Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #26: Spooky North Carolina

Many apologies for the lateness of this. As some of you may have noticed, my site was down (for the second time in the month) for a day or two over the weekend. I’ll spare you the technical details, but it took a few calls and some shouting at my website provider to get things fixed. Unfortunately, that took up the time and energy I was going to use to do these reviews, my latest Supernatural review, and class work. So, I’m currently about five days behind. All this means is that we will be going into November with the ghost story reviews until we get the full 31 (possibly not every single day), though I will continue to post them as timed in October, so that all you need do is click on that month to get to them. Sorry about the delay.

Check out the rest of the month’s reviews here, and last year’s reviews here. If you enjoyed this review and want to help out with my folklore research, head on over to my Patreon page and join up, make a one-time donation on this site or directly through Paypal, or send me a coffee.

Schlosser, S.E. Spooky North Carolina: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore. Paul G. Hoffman, illustrator. Morris Book Publishing, 2009.

Having previously read another entry in this series (Spooky New Jersey) and found it underwhelming, I had an idea about the format for this one. The author takes stories from around a state and basically fictionalizes them. Even though she has a long bibliography at the end (from which she clearly took lots of “inspiration”), she doesn’t give a whole lot on which to confirm or deny her details. Even with a map supplied near the beginning, the stories often feel set in some vague Never Never Land. So, you certainly can’t rely on any of these as being the “true” account of a myth or legend.

Most of these stories were quite well-known, to the point where I often could tell where she embellished. I think only the ghost dog in the mirror (from Boone) and the healing ghost of the suicidal father (from Raleigh) were ones I had never heard of before as either a specific tale or a collection of tales.

I think my favorite was the Jesus tale from Bat Cave about an itinerant carpenter who is hired by a farmer to build a fence blocking out his neighbor, with whom the farmer has a long-time feud. Instead, the carpenter builds a bridge, reconciles the two neighbors, and heals the farmer’s crippled son, to boot.

Blackbeard’s ghost from Ocracoke, the Little Red Man of Old Salem, Tsali’s protective Cherokee spirit of Smoky Mountains National Park, the fictional White Doe of Roanoke Island, the Dare County woman haunted by her sister after stealing the ring off her dead finger, the Maco Light, the fratricidal man from Murphy “plucked” to death by his brother’s ghost, they’re all here. There are even some lesser-known stories like the (mysterious, but quite real phenomenon) Seneca Guns of the Outer Banks.

This narrative storytelling approach isn’t necessarily a problem for most people. But the other issue is that while some of these stories are well-written and entertaining, they’re not very chilling. I know for a fact these tales have been told in more harrowing ways elsewhere, but there wasn’t a lot of Boo Factor in this one. The illustrations don’t help in that they are folksy and interesting, but not eerie like the ones in Haunted Uwharries from last year. As I recall, Spooky New Jersey wasn’t very scary, either. There was only one exception (involving a Satanic hitchhiker) that I even remember, let alone remember it being unnerving (though, in fairness, that one was a doozy).

Just to check whether I’d finally become too jaded to get scared easily, anymore, by ghost story books, I read an article of ten scary, true stories told by law enforcement officers. It was pretty creepy. So, the fault, Dear Brutus, lies in this book. ‘Cause I ain’t that hard to creep out.

Because of all the embellishment, I found the extra detail in some of these stories less than compelling. It was most obvious in the Witch in the Mill story (from Edenton) that comes directly from Daniel Barefoot’s Haunted Hundred series. The Barefoot version does not have a daughter character (let alone one as a narrator) in it.

So, when I read a whole lot more detail in the Boo Hag story from Elizabeth City (mostly to do with the Haint Blue around the doors and windows keeping her out, and her preying on her husband to sell to her Boo Daddy) than I had encountered before in that legend, I was suspicious of the extra detail. Was it really part of the original Gullah legend or had the author added it in?

Other embellished stories suffered from the heavy emphasis on narrative and lack of analytical distance. The one about the Raven Mockers (from Cherokee), far from sounding like a straight-up heroic tale of a Cherokee shaman who protects his tribe from the titular witches (as you normally get in tales about Spearfinger, say), has the disturbing subtext of a vicious witchcraze straight out of Salem, Massachusetts. The author showed a similar disinterest in exploring the Unfortunate Implications in her tales about witches and cats. A lot of misery was caused by these superstitions (still is, one could argue), so I’m leery of signing off on being oblivious to their ugly real-life history.

