Halloween in North Carolina, Day #10: Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina (2018)


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Carmichael, Sherman. Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina. Sarah Haynes, illus. The History Press, 2018.


As you may have noticed from the date, this is the newest book I’m reviewing this month. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the newest collection of North Carolina folk tales at the moment. It came out on April 16 of this year. So, it’s fresh off the press.

You may also have noticed that it comes from The History Press (which apparently, is no longer doing the Haunted America line for its ghost story collections). These collections tend to come out from specific publishers like The History Press and Schiffer, and they often do so in bursts of activity rather than evenly spread out over time. So, you see a burst from the early 2000s and around 2009, another around 2011 and 2014, and then it got mostly quiet until now. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but it may have something to do with the editorial schedules.

Carmichael covers a lot of ground in the sheer number of tales by keeping them short (from a paragraph to about two pages). With all the white space and the odd illustration by artist Sarah Haynes thrown in here and there, it’s a pretty quick read at 128 pages. He sacrifices a bit in depth, but then again, some of these tales don’t have a lot of available facts in the first place (notably, legends like the Devil’s Hoof Prints of Bath or the oft-retold tales about Blackbeard, his dramatic death in battle, and his legendary string of wives).

Even though he’s from South Carolina, Carmichael doesn’t mention that the Gray Man of Hatteras has a counterpart who does exactly the same thing for Pawleys Island in SC. The similarities were to the point where I wondered if he’d simply confused Pawleys Island with the Outer Banks. It would have been nice to see him dig a bit more into this legend and see how it had cropped up in two places. Unfortunately, while Carmichael does give a fair number of facts and figures for recorded events like known disasters, he doesn’t delve especially deeply into the folkloric side of things. It was also disappointing to see that he only cited ten books, some newspapers, and a bunch of websites, none annotated, in his bibliography at the end.

I wouldn’t say the stories are high on variety. In addition to the geographical focus being solely the Outer and Inner Banks, there’s quite a bit of filler in the form of a first section that is completely about shipwrecks and plane/helicopter crashes. While these are certainly tragic, they are not very mysterious at all and have no paranormal or folklore elements. Plus, Carmichael’s rather dry, just-the-facts method of recounting the stories doesn’t exactly pull the reader along.

I was pleased to see a section on Devil legends, considering my current research focus. There were some I’d already seen (The Curse of Bath), some I hadn’t (The Devil’s Last Supper of Wilmington), and some details to add to ones I had (The Devil’s Christmas Tree from Tyrrell County). In that sense, Carmichael’s approach of stuffing in a bunch of briefly-told tales worked well because it brought up a lot of stories, so I was bound not to have heard of a few. I was surprised at the paucity of witch stories, though. Just one, about the Boo Hag? Okay. Speaking of which, that’s practically the only African American-related tale in the entire book.

Unfortunately, even though he used a bunch of websites, I didn’t see very many fresh stories. That is to say, there weren’t any concerning 21st century happenings (and no scuba hauntings? Really?). Most of these were very old and retold many times. Also, his accounts can be fragmentary, retelling the same story inside a different story more than once. Some sections, like the one on the origins of the name “Kill Devil Hills,” are pretty incoherent and seem slapped together.

Most disappointing is that he doesn’t deliver a lot of background in North Carolina history. So, you’re left wondering why so many ships went down off the Outer Banks during WWII. The area was a main shipping lane for the Allies. The German U-boats would park themselves along the Continental Shelf and prey on the merchant vessels, sinking hundreds (there are a few U-boats sunk down there, too). It became so bad by 1942 that it was known as Torpedo Alley (AKA Torpedo Junction). Carmichael doesn’t explain any of this context, which makes those particular tales a bit confusing.

So, read it for being the newest and freshest of the books out there (and a quick read), but expect it to be a bit messy.


