Spooky season is upon us, and North and South Carolina have no shortage of ghost stories to get you into the Halloween spirit.
From the famous pirate Blackbeard to the daughter of a vice president/Broadway musical inspiration and beyond, the region’s haunted histories span from the coast to the halls of government and sprawling mountain estates. Many of these stories have been passed down for generations and are tied to some of the Carolinas’ famous families and milestone events.
Here are some iconic Carolina ghost stories to get a scare out of your friends and family this Halloween weekend:
The famous pirate Blackbeard, whose real name was Edward Teach, was known to frequent the Ocracoke Island area on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and died there in 1718 in a battle with the Royal Navy. He’s said to have been “beheaded and his body thrown overboard.”
People are also reading…
Although his head was given to then-Virginia Gov. Alexander Spotswood “for a bounty,” the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources explains, Blackbeard’s ghost is said to haunt the Outer Banks.
“The stories claim that Teach can be seen wandering around the Ocracoke Island cove looking for his severed head,” the agency says. “Alleged sightings vary from orbs of light to Teach’s appearance in full spectral form.”
The Governor’s Mansion Ghost
The first governor to live in the North Carolina Executive Mansion, also known as the Governor’s Mansion, is said to still be sticking around the home.
Then-Gov. Daniel Fowle only lived in the mansion for three months in 1891 before his death, according to NCDNCR, but was especially fond of a bed he had specially made after the original bed in his room was “uncomfortable.”
For decades, Fowle’s bed stayed put. But in 1969, then-Gov. Rober Scott had it moved to storage because it was “too small.”
“Scott claimed that shortly after moving the bed, he and his wife were disturbed one night by a loud knocking from within the wall behind the headboard. This knocking occurred every night at approximately the same time,” NCDNCR says. “The governor speculated that the nightly occurrence was Daniel Fowle’s spirit requesting that the bed be returned to his room.”
Although this story dates back centuries, NCDNCR notes there have been recent developments in the case.
“(Current) Gov. Roy Cooper has since had the bed moved back into the room,” the agency says. “Cooper’s family claims to have never encountered any strange noises themselves. Could it be that Fowle’s spirit is content now that his bed has been returned?”
The Gray Man
Those who believe in the Gray Man of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, tend to agree that he appears ahead of a hurricane hitting the community. But exactly who he was in life is disputed: stories range from a Confederate soldier to the original owner of the Pelican Inn.
While the Gray Man is an omen of an incoming storm, South Carolina Public Radio explains, he’s “considered a sign of protection from hurricanes” by many locals. And he’s been seen as recently as September, when he reportedly surfaced on Pawleys ahead of Hurricane Ian’s arrival.
The Gray Man has also been spotted on North Carolina’s Hatteras Island ahead of storms.
The Roanoke Island Ghost Deer
There’s plenty of lore surrounding Roanoke Island, the home of the mysterious Sixteenth Century Roanoke Colony. The colony’s governor, John White, returned to his people after a three-year trip back to England to find them all gone, including his granddaughter Virginia Dare.
NCDNCR notes that legend says Dare, “famously the first English child born in the ‘New World,’” may have “survived into adulthood” only to be turned into a deer by “a jealous sorcerer.” As a deer, legend says, she was shot and killed and began to haunt the island as a ghost deer.
“A popular appearance of the ghost deer is “The White Doe, or the Fate of Virginia Dare,” a poem written in 1901 by Sallie Southall Cotten,” the agency notes.
The ‘eternal party’ at the Biltmore
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is a popular attraction for North Carolinians and tourists alike, and some say there are also ghosts hanging out on the property.
The estate’s founder, George Washington Vanderbilt, is said to haunt one of his favorite rooms in the home, the library.
“It was Vanderbilt’s particular habit to retreat into the library when he saw a storm approaching,” North Carolina Ghosts says. “His ghost may be continuing this habit, as workers and visitors to the estate are said to have seen a shadowy figure in the library, usually when the skies are dark and there is an oncoming storm.”
Some, NC Ghosts adds, have also reported hearing a female voice — believed to be that of Vanderbilt’s wife, Edith — calling out his name in the library.
“She may be summoning George away from his studies and back to what seems to be an eternal party,” NC Ghosts explains. “Workers and visitors have reported hearing the sounds of clinking glasses, laughter, and snatches of music echoing through the halls. There have even been reports of the sounds of splashing coming from the estate’s now-empty swimming pool.”
Theodosia Burr Alston’s Ghost
Theodosia Burr Alston is perhaps best known these days as the inspiration for the song “Dear Theodosia,” sung by a fictionalized version of her father, Vice President Aaron Burr, in the musical “Hamilton.” But for generations, residents of both Carolinas have told tales of her spirit haunting their state.
In life, Alston married a wealthy South Carolinian and became first lady of the state, but she was not a fan of life in the South, NC Ghosts explains. Devastated by the death of her son in 1812, she boarded a ship called the Patriot in Georgetown, South Carolina, to sail to New York to see her father.
But the Patriot never made it to its destination, and that’s where the questions start. It’s not known exactly where in its journey the ship went down or what circumstances led to its sinking.
Some say she survived the ship’s demise and turned up near Nags Head, NC Ghosts explains, unaware of who she was but clutching a painting of herself. The story goes that she lived out her days as the wife of a fisherman but died when she ran into the ocean with the painting as an old woman after her husband tried to pay a doctor with the artwork.
Others say Alston’s spirit, sometimes referred to as “the Gray Lady,” still haunts the Georgetown area. She’s been spotted haunting “the old brick warehouse near the dock where she boarded the schooner,” WPDE-Channel 15 reported, and the grounds of Brookgreen Gardens, which during Alston’s life was a plantation owned by her husband.
Another wrinkle in the story of Alston’s afterlife: some also claim she haunts a restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village that was once her father’s carriage house.
Ghosts of NYC says Alston is joined by the ghost of her father in haunting the building, where the two smash dishes and move chairs.