10 Best Myths and Urban Legends in North Carolina

Whether rooted in fact or fiction, storytellers have passed on tales of bizarre happenings over generations. Hoaxes and histories collide and highlight the spooky side of every state. Here are 10 myths and urban legends from North Carolina to keep you up at night.

1. The Brown Mountain Lights

In Linville Gorge near Marion, North Carolina, unexplained flickering lights appear to move along the mountain ridge, resembling a group of people searching by torchlight. Visible from the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Brown Mountain Lights have birthed several legends, from the ghosts of slaves seeking their masters, to townspeople searching for the bodies of murder victims. The phenomenon was even the inspiration for Scotty Wiseman’s bluegrass song of the same name. 

2. The North Carolina State Capitol

During the mid-19th century, a woman was murdered at the capitol’s front steps. Since the incident, some have witnessed shrill screams by the front steps in the heart or Raleigh, North Carolina. Believed to belong to the victim’s ghost, the cries attracted the attention of ghost researchers in 2004, who collected electronic voice phenomena and used infrared cameras to search for the spirit. Though the results were inconclusive, more claims of paranormal activity have been made since then. Visitors often report spotting shadowy figures outside of the building.  

3. The Wampus Cat

According to urban legend, the Wampus Cat was once a beautiful Cherokee woman. She sought to understand the sacred hunting rituals, those which only men in the tribe were privy to. One evening before leaving for a hunt, she followed them, shrouded in a cougar’s skin. The sorcerer, the man leading the ritual, caught the woman and cast a spell on her as punishment for intruding on their secrets. The cougar’s skin became her own. To this day, the cougar can be heard roaming the Appalachian Mountains.

4. The Duel at Hammock House

In the early 18th century, Beaufort, North Carolina, was a successful commercial port that connected the state to colonies in the Caribbean, New England, and Canada. Hammock House served as an inn for the many sailors who passed through on business. One such traveler, Captain Madison “Mad” Brothers, searched along the coast for a potential wife. He courted the orphaned daughter of a wealthy Baltimore family. Miss Samantha Ashby agreed to wed Brothers, despite his fierce temper which earned him his nickname. Upon spotting his betrothed dancing with another young man, Brothers lashed out in a fury at Hammock House, killing the man before realizing he was not a suitor, but Miss Ashby’s long-lost brother. 

5. Pactolus Light

A man enrolled in East Carolina University’s teaching program fell in love with the woman of his dreams. When the semester ended and he had to return to his home in Virginia, he promised to meet her in Pactolus when her train would arrive for the next semester. He planned to propose to her as soon as they could be together again. He waited at Pactolus on the day she was to return, but the train had been delayed. Dusk had fallen, so the man set out on his horse and began to leave. He was jumped on his way home, though his horse managed to escape. The girl died broken hearted and without knowledge of what had happened to her love. Shortly after his death, the Pactolus Lights began to appear. According to ECU students, if you drive down Carl Morris Road and flash lights three times in a row, the Pactolus Light will blink as a sign of the man’s ghost still waiting for the train even after death. 

6. The Vampire Beast of Bladenboro

Surrounded by pine forests and swamps at the southeastern edge of the NC Piedmont, Bladenboro is an isolated community with a monster of its own. Evidence and reports of dogs being slaughtered by a large, panther-like creature in the area have surfaced for years. Many of the dogs’ bodies were found to have been drained of blood. Professional hunters began traveling to Bladenboro in hopes of catching the beast after reports surfaced of the first attack on a human in the community. Bladenboro Mayor Bob Fussell and Chief Fores demanded an end to the hunt after concerns regarding the safety of having so many hunters and citizens searching for a beast in the dark. A bobcat much larger than average was caught by a local farmer, then displayed in the center of town with a sign declaring “This is the Beast of Bladenboro.” Since then, no other killings have occurred.

7. Blackbeard’s Ghost

The inlet now known as Teach’s Hole near Ocracoke Island was a special place for the pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. It is where he preferred to anchor his ship, and where he met his fate. The ferocious pirate was wanted dead by hundreds, and a ship commanded by John Maynard and sent by Virginia Governor Alexander Spotswood set out to make it so. Blackbeard and his crew were ambushed at Teach’s Hole where he was shot five times and stabbed 20. His corpse was decapitated and his head was hung from the bowsprit of Maynard’s ship as a trophy. Legend has it that Blackbeard’s body swims around Teach’s Hole, searching for its head, and appears on stormy nights as a light and a voice shouting “Where’s my head?”

8. The Devil’s Tramping Ground

For more than a century, a barren circular patch in Bear Creek, North Carolina, has been the center of supernatural theory in the Carolina woods. Known as the Devil’s Tramping Ground, the circle is 15 feet in diameter and widely thought to be where the Devil dances, for any object placed within the circle resides outside of the circle after nightfall. To test the myth, a local journalist and reporter decided to camp in the middle of the circle. Although the reporter did awake still in the center at sunrise, he did recall hearing ghostly footsteps surrounding the tent in the night. 

9. The Pink Lady of the Omni Grove Park Inn

Asheville’s Omni Grove Park Inn was built in 1913 and has harbored guests including Harry Houdini, F. Scott Fitzgerald, President Barack Obama, and a phantom known as the Pink Lady. In the 1920s, a young woman fell from the balcony of the fifth floor of the inn, attached to room 545. Since then, an apparition taking the form of a woman in a pink ball gown (when not seen as a pink mist) has remained present throughout the inn. A kind-hearted ghost, the Pink Lady appreciates playing small pranks, such as rearranging objects in the inn’s rooms.

10. Specter at the Gold Mine

During the Gold Rush, Skinflint McIntosh owned a property in Carrabus County known to have an abundant amount of gold. Though McIntosh was wealthy himself, he refused to pay his miners fair wages and to provide them with proper safety equipment. Joe McGee, the best miner in the county, was aware of McIntosh’s reputation, but he agreed to work for him under one condition: Should he die while working, McIntosh would pay Mrs. McGee $2,000 so that she would not need to provide for herself. After a few weeks in his new position, Mr. McGee did not return home. Mrs. McGee contacted McIntosh, who refused to pay her and denied that her husband had died. McIntosh was then visited and threatened by Mr. McGee’s ghost, who told him the location of his body and demanded that he dig it up and pay his wife. Although McIntosh complied, the ghost of Mr. McGee still haunts the mines. 

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