Tales and Folklore From The NC Coast

 

Storytelling has been essential to mankind since cavemen first scratched pictures on the wall, some 35,000 years ago. In every culture in every country, storytelling is an essential and prized aspect of everyday life.

In North Carolina, where folks are no strangers to tall tales and longwinded stories over a pitcher of sweet tea, storytelling has left its own legacy. Now used as a means to recount legends, myths and folklore from long ago, the Carolina coast is steeped in storytelling.

With a rich and speckled past and ghosts around every corner of historical coastal villages, it is no wonder that some of the old myths and legends have been around the beaches for hundreds of years. As modern day storytellers share these tall tales with new listeners, one has to scratch their head and wonder if, after generations of being told, there may be a good chance that an old legend or myth might just be true?

                    History of Storytelling

Though the caveman drawings are the first indication of storytelling, every culture throughout the centuries has their own personal history on the roots of their storytelling. It is ingrained in some Native American cultures, where nearly every question is answered with a story; and many Asian cultures pride themselves on stories that have been circulating for thousands of years.

The first short stories were written in Egypt over 4,000 years ago, but storytelling existed well before it was transferred to the written word. The Greeks and Romans have proven that unwritten stories can last for centuries, as they honored their ancient stories of Gods and reflected on the tales that encompassed their past.

Religion always played a key role in storytelling, as the earliest cultures spread and cultivated their religion through stories. Storytelling in conjunction with archeology also helped us discover and preserve the small facts we know about ancient civilization.

Besides being helpful for teaching, religion and relaying current events, storytelling was also always a means of entertainment. For generations, families have gathered together and have shared stories about their family past, or simply about their day's activities. Children crave stories, after all, and if none are available they have no trouble making one up on the spot for their own amusement.

Today, the stories and legends that can be hundreds of years old survive because of storytellers. Whether the stories are collected in a book, explained by a historical interpreter or simply relayed in conversation on a back porch, the art of storytelling lives on and it thrives on the North Carolina Coast.

                                     Styles of Storytelling

One of the unique aspects of North Carolina's storytelling culture is that it is not limited to just one style of storytelling. In fact, a number of different methods and means of celebrating the storytelling traditions exist from one county to another. Though there are folks who have the gift of gab, each one has their own unique take on sharing their tall tales.

Capt. Jim Willis of Salter Path has been telling Down East stories for years. He fancies himself a "Banksologist" because he specialized in Bouge Banks and Outer Banks stories, and notes that true stories of North Carolina's barrier islands don't have names for the "Banks."

When telling his stories, which often have something to do with alcohol (a trait of a Carteret County story), he uses a Banks brogue. One of the most popular is his "Unquenchable Thirst" story which is about, naturally, a man who couldn't get enough whiskey.

Rodney Kemp doesn't live too far away, but he has a Southern Style of storytelling, which he says is similar to the late comedian Jerry Clower and the late newspaper columnist Lewis Grizzard. Kemp also calls Carteret County home, and has been passing along stories from the back of his fish house for years. He's part of a group of about eight men who started telling tall tales in 1991 and were dubbed fish house liars by master storyteller Josiah Bailey.

One of his favorites is the story of the Cedar Island Fire Department. According to the story, a lightning bolt struck the state's only menhaden plant and the Beaufort Fisheries were desperate to put it out. They offered a $10,000 reward, but the fire was so hot and deadly, all the county and town fire departments could do was stand 100 feet away.

"Suddenly, they heard a great commotion and turned just in time to see full bore, coming down Front Street, none other than the Cedar Island Fire Department," says Kemp. "Now the Cedar Island Fire Department was driving a 1952 double pumper." According to Kemp, "with just two buckets of sand, two ladders and three buckets of water they put out the blaze."

Kemp and the other fish house liars might be most comfortable on a rocking chair at the back of a fish house, but they make regular appearances at different festivals, like the annual storytelling festival in Morehead City, Cave Run Storytelling Festival, which attracts storytellers from around the world.