The stories I liked best (besides the Jesus tale) were a collection of Mountain tales in the middle of the book about various kinds of premonitions and death omens. In one (from Pineola), a woman has an elaborate waking dream in which she correctly predicts a complicated series of events where her sister-in-law runs away with a man, who is then shot dead by the SIL’s own brother. In another (Watauga County), a old country doctor whose father dropped dead at the age of 62 after seeing his doppelgänger, has a similar encounter at the same age, in the woods returning from a night call early one morning. It doesn’t end well for him.

In his book on Scottish folklore, The Supernatural Highlands, Francis Thompson refers to people who have these kinds of precog waking dreams as “seers.” There’s quite a tradition surrounding them in Scottish Celtic lore. “The Coffin” (Fayetteville) fits easily into this tradition.

Are these stories badly told? No, not really. They pass the time easily enough. Just don’t expect them to be … well … scary.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #25: Folk Arts and Folklife in and around Pitt County

Many apologies for the lateness of this. As some of you may have noticed, my site was down (for the second time in the month) for a day or two over the weekend. I’ll spare you the technical details, but it took a few calls and some shouting at my website provider to get things fixed. Unfortunately, that took up the time and energy I was going to use to do these reviews, my latest Supernatural review, and class work. So, I’m currently about five days behind. All this means is that we will be going into November with the ghost story reviews until we get the full 31, though I will continue to post them as timed in October, so that all you need to do is click on that month to get to them. Sorry about the delay.

Check out the rest of the month’s reviews here, and last year’s reviews here. If you enjoyed this review and want to help out with my folklore research, head on over to my Patreon page and join up, make a one-time donation on this site or directly through Paypal, or send me a coffee.

Baldwin, Karen, et al., eds. Folk Arts and Folklife in and around Pitt County: A Handbook and Resource Guide. Illustrated by David Norris. East Carolina University Folklore Archive, Department of English, Greenville, NC, 1990.

Folk Arts and Folklife in and around Pitt County (Pitt County, whose largest city is Greenville, is to the immediate southeast of me) is one of the more important folklore collections in North Carolina. Its introduction states that it’s intended as a resource for teachers (grade school and high school) in teaching about “folklife.” Only the last section involves itself with ghost tales and legends, though Henry Cowan, a cement sculptor and storyteller in the Material Arts section, also tells a supernatural tale or two about witches.

As you can guess, this book (which, alas, is not available online and was published in a very limited edition in 1990) comes out of the same tradition as that of Weird Tales of Martin County (which it mentions) and Whispers from the Past (which it doesn’t, though both came out the same year). There are sections on practitioners of the material arts and musical arts, occupational folklife, regional cookery, home medicine & midwifery, and (last and treated as least) narrative arts. Narrative Arts is where you find the rest of the witch tales, some ghost and UFO stories, and a short section about a tornado that hit a trailer park in 1984 because … it’s about the spread of urban legends, I guess. Honestly, I think they just didn’t know where else to put it.

“Folklife,” according to Lexico (the online version of the Oxford English Dictionary), is defined as “The way of life of a rural or traditional community. ” The book doesn’t give much of a definition of what it means by this word, but the impression I got was “Stuff old people do out in the country and isn’t that quaint.” Unfortunately, 1990 was back in the day when academics still tended to look down their noses at “folk” art and this book, unfortunately, follows in that tradition. It’s especially annoying to see now-famous whirligig makers Lester Gay and Vollis Simpson treated in a rather head-patting manner as quirky local eccentric inventors.

One could argue that the book is intended, basically, as a sort of textbook for grade school and high school, but that’s hardly an excuse. Tom Peete Cross managed to tell a rousing good tale in his copious footnotes for “Witchcraft in North Carolina” in 1919, while there was a lot more charging the horror engine for W.K. McNeil’s Ghost Stories from the American South (1985) than this book. This one comes across as condescending at times toward its subjects, a little pompous, and (too often) deadly dull.

The reason can be gleaned from a comparison to what the above two sources (as well as the Frank C. Brown Collection) did right. The introduction to Folk Arts and Folklife in and around Pitt County: A Handbook and Resource Guide claims that it was kept short (90 pages) because of limitations of space. It never explains why such limitations existed. Maybe someone thought a longer book wouldn’t fit the grade school format or maybe they ran out of budget.

