Haunted North Carolina: Outer Banks

On this last day of our ghostly journey, we head to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where tales of pirates and mysterious shipwrecks abound.

Blackbeard - Outer_Banks_NC

Ocracoke Island is home to the final resting place of the notorious pirate Edward Teach, aka Blackbeard. It was here, at Teach’s Hole, in 1718, that Blackbeard’s career of plundering was brought to a dramatic and violent end. Lt. Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy, on orders of Virginia governor Alexander Spotswood, attacked Blackbeard’s ship The Adventure. A bloody battle ensued, ending with the famed pirate’s death. The story goes that Lt. Maynard threw Blackbeard’s headless body into the waters of Ocracoke Inlet. The pirate’s captured crew looked on as his body swam three laps around the ship before sinking to the watery depths below. Maynard affixed Blackbeard’s head to the bowsprit of his ship as proof of the pirate’s death. Apparently, Blackbeard‘s ghost still haunts Teach’s Hole, crying out and searching for its head.

Carroll A Deering - Wreck_of_the

Shipwreck stories from North Carolina’s Outer Banks are common enough; but, the story of the wreck of the Carroll A. Deering remains one of the most mysterious. The Carroll A. Deering was a massive, five-masted commercial schooner. On her return voyage from Brazil to Virginia, the Carroll A. Deering met her fate off Cape Hatteras in January, 1921. A keeper at the Cape Lookout Lighthouse reported seeing the ship on January 19th. Two days later, the Coast Guard discovered the ship run aground at Diamond Shoals, an infamous area for shipwrecks. Due to storms off the coast, it was another four days before the waters were calm enough for the Coast guard to approach the ship. February 4th, 1921, the Coast Guard boarded the Carroll A. Deering only to find it abandoned. But, more than just the crewmembers were unaccounted for; all personal effects, lifeboats, navigational equipment, and ship documentation were missing. What they did find was evidence suggesting a hasty departure. Despite an extensive investigation by the US government, no one knows what happened to the crew of the Carroll A. Deering. Many theories have surfaced including piracy, hurricanes, and mutiny. Some even blame paranormal activity, citing the Bermuda Triangle as the culprit to the disappearance of the ship’s crew.

Haunted North Carolina: Eastern NC

Today we travel to battlefields and cemeteries of Eastern NC for our daily dose of paranormal activity.

Bentonville - Union_Army_Trenches_Built_in_1865


Four Oaks, NC, was home to the last major Confederate offensive against General Sherman’s Union army. The Battle of Bentonville, which lasted three days, is the largest battle in North Carolina history and some say remnants of the fight linger. Visitors to the Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site recount experiencing the sounds and smells of battle: shouts, rifle shots, cannon fire, gun smoke, and even burning flesh. Harper House, which stands on the battlefield, is also rumored to be haunted. The house served as a hospital for both the Union and Confederate armies. The structure is now a museum. Staff, civil war re-enactors, and visitors describe seeing ghosts in the home’s windows and walking the surrounding grounds. Soldiers from both sides and John Harper, the owner of the house, are among the haunts reported.


Message on front of card: “Here, the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest.”

Cedar Grove Cemetery was established in 1800 to serve as the resting place for victims of yellow fever in New Bern, NC. In 1854, workers built a wall, including an elaborate entryway known as the Weeping Arch, around the graveyard. The arch is said to have a chilling ability to predict the future. According to legend, the arch weeps for all the dead who pass underneath. Occasionally it sheds a tear for the living, too. And, if it does, that person will soon die. What’s more, the arch’s tears are not ordinary ones. Instead, they’re tears of blood.

Haunted North Carolina: Triangle

Today’s spectral travels take us to the Triangle area where some residents never want to leave.