Kemp and his colleagues certainly aren't the only designated group of North Carolina storytellers. In Powellsville near Ahoskie, a small community, the 20 retired members of the Scrub Club share tales every weekday at a closed gasoline station on N.C. Highway 42.

"Everybody tries to top somebody else," says Buck Carter, the club's treasurer. "You tell the biggest lie you can think of. Others are supposed to tell a lie bigger than yours so people will believe it."

Scrub Club members have to follow a few rules in order to keep the group together. "We don't allow anyone who works," says Carter. "It is a bad influence. We don't talk politics or religions. We don't want to have a falling out."

Although storytelling gives local folks an affordable way to pass the time, it also keeps them connected with their past, even if the facts and figures of an event can wind up distorted after many generations and many ears.

Coastal Legends

The North Carolina coast is home to countless tall tales, legends and haunted stories to accompany its stunning and unique landscape of marshes, maritime forests, miles of beaches and sometimes unforgiving storms. From this locale, hundreds of stories have stemmed from actual events and local liars, and while some of these stories have museums and landmarks to pay homage to the tale, others simply survive by word of mouth. No matter which stretch of the Carolina coastline you explore, chances are there is a story hidden somewhere just below the surface.

On the Outer Banks, few visitors ever hear about or visit the Cora Tree, a sizeable live oak that is in the center of the Brigands Bay community in Frisco, but that hasn't stopped its legend from staying alive.

According to the legend, in the early 1700s, a strange woman named Cora showed up and began living in a crude hut in the forest not far from the Cora Tree. Cora lived alone with no one for company but a baby whom she carried with her everywhere. Folks were suspicious of strangers, but left Cora to her own. After some time, they noticed that Cora was usually in the neighborhood just before misfortune struck. A cow she touched went dry, a little boy who mocked her baby got sick and nearly died, and fishermen stopped catching fish even though Cora always seemed to have an abundance of fresh fish.

Locals were certainly suspicious, but did nothing until a body washed up on a local beach with the digits "666" burned into the man's forehead. Small footprints indicated that someone had fled the scene, most likely a woman.

Eli Brood, a Salem, Massachusetts captain of the brig Susan G., heard the stories about Cora and decided to test her to see if she was a witch. He tried to cut her hair, but was unable to because it was "tougher than rope." Next, he tied her up and threw her into the Sound, but she floated to the top of the surface. These were indications to Brood that she was indeed a witch.

They tied Cora and the baby to a live oak tree with dry kindling at her feet, and while Brood and the locals argued about whether it was right to burn her, the baby suddenly turned into a cat with green eyes and ran away. At that moment, the sunny sky was covered with a giant dark cloud and a bolt of lightning crashed into the tree, covering the tree and the onlookers in smoke.

When the smoke cleared, the kindling was untouched, and ropes were still tied around the live oak, but Cora was gone and never heard from again. Only two signs existed to testify to her existence. The live oak tree was split in two from the power of the lightning bolt, and four letters were burned so deep into the tree that they are still clearly visible today: "CORA."

Cats pop up a lot in Outer Banks stories, as a six-toed cat was considered good luck on a ship, especially through the treacherous waters of the Diamond Shoals that border the coast. This notion might have stemmed from the (mostly) true story of the Carroll A. Deering, a supposed ghost ship that crashed onto the Diamond Shoals on January 31, 1921.

Surfman C.P Brady of the Cape Hatteras Coast Guard Station spotted the shipwreck of the Carroll A. Deering on January 31. He paddled out with his crew as quickly as possible, but because of inclement weather and treacherous waters, this was 5 days after the wreck was initially spotted. When they arrived at the ship on February 5, what they found was peculiar.