But this leads to a rather odd mix of raw interview quotes of the subjects (who are often fascinating, especially Gospel/Jazz musicians like the Vines Sisters, just not presented that way) with some droning on about sociological theories of folklore and the barest minimum of context. And I think the lack of context is the real problem. You get a little biographical information about the subjects, but it’s bare bones. You get even less about the history of the towns in question.

Folklore motifs get the shortest shrift. The intros to the tales about the witch cat or the boyfriend’s head, for example, mention that these are old tropes, but don’t go any further and barely mention Stith Thompson. There are several family stories of dead relatives returning to haunt the living, with far more emphasis on the idea that this is how the family kept their history and far less exploration of them as actual ghost stories.

A quite-fascinating (if short) story about a car going dead near a sighting of mysterious red lights on NC 43 north of Rocky Mount (so, probably still in Nash County) is buried in the middle of a group of UFO stories (most of which sound like cases of mistaking an airplane or star/planet for an extraterrestrial craft). Thing is, this story could easily be a case of ghost lights and/or a roadside revenant, but the possibility is simply ignored. There’s a lot of that kind of thing in this book and that makes it a bit of a disappointment.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #24: Haunted Plantations

Check out the rest of the month’s reviews here, and last year’s reviews here. If you enjoyed this review and want to help out with my folklore research, head on over to my Patreon page and join up, make a one-time donation on this site or directly through Paypal, or send me a coffee.

Buxton, Geordi. Haunted Plantations: Ghosts of Slavery and Legends of the Cotton Kingdoms. Arcadia Publishing, 2007.

This one is not, strictly speaking, set in North Carolina. It’s stories about ghosts (mostly) of slaves from the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia. But as we’ve learned from other such collections, state borders don’t limit folklore that neatly. Enslaved African Americans in North Carolina labored and suffered under similar conditions.

The author’s premise is to explore the experience of African American slaves and of slavery through Antebellum ghost stories. Some of these go all the way back to the 17th century (and earlier for the Native American tales). This mostly works, though there are some silly flubs, like the dated theory that slave labor built the Pyramids.

After a slow start and some objectifying in the manner of what Tiya Miles complains about in Tales from the Haunted South, Buxton gets into the lives (and afterlives) of slaves in South Carolina and Georgia. This includes some asides about coastal Gullah culture (and some extended detail about the origins and meaning of haint blue paint on houses) and West African religion like the Mami Wata.

There are some odd detours. For example, early on, we get the tale of Monsieur Dutarque. A (white) French teacher, M. Dutarque has to leave town in a hurry after tying a young white plantation owner’s daughter to a tombstone all night and causing permanent paralysis in her face. He then ingratiates himself into another community, only to disappear at the end of the school year. The boys he was teaching discover only their papers on his desk, corrected and marked with failing grades in his blood.

Until some months later, anyway, when one of them decides to pull the bucket up from the old schoolhouse well.

We then get into some of the better known ghost stories about the Lowcountry, such as the mass suicide by drowning of a group of Igbo slaves, newly arrived in South Carolina from Africa, in 1803. Buxton explains how their beliefs would motivate them to do so as a way to return to the old country in spirit, if not in body, and the subsequent hauntings of the water there. These include singing and the sound of clanking chains from beneath the river water.

Another story from Savannah Harbor tells of a place where something unseen tries to capsize passing ships. Could it be the mass ghost of a French pirate slave ship from the Civil War that was capsized by escaping slaves?

He also devotes two chapters (from both sides of the conflict) to slave revolts, such as the Stono River Slave Rebellion (1739), which resulted in the passing of laws forbidding the education of slaves that restricted the rights of both slaves and slaveowners. Another slave revolt may (or may not) have been headed off in 1822 by the hanging of freedmen Denmark Vesey and Gullah Jack in Charleston. Who may, or may not, have been completely innocent of the crime of insurrection.

Another Charleston hanging (the last public one) leads to the unsettling tale of the arrest and summary hanging without trial for murder of teenager Daniel Duncan in 1911. The reason why it was the last public hanging is because three days later, while his body still hanged on display, a major hurricane slammed into Charleston. Residents took it as divine punishment for hanging what was probably an innocent child. It later became known as “Duncan’s Storm.”

