It almost seems fitting that the most isolated town in North Carolina is perhaps also the most haunted town. This small sliver of land only accessed by ferry, boat, or plane, remains in the same solitude of its early days. Yet, beneath the live oaks, marshland, tide forests, and beautiful beaches is something much darker. The lingering history of Ocracoke, from Blackbeard and his pirates, to generations of families inhabiting the island, has created quite a hotbed for paranormal activity and some that is primarily unknown to others.
Ocracoke is the southernmost island on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The island is just 9.6 miles and has only a few major roads, with the two lane NC 12 being one of those. Once you get off the ferry, you become aware you've entered an otherworldly, isolated island. You watch the ferry pull away and slowly feel the energy of all the history of the island encapsulate you. For those looking for a little less island exploration and a little more paranormal discoveries, you've come to the right place.
For starters, the historic Island Inn is filled with history. Built in 1901, it was primarily used as a schoolhouse on the lower floor and the upper floor was used as a meeting place for Odd Fellows Lodge. The lodge is sectioned between two tidal streams (called guts) that were utilized during World War II when the Navy assigned land near the Coast Guard Station for a naval base. Naval officers stayed in the upstairs section during this time.
By 1917, a new schoolhouse was built, and the old lodge was disbanded and sold as a private residence. After WWII, side wings were added to create the first 'modern' hotel on the island. Come Saturday night, it became a central social hub for all the good times to flow on the island. With so much history, one certain ghost here is so famous, she's known by name: Mrs. Godfrey. She takes a penchant to rearranging women's makeup bags, and while she's a pretty timid spirit, there have been reports of visitors claiming she has sat on their beds, or they've felt her presence (like a hand on a foot). The innkeeper even knows, as some ask to change rooms after their first encounter and it's no hassle. If you're from Ocracoke, you know that Mrs. Godfrey is indeed one of the most well-known ghosts. If you want to have an encounter with her, book room 23 at the Island Inn.
While beautiful by day, Springer's Point Nature Preserve is haunting at night. Some even refuse to enter as they've encountered a large, bearded man, one was even chased by the ghost. Springer's Point is the site of where notorious pirate Blackbeard (and Ocracoke enthusiast) once threw a party for his fellow pirates. They roasted a whole hog, drank, sang and danced. It was said to be one of the largest gatherings of pirates and the party lasted for days. Only shortly after, Blackbeard was beheaded off the coast. Some wonder if the large, bearded ghost is perhaps Blackbeard himself.
Speaking of Blackbeard (AKA Edward Teach) Teach's Hole is one well-known hotspot for paranormal pirate activity. Right off Springer's Point is Teach's Hole. In November of 1718, Lieutenant Robert Maynard of the British Royal Navy, was sent by the Governor of Virginia, to battle Blackbeard in a deep water channel just off Springer's Point. The battle between Blackbeard and his crew, and Maynard and his men, was a bloody, hand-to-hand battle in which Maynard and his men were eventually able to overtake the crew. It's said that Blackbeard suffered 25 wounds from pistol, sword, and dagger before he was finally decapitated.
Legends says that after Maynard tossed Blackbeard's headless body into the water, the pirates watched in amazement as his body swam around the ship three times before finally sinking into Davey Jones' Locker. Maynard sailed out of Teach's Hole with Blackbeard's head hanging from the bowsprit of his sloop, a sign that the golden age of piracy had come to an end. Some say Blackbeard's body eventually washed ashore and was buried in a secret location. His head vanished in London around 1840.
Aside from pirates, Ocracoke is home to 81 cemeteries. Some markers have been all but washed away from the harsh realities of the coastal landscape. There's a cottage on Lighthouse Road, where the headstones from two toddlers are barely standing, but are a sacred reminder of the hauntings and histories of this place. There's also a community cemetery in Sunset Village, where the ghosts of an elderly couple have been spotted wearing 19th-century attire.
Today, certain gravestones have been marked with "No Trespassing" signs by families of the deceased to discourage tourists from trying to recreate their own paranormal experience. So is the case with the headstone of Fannie Pearl McWilliams. Legend has it Fannie had a dream one night (her "Token of Death") where she saw herself in a white coffin in a white sailboat beneath a full moon. She died the next night, and the dream, unbeknownst to her husband, became reality when he placed her in a white casket, on a white skiff, that sailed across Cockle Creek. And yes, there was a full moon.
Then there is the lighthouse, deemed the Ocracoke Light, the second longest operating lighthouse in the United States. Some of Ocracoke's most famous ghosts have been spotted in the area. For one, there's an unnamed, unknown ghost who appears in a light blue, long gown. While her identity remains a mystery, she is mainly spotted in the evening, strolling after a summer thunderstorm. She even says hello to some passersby and makes comments about a party. She is very pretty, with long dark hair and olive skin, and sometimes appears holding a lantern.
Then there's Theodosia Burr Alston, who lost her life when the ship she was in sank off the coast of the Outer Banks. She appears in the vicinity of the lighthouse with a long white dress and her hair dripping wet, sometimes with seaweed in it. You know she's near if you catch a whiff of a strong, musty smell. Last but not least, there's the old lighthouse keeper adorned in black and grey striped pants and a white shirt. His long hair is often tied with a black string and he has a full, large beard. The strangest part about this particular ghost is that he's rumored to walk straight through people - up until that point, he appears as a solid, living breathing person.
There’s no concrete answer why some ghosts choose to continually wander the areas in which they met their demise. Maybe their souls are damned to the area forever, maybe they prefer to call this coastal stretch of land home. Either way, for such a small, isolated place, Ocracoke indeed has some of the most interesting hauntings in the entire state.
Did you know these Ocracoke ghost stories or have any you’d like to add? Have you spotted any of these famous Ocracoke ghosts?