The ship was deserted, and there was no sign of personal belongings of the officers or the crew and the ship's key navigational equipment and some papers were missing. The ship's anchors were missing and red lights had been run up the mast. Yet, food in the galley appeared to be laid out in preparation for a meal. Boots had been laid out in the captain's quarters and the spare bed appeared to have been slept in, but the only living soul that remained aboard the Carroll A. Deering was the ship's six-toed cat. All of the lifeboats were gone and the ladder was thrown over the side as an indication that the crew had tried to leave, but they were never seen again.

While cats can bring luck to an Outer Banks mariner, so can other animals that are found in abundance along the coast, as evident by the story of the famous local dolphin, Hatteras Jack.

According to legend, in 1790 the Hatteras Inlet waters were well known for being a treacherous passageway for ships trying to get into port. Because of the shifting sandbars and currents, many mariners struggled to make it through these waters.

Assistance for these ships came in a very unusual form. Captains soon began to notice an albino, white as snow dolphin preceding each boat through the inlet, indicating the path. Somehow, the dolphin, who was dubbed "Hatteras Jack," always seemed to know the exact route to follow to avoid cuts and sandbars. It wasn't long before the captains began to trust and even seek out Hatteras Jack, blowing their foghorns as they drew close to the inlet.

As the years progressed, and the U.S. Government stepped in to aid navigation through the Inlet, Hatteras Jack was seen less and less and finally disappeared, as apparently it was evident that his work was done.

With the Graveyard of the Atlantic being the final resting place for hundreds of ships off Hatteras Island's coastline, it is no surprise that ghosts play an integral part in many Outer Banks legends. Sometimes these legendary ghosts even make modern day appearances.

Some Outer Banks locals claim that right before a storm they spotted, and maybe even talked to, the Old Gray Man of Hatteras. Though little is known about the figure, consensus says he was a wealthy shipwreck victim that met his end on the Diamond Shoals after a hurricane popped up out of nowhere, surprising the captain and crew and essentially sinking the ship.

On dreary days right before a hurricane hits, when the rough ocean waters often create a slight mist on the beaches, the Old Gray Man has been spotted in a faded gray suit, wandering the beaches and warning locals and visitors of the approaching storm.

Many Outer Banks stories don't have to be stretched or exaggerated to become amazingly unbelievable tales, and many of these stories stem from the Lifesaving Stations that were located along the Outer Banks. These predecessors of the U.S. Coast Guard were also flagships of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, and many heroes were born from their thousands of amazing rescues.

For example, on February 23, 1889, a ship wrecked well off the shores of the Northern Carolina Coast (modern day Corolla), where Malachi Corbel was stationed as the keeper of the Wash Woods Lifesaving Station.

The ocean was treacherous with towering waves and torrential winds, and though most of the men were lost, five survivors still clung to ropes along the side of the boat, floating in the water.

Corbel attempted to navigate these waters numerous times over the next several days, but each time the sea won the battle, and he could not get through to the ship. Soon only one man was left, being constantly heaved by the ocean and still desperately holding on to the single rope that held his life in the balance.

On February 27, the ocean calmed down just enough for the desperate Corbel and his men to get through, and they were able to bring the lone survivor to shore. He had held on the rope for four solid days. Corbel later noted in his journal that the survivor's only injuries were swollen feet.

All of the coastal towns of North Carolina seem to have their own legends and hauntings. Fort Fisher's most well known ghost is General Whiting, a confederate general who died at the Fort during the Civil War.

Fort Fisher was widely known as the protector of the last trade stronghold of the South during the Civil War. Wilmington was the last of the Confederate South's trade ports to remain open during the end days of the Civil War, and Fort Fisher allowed it to stay open to blockade runners and to Robert E Lee's Army. By the time it fell in January 1865, Fort Fisher protected over a mile. Today, the ground that still stands is a State Historic Site - Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

This Fort was virtually impossible to defeat until December of 1864, when two major battles were fought there. On Christmas Eve 1864, the first attack came in the Union's effort to close down the South and win the war. By the next day, 28 Fort Fisher solders were dead and many more missing, captured or wounded, but Fort Fisher still held its ground.