More mysterious are the spectral riders who appeared at dusk to some firefighters near the beginning of the 21st century on James Island in South Carolina. These Lightwood Cowboys, originally slaves who herded cattle on the island’s plantations during Antebellum times, were apparently America’s first cowboys.

Equally mysterious, but more uncanny, is the specter of a woman who also appears at dusk. Also probably the ghost of a slave, she is seen beside Boone Hall Brickyard near Wampancheone Creek, still apparently making bricks. The saddest ghosts are the ones who cannot seem to break free from the sufferings of their lives in the afterlife.

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The Official Supernatural: “Raising Hell” (15.02) Live Recap Thread


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 51 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 18 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 70 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of events up to this point. No rock music this time to distract from the stupidity.

Cut to Now in Harlan, KS, where a soccer mom is sneaking back into town to get her daughter’s asthma meds (why didn’t she grab them when she evacuated?) after dark. This woman is so dumb that when her very tall neighbor pops up in his bathrobe, she starts babbling small talk about her daughter’s spelling bee instead of being alarmed. It’s only when he walks toward her, never speaking, that she gets confused. By then, it’s too late. He stabs her to death.

Then he collapses as a ghost dusts out of him. The one looks like an Old West sheriff. In a Southern accent, he spells out the word “disembowel,” which is what he just did to the woman.

Cue title cards.

Back at the makeshift shelter in the local high school, Castiel is telling Sam that Doomed Teaser Soccer Mom (named “Nan”) is missing. Sam asks a nearby Hunter who has come in to help them with this latest apocalypse to go find out what’s happening with that. Then Sam gets up to make the least inspired speech ever to the restless townspeople, who all have questions he can’t answer. And why is Sam suddenly so socially awkward?

Meanwhile, Dean is being far more effective, patrolling the border of the town with Belphegor. Dean questions again why Belphegor is helping TFW and Belphegor says he just wants to put Hell back the way it was.

Their conversation is interrupted by a ghost trying the barrier. Dean comments that means it’s holding and Belphegor points out that won’t last. Dean shoots the ghost and it’s the one from the teaser. Belphegor identifies him as Frances Tumblety, AKA Jack the Ripper. Aside from the fact that Tumblety is one of the less credible candidates for Jack, he also was the son of Irish immigrants and grew up in Upstate New York. Bottom line? He would not sound Southern. But sure, Show, let’s just handwave that and make the quintessential British serial killer an American gentleman from the South. Why not?

Cut to daytime at the school auditorium, with three more moronic civilians deciding to sneak in and find DTSM. And sneak in they do, this time in broad daylight. [facepalm]

Meanwhile, Jack (the Ripper) is having a meeting with some seriously solid-looking and unscary ghosts. There’s a brief opportunity (when a ghost looks out an upstairs window when viewed from the street) to show her fading out from it. But aside from a brief shot of someone flickering down the staircase (in about the least scary way possible), these ghosts look like the living, but in stage makeup. Yay.

JacktR’s master plan? To break out of the barrier and engage in more murderous shenanigans. Just … you know … worldwide. In other words, he doesn’t really have a plan aside from breaking out. Strike Two and a whiff at making a situation, that should have been terrifying, even remotely chill-inducing.

As they sneak in, the village idiots hear the Hunters they evaded shooting at some ghosts. Then they encounter some more ghosts. They are shocked and scared, but it’s a little late. Especially since they don’t then do anything intelligent. Like run.

Back at the school, Sam and Castiel are arguing about what to tell the townspeople. Sam insists they can’t tell them anything about what’s really happening because the civilians are “barely holding it together.” Hmm, not so much, Sam. I see no evidence of that. If anything, they’re in a quite-cheerful-and-ridiculously-dangerous denial bubble that needed popping last week.

Rowena arrives in the middle of this: “Am I interrupting something juicy?”

So, the plan they want help from her about is to get her to create another crystal like the soul bomb they were going to use on Amara back in season 11. Rowena isn’t so sure she can pull that off a second time (also, was it really necessary to give Rowena a Dumb on Cue moment where Sam tells her that ghosts are souls, when she knew that in season 11?).

The conversation is interrupted by my favorite remaining Redshirt Hunter left alive popping up and saying they’ve got a problem. She then, alas, promptly disappears from the episode, but hey, at least the actress gets paid more for having a line than not. And we now have confirmation the character survived Rowena!Michael’s rampage last season.