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16 thoughts on “Halloween in North Carolina, Day #10: Mysterious Tales of Coastal North Carolina (2018)”

  1. Jack was born innocent and had to learn that lesson for himself. He did. Any child is going to want to trust their parent and will need to learn that daddy is deadbeat themselves. Being told repeatedly is meaningless when a parent is concerned.
    He did not invite Lucifer to the bunker.
    Jack teleported there in answer to Sam’s prayer and saved Dean’s life. Lucifer followed. Jack had no control over that.
    And he could not predict that Lucifer would steal his own son’s grace. None of them saw that coming
    The audience did of course because it was telegraphed all season that Lucifer wanted him for his power.
    Damn… I missed the promo.
    Michael loves the vampires. Did not see that coming. Are they going to revisit season 6/Purgatory thematically. Those are underutilized and Dean centric. Bring back Benny!!!! Unforeseen twist.

  2. Feckless Ghengis Khan crony dissing Crowley… good riddance. WTF is he even acting like Crowley anyway. It is disrespect.
    Sam is not one with the badassery but it is great seeing him take charge and have a backbone.
    I guess they got the Mary needs to be a mommy memo.
    Needs More Michael!Dean!!!

  3. Jack had an actual growth arc and he chose wisely by the end.
    He is not responsible for Dean’s decisions nor is he responsible for Lucifer’s actions.

    This seasonal need to write a Crowley adjacent character is very annoying. Just resurrect crowley and apologize to MS.

    I line the Nick twist.

    Jensen is spectacular. He is nailing evil, other worldly psycho killer. The teaser was awesome as was the Sistwr Jo scene. He may prove to be the best big bad ever.

    1. Jack was warned, repeatedly, not to trust Lucifer. His trusting Lucifer resulted in Lucifer stealing his grace and trying to destroy the world. Dean had no choice in that moment but to pick up the one weapon at hand–an archangel.

  4. By the way, where are you getting your season 14? My usual source (buying the whole season off of Amazon) appears to have dried up. And my chances of being able to watch it in real time on CW are slim to none.

    1. I usually get it from Amazon. The new season is not generally up on Amazon Video until the wee hours after the first episode. If they stop doing that, I may try iTunes.

      We’re getting out of work early due to the storm (my hours got flipped around today for reasons), so I might be able to catch up with “live” views of the rest of season 13 this afternoon. I won’t have access to do that for the season 14 premiere until tomorrow night, though, since CW is the one channel I can’t get here live, yet.

      It’s also up on the CW streaming site about eight hours after the episode airs. They only have the last five episodes of any given season, though, so it’s not perfect.

  5. Where do you think all the devil legends come from? They don’t seem as common in other parts of the country, or am I wrong about that.

    1. I’ve been digging into that and the answer for NC is rather complicated so far. There appear to be different sources that then all got conflated under the term “devil.” The weather lore and some of the rugged terrain stuff are European in origin, as is stuff like “Bad men (usually pirates) come to bad ends.” The latter motif has a lot of Reformation and Great Awakening connections.

      A lot of the geographical features in the western part of the state are based on European assumptions about Native Americans. Any Native American site that was considered evil, or even just too holy to be on, tended to get a devil label.

      Most crossroad and deals with the devil stuff was a mix of European and African folklore, with a heavy emphasis on the African side. The image of the Devil as a dapper man about town is definitely African American. I haven’t decided yet about the image of the Devil as a husband and farmer. It seems to be an African American (Antebellum) take on Native American lore.

      The really weird one is the Bluebeard legend, which pops up a lot and is even more vicious than the Old World original. It’s definitely European in origin, but it appears to have been especially popular in the African American community, and to have come to NC from Europe via the Bahamas or Caribbean.

  6. I was born and grew up as a child in the Old North State and had a couple of the Ghost story books that were popular for the Carolinas in the seventies. It is great to see how the genre has taken off.

    Now to change the subject…
    Shaving People and Punting Things really turned out an old school teaser. I do hate the Dichael term but boy does he like his bloody biblical smiting done in chiaroscuro style. Jensen is rocking the cold calculating murderous psycopathy. No question that he plans to annihilate humanity all over again personally.
    And this is why Dean really really fell harder than Sam or Cas. God the father set Dean up as the Firewall, the protector as did John the father before him. Now I guess Chuck’s directive was in conflict with John’s directive. It was a given that there would be a conflict between saving Sam and saving the world. Dean failed the test. The needs of the one
    never outweighs the needs of the many. In the teaser we saw the beginnings of the pile of bodies. We saw the beginnings of the blood spatter that is all on Dean’s hands because of his fatal decision. It was a bad decision. Isn’t Dean the one who always says there is always another way… we will find another way.