The Carolina Inn on UNC Chapel Hill’s campus was built by alumnus John Sprunt Hill. This historic inn has served Chapel Hill guests since 1924, including some guests who supposedly never checked out. Among the inn’s most popular ghosts is Dr. William Jacocks, previously a physician with the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation. Dr. Jacocks lived in room 256 (room 252 in his time) from 1948 until his death in 1965. But, visitors staying in the doctor’s old room believe that his spirit lingers. Known as a gentle joker in life, Dr. Jacocks seems to have carried his love of pranks into the afterlife. The doctor’s ghost sometimes locks guests from room 256 or moves furniture and personal belongings. People say they have seen him in the hallway trying each of the doors as he moves down the corridor. When visitors speak with him, he vanishes. Dr. Jacock’s is just one of many spirits reportedly haunting the Carolina Inn. Like the doctor, most of them are said to be friendly.

Mordecai House

The Mordecai House of Raleigh, NC, was originally built by Joel Lane for his son Henry in 1785. The house is named for Moses Mordecai, who married Joel Lane’s granddaughter, Margaret, in 1817. The home was once the hub of the largest plantation in Wake County. Today, the house is renovated as a museum in Mordecai Historic Park and is open to the public for tours. Tour guides and guests say that family photos fly from the walls when the Mordecai’s name is mentioned. They also report encounters with the ghost of Mary Willis Mordecai Turk, a descendant of Moses Mordecai, who is sometimes seen playing the piano in the drawing room.


North Carolina’s State Capitol Building in Raleigh was built in 1840 and is one of the best preserved capitol buildings in the country. It served as the base for all of North Carolina’s state government until 1888. Today the Capitol houses the offices of the governor and the lieutenant governor. Building employees have reported hearing unexplained footsteps, sounds of locked doors slamming, and books falling to the ground. Some people claim to have actually seen ghostly figures. More than one person heard a piercing scream with no explanation, and several people felt a presence when they were alone in the building. The building is open for tours and other events, so visit and see for yourself if there are any paranormal happenings.


On reconsidering NC barbecue’s continental divide

“For some years, I’m now prepared to admit, I somehow labored under the impression that Rocky Mount is the line of demarcation that separates the two principal schools of North Carolina barbecue. Wrong. The line of demarcation is….”

— From “In Defense of the True ’Cue: Keeping pork pure in North Carolina” by Calvin Trillin in The New Yorker (Nov. 2)

Who but the peripatetic Trillin could quote in a single (if lengthy) article not only such regional stalwarts as John Shelton Reed, Doug Marlette,  Dennis Rogers and Jerry Bledsoe, but also Ada Louise Huxtable?

Kim Severson, Atlanta-based food reporter for the New York Times, calls it “a deceptively simple story about heat and meat…. I defy anyone but the staunchest vegetarians and kosher keepers to not want a pork sandwich after they read it.”


Haunted North Carolina: Piedmont

Today we move a little east, to the Piedmont.  From houses to bridges, this area is rich with haunted happenings.


Jule Körner constructed Körner’s Folly in 1878 as his bachelor pad and a home to his interior design business, which included furniture and paintings that he created. The house is an architectural marvel and gets its name from its eclectic and eccentric style. After Körner and his wife died, the house stood vacant for years. In the 20th century the building housed a funeral parlor and an antique store. It now serves as a museum and is open to the public for tours and events. The Southern Paranormal & Anomaly Society (SPARS) officially labeled the house haunted in 2009. But employees and visitors considered it such long before. People have reported hearing mysterious footsteps and children talking and playing in empty rooms. They also recount finding furniture inexplicably moved and having the feeling that someone was tapping them on the head. So the next time you’re in Kernersville, NC, stop by and see if you find any signs of these playful spirits.


The Single Brothers’ House of Old Salem in Winston-Salem, NC, is about 20 minutes west of Kernersville. Originally the home for Salem’s unmarried men’s choir, the Single Brothers’ House is rumored to have served as home to the Little Red Man. The story goes that the Little Red Man is the ghost of Andreas Kremser, a cobbler who was killed by the collapse of a bank of dirt while helping build the basement for expansion of the house in 1786. After Kremser’s death, people reported hearing sounds of a cobbler’s hammer in the basement. Some even claimed to have seen Kremser, wearing red as he did on the day of his death. After a sighting by a prominent visitor, a minister was brought in and called for the Little Red Man to leave. Some say Kremser’s ghost has not been seen since then. But, you can always visit Old Salem and determine for yourself if he might still be around.