Sam comes rushing out to the barrier, where Dean and Belphegor are looking at DTSM’s husband and their neighbor, who got ambushed by ghosts in the previous scene. Despite their obviously being possessed, Sam tries to reason with them and Dean gets smacked with a plot anvil to say, “They’re possessed!” when they start bleeding black goo tears.

JacktR appears out of nowhere. He demands that TFW let him and the other ghosts out, or he’ll kill the civilians. The possessing ghosts start ripping into the guts of the possessed people. Rather than having Sam and Dean solve this one the way they usually one (a saltgun charge to the chest), this is a moment for Ketch to make a grand entrance with a fancy new gun that shoots iron flakes that de-possess people. ‘Cause why use something that’s worked for 14 seasons when you can just make up something complicated and new?

Anyhoo, the gun works and all three ghosts flee while the civilians collapse. We never find out if they survived or not. In fact, they are not mentioned again.

FYI, if you’re not a fan of Ketch popping in like this, don’t worry. This is almost the last time he’ll get to be smart in the episode.

While explaining all this backstory (and that he “liberated” the gun from the LoL), Ketch flirts with Rowena (who, if you’ll recall, he once tortured and got a life-preserving spell from in exchange for her freedom). Despite their ugly history, she’s into it. Oh, boy. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Hurrying on, Belphegor comes in and introduces himself, and the Brothers explain that Chuck killed Jack (not the Ripper). Everyone besides Belphegor looks far more downcast than pretty much anyone in the room besides Sam likely would truly feel. Then Ketch admits with some chagrin that he’s there to assassinate Belphegor on behalf of a demon named Ardat (in real-world mythology, an Ancient Sumerian demon who may be another name for Lilith, so she probably knew Belphegor when they were human). Because the show just barely remembered that demons got kicked out of Hell, too, but not that most of these ghosts would also be demons by now.

Somewhere in Nevada, Amara is having a massage when she’s startled by her brother Chuck (who smites her masseuse and replaces her). She’s not thrilled to see Chuck. After Chuck starts babbling about how great the Game of Thrones ending was (please tell that was sarcasm, Show), she cuts him short and demands to know why he’s bothering her when they agreed “to give each other space.”

At the school, yet another idiot civilian is whinging to Castiel about the missing people and saying that TFW promised to keep them safe. Well, yeah, but not from your own stupidity, dude. The angelic eyeroll Castiel makes as he walks away is pretty epic, old school Castiel.

Meanwhile, Dean is grumbling in surprise to Rowena over the list of ingredients for the soul catcher (that’s what he ends up calling it). This confuses me. Wouldn’t Dean already have a good idea what the ingredients were from the last time Rowena made one?

Rowena asks him about Ketch (yep, they’re going down that rabbit hole). Dean tells her to keep her eyes on the apocalypse and find someone less creepy than Ketch to bed. He doesn’t mention the whole “Ketch banged my mom” thing, but you could say that’s in character.

As Dean goes off to do something alone in a room, Castiel comes in and they have A Talk. Castiel apologizes about not warning Dean and Sam about Jack Sue going off the rails before he murdered Mary. Dean tells him to stop.

Dean, as it turns out, is having a much worse existential crisis than “just” losing his mother or being mad at Castiel about it. He argues that it’s now clear that Chuck engineered everything about their lives, that Free Will is an illusion, and that they never had any choice. They were always just “rats in a maze.”

Castiel disagrees. Even though he’s angry at Chuck for killing Jack Sue. He insists that there is something still real: “We are.”

A lot of Destielers think this means the show finally made Destiel “real.” Except, not really. At no point in the conversation are Castiel and Dean talking about their friendship, relationship, bond, whatever you call it. You need some kind of anchor for the subtext and it’s just not there.

It’s clear that Castiel means that the “rats” are real, even if Chuck manipulated them six ways to Sunday, not that he and Dean have a true gay love that can pierce the bonds of death or the Fourth Wall. I’m not saying the show has never “gone there” (boy, did it ever go there in “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets”), just that this is not one of those times.

Cut to night outside. Dean is patrolling with Ketch (why is Sam not doing any patrolling? Or, for that matter, Castiel?). Dean gives Ketch an ugly iron necklace to prevent possession. They talk some more about Chuck (whom Ketch always thought was “theoretical, more rumor than fact”) and then Ketch asks about Rowena. Oh, God, really, Show?

