxton

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
46379 Lighthouse Road

Cape Hatteras Light Buxton North Carolina
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 2020. Photo by Jschildk, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse has stood over the beach and protected ships from ground on the offshore Diamond Shoals since 1870. During that time, it has also attracted ghosts and paranormal activity. Within the lighthouse itself, a spectral cat has been seen by surprised visitors who have also felt the cat rubbing up against their legs. When the visitor reaches to pet it, the cat vanishes. The apparition of a man in a yellow raincoat has also been spotted here.

Sources

  • Carmichael, Sherman. Mysterious Tales of the North Carolina Coast. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2018.

Candler

Owl’s Nest Inn
2630 Smoky Park Highway

A search of Google reveals that this inn may have closed, though the spirits may remain. A 2001 article in the Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the innkeeper was still scrutinizing an odd photo taken inside the inn. In a room that was supposed to be empty, the photo shows a woman standing in the room with a shroud over her head. But the spirits here did not just make their presence known by appearing in photographs, unseen hands would sometimes turn on gas fireplaces as well as setting alarms on alarm clocks to go off in rooms that had been unoccupied for days.

Sources

  • Clark, Paul. “Ghosts luring guests to local bed and breakfasts.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 September 2001.

Stony Fork Picnic Area
711 Pisgah Highway

Located within Pisgah National Forest on the outskirts of Asheville, this picnic area is reputed to be an old dump site for bodies during the Prohibition era. More recently, bodies of two murder victims have been found in the area. One was identified as a victim of Gary Michael Hilton, while the other remains were those of Judy Smith, who may have also been a victim of Hilton.

Visitors to the area after dark have reportedly been pursued into woods by apparitions, including those of a man and a small boy. A paranormal investigation team heard disembodied footsteps there and one of the investigators described the area as being “very uncomfortable.”

Sources

Chapel Hill

Carolina Inn
211 Pittsboro Street

Built in 1924, the Carolina Inn was meant to house visitors to the University of North Carolina next door. In 1948, William Jacocks, a physics professor and 1904 graduate of the university, made his residence in a suite on the second floor, which he would occupy until 1965. Following his death, visitors staying in Room 256 have experienced activity possibly caused by the mischievous professor’s spirit. One of the most occurrences is that the door will lock by itself and refuse to admit guests.

Sources

  • Gardner, George. “Haunted N.C. hotels.” Charlotte Observer. 3 October 2014.

Corolla

Currituck Beach Light
1101 Corolla Village Road

Currituck Beach Light Corolla North Carolina
Currituck Beach Light, 2007. Photo by Warfieldian, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Constructed in 1875, this lighthouse was the last to be built in the Outer Banks. The north room in the keeper’s house may be the domain of two spirits, a little girl who once stayed in the room and a woman who may have died there. The little girl is supposed to have been the daughter or ward of the first lighthouse keeper. While playing on the beach, the child drowned. Afterwards, her form has been encountered on the property. The woman may have been the wife of a keeper who died from tuberculosis here.

Sources

  • Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
  • Sledge, Joe. Haunting the Outer Banks: Thirteen Tales of Terror from the North Carolina Coast. Gravity Well Books, 2019.

Greensboro

Aycock Auditorium
Campus of University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Facade of Aycock Auditorium UNCG Greensboro North Carolina
Facade of Aycock Auditorium at UNCG, 2015. Photo by Willthacheerleader, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Legend holds that the spirit haunting this auditorium is that of Jane Aycock, daughter of Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, for whom the facility is named. Another story lays the blame for the haunting on the woman who lived in a house that once stood on this spot.

Sources

  • Clodefelter, Tim and Nicole Chenier. “The state of fright: North Carolina history rich in the weird and unexplainable.” Winston-Salem Journal. 29 October 2000.

Kure Beach

Fort Fisher
1610 Fort Fisher Boulevard, South

Fort Fisher was one of the linchpins that kept the Confederacy together. Guarding the approach to Wilmington harbor, the fort aided blockade runners thus keeping the Confederacy alive after so many other ports had been blocked. After the fall of Mobile, Alabama, Fort Fisher became a major target of Union forces. After the first battle waged against the fort was a dismal failure, regrouped Union forces launched a second battle against the fort that was successful. Wilmington fell shortly after.

Fort Fisher Kure Beach North Carolina
Fort Fisher just after the Second Battle of Fort Fisher.

According to Alan Brown, one of the first incidents of paranormal activity was witnessed in 1868 during a reunion of soldiers was held there. Three former soldiers saw a figure atop one of the gun placements. When they waved, the figure raised its sword into the air, revealing it to be none other than General Whiting who had commanded the fort but had been wounded in the second battle and died in captivity. The figure disappeared before their eyes. Figures such as that of the general have been seen repeatedly since and an investigation of the fort in 2004 captured interesting evidence including a human shaped figure that appeared in a photograph.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Places in the American South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Fort Fisher. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 February 2011.
  • Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.
  • Wardrip, Stanley. “Fort Fisher Civil War Battlefield.” In Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Books, 2005.

Morganton

Broughton Hospital
1000 South Sterling Street

Avery Building Broughton Hospital Morganton North Carolina
Avery Building at Broughton Hospital, 2019. Photo by Warren LeMay, courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the lobbying of Dorthea Dix, the state of North Carolina set out to build modern hospitals for the treatment of mental illnesses. The Western Carolina Insane Asylum opened in 1883 and continues to serve as a mental health facility, though with fewer patients and under the name Broughton Hospital. Most facilities treating mental illness have spirits and Broughton is no exception. Reports mention apparitions, disembodied screams, and eerie feelings haunting this facility. Broughton’s sister hospital is Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro which I have also covered here.

Sources

  • Broughton Hospital. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 January 2021.
  • “Spookiest spots in North Carolina.” 24 October 2019.

New Bern

Attmore-Oliver House
510 Pollock Street

Attmore-Oliver House New Bern North Carolina
Attmore-Oliver House, 2006. Photo by Self, courtesy of Wikipedia.