Late that December, Major General Alfred Tenny was chosen to lead the next assault. By January 12, 1865, the arrival of the Federal fleet commanded by Tenney could be seen at the Fort. The next day massive bombardment began as the Fort was assaulted from sea and land. General William Whiting was injured on January 15 on the third traverse, and then was forced to officially surrender to Major General Tenney that night. Fort Fisher had been defeated, and with it, the Confederate South.

The staff at Fort Fisher have reported that the spirit of General Whitting had been seen to this day walking along the Old River Road in the Pine Grove. The River Road led from the Fort to the Port of Wilmington.

Another chilling coastal story, which many Beaufort locals believe to be true, lives on Cape Lookout National Seashore. On a cold night in January 1886, a schooner named the Crissie Wright was making her way along the coast when bad weather approached. The captain knew about the approaching Diamond Shoals, so he decided to set a course for Cape Lookout Bight instead. As the ship drew near the harbor, the main mast brace parted, leaving the vessel drifting helplessly, until it finally collapsed onto the shoals and was pounded with incoming waves.

The sea was too dangerous for lifeboats, so the captain and crew took to the rigging. Many locals gathered on the banks to watch the ship's plight. The whalers tried repeatedly to launch their small boats, but were not successful. The would-be rescuers built a large bonfire on the beach, hoping the crew could spot it and swim to shore, but the sea was simply too rough. In the end, the captain and several crew members were swept overboard, while the horrified locals looked on.

Beaufort locals still use the expression "cold as the night the Crissie Wright came ashore," as homage to that chilly January night. When the waves subsided the following morning and whalers were finally able to get to the boat, they found four men huddled together in a sail: three had frozen to death, but one was still alive. Unfortunately, the lone survivor died just one year later, having never recovered from the awful events.

Ship stories can evoke legends and tales both on the coast and on the sounds and saltwater marshes that comprise the Inner Banks. In New Bern, legend has it that an outline of ships covered in flames can be spotted once a year in the summer along the Neuse River. The sight vanishes just as quickly as it appears, and this phenomenon is said to be the flaming ship of the Palatines.

The Palatines were a sect of German Protestants who left England in 1710 to settle New Bern. They were wary of the captain and his crew, so they hid all their gold and silver so it wouldn't be found. When the ship sailed within sight of the coast, the Palatines mistook the coastline for their new home and were so happy, they took all their treasures out of hiding and laid them onto the deck, ready to leave the ship.

They were smart to be suspicious. After seeing all the loot, the captain lied and said they could not head for land until the next morning. Disappointed, the Palatines put their treasure away and retired for the evening, eagerly awaiting the next day.

While they slept, the captain and his crew made their attack. They killed all of the Palatines and set the ship on fire as they took off towards the coastline, near New Bern, but did not quite make it to their destination. To the captain and crew's shock, the fire blazed higher and higher, but the boat would not sink, and many witnesses reported that the fire blazed well into the night until suddenly, the ship began to move, even though there wasn't a breath of wind.

The captain and crew panicked and abandoned their boat. By morning, the fire had stopped, with only a charred boat left, but the following night witnesses swear that the first started again. The captain and crew were never found, and as such, the ships appear every year on the anniversary of the Palantines' death, making their way towards New Bern.

Not all coastal stories revolve around mysterious shipwreck stories and the treacherous waters of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, many of the coastal islands have their own local legendary figures, and on Harkers Island, that title goes to Decatur Gillikin, who, legend has it, was one of the strongest men on the island, if not in the world.

Stories about Gillikin swarm, as he is said to have been involved in many fights, never losing a single one. One such tale claims that he was recruited as a sailor aboard a British ship and it wasn't long before he was in a fight with the ship's strongest and most loved member of the crew. He won, of course, and this made the crew so angry that he had to fight them all. When the fight was over, Gillikin had won fights against 15 men.