Fortunately, Dean gets a text alert that two Hunters have disappeared on patrol. So, they investigate a creepy warehouse (and don’t find the Hunters). Dean’s breath mists up. First Ketch and then Dean get knocked about by Lizzie Borden. But she’s called off by another ghost. Who turns out to be Ghost!Kevin.

Kevin is friendly and reasonably sane. He tells Dean he was going to contact them sooner, but he “just got here.” He breaks the bad news to Dean that Chuck sent him to Hell after promising to take him to Heaven – for reasons that remain entirely murky for the rest of the episode. The general theory in-show seems to be that Chuck did it for kicks. Kevin also warns them that he can feel the ghost warding fading. We never do find out what happened to those Hunters.

It turns out that because Chuck himself cast Kevin down, he has some scary rep with the ghosts that allows him some control. Dean suggests Kevin go undercover for them and Kevin smiles.

Back at Amara’s … hotel room? … Chuck has ordered a burger and is watching TV, but gets restless when it doesn’t arrive right away. Surely, he could just make his own waitstaff and his own burger.

Amara is trying to ignore him by doing yoga as he babbles on about being “on an extended break from my omniscient benevolence.” He wants the two of them to leave the world behind, even go to another dimension. Amara says no, that she has no interest in spending any time with him.

After some confusion, she realizes that he needs her for the first time ever (and he calls her his “big sis”). She touches his shoulder and sees the wound Sam shot him with. She realizes he’s “not at full strength” and is “afraid.” Chuck doesn’t look thrilled at her epiphany.

So, the next day, Sam and Dean are out patrolling again. Oh, hey, Sam does do that. As Sam dithers about the drawbacks of having Kevin go undercover, Dean points out their options are limited.

Sam snaps at Belphegor when the demon appears behind them, and complains that the warding is fading. When Dean tells the demon to charge it back up, Belphegor says that’s not possible with this kind of spell. Also, when Dean tells him they’re going to send Kevin up to Heaven afterward, Belphegor says that’s not possible. Once you go to Hell, you go to Hell. John and Bobby (Dean doesn’t mention himself) were exceptions that Chuck made himself. No one but Chuck can make exceptions.

Meanwhile, Chuck is exposing his wound, which is a twin to Sam’s, and touches it. He winces and in Harlan, so does Sam. Dean notices and doesn’t believe Sam’s protests that it’s “getting better.”

Back at the suburban house, JacktR is getting the other ghosts to try to break through the barrier as it weakens. Kevin ghosts in at that point. Kevin challenges JacktR, but it doesn’t go well. It turns out JacktR isn’t very impressed by Kevin and he knows Kevin was a Prophet who worked with the Winchesters. Kevin ends up their prisoner.

Back at the school, Rowena is cooking things up for her spell, and talking about right-brain vs. left-brain with Ketch. They flirt heavily (with some pretty bad double entendre dialogue nobody needed to hear and some terrible Bow Chicka Wow Wow soundtrack music). Ketch even finds a shortcut in her research that really turns Rowena on (and will be the last time in the episode that he’s smart).

Fortunately for the audience, Dean calls at that moment, pretty literally cock-blocking this interaction.

Cut to Rowena trotting down the street with a bag. For some reason (plot stupidity, it seems), she crosses through the barrier as a shortcut. JacktR shows up, and tells her to go tell Sam and Dean that he has Kevin and is willing to trade. Or something. It turns out he has a history with Rowena and that she barely survived their “relationship” a century and a half ago. Ketch shows up and tells Rowena to run, then shoots JacktR. But JacktR appears behind him and knocks him out as Rowena runs away.

So, Rowena gets to the Brothers and tells them the news. They show up at the house where the ghosts are holed up. JacktR starts “eating” Kevin in front of Sam and Dean to force them to comply with his demands, but it’s a trap. Rowena comes in with Castiel, and the soul catcher and gets most of the ghosts (but not Jack and three others). Rowena admits afterward that this crystal is less powerful than the last one and can only catch some ghosts at a time (why not use the original one?).

Back behind the barrier, Dean and Belphegor are talking about how its fading. Ketch shows up from inside the barrier, apparently okay. Dean shoots through the barrier at the ghosts, hitting some of them. Rowena and Castiel show up, and Rowena enters the barrier to suck up more ghosts. Ketch is standing beside her. It works … until Ketch backhands Rowena and grabs the crystal. He’s possessed by JacktR. The three other ghosts who escaped the house with him also show up, but they just stand there, grinning.