During a paranormal investigation of the Attmore-Oliver House a door slammed in the face of an investigator. After checking the door, there was no obvious force that could have slammed it. Along with some EVPs, this is the main evidence of paranormal activity in this circa 1790 house. Legend tells of a father and daughter who possibly died in the attic during a smallpox epidemic, though this cannot be confirmed through historical records. Others look towards the last resident of the house who was known for her eccentricity. Regardless, there appears to be some very interesting activity going on here.

Sources

  • Manley, Roger. Weird Carolina. NYC: Sterling Publishing, 2007.

Orrum

Lumber River State Park
2819 Princess Ann Road

The swamps and lowlands of America were considered bewitched and dangerous places to the Europeans who settled here. During the American Revolution, patriot General Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion used these mysterious places to his advantage by utilizing guerilla warfare throughout the swamps of South Carolina and even extending into North Carolina on occasion. The land along the course of the Lumber River is mostly undeveloped and remains much as it was when Marion traveled along its swampy run. An old local legend tells of one of Marion’s officers who loved a young woman from a Tory family and passed information on to her father. Marion pursued a group of Tories to Tory Island along the Lumber River and destroyed their settlement. He killed the traitorous officer and hung him in the ruins where the officer’s lover found him. The pair is still seen roaming the island.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • Lumber River State Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 February 2011.

Raleigh

North Carolina State Capitol Building
1 East Edenton Street

North Carolina State Capitol, 2007. Photo by Jim Bowen, courtesy of Wikipedia.
North Carolina State Capitol, 2007. Photo by Jim Bowen, courtesy of Wikipedia.

It seems that many current and former state capitol buildings throughout the South are haunted. Old state capitols in Georgia, Louisiana, and Virginia have ghosts as well as the current state capitols for Maryland, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Of these, only the North Carolina Capitol has received any paranormal investigation. The investigation was conducted by none other than the Rhine Research Center, an organization originally established as part of Duke University, which is now independent of the university, devoted to the scientific study of parapsychology. The Rhine Center discovered paranormal activity in the capitol and one investigator who saw a man in nineteenth century clothing sitting in the legislative chamber.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Rockingham

Hudson Brothers Deli
115 South Lee Street

In 2011, the Sandhills Paranormal Research Society set out to investigate Hudson Brothers Deli, a bar in Rockingham. The building housing the bar originally served as a funeral home. The owner even mentions the existence of crematoriums in the basement.

Among the reports from the bar are the apparition of a girl seen by both a bartender and a manager. One patron reported seeing the apparition of a man in a business suit that told him to, “wait right here.” A former owner reported that an employee sent on an errand to the basement ran screaming from the establishment and never even returned to pick up their paycheck.

The investigation appeared to be successful with the group picking up evidence including the odor of flowers in the basement and EVPs. The group stated that there was definitely spiritual activity here.

Sources

  • Brown, Philip D. “A haunting in Hudson Brothers.” Richmond County Daily Journal. 5 April 2011.

Weaverville

Inn on Main Street
88 South Main Street

New Year’s Eve 1999 offered the owner and guests of the Inn on Main some paranormal activity. As the small group celebrated the new year they “heard two things fall of the wall in the next room.” When the owner walked into the next room, nothing was out of place and the room was empty. A moment later, they heard the sound of a door shutting behind them. The inn occupies a home built around the turn of the 20th century for a surgeon.

Sources

  • Clark, Paul. “Ghosts luring guests to local bed and breakfasts.” Asheville Citizen-Times. 1 September 2001.

Wilmington

Bellamy Mansion
503 Market Street

A spectacular mix of Greek Revival and Italianate architecture, the Bellamy Mansion has been restored and preserved as a monument to history and design. Dr. John D. Bellamy, a physician, planter, and businessman began construction of the house in 1858 and it was completed in 1861, as civil war was breaking out. When Wilmington was captured by Union troops, the house served as headquarters for the Union general. The house is now under the purview of Preservation North Carolina and open as a museum.

Bellamy Mansion Wilmington North Carolina
Bellamy Mansion, 2012. Photo by Jameslwoodward, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The museum staff reportedly doesn’t say much about spirits in the house, but according to Alan Brown, night managers have reported quite a bit of activity. One of those night managers called by the police twice in one night because inside doors were opening by themselves. Another night manager reported seeing the figure of a man and seeing a wheelchair that belonged to one of the Bellamy family members move on its own accord.

Sources

  • Bellamy Mansion. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 1 February 2011.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

USS North Carolina (BB-55)
1 Battleship Road

This mighty battleship was laid down in 1937 and it was completed in 1941, more than seven months before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, one of the events leading the U.S. to enter World War II. The ship was quickly sent to the Pacific Theater where she served valiantly for the Allied cause and then helped ferry American servicemen home following Japan’s surrender. After the ship was struck from the Naval Register, she was preserved as a museum ship.

USS North Carolina Wilmington North Carolina
The USS North Carolina, 2007. Photo by Doc Searls, courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the ship’s service, it is known that ten men lost their lives aboard the ship. It is believed that the spirits of these men remain aboard the ship, along with a great deal of residual energy. During one investigation, a recorder was dropped into a well. After it was retrieved, investigators heard the words “Help! Help!” and “Tommy” clearly spoken in the well. Research showed that a sailor had once fallen into that well and cracked his skull.

Sources

  • Jordan, Annette. “Ghost hunters: Positively Paranormal is who you’re gonna call.” Courier-Tribune. 16 September 2013.
  • USS North Carolina (BB-55). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 January 2021.

Directory of Haunted Southern Roads and Bridges

Along Southern roadways and bridges, people sometimes experience strange activity. From lonely “Cry Baby Bridges” to apparitions, phantom coaches, and strange sounds and feelings, this directory covers hauntings throughout the South. This directory covers roads, streets, bridges, trails, and sites immediately adjacent to byways.

Alabama

William Gibson Gravesite Springville Alabama
The roadside grave of William Gibson. Photo courtesy of Waymarking.com.

