Halloween in North Carolina, Day #20: Mountain Ghost Stories (1988)


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Russell, Randy and Janet Barnett. Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina. John F. Blair, Publisher, 1988 (13th printing, 2014).


The authors of this one hail from Kansas City, MO and first visited the mountains of NC on their honeymoon. Randy Russell (1964-?) is a poet and mystery writer who also wrote three other collections about haunted hospitals, ghost cats, and ghost dogs, all in the South. His wife Janet assisted him as his researcher and co-author for his stories. She also collaborated with him on The Granny Curse and Other Ghosts and Legends from East Tennessee in 1999.

Randy was active at least as late as 2014, doing a book signing as a “ghostlorist” in Asheville, where he then lived, for his latest book. As far as I know, he’s still with us. Janet Barnett appears with him as late as 2009.

It’s interesting to read books ghost story books from different periods. They tend to show distinct trends and styles that other periods don’t. Mountain Ghost Stories, which came out in 1988, is like Harden, Morgan and Roberts’ books in that it focuses more on telling a good yarn than on investigating the history behind the legends. You’ll find no paranormal investigations with bell, book and EMF meter here.

These are stories set in the Appalachian “Mountain” region of North Carolina, west of the Piedmont. There’s quite a bit of overlap with Haunted Hills, though the latter goes a lot more into digging up facts and history (including period photographs). Mountain Ghost Stories is more about legends. But that’s not to say it’s lacking in worth or just retreads what other collections have done, before or since.

The authors retell several classic Cherokee myths and legends. Notable is their version of Spearfinger (“The Wicked Witch of Nantahala”). “Ulagu, the Giant Yellow Jacket,” whom we met previously in Monsters of North Carolina, also appears, as does the famous tale of the maiden Wenonah and her beloved’s leap from Blowing Rock in Watauga County, in “A Lover Lives to Leap Again.”

But Dagul-ku (a goose spirit) and his theft of tobacco from the Cherokee, in “The Magic that Brought Back Tobacco,” was new to me, as were the Nunnehi (Cherokee mountain spirits) from “Fairy Crosses and the Immortal Nunnehi.” There is a ghost story (not in this book), about the vicious 18th century serial/spree killer Micajah Harpe, that refers to his being cursed for desecrating a clearing on the Natchez Trace where Cherokee witches danced. This may be a later distortion of the Nunnehi legend.

Even in stories that date from the time of European settlement in the area, starting in the 18th century, the authors like to include some Cherokee legends. “The Phantom Choir of Roan [Mountain]” in Mitchell County, where some people can hear a roaring like a great battle, has stories going back to the Cherokee period. Later witnesses were in disagreement whether the armies in battle were heavenly or hellish. Similarly, Chimney Rock Mountain near Hickory Nut Gap, has a legend going back to the gold rush days of a ghostly battle. But Chimney Rock Mountain also has Pre-Columbian legends that the mountain was inhabited by a host of evil spirits. Like Roan Mountain, which has a bald (a place where grass, but no trees, grows) at the top, Chimney Rock Mountain has features and legends related to the Devil.

The Brown Mountain Lights, of course, also appear, along with a murder mystery that allegedly occurred during the 19th century. A man murdered his wife and newborn baby, so that he could run off with another woman. But he was found out by the spirits of his wife and child, who appeared as ghost lights and led the local women to their bones. And then there’s the story from Rutherfordton of Daniel Keith, which appears in other Mountain region collections, how he was unjustly hanged and his shadow lingered on the jail’s outside wall until the last person responsible for his hanging died many years later.

Finally, the cover illustration is for the story, “Hannibal Heaton Hears a Hoot,” about High Hampton Inn. A version of this story also appeared in Haunted Hills. When General Heaton decided to sell the house, his wife told him she would kill herself if he did. He didn’t believe her, but she was good as her word and he arrived home from the sale to find her hanging from a tree. Later, he claimed she returned as a white owl that hooted by his window every night. He left town soon after and was not heard from again.


