Rooted in legend, folklore, and reality, to this day each of these stories remain a mystery. Dating back to the 1500’s, here are seven of the most infamous unsolved mysteries in North Carolina.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Blandenboro Fire Poltergeist, Bladenboro, 1932
Mrs. Charles Williamson was just an ordinary housewife until one day her dress unexplainably caught fire. To her luck, her daughter and husband put out the flames. With no flame source near...the family questioned what had happened. Their attempts to put the event behind them came to halt when a pair of shoes caught fire in Mrs. Williamson's closet, burning to a crisp. Over the next four days, a bed and curtains caught fire. Other "spurts" of fire would appear with blue flames engulfing objects and burning them to a crisp. The flames could not be extinguished until the items engulfed were completely burned. No family members were harmed and after four days the fires completely subsided. Arsons, electricians, and even the police investigated the bizarre event. No clear explanation was ever found.
2. The Be-Lo Murders, Windsor, 1993
In the quiet, small town of Windsor a twenty-year old cold case still haunts each local. On a warm summer night in June, police received a bone-chilling call. Inside this small grocery store, an unnamed murderer hid and waited for closing time. As the cleaning crew and employees began their nightly duties, they were caught off guard and held at gunpoint. Each victim was bound and gagged then taken to the meat-cutting room. There, their bodies were stacked as the murderer fired rounds until he ran out of bullets. Next, he grabbed a knife and stabbed each victim. One injured victim managed to call the police before dying. When the police arrived they were not prepared for the horrific sight. Witness accounts claim bodies laid in piles of blood, one victim with a knife through his back. One person was unharmed, but was said to be drenched in blood and assumed dead upon first recognition. Three people lost their lives. The strangest part is that no one knows the motive or who could have possibly committed such a horrific crime. The Be-Lo shut down shortly after. Twenty years later and police are still investigating and trying to solve this horrible event.
3. Debbie Wolfe, Fayetteville, 1985
On Christmas night the young nurse Debbie Wolfe vanished from her Fayetteville home. The police did not become involved until her family had divers search the family lake behind her house. Debbie's body was found in a barrel in the lake wearing clothing that was not hers. The barrel she was found in was missing from her home before her disappearance. Strangely, authorities ruled the case as an accident, even despite her families pleads that it was clearly a murder. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened to Debbie Wolfe. Before her disappearance, two men were seen where she worked bothering her about 'romantic involvement.' Why was this ruled as an accident?
4. The Lost Colony of Roanoke, late 1580's
In 1587, 117 men, women, and children waded ashore to Roanoke Island. The settlers were the first permanent settlement in the Americas. Recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh, the well-known among these settlers were British ally, Indian Chief Manteo, John White and his pregnant daughter Eleanor Dare. Eleanor gave birth to Virginia Dare, the first child born on American soil, shortly after they began to establish their colony. John decided to sail to England, promising to return with supplies. Three years later, on his granddaughter's third birthday, John landed ashore to find everyone had vanished. The original colony was deserted and overgrown with brush. John had no clear sign of where his family had disappeared to besides two carvings. On one of the palisades he found the word "CROATOAN" carved and on a nearby tree the letters "CRO" carved. An oncoming hurricane prevented John from seeing if his family had ventured inland, or if anyone was still alive. John returned to England and died a few years later, never knowing the fate of any of the 118 settlers. To this day, The Lost Colony is perhaps North Carolina's most notorious and famous unsolved mystery. Some claim to see Virginia Dare in the form of a white doe, while others believe the colonist were murdered by Indians. The fact that no one knows has turned this mystery into famous folklore.
5. Alan and Terry Westerfield, Fayetteville, 1964
The case of these two young boys remains as the oldest unsolved missing persons case in North Carolina. On September 12th, brothers Alan, 6, and Terry, 11, were dropped off by their father at the popular Broadway Movie Theatre in Fayetteville. Some employees claim to have seen the boys, others say they did not see them. Their mother was known to be strict and tell the boys to "wait in the theatre" until she arrived. Sadly, the boys were not in the theatre and were nowhere to be found. The crucial 48-hour search period was hindered by Hurricane Dora. Once the story hit nationally, reports came in across the nation from Mississippi to Arizona, yet no real leads were ever found. Today, the boys would be 58 and 62. Their family still copes with the unsolved grief and no one really knows what happened.
6. The Legend of Peter Dromgoole and Dromgoole Rock, 1832, UNC Chapel Hill
No one quite knows what happened to UNC Chapel Hill Student Peter Dromgoole. The major story is that Peter and another student were both in love with a young girl named Fannie. Like boys do, they decided a duel would be the ultimate way to see who would truly win Fannie's heart. Sadly, Fannie's true love Peter, was said to be murdered and buried beneath a rock that Fannie and Peter would secretly meet at. His blood stain is said to still be seen upon the rock. Fannie died the summer after from a broken heart. Legend says her and Peter haunt the area and Gimgoul Castle. A stranger story is that before Peter's "death" he sent a bizarre letter to his family in Virginia claiming he was going to do something horrible, that would cause them great sorrow, and in the event this happened, they would never hear from him again. Peter's Uncle fled to UNC to check on the young man, but when arriving he found Peter to be nowhere. He had vanished, with only a few of his clothes left behind. Perhaps this is tied in with the lover's quarrel, but either way, its a legend that still haunts UNC Chapel Hill.
7. The Legend of Payne Road, Rural Hall
No one can quite agree on WHAT exactly happened at Payne Road. Yet, everyone can agree that it is terrifying, haunted, and a true NC legend. There are several stories tying into the haunting of Payne Road. The first, and most famous, being that Edward Payne owned a very large slave plantation on this land. In finding out that his daughter was pregnant with one of the slave's child, he murdered the slave and began to descend into madness and apparent devil worship. Upon discovering another daughter had done the same, Payne completely completely lost it...murdering the slave, and then in a maddening rage, his entire family. Payne set fire to the entire plantation killing all of the remaining slaves. Some even say Payne turned to satanism, sacrificing the slaves as evil tokens. The story of Edward Payne is most commonly what you will hear in regards to Payne Road...but there are two more. The second regarding the car crash of a young man who didn't quite make the curve. He was said to have crashed right near the spot where a chapel once stood where Edward Payne apparently worshipped Satan. The saddest part about this story is that the young man died a slow, painful death as bystanders stood by, watched, and did absolutely nothing but witness the car burning in flames. It is said you can see the rounded lights of the Ford car following you if you drive on Payne Road late at night. The last story, and most time-conflicting one, is about a man who lived in the farmhouse at the site with his family during the 1800's. After yet another fight with his wife, the man decided his children were the root of their problems. He bound his wife to a chair, gagged her, and placed her in the living room. One by one he took his children to the living room, telling them to say goodnight to their mommy, then taking them upstairs and slitting their throats. The man decided that his last child, his infant daughter, should be thrown into the well. While approaching the well, the man's wife had managed to escape. She attacked her husband and grabbed their infant daughter from his grip. But, her husband caught her at the bridge, looping off her head with his knife. Then, sadly, he threw his baby girl into the well. Lastly, he hung himself at the bridge. To this day, legend says if you go to the bridge, stop your car, and whistle "Dixie" the woman's ghost will appear, holding her head in her hands while approaching your car. You can also hear a baby crying from the well if you walk towards the old house. Needless to say, all three stories are equally terrifying, tragic, and haunting!
Well, I’m sleeping with the light on tonight. What have you heard about these mysteries, legends, and stories, and which ones did I miss?