District of Columbia

FAA Headquarters on Independence Avenue, 2009. Photo by
Matthew Bisanz, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida

Georgia

The Haunted Pillar with the Haunted Pillar Tattoo
Shop behind it. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell IV,
all rights reserved.

Kentucky

haunted Old Richardsville Road Bridge Bowling Green Kentucky ghost crybaby bridge
Old Richardsville Road Bridge, 2014, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louisiana

Maryland

Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mississippi

Homochitto River bridge Rosetta Mississippi 1974 flood
This shows the damage done to the bridge during the April 1974 flood. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina

Helen’s Bridge, October 2012, by Lewis O. Powell IV. All rights reserved.

South Carolina

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, 2012.

Tennessee

Siam Steel Bridge Elizabethton Tennessee haunted ghost
The Siam Steel Bridge, July 2008, by Calvin Sneed. Courtesy of Bridgehunter.com.

Virginia

TWA Flight 514 crash site Virginia
The TWA Flight 514 crash site in December of 1975, a year after the crash. These trees were sheared off by the low-flying plane. Photo by C. Brown, courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia

West Virginia Turnpike 1974
A two-lane section of the turnpike in 1974. Photo by Jack Corn for the EPA.

13 Southern Roadway Revenants

Since I started my blog, I have been hesitant to use random encounters from online. Of course, while many of these stories are hard, nay impossible, to prove, some of them do ring with a sense of truth. For a writer like me, one of the most difficult tasks in my research is finding good, firsthand accounts of ghostly encounters, especially for areas where there is a general lack of documented stories (i.e. books, newspaper articles, etc.).

Recently, I have become fascinated with the Ghosts of America website. This website collects stories from people throughout the country. While many of these accounts talk about ghosts in private homes, some discuss specific locations. While wading through this vast collection, I’m looking for specific accounts that not only mention specific locations but have a sense of authenticity as well.

Please note, I cannot guarantee that any of these places are truly haunted or that these accounts are totally truthful.

Since my last article on haunted roads and bridges in Alabama, I decided to look at encounters in every state that I cover. These are the results.

Brown Street
Altoona, Alabama

Birmingham, Alabama was named for the English city of Birmingham—one of the earliest industrial cities in the Western world. Altoona, Alabama, which was founded around the turn of the 20th century as a coal-mining town, was named for the great Pennsylvania coal-mining town of Altoona. Likely, the town supplied coal for the burgeoning steel industry centered in nearby Birmingham.

There’s not much to the community of Altoona; Main Street is Alabama Highway 132 as it heads southwest to Oneonta in neighboring Blount County, traveling east you’ll connect with US 278. A post office and several stores form the center of the town with small homes radiating outward.

Brown Street branches off Main Street and winds through rural woods with sporadic houses lining its side before it terminates south of town. An anonymous poster to Ghosts of America documented an interesting encounter on this street. A woman was driving this street at night when her car broke down within 500 yards of 11th Avenue. She pulled off the road and called her husband to come get her.

As she waited on the side of the road, she noted that she felt comfortable as she was familiar with the area. An old Dodge drove past her and she watched as it turned around to check on her. As the vehicle passed her again, she saw an elderly man driving. Slowing down, the mysterious driver smiled at her and nodded, “as if to let me know I would be fine.” Reaching for her phone, the woman looked to see if her husband was nearby. As she looked up again, the vehicle was nowhere in sight, and the witness realized the old Dodge had made no sound at all.

Sources

New York Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC
 

New York Avenue begins auspiciously at the White House heading northwest towards Maryland. As one of the original avenues laid out by Pierre Charles L’Enfant, this thoroughfare originally began at the Potomac River southwest of the White House, but over time those sections of the avenue have been consumed by development, so now only a block remains south of the White House. According to L’Enfant’s plan, the avenue terminated at Boundary Street (now Florida Avenue), though support was garnered around the turn of the 20th century to extend the road into Maryland. This was finally accomplished in 1931.

As New York Avenue stretches northeast away from the hubbub of downtown Washington, its monumental nature falls away and it begins to take on a more plebeian flair as it sidles up to the Amtrak Railyards. Upscale businesses are replaced with light industrial and pedestrian commercial development. Efforts to redevelop the corridor were discussed in 1980 and up through the early 2000s, though much of that work has not come to fruition. A 2005 study of the most crash-prone intersections in the city concluded that five were located on New York Avenue, with the top one being the intersection with Bladensburg Road.

New York Avenue Washington DC
The intersection of New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, 2016. Photo by Famartin, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An encounter posted to Ghosts of America makes note of the avenue’s dicey reputation, especially after dark. “Larry” however, decided to use it as a shortcut around 3 AM one morning. As he waited at a stoplight, a disheveled man approached his car and stopped in front. The light turned green and the man continued to stand in front of his car. Larry honked, though the strange man continued standing there. As he backed his car up to go around, Larry realized that the man did not have legs and was seemingly floating in mid-air. Terrified, he sped away from the scene.

Sources

Melrose Landing Boulevard
Hawthorne, Florida
 

Melrose Landing Boulevard is a sparsely inhabited road through rural Putnam County, Florida, near the towns of Hawthorne and Melrose. According to a poster named Sarah on Ghosts of America, it was along this road that her father and brother came upon a woman standing in the road “in a dress that looked to be out of the 1700’s.” She appeared suddenly, and the truck didn’t have time to stop before passing through her.

Around 3 AM on November 1, 2009, All Saints’ Day, the day after Halloween, Sarah turned onto the road at the same place where her father and brother had their earlier incident. As she drove down the road she passed a woman walking “with her long dress all gathered up in her arms.” Realizing that she might need to check on the woman, she turned around and discovered no one around. Sarah also noted that she was returning home from working at a seasonal haunted attraction and was driving a hearse. She considered that the oddity of someone encountering such a vehicle on such a day might have frightened the mysterious woman and that she may have fled into the woods, though Sarah doubted it.