Haunted Wilmington

Some of the North Carolina Coast's larger historical cities are rich with ghost stories, and Wilmington is a fine example of a beautiful coastal city with a past. Rumors and tall tales flourish around every corner of Wilmington, and the endings to these spooky tales aren't necessarily happy ones.

In 1760, a new Wilmington resident by the name of Llewellyn Markwick moved to the town from England. A little boastful, Llewellyn quickly told his friends and neighbors that he was from a rich, titled family, and showed people his ring as proof: a very strange and unique ring shaped like a snake with a diamond in its fangs.

Shortly after moving to town, Llewellyn went riding one day and his horse returned to Wilmington hours later, but Llewellyn never did. There was no motive or reason for his disappearance, and the mystery went unsolved for 8 years. Then, a sudden storm brought torrential rains, flooding the Wilmington streets. Once the storm had cleared, one of Llewellyn's old friends noticed a shiny small object on the side of the road. He tried to pick it up, but it was stuck. He tried further, and discovered in horror that it was attached to the bony hand of a skeleton buried underneath the street. The shiny object he had noticed was, in fact, the strange ring that belonged to Llewellyn.

Locals still attest that for centuries, until a paved road was finally installed, a small bump in the street marked the spot where Llewellyn Markwick was buried.

Along the outskirts of Wilmington, just 13 miles west, visitors will find the small railroad station of Maco. This location also has its own dark history. In 1867, on a particularly dreary and rainy night, a conductor named Joe Baldwin was checking in on the train cars as the train made a steady approach to Wilmington. He was alone in the rear car, preparing to head back to the front of the train, when he realized that the last car was the only one on the track. Apparently it had become unhitched from the rest of the train, and was stranded on the tracks.

Looking behind him, he realized that another train was quickly approaching, so Joe took out his lantern and started waving it back and forth from the back of the car, trying to signal the quickly approaching train. He tried his best, but it was too foggy and rainy and the oncoming train didn't see him until it was too late. Joe did not survive the collision. Legend has it that on dreary nights like that Spring 1867 evening, the faint light of a lantern can still be spotted waving back and forth at Maco Station.

The Lost Colony

One of the greatest mysteries on the entire East Coast is over four centuries old, and happened in Manteo along the Outer Banks. The Lost Colony has drawn speculation and theories from historians around the world. Even now, hundreds of years later, no one has been able to prove exactly what happened.

The story of The Lost Colony begins with the dawn of colonization in the late 1500s. Sir Walter Raleigh, who was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I of England to set out and discover new worlds, landed on Hatteras Island and then moved north towards Roanoke Inlet. He told tales of the friendly Native Americans that resided there. This was great news, and a new colonization party of 600 men, led by Sir Richard Grenville who was appointed by Raleigh, set off for the Carolinas and began a settlement close to where Raleigh first explored (now present day Manteo.)

The settlement was called Fort Raleigh, and 6 months after the settlement was founded in April of 1585, Grenville, under the direction of Sir Walter Raleigh, returned to England leaving 107 men, women and children behind in this new home.

The man he had chosen to be in charge, Ralph Lane, was a questionable character who was known to steal supplies from nearby Native Americans and was not necessarily liked by the other colony members. When Lane invaded the Native American village in Roanoke and murdered their chief, the Native Americans were no longer friendly to their new neighbors.

Lane abandoned the colony less than a year later, and just a few weeks after that, Genville returned with three ships full of supplies for the colony. When he arrived at the settlement, he found that everyone had disappeared. Not a single man, woman or child remained. There was only one small clue of the colonists disappearance: on a tree was scrawled the word "CROATAN."

There are five major theories about what happened to the settlement. One of the most probable theories is the people of Roanoke simply left. Many historians believe they moved North towards the Chesapeake Bay, as 20 years later when John Smith landed there, the Native Americans admitted to killing a band of colonists that had been on their land.