Early on August 27th, 1891, a train heading west for Asheville, NC, derailed as it crossed Bostain’s Bridge in Statesville. The train plummeted to the river bed below, killing 22 passengers and injuring many more. Sightings of a ghost train at Bostain’s Bridge surfaced sometime thereafter. The most well-known sighting took placed on Aug. 27, 1941, the 50th anniversary of the accident. A woman waiting for her husband to return with help after their car blew a tire, heard a train whistle. She then watched as the train started across the bridge, flew off the tracks, and plunged to the ground. She heard the passengers’ screams and ran toward the bridge to inspect the wreckage. The woman related the happenings to her husband when he returned. When they looked over the bridge, the wreckage was gone. Others tell of seeing the train and meeting a man with a gold watch. The man asks for the time and then vanishes along with the train. The man is supposedly the ghost of a railroad employee who died in the train crash. He received the watch as an early retirement present.

Haunted North Carolina: Mountains

There’s nothing like a good ghost story to get you in the mood for Halloween.  This week we will bring you stories of haunted houses, friendly ghosts, and lingering spirits from each region of the Old North State.


Edwin Wiley Grove first opened the Grove Park Inn in 1913. Located in Asheville, NC, this picturesque hotel is rumored to be haunted by a ghost that people call the Pink Lady. Apparently this woman, who is identified by the pink color of her dress, fell (voluntarily or not) from the balcony of room 545 and tragically died nearly one hundred years ago. Guests and hotel employees have told stories of doors and windows in the room where she stayed that mysteriously open and close on their own, along with lights and other electrical devices throughout the inn turning on and off independently. Other guests have seen a pink mist, felt the Pink Lady sitting on their beds, holding their hands, or told stories of her comforting sick children. Maybe if you go to the Grove Park Inn and stay in room 545, you will see this friendly ghost, or feel her tickling your feet while you lay in bed.


Grandfather Mountain, aptly named due to its profile resembling that of a bearded old man lying down, is a popular hiking destination near Linville, NC. There are many miles of hiking trails on the mountain, and people tell stories of seeing a solitary hiker walking along the twisty paths at dusk. He never acknowledges those he passes, his clothes appear to be from many decades past, and he vanishes from sight. This is the Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain, and no one knows who he was or why his spirit haunts the mountain. But, if you go for a visit you might catch a glimpse of him.



George Washington Vanderbilt constructed the magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, as a vacation home for his family. He and his wife Edith spent much of their time enjoying their impressive library full of antiques, artwork, and famous editions, along with throwing opulent parties. George died in 1914, less than twenty years after his cherished house was completed. But, some say George’s spirit never left the house and that he still visits his library, especially on stormy nights. People also report hearing the voice of his wife, Edith, calling George’s name, or the sounds of party guests laughing or playing music as they walk around the lavishly decorated, empty rooms.

Scotswoman sniffs at ‘worst washers of linen I ever saw’

“The Scotswoman Janet Schaw took a dim… view of Southern laundry practices. Staying with her brother and sister-in-law [in Wilmington] in 1775, she praised North Carolina soap, made from ‘the finest ashes in the world’ (although she observed that rather than make soap for themselves, many housewives made do with an inferior-quality Irish soap ‘at a monstrous price’).

“But laundresses were another matter entirely. ‘They are the worst washers of linen I ever saw,’ Schaw declared, attributing the mediocre results to mixing different colors and fabrics ‘promiscuously’ into a single kettle and neglecting to ‘blue’ white garments (a process that counteracted yellowing) or make use of the sun’s rays…. She was impressed by neither the boiling technique nor the ‘Negro wench turn[ing] them over with a stick.’ ”

— From “Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America” by Kathleen M. Brown (2009)


Girls’ Tomato Clubs in North Carolina

Club Girls Hoe Tomatoes
From the February 4, 1915 issue of the High Point Review.

With this past weekend’s freeze, North Carolina’s tomato growing season has come to a close. In the early 20th century, you could still enjoy local tomatoes long into the fall and winter months thanks to the work of tomato club girls.