Sources

Bemiss Road (GA 125)
Valdosta, Georgia

Connecting Valdosta with Moody Air Force Base and Fitzgerald, GA 125 is named Bemiss Road in Valdosta as it heads towards the small community of Bemiss. A poster on Ghosts of America named Arturias revealed that he drove this road frequently at night over the course of fifteen years. During that time, he witnessed people walking along the road, though on three occasions he “noticed coming up on them that they didn’t have legs under the streetlights. Looked faded out.”

After these experiences, he heard the road referred to as the “Highway of Death.” I can find nothing online to prove or disprove whether this is actually the case and why.

Sources

Baker Road
Fort Knox, Kentucky

Branching off of US 31W, Baker Road serves as a truck entrance to Fort Knox. A post on Ghosts of America from someone going by the handle, Redfraggle, was apparently written by one of those truck drivers who frequently drives Baker Road late at night. While headed towards the Brandenburg Gate, this driver had to swerve “to avoid hitting a dark-haired woman crossing the road.” Dressed in a muumuu, the woman appeared solid and the driver stopped to check on her. The woman only looked at him with a “broken hearted” expression and vanished.

Fort Knox Kentucky entrance sign
A sign at one of the entrances to Fort Knox. Photo 1999, by 48states, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The driver reports that he has seen the woman many times but doesn’t stop for her. In addition, this apparition has appeared along this stretch of road to his fellow drivers.

Please note that this road is on a military base and off limits to the public.

Sources

Fort Knox, Kentucky Ghost Sightings. GhostsofAmerica.com. Accessed 30 July 2020.

Albany Lights
Elbert Stewart Road
Albany/Independence, Louisiana Area

About five miles north of Albany and five miles west of Independence is Elbert Stewart Road, home to the locally known Albany Lights. I can find no other reference to these lights online or in any of my research.

A submission from Larry on Ghosts of America, describes his experiences with the lights throughout his life. According to the post, Elbert Stewart Road was once called Dummy Line Road. The term “dummy line” refers to railroads that were constructed to serve the timber as it cut huge swathes of land throughout the South the end of 19th and into the early 20th centuries. Presumably, these lines were called “dummy” because they did not connect to the transportation rail lines.

The story of the lights involves a brakeman who was killed when he failed to pin the coupling between two cars and was crushed. The lights are supposed to be the brakeman’s signal “that the pinning was made.”

Larry explains that some years ago the road was named for his grandfather and that at 49 years of age, he recalls the lights appearing all his life. Interestingly, he points out that if you have photographic equipment on you, the lights will not appear (what about cellphones?). Otherwise, viewers have an 80% chance of seeing the hazy, bluish colored light.

Interestingly, he notes that the phenomenon has been investigated by the FBI, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Geographic Society. None of these investigations were successful as they all had photographic equipment on them.

A comment on the post from a nearby resident states that they have encountered the lights here “plus much more.”

Sources

Church Road Cemetery
Church Road
Broomes Island, Maryland

Occupying a small peninsula extending into the Patuxent River, the community of Broomes Island plays host to a haunted cemetery. Not only do spirits haunt the cemetery, but they apparently have spilled out onto surrounding streets. This location is documented in Ghosthunting Maryland by the father and son duo of Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. The Varholas describe a ritual where someone circles the cemetery three times at night, after which a fog rolls in the laughter of young girls can be heard.

A post on Ghosts of America mentions that the cemetery has numerous spirits which have spilled out into the nearby streets where they “scream and laugh.” A comment on this post is from a newspaper delivery man who has encountered the spirit of a young boy who told him and his mother to leave. Afterwhich, they saw it run past the car windows.

Sources

MS 33 Bridge over the Homochitto River
Rosetta, Mississippi

Less than a mile north of the unincorporated community of Rosetta in the Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi State Route 33 crosses the Homochitto River on a fairly new bridge. This bridge has seen multiple iterations as the shallow river erodes the stream banks. For nearly two centuries a ferry crossed here which was eventually replaced by a bridge. That bridge was replaced in 1941. The new bridge was damaged during a flood, and it was repaired and extended in 1956.

By 1974, the bridge was again needing work and it was extended again. Just two months after completion, the bridge was washed out during a flood. This washout claimed the lives of two men who were reportedly standing on the bridge. The current bridge was completed by the MDOT in 1978, though it too, has been extended around 2014.

Homochitto River bridge Rosetta Mississippi 1974 flood
This shows the damage done to the bridge during the April 1974 flood. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A brief post on Ghosts of America states that phantom headlights have been seen on this bridge heading southbound but disappearing before they cross the full length of the bridge.

Sources

South Queen Street Bridge over the Neuse River
Kinston, North Carolina

A couple from out of town was staying at “the hotel that sits right next to the Queen Street Neuse River Bridge,” presumably the Red Carpet Inn and Suites. After dark they walked across the road to get dinner from Hardee’s. As they made their way back to their hotel, they began to hear the sounds of “men screaming, ‘stop the fire’ and the sounds of water splashing” coming from the direction of the bridge. The sounds continued with the noise of a battle. At the same time, they both smelled the odor of cigar smoke. They ran back to their room.

The following day, they mentioned the incident to the hotel manager and were told that a battle was fought there during the Civil War, and that guests routinely report hearing and seeing things around the bridge. The couple reported their experiences on Ghosts of America.

In fact, this was the site of the Kinston Bridge which came under attack by Union troops on December 14, 1862. After defending a defensive line south of the bridge, Confederate troops retreated towards the bridge and crossed into town. Thinking that all his men had crossed, General Nathan Evans ordered his men to set the bridge aflame. However, a number of Confederate troops still remained on the opposite side and were now taking the brunt of artillery fire from both Union troops and their own men on the other side of the bridge.

As these men began to run for the bridge they realized that it was in flames and many were captured by Union forces. General John G. Foster sent his men to douse the flames and continue across the partially destroyed bridge into Kinston. As Evans retreated away from town, Union soldiers looted and destroyed parts of the city.