Some historians believe that the population was killed by a disease, a definite possibility considering the rough terrain and awful conditions, but no bodies were ever found. Others believe that one of the coast's notorious hurricanes destroyed the colony, but because there was a fence left standing, usually one of the first structures to be damaged during a storm, this theory is also questionable.

Perhaps the answer lies in the remaining word "Croatan" that was carved on a tree. Some historians suggest that this means the settlers went to live with the Native Americans, as Croatan was the name of the friendly tribe who inhabited the area. Equally probable is the theory that the Native Americans ended up killing the colony and destroying the settlement. Considering the poor relations between the natives and the settlement at the time of Lane's departure, this is definitely also a possibility.

We may never know what happened, but the story has brought visitors from around the world to visit the site of The Lost Colony, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, and Roanoke Island Festival Park.

The mystery is also the storyline of the country's longest running outdoor drama, "The Lost Colony," which is held in an outdoor pavilion every summer since 1937. Summer visitors can still go to the Waterside Theater and see the nightly production that brings the curious mystery to life. Over the years, the show has included performances by famous personalities early in their careers, like Andy Griffith, Terrance Mann, William Ivey Long and Senator Marc Basnight. This production has entertained more than three million people from all walks of life since its debut in 1937.

The Legend of Blackbeard

One of the most infamous figures to grace the North Carolina Coast was Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate. During the golden age of piracy in the early 1700s, the Outer Banks were a perfect stomping ground for Blackbeard and his kind, as the barrier islands and inlets provided the perfect cover from merchant ships, ideal for sneak attacks and hiding from authorities.

With a large black beard that covered his face, Blackbeard became a notorious figure in these waters. According to the recounts of his victims, he would light cannon fuses under his hat during battles, making his face look like it was covered in fire.

His pirate career lasted only a few years (it is believed that he started attacking ships in 1710 or so), but he quickly became well known throughout the coastal waters. While he hunted in the waters off of the Outer Banks, he spent his spare time in the mainland towns of North Carolina, and the small town of Bath is well known as one of his favorite haunts and his hometown. He is rumored to have settled down there while not on ship, with a wife in a grand house next to a North Carolina politician.

In 1717, Blackbeard captured a French ship, the Concorde, off the island of St. Vincent, renamed it the Queen Anne's Revenge and used it to terrorize merchants off the coast. It is not currently known how many vessels Blackbeard captured during his exploits, but a preliminary database compiled by North Carolina Maritime Museum researchers currently contains over 50 prizes which can be directly attributed to Blackbeard's activities.

Blackbeard was eventually tracked down to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina by the Royal Navy and killed in a brief but bloody battle on November 22, 1718. On the night before the battle, Blackbeard is rumored to have cried out "O Crow, Cock! O Crow, Cock!" in eager anticipation of the morning's fight. This phrase eventually became the name of the neighboring island, Ocracoke.

In November 1996, a private research company discovered what it believed to be the Queen Anne's Revenge in about 20 feet of water off Beaufort Inlet, in Carteret County. A bronze bell dated 1709, a 24-pound cannonball, a blunderbuss barrel, along with other items, were recovered in March 1997, and were given to the state of North Carolina.

Inland Stories

The towns of the Inner Banks, the collection of inland villages and cities that border ocean bound rivers and sound, have their own unique stories and legends.

In Elizabeth City, northwest of the Outer Banks, folks still tell the tale of Nell Cropsey. In 1898, a merchant from the north made his home along the Pasquotank River with his wife and daughters. One daughter in particular, Nell, stood out as the most beautiful and drew the eyes of many local young men, who referred to this daughter as the "Beautiful Nell Cropsey."

Nell finally selected Jim Wilcox as her beau, and he courted her for years until 1901, when on a dark November night they began to argue over if he was ever intending to propose to Nell. Not long after the argument, Nell disappeared and was never seen again.

A letter arrived several weeks later with a map that showed where Nell was buried. A few days later, her body was indeed found exactly where the map had indicated.