Marie Samuella Cromer founded the first tomato club in South Carolina in 1910 after attending a program of the South Carolina School Improvement Association. O.B. Martin, an agent with the Department of Agriculture in charge of boys’ corn clubs, outlined a plan in which girls would grow and can tomatoes. Seeing the success boys had experienced in growing and selling corn in corn clubs, Ms. Cromer took the charge, and organized 46 girls in her community into a tomato club. She and five other pioneering Southern women, including Jane S. McKimmon of North Carolina, worked to sprout tomato clubs throughout the southeast through their work as home demonstration agents. Girls aged 10 – 20 learned how to plant, harvest, can, market and sell their tomato crops. On plots sized one-tenth of an acre, girls grew and then canned tomatoes by the hundreds of pounds. The money they earned, McKimmon emphasized, was to be spent as they saw fit. Young girls previously entirely financially dependent on their families found themselves with pocket money and sometimes substantially more. The movement peaked from 1911 through the end of World War I.

"Emancipation of Farmers Daughter" headline from Western Caroliina Democrat
From the August 20, 1914 issue of the Hendersonville Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler.

In 1914, a young girl named Ina Colclough won first prize in the Durham County girls’ tomato club contest for making $137.00 profit from her own one-tenth of an acre. This was at a time when $15.00 could buy a man’s suit and Stetson hat, $5.00 a lady’s coat and $4.00 a pair of Knox shoes. Newspapers nationwide reported on the success of the movement. An article in the New-York Tribune describes young girls plowing with horses, harrowing without them, and working in every way necessary to grow their tomatoes.

The state fair of 1915 featured an exhibition of the tomato club girls’ work, a description of which can be found here.

McKimmon began her career in 1909 with the Farmer’s Institutes, where she served as a lecturer and also director of its women’s activities. In this work she traveled throughout the state teaching women and girls cooking, baking, sewing and other homemaking skills. In 1911, she accepted the position of North Carolina’s State Home Demonstration Agent, and began planning and organizing the work of the state’s farm girls. Here tireless efforts and enthusiasm for the work of the tomato clubs resulted in thirty-two counties participating by 1914 with 1,500 members, 259,091 cans and $35,631.50 worth of canned tomatoes. McKimmon went on to have a thirty-two year career in home demonstration.

Portion of article on "Emancipation of Farmer's Daughter"
Excerpt from the August 20, 1914 issue of the Hendersonville Western Carolina Democrat and French Broad Hustler.

During World War I, McKimmon played a significant role in directing North Carolina’s food conservation efforts. Girls used the skills they learned in the clubs to make their own contributions to the cause. The work of the girls’ tomato clubs, as well as the boys’ corn clubs, was eventually absorbed into the broader work of North Carolina’s 4-H clubs.

Jane Simpson McKimmon
Jane Simpson McKimmon (1867-1957), in the Portrait Collection #P0002, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Visit North Carolina State University Libraries’ online exhibit Green ‘N’ Growing to learn more about the history of home demonstration and 4-H development and to view girls’ handwritten and illustrated reports on their tomato growing, canning and marketing activities.

Choosing cheerleaders: It was about race, but more

“While the integration of white and black athletes in the 1960s and ‘70s took place with relatively few problems, cheerleading squads were more problematic.

Pamela Grundy, a [Charlotte] sports historian, told a crowd at the county library [in Brevard] that ‘Either you can hit the basket or you can’t…. It’s clear who’s good…. Cheerleading was very different from sports.’

“Since blacks were often in the minority, they rarely were selected by the student body to be on the squad. When it came to committees or the cheerleading coaches, they too were mostly white and selected white cheerleaders.

“Grundy said selections were based more on style and culture, not necessarily race.

“A photo of the Myers Park (a top-tier all-white school in Charlotte) cheerleading squad revealed girls with similar hairstyles standing very straight with limbs in the same position….

“Another photo showed cheerleaders from the same year at West Charlotte (the black equivalent of Myers Park). They had different hairstyles and different poses. Grundy said they used their legs and hips more than their arms.