Sources

US 1
Between Bethune and Cassatt, South Carolina

Stretching between Key West., Florida and Fort Kent, Maine, US 1 is the longest north-south road in the country. While this highway passes through many busy urban areas, it also passes through quiet, rural areas such as this area of Kershaw County. Michael posted on Ghosts of America about his experience on this lonely stretch of road around 12:30 at night.

As he passes through an undeveloped area, Michael passed a woman walking on the side of the road. He noticed that she had an “old mottled blanket wrapped around her. The entire figure was so very pale. Her hair was blonde, and the blanket appeared to have dark dots on it.” As he passed her, he wondered why someone would be out on a chilly night on this lonely stretch of road. Looking in his rearview mirror, he could only see darkness. The following night he was on the lookout for the woman, but she did not appear. After arriving at work, he told some of his co-workers about the experience only to have someone come in from the next room saying that they had seen the woman as well. Their description matched his, all the way down to the blanket.

Sources

Dolly Parton Parkway
Sevierville, Tennessee
 

An employee for an industrial laundry posted on Ghosts of America that two of his drivers had strange experiences on Dolly Parton Parkway. The first encounter involved a driver as he drove into work around 2:30 AM along Dolly Parton Parkway. He encountered a thick fog, and “came upon 4 men in old tattered clothes pushing a cannon across the road.” Slamming on the brakes, he sat and watched as the men rolled the cannon across the road without noticing him or his car. Going into work, the shaken driver told his supervisor of his experience.

The second encounter also involved a man driving the same stretch of road in the very early morning also driving through a thick patch of fog. “His entire windshield froze completely over with frost to the point where he had to pull over and scrape it with his license.” Interestingly, the temperatures that morning were quite warm.

The poster, Leslie, Googled the area and discovered that a battle was fought near the roadway during the Civil War. Though a small battle, the Battle of Fair Garden was furious, and led to roughly 250 casualties. Most curious is a detail on the recently installed marker near the battlefield: the battle was fought on a cold January morning in a heavy fog.

Sources

East Virginia Avenue (US 460)
Crewe, Virginia

A resident East Virginia Avenue named Larry reported seeing a man walking the street with a lantern in this small Virginia town. He notes that he and his family have lived on the street as long as he can remember and that he has seen this apparition the entire time. While he knows of no other neighbors who have witnessed it, several of his relatives have seen it. One relative visiting from out of town went out to smoke in the front yard around midnight and watched an orange light glide down the street. As the light came closer, it vanished.

The town of Crewe was created in 1888 by the Norfolk & Western Railroad—later Norfolk Southern—as a site for locomotive repair shops. The necessity of the repair shops decreased towards the middle of the 20th century.

Sources

West Virginia State Route 2
New Cumberland, West Virginia

Hancock County is the northernmost county in West Virginia, and the South. It pushes up between Ohio and Pennsylvania, and one side of the county is defined by the Ohio River. New Cumberland is one of the towns located on the river. WV 2 runs through the heart of the town.

A post on Ghosts of America from John describes an incident that happened to him as he was driving southbound on WV 2 in New Cumberland in the spring of 1974. As he and his passenger neared railroad tracks and a bridge, “a ‘man’ stepped out in front of my vehicle. He turned and looked directly at me as the hood of my car went through him.” Then he suddenly disappeared. He continues, “I actually saw the upper part of his body in the middle of my hood. The lower part was inside the front of the car.” Reportedly, the man had white hair and beard, and “wore a ‘brimmed’ hat.”

downtown building New Cumberland West Virginia
This building sits at the intersection where WV 2 makes a dog leg in downtown New Cumberland. Photo 2015 by Carol Highsmith, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In tracing the route of WV 2 through New Cumberland, I could only locate one place where a bridge and railroad tracks are close together: at the bridge over Hardin Run. Going southbound, the railroad crossing is about 200 feet after the bridge. Is this where the mysterious apparition appeared to a frightened driver in 1974?

Sources

South Carolina Haunt Briefs

Needing a project to carry me through this quarantine, I’ve decided to return to some original blog roots. Just after establishing this blog in 2010, I created a series of articles highlighting ten haunted places within each of the 13 states that I cover. Over time, these articles have been picked apart, rewritten, expanded, and used elsewhere. When I moved this blog, I did not move over those articles. Because I have a backlog of incomplete articles and bits and pieces that haven’t been published I’m creating a new breed of these articles during this quarantine.

Aiken County Courthouse
109 Park Avenue, Southeast
Aiken

Aiken South Carolina County Courthouse haunted
The Aiken County Courthouse, 2007. Photo by Festiva76, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A number of spirits are believed to flit through the rooms and corridors of the 1881 Aiken County Courthouse. One of the spirits is thought to be the ghost of a young girl whose body was once held in the basement morgue of the building. Legend holds that her body changed position after being deposited in the drawer. Supposedly, she continues to roam the building giggling. A male spirit is known to whisper, “hey!” in the ears of employees, while another female spirit sometimes demonstrates her disapproval of the court’s decisions by moving chairs, rattling papers, and sending pens and pencils flying off desks.

Sources

Beaty-Spivey House (private)
428 Kingston Street
Conway

Beaty-Spivey House Conway South Carolina ghosts
The Beaty-Spivey House, 2010. Photo by Pubdog, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A tragic tale has been told about the Beaty-Spivey House, known as “The Oaks,” since the death of young Brookie Beaty in 1871. Thomas and Mary Beaty had five children, four of which passed before they reached adulthood. After her son fell ill, Mrs. Beaty was greeted by a vision of several angels in the form of her deceased daughters. The angels revealed that they had been sent to retrieve their brother. Rushing into her son’s room, Mrs. Beaty discovered that he had just died.

Sources

Blakeney Family Cemetery
John Blakeney Lane
Pageland

Irish-born John Blakeney served in the American Revolution under General Francis Marion. When he died at the age of 100, he was interred in this rural family cemetery where he joined many members of his family. According to online rumors, those family members regularly appear to roam amongst the headstones, though the veracity of these stories is questionable.

