During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
1. Driving the dead, the phantom hitchhiker
On a rainy, dark night off 70-E a car drives slowly down the foggy road. At once, beside an overgrown underpass, the driver believes he sees a woman wearing a white evening gown. The driver pulls over, rolling down his window, slightly in shock a young girl is walking alone in the pouring rain. "Do you need a ride?" the driver asks. "Yes, please, my name is Lydia." Lydia opens the door, gets in, and sits quietly. The driver begins to notice something strange. It's almost as if her dress is covered in dried blood. Lydia's eyes look sad, unknowing, almost lifeless. The driver asks where she is going, she replies she's been to prom but is now trying to get home. She gives an address. Despite failed efforts to engage the almost otherworldly Lydia in conversation, they reach the address. At once, Lydia has vanished. The perplexed driver, wondering about his own mental state, decides to approach the dilapidated house that was Lydia's destination. Once inside, an older woman hands the driver a picture frame with a photo of Lydia. "But, where is your daughter?" the driver asks. The woman, almost as if in repetition, explains her daughter died in a car wreck on the way to her prom. The driver of the car the two were in, lost control around the sharp curve where the overpass now exists. Rather it be rain, speed, or a combination, both died instantly. Yet, Lydia's spirit seems to cling to this area, this memory, the repetition of just trying to get home. Today, her spirit walks up and down the road in Jamestown, flagging down drivers, and catching a ride. Lydia, the phantom hitchhiker.
2. Heartbeat Bridge, Whiteville
Several years ago, an innocent young girl was murdered on this bridge. While the speculation of the murderer ranges from a taxi driver to civilian...everyone can agree on one thing, the heartbeat. So, why heartbeat? In a gruesome turn of events, the young girl's heart was said to be cut from her body and thrown off the bridge by the killer. Today, the heartbeat persists. Even those not easily spooked find much discomfort in heartbeat bridge. As you approach the bridge, you will begin to hear the sound of a beating heart in your ears. You might think it is just your own, until the sound is so loud it becomes excruciatingly clear it is not yours you are hearing. Several sources have claimed to be forced to leave the bridge due to the ever-pressing, torment of sound. Scratches and noises have also been reported at Heartbeat bridge.
3. Fatal seduction along the French Broad River
Dating back to 1845, the French Broad Siren has been preying on her victims for quite some time. She is beautiful with dark-skin and dark-hair. She begins attracting male hikers through their dreams. Appearing as a beautiful, but distant woman they cannot reach or touch. After their dreams, she steps in and out of their consciousness until they are completely captivated and consumed by who this figure could be. Enchanting her victims for days, the Siren of the French Broad leaves the men staring into pools of water and finding themselves continually gravitating closer and closer to the river. Once fully captivated, she appears to them in full form, naked, rising out of the water. As soon as they reach for her, her warm skin becomes cold, scaly flesh. In one instant, they are yanked into the water by a ‘monster.’