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The Official Supernatural: “Gods and Monsters” (14.02) Live Recap Thread


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My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Hey, remember when I did a column for Innsmouth Free Press called “Gods and Monsters”? Good times. Of course, the original source for that title is the classic 1998 film about the last days of James Whale, director of Universal’s version of Frankenstein. Last week got its title from the Robert Heinlein novel about a young man who returns to Earth after being raised by Martians and inadvertently starts a cult.

Interminable recap of the situation so far, without even any decent rock music. I’m not one to complain when there isn’t a rock song in every episode, but it’s been a mighty dry spell of late.

Cut to Now and creepy, Gothic church full of cobwebs and detritus. And tied-up people. A man is tied to a chair, slowly bleeding into a cup from his throat. Michael approaches him and heals the cut, then takes the cup. He pours a little bit of grace (his grace?) from a vial into the cup of blood, saying “A little bit of this, a little bit of that.” Swirling it around, he then feeds it to the man.

At first, nothing much happens, and then the man starts glowing from within and his eyes burn out. He falls forward, dead.

“Too much ‘that,'” says Michael. Then, as Universal Horror Film music blares on the soundtrack, he twirls a curved set of knives and rhetorically asks the line of terrified tied-up people, “Who’s next?”

Cue title cards.

So, what is TFW: TEP getting up to these days? The show is so glad you asked (and this being the Nepotism Duo, you’re gonna get the answer in excruciating detail).  They’re finding a story about a pile of dead bodies in Duluth with their eyes burned out and immediately think, “Hey! It must be Michael!” as you do when there about five angels left on the planet and one of them is talking to you right then.

So, Sam gets Mary and Bobby together (because apparently, the redshirts we met in the season premiere are still off hunting vampires on the highways and Maggie is…somewhere).  He leaves Castiel behind to “babysit” (Castiel’s apt wording) Jack and Nick. Castiel admits that his angel grace would undoubtedly clue Michael in and that, even though his track record says this won’t end well, Jack and Nick do require babysitting. Jack is still moping about his lost grace and Nick is making everyone jumpy.

Absolutely no one mentions that this is undoubtedly a trap, just like the last time they thought they had Michael cornered, over in the alt-SPNverse. Remember Kevin 2.0?

And Sam still has Hiatus Beard.

Jack comes in and mopely agrees that he needs to stay behind. Later, Castiel visits Nick, who is having nasty flashbacks to Lucifer using his body to murder lots of people. He’s also hurt that Castiel won’t look at him…much.

Nick doesn’t remember why he said yes to Lucifer in the first place, until Castiel helps him remember. That his wife and child were murdered. Hey, we’re actually gonna find out what happened with that dropped plot.

Cut to TFW: TEP talking to the medical examiner in Duluth (as FBI agents). She conveniently gets a call so they can check the bodies on their own. Sam quickly discovers that one of the dead is a vampire. Bobby and Mary discover the other bodies were, too. And they see the scars for where Michael “bled” the vamps (we’ll leave aside the ongoing stupidity of dead bodies being able to bleed). They wonder why Michael is bleeding and smiting vampires, or “hunting” them in the first place.

Meanwhile, Michael is putting on a nice suit and putting down a brief rebellion from Dean, whose reflection is in the mirror? We know that won’t be the last time Dean fights back.

Castiel tells Jack about the time after the angels fell when he had no powers or wings, and how lost he felt. We get a tidbit that angel powers can take as long as a century to come back. So, that leaves the writers a lot of wiggle room, eh.

As Castiel is talking on the phone to the field team about why Michael would go after vampires, Nick comes in. Nick is upset because there’s no sign that the case of his wife and baby’s murders was ever solved. If he hadn’t said yes to Lucifer, he might have been able to keep the police on the case until it was solved. When Castiel goes to touch his shoulder, Nick comes up with a Lucifer-smite snap, as if on reflex. But when Castiel asks him what he was thinking at that moment, Nick doesn’t know. Castiel goes to touch him again and whatever he finds, he admits that Nick may be more “damaged” by Lucifer than any of them first thought.

Nick goes out to investigate his family’s murder. Castiel doesn’t stop him.