Sources

Brown House
328 Greene Street (private)
Cheraw
 

Known for many years as the “Brown House” due to its unpainted exterior, this now white early 19th-century farmhouse has activity that have led locals to believe it may be haunted. That activity includes the furniture on the front porch being rearranged by unseen hands.

Sources

Carolina Country Store & Café
11725 South Fraser Street
Georgetown
 

The main road from Charleston to Georgetown, U.S. Route 17, passes through many small communities including one called North Santee. This ramshackle general store and gas station has been serving travelers and locals since 1929. As well as selling food, drinks, gas, and souvenirs, this small business also features a ghost. Called Mary Jane by employees, the spirit tends to rattle doorknobs, fiddle with the knobs on the crockpot, call employee’s names, and sometimes appear as a shadow.

Sources

  • Carmichael, Sherman. Legends and Lore of South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Enfield
135 McIver Street (private)
Cheraw

When Union troops invaded the town towards the end of the Civil War, General Sherman took up headquarters in the Hartzell House, while General Oliver Howard set up in Enfield next door. Local lore preserves a story that one of Howard’s officers shot a young enslaved girl when she fumbled with the reins of his horse. History does speak to the veracity of this story, though the spirit of this woman is supposed to haunt the home.

Sources

Florence National Cemetery
803 East National Cemetery Road
Florence

In late 1864, the Confederate government open a prisoner of war camp on the outskirts of Florence. Known as the Florence Stockade, the prison held nearly 18,000 prisoners in miserable conditions. During its operation, nearly 2,800 prisoners died and were interred in trenches outside the prison walls. Following the war, these burials were incorporated as Florence National Cemetery.

Florence National Cemetery South Carolina
Florence National Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the National Cemetery Administration.

Among the graves is that of Florena Budwin, a female who fought in the Union Army alongside her husband. Her grave is believed to be the first burial of a female in a national cemetery.

Investigation by author Tally Johnson reveals that Mrs. Budwin and her comrades may not be resting peacefully. He observed an orb hovering over her tombstone as well as hearing moans and groans from the trenches holding the many other soldiers who died imprisoned.

Sources

  • Florena Budwin. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 July 2019.
  • Florence Stockade. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 3 July 2019.
  • Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.

Gurganus-Collins House (private)
902 Elm Street
Conway

In 2012, the family occupying the 1862 Gurganus-Collins House revealed that their 12-year-old son encountered the spirit of the home’s builder, William Gurganus, sitting on a bed one morning. The apparition “turned and smiled at him,” which prevented the young man from sleeping upstairs for six months.

Sources

Hangman’s Tree
Saints Delight Road (US-17 ALT)
Andrews

Looming over this two-lane road outside of Andrews, this ancient cypress’ story is told in its gnarled trunk and limbs. On the outskirts of the community of Lamberttown, this tree, as legend holds, has been the scene of many hangings since the American Revolution. After the Civil War, several people were lynched from this same tree. Sources indicate that some locals are reticent to pass by the tree late at night. Travelling northeast on Saints Delight from the intersection with Walker Road, the tree is roughly a mile on the left.

Sources

  • Floyd, Blanche W. Ghostly Tales and Legends Along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 2002.
  • Huntsinger, Elizabeth Robertson. More Ghosts of Georgetown. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1998.
  • Orr, Bruce. Haunted Summerville, South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.
  • Summey, Debby. “The Hanging Tree.” South Strand News. 29 January 2013.

Hopsewee
494 Hopsewee Road
Georgetown 

Created as a rice plantation around 1740, Hopsewee was the birthplace of Thomas Lynch, Jr., one of the four signers of the Declaration of Independence from the South Carolina Colony. Along with his father, he served as a delegate to the Second Continental Congress, the only father and son within the body. When the Declaration was signed, Lynch’s father was too ill to make the journey, so only his son signed the document.

Hopsewee Plantation Georgetown South Carolina
Hopsewee in 1971. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Hopsewee was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1971, and the house and grounds are open to the public as a historic site. In addition to the watchfulness of the current owners, it seems that Thomas Lynch, Sr. may remain here watching over the grounds. Some years ago, a neighbor and his son watched as a man in colonial dress and carrying a lantern walked down a road near the house and disappeared into a swamp.

The spirit of the indomitable Thomas Lynch, Sr. may have once revealed his distaste for immodesty. While a crew was filming in the house, the film’s costumer took photographs of the actresses in their costumes. A group photo was taken of the young ladies in their period underclothes. When the picture was developed, a prominent white streak covered all of the women from their necks to just below their knees.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Snell, Charles W. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Hopsewee. 4 June 1971.

Lamar High School
216 North Darlington Avenue
Lamar

School ghostlore is often the product of overactive young minds, and that seems to be the case here. According to author Tally Johnson, a student athlete at Lamar High School was killed in a tragic automobile accident during her senior year. In her memory, the school retired her number and enshrined a picture and her shoes in the school’s trophy case as well as establishing a scholarship in her name. Supposedly, the young lady returns to the school gym on the anniversary of her death.

Sources

  • Johnson, Tally. Ghosts of the Pee Dee. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2009.

Lincoln Village Apartments
712 South 8th Street
Hartsville

The end of this small apartment complex came ignominiously with a small fire in one building in 2015. Two years later, the City of Hartsville chose to demolish this blighted property. A local resident who lived across the street told a reporter for WMBF (the Myrtle Beach NBC affiliate) that the complex—which was abandoned in 2000—brought down the morale of the entire neighborhood.

Perhaps the decaying state of this property aroused ghost stories, but the idea has been bandied about online for a number of years. A small cemetery is supposed to exist on the site, though the graves are unmarked. Legend speaks of some of the buildings having been built over graves, though there is nothing to prove this.

Stories speak of residents experiencing “babies crying and adult voices begging for help in otherwise empty apartments.” Tally Johnson spoke with a sheriff’s deputy who said that law enforcement had been called to the property several times by reports of lights on and people inside the abandoned buildings. There is no word if the demolition has ended these urban legends.