Jim Wilcox, who was thought to be letter's author, was arrested and later convicted of murder. He was sent to prison and stayed there for 19 years until he was pardoned by the governor in 1920. He ended his life in 1922, and to this day, no one knows the particulars of the final hours of Beautiful Nell Cropsey.

In the Dismal Swamp area, locals still talk of the infamous Lady of the Lake, which poet Thomas Moore penned into infamy in his poem "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp." The Lady of the Lake is supposedly a Native American girl who died shortly before her wedding day. Her would-be husband believed that she had left her grave and took to the waters of the swamp, never to find him after death. She is still seen on occasion, paddling a white canoe across misty Lake Drummond.

In Edenton, storytellers talk about the centuries old cypress tree that stood in the middle of the harbor. Its stature and history (it is said that the tree was there well before the English settlers) led mariners passing by Edenton to begin a tradition of putting a bottle of Jamaican Rum inside the trunk. When a ship left the port, the crew would stop at the tree and have a drink for good luck. Eventually, all the local mariners began to refer to the cypress as "The Dram Tree."

Crews that didn't adhere to the tradition of leaving a bottle on their arrival and taking a drink on their way to sea encountered rough seas and hardships when they left Edenton. Many stories have been told of the ill fates these careless mariners were cast to, simply by not honoring the Dram Tree. The tree stood until 1918, when a winter storm finally cast it off to the waters of the Pamlico Sound.

In Chowan College in Murfeesboro, the legend of the Brown Lady survives after 150 years. During the Civil War, a lovely young college student lost her fiance in battle and soon died of a broken heart. Her ghost, a solitary figure in a brown dress, roamed the halls of the Columns Building and personnel have supposedly found brown leaves and sticks in the mornings after her visits.

In the 1940s and 1950s, the college held a "Brown Lady Festival," and a student was chosen every year to dress up as the Brown Lady and greet visitors at the Wise Family Cemetery on campus grounds. Today, students still consider the Brown Lady as a symbol of high ideals and pride.

In Bath, folks shake their heads at the sorry fate of poor Jesse Elliot. Jesse was a reckless resident of the town, and tweaked his nose at the conventional values that encompassed North Carolina's Bible belt. During a horse race in the late 1800s (one of Jesse's favorite pastimes), he galloped at lightning speed shouting "Take me in a winner, or take me to Hell." As if on cue, the horse came to an abrupt halt, sending Jesse flying into a tree and causing his instant death.

The footprints of Jesse's horse still remain in Bath, and while folks have tried to no avail to cover them up with kindling or leaves, the hoof prints somehow never have a leaf on them whenever they are spotted.

With centuries of dark and legendary stories, stemming from the treacherous coastal waters to the history rich and proud coastal cities, it's no wonder that the communities of the North Carolina Coast take to stories like a fish to water. Pause for a moment at a rickety fish house or stop by a convenience store where older generations of residents are swapping stories, and you are sure to pick up a bit of North Carolina history that might not be completely true. Whether true or not, it will be purely engrossing, interesting and entertaining just the same.

                                                                                                                                                                  

 

Tales From The Coast

Perhaps the greatest coastal tradition.............

Ocracoke Island and especially the beach area near the lighthouse was a favorite area of Blackbeard's
Ocracoke Island and especially the beach area near the lighthouse was a favorite area of Blackbeard's

Edward Teach or Blackbeard as he was more commonly known loved Ocracoke Island and especially the beach area just down from the Ocracoke Lighthouse. It is said he would stand there for hours looking out to sea.

Over the years people have quite often reported seeing a brightly burning fire on the beach here but when they try to walk to or go to the fire on the beach no fire can be found.

On November 21 , 1718 the Royal Navy sent by Governor Spotswood of Virginia took two sloops and went after the pirate Blackbeard and his fellow pirates just off Ocracoke Island. There was a furious battle and the pirates fought for their lives but the Royal Navy led by Royal Navy Lt. Maynard was successful and finally were able to kill most of the pirates including the infamous pirate Blackbeard.