“And [black] cheerleaders involved the crowds, often in a ‘call and response’ format whose precursors were African chants.  ‘Foot stomping was turned into an art,’ said Grundy.

“When black girls were excluded from cheerleading [at predominantly white schools], students protested. In 1969 in Burlington, violence erupted when Walter Williams High selected all-white cheerleaders. One man was shot to death.

“Grundy said that once those who selected the cheerleading squad realized what a huge issue it was and that blacks were being excluded, either intentionally or not, things began to change….”

— From “Historian: Integration Of Cheerleaders Was Difficult To Achieve” by John Lanier in the Transylvania Times (Oct. 8)


Artifact of the Month: Paper money from a North Carolina sutler

Our October Artifact of the Month, a 50-cent note, was issued by a merchant in an uncommon and now obsolete profession. The note is a rare survivor of private North Carolina paper money issued because of the Civil War.

sutler note

I’ll bet many of you join me in what until recently was my ignorance of the meaning of the word sutler. The term is unfamiliar these days because sutlers are no longer needed. During the Civil War (and other wars before it), the sutler was a civilian merchant who travelled with armies and sold goods to the soldiers.

Why did sutlers exist? In our nation’s early years, federal, state, and local governments provided only limited support to institutions we now consider to be publicly-funded services. Soldiers in the military, for example, did not receive the same level of resources they do today. A soldier was expected to provide some of his own necessities and other goods to make life more livable.

A section about sutlers appears in the Confederate Army Regulations of 1863. The regulations state that “Every military post may have one Sutler, to be appointed by the Secretary of War on the recommendation of the Council of Administration, approved by the commanding officer.” Once appointed the sutler could move his wagon or tent or establish a more permanent structure near or on the grounds of an army post.

The sutler often had a monopoly on many non-military goods, including food, clothing, and stationery. As a result, prices were often unfairly inflated. And the quality of the goods, especially the food, was often very low.

Sutlers developed a less-than-respectable reputation, and were regarded as, at best, a necessary evil. Seen from another perspective, though, they operated a high-risk business, a target for local thieves and enemy army raiders.

Sutlers were important to both sides during the American Civil War. After the war ended, though, the need for sutlers diminished as the government increased the quantity and quality of its services to soldiers. The post exchange evolved to be a great benefit to the soldier, providing quality goods at desirable prices. The memory of the sutler is largely kept alive by modern self-described sutlers, merchants serving Civil War buffs with facsimile period military merchandise.

Most surviving documentation of Civil War sutlers pertains to those of the Union Army. A photo from the Library of Congress (source) shows a Union sutler, A. Foulke, and his tent at Brandy Station, Virginia, headquarters of 1st Brigade, Horse Artillery, in the winter of 1863-64.

sutler tent

Sutler money

Lack of circulating money was a big problem during the Civil War. Coins were scarce, leading to private substitutes. Like many other merchants, sutlers often made small change with their own paper money or tokens. Numismatists have studied and cataloged sutler money, and most surviving Civil War examples are from Northern sutlers. Southern examples are quite rare. The North Carolina Collection recently acquired this piece of paper money from a North Carolina sutler.


The 50-cent note is signed by W. Shelburn, indistinct here, but clearer on some of the other examples. He served the Fourth Brigade, N. C. T (North Carolina Troops). The statement of obligation declares that the note will be received for goods (from the sutler) or in “current funds,” which means any other scrip that the sutler might possess.

An unusual feature is the quite specific June 1863 printed date. One wonders if Shelburn had printed scrip with other dates.


Notes like this one tell an important story about the conduct of the Civil War – how militaries operated, how goods were exchanged, the life of soldiers on the front.

Can you tell us more?

The identity of W. Shelburn remains a mystery to us. We know of a William Shelburn, a North Carolina photographer active from about 1856 to 1907. It’s possible that he provided sutler services during the Civil War. But Shelburn is a relatively common name.

If you have any suggestions for identifying Shelburn, or other information about North Carolina sutlers, please leave a comment!