In a grotty motel room, TFW: TEP have tracked down a young woman who had showed up at the morgue to ask about her friends. She turns out to have been one of the people tied up in the church. She claims to have been just a “veggy” vamp, feeding on animals and tells them that she saw Michael’s experiments on her friends (though she didn’t see the part we did in the teaser about his archangel grace). She says she managed to escape. To get them to spare her life, she tells them where Michael went.

Cut to Michael, still all dressed up, entering a hotel room with a woman in a red dress. They exchange banter about how he picked her up in the bar and he is utterly unsurprised when she shows werewolf teeth. He tosses her across the room and orders her to call her “master” (I guess the werewolf Alpha is still alive).

Back at the Bunker, Nick is having a lot of trouble getting anyone in law enforcement to tell him about what happened to his family. It’s a cold case. His only lead is that a witness claimed to have seen someone leave the house and then claimed that they were mistaken.

Castiel tells Nick about Jimmy Novak and Nick calls him out for wearing a dead human. Before leaving to check on Jack, Castiel tells Nick, Jimmy and his family were “my greatest regret.”

Meanwhile, Michael is meeting with the werewolf leader, who isn’t an Alpha so much as a leader of a large pack. Michael makes it clear that he despises humans and that Chuck isn’t coming back any time soon. Which makes Michael the de facto God of this realm.

He offers the leader a way to rule the earth and take over from humans, as long as he volunteers his people to be experimented on. Michael downplays his previous failures with the vampires, which makes you wonder what kind of mistakes he made in the alt-SPNverse.

Jack has somehow gotten out of the Bunker and goes to visit his grandparents. He passes himself off as her assistant and tells them she gave birth to a son. He doesn’t tell them she’s dead. It’s a pretty awkward scene as he dances around the fact that he’s the grandson.

Vampire Girl is packing (TFW: TEP apparently having let her go) when Michael flies in. He tells her that Rule #1 is to have bait for a trap and Rule #2 is that “when the trap has been sprung, you don’t need the bait, anymore.” His eyes glow and he smites her from across the room without even turning to face her.

Castiel is not at all thrilled when Jack gets back, but they talk it out. Jack admits he couldn’t let them know that she is dead now.

The conversation takes a dark turn when Jack asks where TFW: TEP is. Jack thinks Dean can’t be saved and says that Michael has to die. Jack fails to understand that they don’t have any means to kill Michael and that the only way they can cage him is to separate him from Dean. So, killing Dean is so not an option.

Nick visits his neighbor, Artie, and has a talk with him. It turns out Artie was the witness. Artie says that he thought he saw “something,” but he must have been wrong. He starts to get nervous.

Nick gets pretty intense and starts accusing Artie of having beaten his family to death with a hammer. Nick beats him up, determined to get the truth out of him.

TFW: TEP go to the church and find the scene of Michael’s experiments. Then they’re attacked by hyped-up werewolves. Silver doesn’t work. Neither do angel blades, but beheading does.

The doors open and a figure appears. It’s not Michael; it’s Dean and he looks exhausted. He tells them that Michael “just left” and he doesn’t know why.

We cut back to Nick, who has beaten his neighbor to death with a hammer. Hmm.

Credits

Okay, Nick is an obvious parallel to Dean, so that’s not good. I feel a bit annoyed that they went this route with Nick, since it now makes it convenient to see him as EVOL.

I don’t quite know what trap Michael set with Dean, but this being Supernatural, it’s bound to backfire as much on Michael as on TFW. Think I’ve said this before, but I’ve thought for a while that Dean’s possession by Michael could be intermittent and if Michael thinks experimenting on his Sword with his own grace is a good idea, he’s got another think coming. This, of course, makes things that much more awkward for TFW, because that makes Dean pretty unsafe to be around.

As for the rest, damn, Nepotism Duo scripts are overly busy, aren’t they? I felt as though a whole lot of wheel-spinning happened this week.

Ratings for this week went up a bit from 0.468 to 0.485 (rounding up both weeks to 0.5) and from 1.49 million to 1.53 million.

The promo for next week is up.


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