Legend has it that Blackbeard was shot five times and stabbed twenty times in the fight and when he was killed Lt. Maynard cut off his head and had his body thrown over board. The head of Blackbeard the pirate was hung from the bowsprit of the ship and the really strange thing reported was the fact that Blackbeard's body swam three times around the ship before sinking to the bottom.

There is a story on Ocracoke Island that the headless body of Blackbeard was washed ashore a few days later and that people friendly to the pirate took his body and buried it on the beach where he had loved to walk.

There have even been reports of a headless man seen on this beach and in near by areas. He is seen most often on full moon nights. And people quite often see someone walking along and then realize that the person has no head.

People over the years say that it is the headless ghost of the Pirate Blackbeard looking for his head. And just maybe if you go for a walk along this beach on a full moon night you to will see the headless ghost of Blackbeard walking along looking for his head.

Legend also says that Blackbeard hid his treasure here on Ocracoke Island and claim that the headless ghost is trying to protect the treasure.

 

Ocracoke's Four Ghosts

On an island tucked away on the North Carolina Outer Banks is a quaint little village that has long been compared to Nantucket Island. Ocracoke has its own antiquity having been visited by early European explorers going all the way back to Giovanni da Verrazano who happened upon this island all the way back in 1524. And locals here will tell you that some people who have lived and visited Ocracoke Island have never left because their ghosts are still here.

And it really makes me wonder what causes some spirits to return to their earthly homes and haunt their favorite places and what is it that makes some people sensitive to their presence has long been the subject of paranormal studies. Whether you are a believer or a doubting Thomas there are countless stories filled with chilling reality from those who have seen and heard these coastal apparitions.

There is Theodosia Burr Alston who was the beloved daughter of Aaron Burr who lost her life when the ship she was in sank off the North Carolina Outer Banks. People over the years have claimed to see her often in the vicinity of the Ocracoke Lighthouse. Be sure to see the photos of the lighthouse above. She is often seen in a long white flowing dress and is often seen wet with water dripping off of her and even with sea weed in her hair. Some people also claim to smell a strong musky smell when they see her.

An old lighthouse keeper with black and gray striped pants and a white shirt is often seen around and in the Ocracoke lighthouse. He is said to have long hair tied back with string and a full heavy beard. He has been known to walk straight through people. And it is said he appears to be a solid living person until the point where he walks through you.

Black Beard , " Edward Teach " is Ocracoke's most famous ghost. He is seen all over the village of Ocracoke including the little beach just down the street from the lighthouse. People have seen him walking there on the beach and thought he was someone in costume. Some have even tried to talk to him but he quite often walks straight by them with out saying a word. People have also over the years tried to find a fire on this beach they can see burning from a distance but when they get to it they can never really find the fire. Legend has it that this little beach was one of Blackbeard's favorite places on Ocracoke Island.

A very pretty girl in a light blue long dress has also been seen in the vicinity of the lighthouse. No one has ever been able to figure out who she is but she is quite often seen walking after a evening summer thunderstorm has ended and she has even waved and talked to some people but she quite often simply vanishes and people are left there scratching their head wondering where the pretty girl went to. It is said she has dark hair and olive skin and a beautiful smile.Some people say she makes comments about the party that night. When they start to question her about what party that night she vanishes. Some people have claimed to see her with a lantern.

To get to Ocracoke Island and Lighthouse from the southern tip of Hatteras Island take the state operated toll free ferry boat that takes you and your vehicle for free over to Ocracoke Island and then drive south 14 miles to the village of Ocracoke and if your lucky maybe you will have your own paranormal experience. There is a lot of water related sports you can enjoy in the summer months but I love to visit the Island of Ocracoke in the winter months. Be sure you stop on the drive into the Ocracoke Village and check out the pastures with the wild horses in them. Most people especially children really enjoy the free ferry ride from Hatteras Island over to Ocracoke Island.