4. Virginia Dare, the white doe
The Lost Colony is quite possibly the first mystery to hit American people on American soil. To this day, no one knows what happened to the colonists. One of those colonists being the first child born in America, Virginia Dare. While some believe the entire village was massacred by Indians, there is another story. While the colonists attempted to escape as their village was under attack, Virginia Dare's mother, Elanor, carved their destination. As a crying baby Virginia rested in her arms and arrows zipped past, Elanor carved the words Croatoan into a tree. Elanor hoped that if her father, Govenor John White, ever returned, he could find them using her carving as a clue. Virginia and her mother escaped safely and lived a peaceful life with the Croatan Indians. Virginia grew into a beautiful young woman, which in turn, attracted the attention of several suitors. One of those being a jealous sorcerer named Chico. After being denied a hand in marriage, Chico turned to the dark arts and in turn cursed Virginia by turning her into a white doe. The link to this speculation is that Virginia's other suitor, Okisko, noted the first appearance of the rare, white doe, around the time Virginia went missing. Due to the recent love triangle, and Virginia's recent disappearance, Osiko concluded this must be the work of Chico. As time passed, the white doe was spotted throughout the area. Osiko, heartbroken, sought the help of a friendly sorcerer, and Chico's rival, Wenaudon, to help him construct a magic arrowhead made from the mother-of-pearl lining in an oyester shell. With this arrow, Virginia would be turned back. Of course, no story is complete without a little conflict. The village warrior, Wanchese, also heard news of the rare, elusive white doe. For years the snow-white doe perplexed hunters, no one could kill, capture, or really come close to the mysterious creature. Vowing to prove his worth as warrior, Wanchese set out to kill the white doe with a silver arrowhead given to him by Queen Elizabeth in England. Both Wanchese and Osiko tracked the white doe for weeks. On a fateful afternoon, they both saw opporunity to shoot the doe. The doe calmly drank from a watering hole as both men, unaware of the other's precesnse, lifted their arrows and shot. At the same time, both arrows struck the doe in the heart. At once, Osiko's arrowhead converted the white doe back into Virginia, as she died from the wound from Wanchese's arrow. Wanchese, ashamed of his actions, fled the island in fear. A devastated, defeated Osiko carried Virginia's body to an old fort built by her colony and buried her at the center. Soon after her death, near the pool of water where Virginia died, a vine began to sprout. Grapes began to grow on the vine, the most sweet, delicious grapes, whose juice was blood red. This was the Scuppernog grape, the first grape used to make North Carolina wine.
5. Calling the Grove Park Inn home, forever.
Perhaps everyone's first NC legend is the story of the Pink Lady of the Grove Park Inn. Knowing the story, events, and witness accounts is an NC right of passage. Perhaps a debutante, perhaps a scorned secret lover, this young woman fell to her death from a 5th floor overlook. Seen in a pink ball gown, or just with a pink ‘aura’ surrounding her figure, she is said to be good-natured and takes kindly to children. Hotel employees initially decided her spirit was here to stay after receiving a curious note from a hotel guest. Left at the front desk, the man who wrote the note wanted to say thank you to the ‘lady in pink’ who played with his children during his stay. Today, employees treat the pink lady like she is one of them. Her ‘laid back,’ fun spirit, is known to play a few pranks and take a particular fascination with room 545.
6. The 'real' haunted woods
While the name 'haunted woods' is something we commonly associate with halloween and actors chasing you with chainsaws, a year-round, real, haunted woods is right here in North Carolina. From inception to the present, strange, mysterious occurrences have been reported on this stretch of Highway 64. The 'haunted woods' span from the county seat of Williamson to the town of Jamesville. For starters, the stretch of swampland is home to mysterious, floating orbs of light. Studied by scientist, shot at by hunters, and witnessed several times, no one can conclude what the 'floating balls of light' really are. Some believe the lights to be the souls of early settlers who were brutally murdered by Native Americans. It is not just the spirit of humans here though. Mysterious white cattle, deers, and dogs have also been reported roaming the swamplands. Like the lights, the mysterious animals go unharmed by bullets. The most haunting aspect of the 'haunted woods' is the lynching tree. Many men had lost their life hanging from the long, twisted limbs. One such victim was said to appear in full form, his ghostly, opaque figure, hanging from the tree. The tree is now gone but the area has been referred to as 'the devils gut' due to the high amount of gruesome violence and wandering, lost souls.
7. Tormented souls of the psychiatric hospital
Broughton Hospital is an active, psychiatric hospital located in Morganton. Broughton could quite possibly be one of the most haunted buildings in the state. But due to its status as an active mental hospital, no paranormal investigations have been made. Any psychiatric ward with a long history is bound to be filled with its own share of terrifying, sometimes tragic, ghost stories. From the time of its inception, Broughton has housed the mild, sometimes timid mentally ill to the deranged, terrifying criminally insane. Broughton nurse, Margaret M. Langley, wrote a book retelling her personal ghost stories along with the stories she has heard from coworkers. The book is titled 'Haunted Broughton.' Margaret works the night shift, meaning she is witness and present to times when paranormal activity is at its peak. While her book is filled with spooky stories, in an interview with Love To Know, she was asked about her scariest personal occurrence. Her answer? "When I was in Bates Building all by myself one night. I had never had a fear of being there alone prior to that night. I was sitting at the conference room table looking over my time sheet and writing down my upcoming vacation days.