Sources

Lower River Warehouse
206 US-501 BUS
Conway

For nearly two centuries, the old Lower River Warehouse that sidled up next to the Waccamaw River served as a main shipping point for goods being brought to Conway by many of the town’s best-known families. A few years ago, the building housed a haunted Halloween attraction, Terror Under the Bridge. While employees were working to manufacture scares for their guests, they were being frightened by actual paranormal activity. An employee working the fog machines in the back of the building fearfully noticed that the fog was blowing against the draft created by an open window and door. Footsteps were sometimes heard in the empty building as well.

Sources

  • Carmichael, Sherman. Legends and Lore of South Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2012.

Lucas Bay Light
Near Gilbert and Little Lamb Roads
Conway

Along these country roads near the community of Bucksport is Lucas Bay. The bay is not a typical large body of water, but a “Carolina bay,” an elliptical depression in the landscape. Occurring all over the east coast, these bays hold special significance geologically and ecologically, while this particular bay is also a part of the landscape of legend.

Stories tell of a mother in the area towards the end of the Civil War, when Union troops were advancing through the state. Hearing rumors of the approach of troops and worried about her infant, the mother hid the swaddled child underneath a bridge, while she returned home to secure her meager possessions. When a storm erupted during the night, the mother rushed into the rain and wind to find her child. Both mother and child were lost in the deluge.

Since that time, many have witnessed an odd light near Lucas Bay and the account of this mother and her child is retold. This story bears many of the hallmarks of the typical “Crybaby Bridge” legend, and, as is usually the case, there are no historical records to back up the story. Paranormal investigators have confirmed that the area is rife with spirits, though they cannot confirm the legend either.

Sources

  • Boschult, Christian. “Lucas Bay Lights-urban legend or true ghost story?The Sun News. 30 October 2016.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted South Carolina: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Palmetto State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2010.
  • Floyd, Blanche W. Ghostly Tales and Legends Along the Grand Strand of South Carolina. Winston-Salem, NC: Bandit Books, 2002.
  • Lucas Bay Light.” Phasma Paranormal. 12 April 2012.

Memorial Hall
Campus of Coker University
Hartsville

This small, private liberal arts college (which has just recently changed its name to Coker University) has a 15-acre campus, around 70 faculty members, about 1,200 students, and one resident spirit. A college history attributes the hauntings of Memorial Hall and the school’s former and current library buildings to a student, Madeline Savage, who attended the school in the 1920s. According to legend, Savage died on campus, but historical records only note her enrollment as a student from 1920 to 1921. Her whereabouts after that time are unknown.

Memorial Hall Coker University Hartsville South Carolina ghosts
Memorial Hall at Coker University, 2018. Photo by Jud McCranie, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Though she may have disappeared from the historical record, she has supposedly remained active in Memorial Hall, the oldest residence hall on campus. Students in this circa 1916 dormitory have had a variety of encounters with the other side. Madeline has appeared wearing a long, white gown, while she has been heard crying in empty rooms.

Sources

Upper Long Cane Cemetery
Greenville Street
Abbeville

About 2 miles north of the town of Abbeville, the Upper Long Cane Cemetery serves as a resting place for about 2,500 souls. According to local folklore, the first burial on the site occurred around 1760 when John Lesley buried a young girl who was either a relative or visitor to his home. The girl had succumbed to severe burns she received while making lye soap. With her burial, the family established the spot as a family cemetery. Over time, the cemetery became a prominent cemetery for locals.

Upper Long Cane Cemetery Abbeville South Carolina haunted
Upper Long Cane Cemetery, 2012, by Upstateherd, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to John Boyanoski, the cemetery was investigated by the Heritage Paranormal Society from Georgia. While there were no stories of activity in the cemetery, its age led them to believe that there might be something. During a review of photographs taken during the investigation, members of the group were shocked to see the image of a balding man wearing a blazer in one of the photos. When the photo was taken, a living person was not seen walking through the frame.

Sources

  • Boyanoski, John. More Ghosts of Upstate South Carolina. Mountville, PA: Shelor & Son Publishing, 2008.
  • Power, J. Tracy, et al. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Upper Long Cane Cemetery. 29 October 2010.

Woodburn
130 History Lane
Pendleton

A former resident of Woodburn, which is now a house museum, reported several encounters with a little girl in the house. Since that time, a photograph has been taken that seems to show the figure of a young girl in the window of the nursery. Police have also seen a figure peering at them from the same window.

Woodburn Pendleton South Carolina ghosts
Woodburn, 2009. Photo by KudzuVine, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Woodburn was constructed around 1830 as a summer home for Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, a son of the prominent Pinckney family. Named for his uncle who was one of the authors of the U. S. Constitution, Pinckney was a prominent lawyer, politician, and planter.

Sources

  • Hornsby, Ben. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Woodburn. 15 October 1970.
  • Staed, John. “Does Woodburn Historical House still hide some secrets?” Anderson Independent. 29 June 2010.

Heralded by the Owls—Thomas Divide Ghost Lights

I’ve returned to “real life” and have time to write here again. I wrote this just after seeing the Thomas Divide Lights last Thursday. For further information on the lights, see the previous entry.

August 14, 2014
Cherokee, North Carolina

I’ve been working up here since May and haven’t had time to see the lights until tonight. A friend of mine and I headed up to Thomas Divide Overlook to see the lights. He had been up here last year but had only heard about them; so I offered to take him.

We were alone in the quiet and dark night staring at the ridge hoping something would appear. The chatter of crickets and cicadas issued from the dark forest that surrounded us.

Then the owls started up. Barred Owls in the valley below us began their call of “who cooks for you, who cooks for y’all” (this is the South after all). Then a pair took up the call closer to us. Cherokee lore holds that owls are often heralds of bad news and death so I find the calls a bit nerve-wracking. As the owls continued a small light appeared on the ridge. It flickered, and the glow began to grow a bit. It appeared to move a bit, though that may be simply been an optical illusion.

The beacon was lit for about 5 minutes then, as abruptly as it had appeared, it disappeared. The owls started their calling again, though the light did not return.