    I will love the ride. It will he fun to see Jensen play bad Michael!Dean. It will not be fun to see post Mixhael!Dean and the uber man pain angst this will generate.

    But man does this trailer look dark and dirty and dare I say biblical. It reminds me of a gritty season 4.

      1. Jack was a newborn and Jack ended up making the correct choice in the season finale. His arc and his choice was contrasted to Dean’s in the last few episodes.
        Yes… well … Sam … Sam is Lucifer’s one perfect vessel which pretty much says it all. He has chosen badly more than once and his bad choices always have a selfish, self aggrandizing element to them. There is always an inherent element of Sam as the chosen one in his world saving or Dean saving arcs whereas Dean is ALL about making the sacrifice to save others or more often save Sammy.

        Saying yes to evil psychopath Michael. It still was not the best choice. It was the fastest choice to save family most certainly. Quite possibly it was the worst choice for the humanity given that Michael had more than decimated humanity in his universe and had vowed to do so here one soul at a time starting with Dean. Dean made a deal with a monster he had no reason to trust for selfish reasons and gave that monster his most powerful weapon. Thus it was the choice of a fallen hero who will have to make amends in the long run.
        The bloodshed looks to be dark, gritty, psychopathic and fun. Psych9 Michael!Dean giving himself a pep talk in the mirror… Hell yes. But they need to really sell Dean’s remorse afterwards because Dean has never willingly allowed possession and been party to innocent bloodshed. This has to be different from hellpain, and post- apocalyptic, post-purgatory and shake it off MOC which was mostly Jensen trying to establish continuity through ACTING (master thespian). They better damn well pay attention in the script. They gave Sam some time to whine about “woe is me I used the BotD and released the Darkness and people are dying and I feel man pain over a season.

        And yes I get that Lucifer was hopped up on nephilim grace and yet Lucifer was playing games with Sam and Jack not annihilating the human race. Lucifer in all his time out spent a lot of time being annoying and little time killing except when directly angered. The guy is not Michael. Michael is an overachiever.

        Cas has erred too however since Angels were not designed with free will in mind I have always shrugged that off more easily and he did it all for Dean (sigh) and the writing for Cas has just been throwaway since season 6 anyway so it does not matter anyway really. Lalalala.

        1. Jack’s hubris and bad decisions led quite directly to Dean’s saying yes to alt-Michael. Young or not, Jack and his father created the situation and nobody but Jack expected Lucifer to make smart or selfless decisions. So, that’s on Jack. It’s not as though Dean had a choice at that point. That’s why Castiel made only token resistance to Dean’s plan.

          1. Cas tried to stop Dean and failed just like he tried to stop Jack from engaging with Lucifer and failed. He tried both times and gave up when he knew it was Useless. The storylines were mirrored. In both Cases he knew that what Jack and Dean wanted were bad ideas however he was powerless to stop them which is why Cas looked and acted so very sad.

            They had Dean perform many unnecessary reckless acts throughout the season as harbingers for his grand finale. The best comparison is in Advanced Thanatology in which he saves Sam and the soul of a young boy that he feels personally responsible for (clear mirrors for Sam and Jack in the finale) by killing himself immediately without a thought. He literally kills himself to save Sam from a haunted house. There is no reason Dean to have done this and there were other ways to save the day and save Sam and save the boy.
            Dean’s storyline was that his need to save Sam and others (and self sacrifice of vourse) had
            become a dangerous and reckless compulsion.
            I still have trouble believing he said yes to a psychopathic homicidal angel hellbent on destroying humanity knowing that he was said angel’s perfect weapon. It just is so NOT Dean. But they went there. And it looks like Michael!Dean will be the show’s biggest big bad ever. So the storyline is epic… even if it will only last half a season at best to be followed by epic angst.
            And Sam gets to finally wear big joy pants!!! Priceless.

            1. I think you need to rewatch the last three episodes of the season. Jack and Sam both make some pretty critical decisions that lead directly to Dean’s having no realistic choice.

              Also, the season premiere basically confirmed he had no real choice and made the only “good” one when Michael told Sister Jo Dean said yes for “love.” That conversation was the major turning point in Jo calling up TFW and offering her services.

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