All of a sudden, a woman's voice spoke in my right ear and called my name in a loud whisper, "Margaret!" It scared me so bad that it felt like an iron prod was shoved up my spine into the base of my skull. (I am sure that was my blood pressure shooting up). I slowly rose from my seat and, almost as if in a daze, walked over to the desk, replaced the time book and left the conference room.
As I walked down the hallway to exit the building, I held my breath and kept looking behind me. At the door, I could not get my key in fast enough; it didn't want to go in! Finally, I got the lock turned, and out the door I went. I never went into that building alone again. It was an event I will never forget, ever."
8. Unknown ancient petroglyphs
Dating back almost 5,000 years, Judaculla Rock is a mysterious North Carolina legend. Archaeologists have yet to discover what the carvings mean, but of course, this does not prevent people from speculating. For one, the name Judaculla derives from the Cherokee word Tsul`kälû´the name of a giant who is said to live in the area. Tsul`kälû´translates into 'he has them slanting.' Slanting, referring to his slanted eyes. Tsul`kälû´was said to be seven feet tall, with fourteen fingers and toes. Of course, as the man of the land, Tsul`kälû´is tightly linked with the legend of the rock. Some say the larger than life carvings are imprints of his feet, jumping from rock to rock. Another source claims Tsul`kälû´carved the rock with hunting rules, as he controlled all the game in the land. A strange fact about Judaculla rock is that there are several other similiar carvings found all along the southeastern mountain region. Many of which are just now being discovered. The rock, located in Sylva, is a popular tourist attraction. Paranormal experiences have been linked to the rock as well. The meaning and symbolism behind Judaculla rock is unknown, strange, yet also intriguing.
9. Maco Light
Joe Baldwin was just trying to do his job to the best of his ability, yet this ended up costing him his life. Joe was decapitated in a collision between a runaway passenger car and a locomotive at Maco. The identifying factor for this legend is the 'light.' The light is thought to be Joe, walking up and down the train tracks, searching for his head. While some reports claim the light has not been seen since 1977, several other sources dispute that claim. I even have personal ties to this story, as my mom has told me, since childhood, of a late night, impulsive drive to the beach resulting in a ghostly encounter with Joe Baldwin himself. If you go down to Maco, on a dark night, you might be able to see Joe too. While scientist have their 'logical' theories, the light has captured national attention. In 1957, Life magazine even did a two-page write up on the mysterious phenomenon. Scientists have been assigned to the area to study the light and attempt to identify the origin. Like the other mysterious lights seen around the state, the presence is contributed to 'marsh gas.'
10. A famous genius dies in a famous fire
At the Highland Hospital, a mental ward in Asheville, lived the wife of one of the greatest American authors. At the time of Zelda's appearance at Highlands, her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, had long lived the days of his Great Gatsby fame. As a struggling writer pushing through years of bland storytelling, F. Scott Fitzgerald spent two summers at the Grove Park Inn while his wife was just down the road, in and out for 12 years, at the Highland Mental Hospital. Zelda wad diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, but suffered bouts of extreme depression and happiness, linking her disorder more to bi-polar tendencies. The nurses often loved Zelda, she was said to be a sensation around the hospital. Before her fall into poor mental health, Zelda was actually a genius writer. Much like her husband, her writing style was pioneering, brave, and romantic. Yet, she was stuck in her husband's shadow. It's easy to wonder just how amazing Zelda, and her writing, could have been had her illness not worsened. The North Carolina Mountains, and Highland Hospital, became a home for Zelda as her husband moved out west, eventually passing away. One night, the hospital caught fire. Rumors spread there were patients left sedated, some chained in their rooms, as a vengeful nurse set the hospital ablaze. The fire tore through the building, leaving firefighters barely anything to salvage. Zelda, and eight others, died that night. Nothing was ever built in the place of the hospital, in memory of those who lost their life. A grassy knoll now rests quietly on a land that has seen so much death and destruction. Go to the area on a dark night, and you might just run into Zelda herself. While not so much an 'urban legend' the story still involves some fascinating, sometimes little-known, North Carolina history.