Thomas Divide Ghost Lights

Thomas Divide Overlook
Mile Marker 464
Blue Ridge Parkway
Near Cherokee, North Carolina

High, high on the mountain
And down in the valley below,
It shines like the crown of an angel
And fades as the mists come and go.
Way over yonder,
Night after night until dawn…
— from the classic Bluegrass song, “The Brown Mountain Light,” by Scotty Wiseman
Thomas Divide sign. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

My mother couldn’t quite grasp what we were seeing a couple years ago.

“You mean there’s nothing over there?”

“Well, there’s a mountain, but it’s inside the park so it’s undeveloped.”

My parents and I returned to watching the lights up on the mountain across the valley from the Thomas Divide Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The lights put on a spectacular show for us that night as well as the other spectators who had gathered to observe the mysterious phenomena. We watched for a few minutes as the lights flickered on, shone brightly for a few minutes, then flickered off, all from the ridge opposite. One light appeared to divide in two and another light changed color—from a white light to red. At one point, the lights even appeared like the brake lights of a car.

View from Thomas Divide. The lights appear along the ridges in the distance. Photo 2014, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
Continuation of the view from Thomas Divide. Photo 2014,
by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

I’ve written quite a bit about Cherokee, North Carolina, where I’m currently spending the summer. Sitting at the heart of the Qualla Boundry—commonly known as the Cherokee Indian Reservation—this land is filled with the magic and mystery of the Cherokee who have existed here for centuries. As a Cherokee friend of mine stated a few years ago, “To the Cherokee, the supernatural is just natural.” Here, ghosts and spirits are just another feature of the landscape. The spiritual activity here is stunning and ranges from ghost lights to full-blown apparitions.

Ghost light lore is found throughout the world and on every continent. Throughout the South these ghost lights appear with regular frequency: from Maryland’s Hebron Light to Florida’s Oviedo Lights, Beauregard, Mississippi’s Illinois Central Light to Georgia’s Surrency Light. North Carolina has a number of ghost lights: the Maco Light in Wilmington, the Cove City Light, the Vander Light in Cumberland County, the Pactolus Light in the small town of Pactolus and the previously mentioned Brown Mountain Lights on Brown Mountain near Morganton. Notably, the Maco, Vander and Pactolus Lights are associated with railroad tracks. The Brown Mountain Lights, according to L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations, were first seen by the local Native Americans and first recorded by German engineer, John William Gerard de Brahm one of the first explorers of the area. The lights have been seen by many and various legends have grown up to explain them.

Of course, science has attempted to explain these various lights throughout the world. Commonly, they are explained as swamp gas or, more properly, biogas that’s released as organic matter decays. Another explanation lies in ball lightning, a phenomena that’s not well understood. For many of these lights, their frequency would seem to rule out the ball lightning theory and certainly in dry area such as the desert surrounding Marfa, Texas, home to the famous Marfa Lights, the dry conditions would rule out swamp gas. The Brown Mountain Lights have been investigated by the United States Weather Service and the Geological Survey and neither have conclusively explained the lights. The Geological Survey blamed car headlights and locomotive headlights, but that would not explain the sighting dating to the eighteenth century, well before the existence of cars and trains.

The Thomas Divide Ghost Lights are apparently North Carolina’s least known ghost lights. So far in my research, I’ve found little documentation, but I can personally say that there is something going on at Thomas Divide. On more than one occasion, I’ve watched the strange lights.

To experience the lights one drives up to the Thomas Divide Overlook after dark and parks facing the Thomas Divide Ridge ahead across the valley. After flashing your headlights and possibly honking your horn the lights may appear in the distance. The first time I saw the lights, they appeared as balls of lights that shot up vertically in the air like a bottle rocket, but then circled around to drop back to earth only to shoot up again to follow the same route. The lights were rather dim when I saw them in the middle of the summer, but according to an article in the Western Carolina University Western Carolinian, they are brighter in the winter.

When I saw them with my parents, the lights were very bright; so bright it was like looking at a lighthouse. There was already a crowd assembled, so we didn’t worry about flashing our headlights. At other times, however, the lights are quite dim, possibly affected by fog or mist in the area.

There are numerous legends behind the lights. The WCU article does mention the legend stating that it involves a Cherokee shaman who tried to remain in the beloved mountains that the Cherokee had called home for centuries after the American government ordered their removal. Believing he and his family could remain on their land, they escaped into the deep coves of the mountains. Many natives escaped into the mountains and were tracked by soldiers. When the shaman was caught he was executed as an example to the others. His body was dismembered and the parts spread throughout the mountains. The Thomas Divide Lights are his spirit attempting to find all of his parts.

Other legends include the lights as being from the lanterns of the Cherokee Little People or fireballs hurled by Judaculla, a mythical giant from Cherokee lore. More sensible people have suggested that the lights may be hikers or from camp fires, though that would not explain the erratic movement or the lights changing color.

Like the Brown Mountain Lights, these lights may be just as old. A recent article about the phenomenon from The Smoky Mountain News, quotes the Beloved Man of the Cherokee, Jerry Wolfe. Nearing 90 years of age, he recalls seeing the lights when he was a teenager. A local paranormal investigator is quoted in the article as saying that, according to lore from various Cherokee families, the lights have been seen since the 18th century.

Regardless of their origin, the lights still flicker and glow nightly and I’m glad I was able to share them with my parents.

I saw the Thomas Divide Lights a few months after posting this and described my experience here.

Sources

  • Ball lightning. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2010.
  • Brown Mountains Lights. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2010.
  • Hester, Margaret. “The Thomas Divide.” The Western Carolinian. 10 November 2006.
  • Kasper, Andrew. “Theories swirl around perplexing mountain lights.” Smoky Mountain News. 23 January 2013.
  • L.E.M.U.R. Paranormal Investigations. History. BrownMountainLights.com.  Accessed 12 September 2010.
  • Rivers, Micheal. Appalachian Mountain Folklore. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2012.
  • Toomey, Michael. John William Gerard de Brahm. Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Accessed 12 September 2010.
  • Will-o’-the’wisp. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 12 September 2010.