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North Carolina’s Most Haunted

Black and white image of the North Carolina Executive Mansion
Brandon Goins

We here love to study the history of North Carolina's state parks and historic sites. So, in honor of Halloween, we are highlighting some of the folklore and legends surrounding the history. Check out last year’s list of Eight Folktales, Legends, and Mysteries from North Carolina’s History and keep reading on for more spooky tales and a couple of familiar ones!


North Carolina Governor's Mansion

1. The Governor's Mansion Ghost

Governor Daniel Fowle was the first governor to call the North Carolina Executive Mansion home when he moved in upon its completion in January 1891. He lived in the home only three months before his passing. However, during his short time living in the mansion, he'd found the bed in his room uncomfortable and had a new one made. This bed stayed in the bedroom until 1969, when Governor Robert Scott took office and moved into the room. Scott found that Fowle's bed was too small and had it moved into storage and replaced. Governor Scott claimed that shortly after moving the bed, he and his wife were disturbed one night by a loud knocking from within the wall behind the headboard. This knocking occurred every night at approximately the same time. The governor speculated that the nightly occurrence was Daniel Fowle's spirit requesting that the bed be returned to his room. Governor Roy Cooper has since had the bed moved back into the room. Cooper's family claims to have never encountered any strange noises themselves. Could it be that Fowle's spirit is content now that his bed has been returned?

Illustration of Blackbeard


2. Teach’s Hole

Edward Teach, or more widely known as Blackbeard, was killed in a battle with the Royal Navy in 1718.  Lieutenant Robert Maynard had Teach beheaded and his body thrown overboard. Blackbeard's head was then suspended from the bowsprit of Maynard's ship for good measure. Blackbeard's head was returned to Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia for a bounty of one hundred pounds sterling.  Legends from the Outer Banks suggest that Blackbeard still walks the beaches of North Carolina. The stories claim that Teach can be seen wandering around the Ocracoke Island cove looking for his severed head. Alleged sightings vary from orbs of light to Teach's appearance in full spectral form. 


illustration of the great dismal swamp

3. The Great Dismal Swamp

Despite its name possibly suggesting the opposite, The Great Dismal Swamp is a pleasant place to visit. In addition to its beautiful scenery and wildlife presence, Dismal Swamp State Park possesses a wealth of history. The once dangerous and untamed land played host to the Underground Railroad, an exploration by George Washington, and even communities of escaped enslaved people. "Dangerous and untamed" being key words here, stories have survived telling tales of visitors who were lost to the swamp. The swamp is large, can be difficult to navigate, and is home to many dangerous animals. There are reports of visitors hearing noises, seeing strange lights, and more extreme cases of encounters with spirits whose lives were claimed by the swamp. 


4. Roanoke Island Ghost Deer

Most who call North Carolina home know the story of the vanishing Roanoke Colony. The settlement of approximately 100 ran short of food shortly after it was established in 1587. Governor of the colony, John White, returned to England to bring back more supplies. Conveniently England went to war with Spain at the time of his arrival, delaying White's trip back to Roanoke for three years. When he finally returned there was no trace of the people he'd left behind, including his granddaughter, Virginia Dare. Dare is famously the first English child born in the "New World." All of this is commonly retold because it's eerie enough, but a more obscure aspect of the legend is the Ghost Deer of Roanoke. A popular appearance of the ghost deer is "The White Doe, or the Fate of Virginia Dare," a poem written in 1901 by Sallie Southall Cotten. Cotten's poem tells a story where Dare survived into adulthood. She was admired by native people and English settlers alike for her beauty. One jealous sorcerer transformed her into a white doe to spite her lover, a noble named Okisko. Okisko shot her with an arrow, killing her. Some retellings of this legend say the ghost of the white deer can still be spotted at Roanoke.


5. The Ghost Hiker of Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain State Park is one of North Carolina's most visited. Gorgeous views, majestic wildlife, and daunting hiking trails attract guests to the park year around. Halloween is a perfect time to visit whether you’re in search of brisk air, auburn leaves, or, well, paranormal encounters. One frequently encountered ghost is that of a lone hiker. An old man with a long beard can be spotted carrying a walking stick and hiking silently at dusk. The apparition is harmless, hikers have even attempted to engage with him over the years to no avail. The man reportedly has never acknowledged anyone who has seen him. The spirit seems content eternally hiking the 12 miles of trails through the park alone.


Bonus: The Biltmore Estate

A place as old and expensive as the Biltmore Estate is bound to have some spirits wandering around. George Vanderbilt died unexpectedly from complications from an appendectomy and is said to haunt the grounds. His widow, Edith can allegedly be heard talking to him in the library to this day. The legend is that in the years after her husband’s death, Edith spent much of her time there in the library talking to him. Which is funny because it’s scary. Their daughter, Cornelia, was eccentric as well and I haven’t even gotten to the part where I mention the headless ghost cat. Cornelia left the estate in the care of her estranged husband, preferring a bohemian lifestyle for herself. If you ask some, they’d say she just wanted nothing to do with the place. 


NCPedia and North Carolina Ghosts, a collection of tales and folklore that were helpful in putting together this list. Each site’s rules and closing schedules are in place for the safety of all visitors. Please, no tricks. And by “tricks” we mean trespassing and rule breaking.

All images courtesy of NC Archives.


Happy Halloween!