North Carolina has a rich tradition of folklore, and in honor of Halloween we thought we’d share a few of our favorite folk tales, eerie unexplained natural phenomena and historical mysteries from the Tar Heel State’s past.
1. Brown Mountain Lights, Burke and Caldwell Counties
Since at least 1833, as many as a dozen unexplained lights of a red, blue or yellowish color have appeared on Brown Mountain, northwest of Morganton, usually on warm summer evenings. The phenomena have been investigated to no avail and inspired countless songs and stories.
A composite image of some of the various lights seen at Brown Mountain.
Image from Our State Magazine.
2. “Ghost Ship” Carroll A. Deering, Dare County
Though investigated by the FBI, the wreck of the Carroll A. Deering remains a mystery. The Coast Guard found the ship abandoned but wasn’t able to reach it four days. When they did reach the ship, they found nearly everything missing (including all the crew), though dinner was on the stove. The Bermuda Triangle, pirates and a number of other explanations have been offered, but none seem to hold.
3. “Blood Shower,” Chatham County
After a Chatham County woman thought she heard a hard rain fall in February 1884, she quickly discovered that the liquid falling from the sky wasn’t clear, but instead was a “shower of pure blood.” Samples were taken by a UNC chemist who confirmed the liquid was indeed blood, buthe unable to offer a scientific explanation for the phenomena.
4. The Disappearance of Nell Cropsey, Pasquotank County
The nation was gripped by the sudden disappearance of the beautiful Nell Cropsey from her Elizabeth City home in November 1901. Cropsey was found dead in the Pasquotank River a month later, and her boyfriend, Jim Wilcox, was implicated from the crime though he maintained his innocence and was ultimately pardoned by Governor Thomas Bickett. The death remains a mystery, at least for some, to this day.
5. The Maco Light, Brunswick County
The legend of the Maco Light has its origins in an 1867 train wreck that occurred west of Wilmington. After the car he was riding in became uncoupled from its train, conductor Joe Baldwin attempted to signal an oncoming second train to stop by waving a lantern. He was unsuccessful and was killed in the resulting crash, and ever since, a flickering light has been seen close to the site of the crash.
6. Devil’s Tramping Ground, Chatham County
In western Chatham County, you’ll find a 40-foot perfect circle devoid of most vegetation. Though surrounded by normal vegetation, attempts to plant just about anything on the path through the circle have all failed and anything left there seems to mysteriously disappear. Local lore maintains that the circle is the result of Satan’s nightly walks in the area, where he paces in a circle.
Paying a visit the Devil’s Tramping Ground.
7. The “Ghost Train” of Bostian Bridge, Iredell County
One of the worst railroad disasters in history took 23 lives in August 1891 when a speeding train jumped the tracks and flew off a 60-foot high bridge west of Statesville. A ghostly specter of the train is said to be seen each year on the anniversary of the tragedy.
8. The Lost Colony, Dare County
One of the country’s most gripping historical mysteries, the Lost Colony hasn’t been seen since its founder, John White, left Roanoke Island in August 1587 on supply mission. When he returned in 1590, all White found was the word “CROATOAN” was carved on a post in where the colony once had stood.
Discovering “CROATOAN” on a Roanoke Island tree.
Interested in reading more North Carolina folklore? NCpedia has a great set of articles for you to browse. If books are more your style, North Carolina Legends, published by North Carolina Historical Publications would make a great addition to your library.
Our friends at North Carolina Miscellany have also put together a great “Haunted North Carolina” series of blog posts worth a read.