Unfortunately for Ketch!JacktR, he indulges in a bit of monologuing about how the crystal gives him the power to blow out the barrier. And gloating when Dean’s saltgun runs out. But Dean then just pulls out his pistol and shoots Ketch in the shoulder, twice. The crystal flies out of Ketch’s hand and Dean catches it. As JacktR morphs out of a collapsing Ketch, Dean hands the crystal to Rowena, who uses the crystal on the angry ghosts, with special venom reserved for JacktR.

We get little chance for suspense about whether Ketch is really dead. After the commercial break, he’s on a stretcher, going away in an ambulance as Dean sort-of (but not really) apologizes for shooting him with iron bullets. Ketch says, well, Dean killed him once, already, and he must have been “itching to do it again.” Except that Dean didn’t kill Ketch last time. That was Mary.

Castiel tries to heal Ketch’s wound, but worriedly admits to Sam afterward that he can’t. Sam shrugs it off as everyone being tired.

Ketch and Rowena share a lingering look as he’s put in the ambulance. Then she and Dean share a look. Yeah, we really didn’t need that subplot.

In the coda, Sam tells Dean that Kevin wants to leave the barrier. Kevin says he’d rather take his chances going crazy in the world than go back to Hell. It turns out that Belphegor can make a small hole in the barrier (but he can’t power it back up? Okay). Kevin says goodbye to the Brothers and says, “Love you guys.” Then he goes out through the hole and disappears. Belphegor, by the way, is inside the barrier with the Brothers when Kevin leaves. Wouldn’t he, too, be stuck inside it?

Cut to Amara, who has power-suited up and is heading out. She says she’s willing to co-exist with Chuck, just not in the same part of the multiverse. She’s guessed that he is way powered down (only able to “do a few parlor tricks”) and can’t leave the Earth without her help. She says she’s changed, but he hasn’t. She’s ditching him and gloats a bit that she’s now sealing him away as he once did her. She tells him he’s “got what you always wanted – you’re on your own.” And she leaves.

Back at the barrier, ghost fireballs are bombarding it. It’s weakening. Everyone, including Sam, looks at Dean and says they have to stop the ghosts from getting out. Dean’s like, “How?!”

Credits

The show got a 0.3/2 and 1.16 million in audience. Yes, that is another series low in audience, but the show still tied with Arrow for second place in demo and came in third in audience behind The Flash and Batwoman. I think it was one of only three CW shows last week to top a million. ‘Cause that’s how the CW rolls these days.

The preview for next week is up.

Review: Lord, was that one sure daft. I mean, it passed the time well enough, I guess, but it was frequently stupid. And busy. This writing duo has surely written worse, but then, we are talking about the same duo that thought a story involving a black woman in a dog collar, who was literally a dog and whose master was white, would somehow not be problematical at all. And then we had last week’s episode. So, that bar was already Limbo-low.

The episode had plotholes and changed-up canon galore, and an awful lot of characters on both sides of the story acting stupid just to move things along. Others were simply dropped with no resolution to their subplot, such as DTSM’s husband (who may or may not now be dead) and daughter (who may or may not now be an orphan, but is certainly now motherless since TFW found her mother’s body offscreen), or the two Hunters who disappeared through a plothole in a warehouse, never to be heard from again.

Then there was that moment when Ketch accused Dean of killing him once, already. While Dean has certainly tried, multiple times, to kill Ketch, it was Dean’s mother Mary who actually succeeded. And while I don’t mind Rowena getting her freak on however she wants, having her hook up with the male GOTW every time, just because, is kinda gross and demeaning for her character. What, it’s okay to trash Dean for hooking up with random women (which he hardly does anymore, anyway), but when Rowena does it, she gets a fandom High Five? Really?

Not to mention that Rowena’s being into Ketch after his torturing her in their last encounter isn’t kinky. It’s just nasty. We already know what Ketch torturing a woman he’s attracted to looks like and we saw Mary trying to shoot herself to get out of the situation. Oh, hell, no. Rowena deserves better. And, as Dean pointed out, higher standards.

I’m not entirely sure where the show is going with all these guest stars. There’s a distinct possibility that Rowena will check out of Hotel Winchester permanently next episode. But whether we’ve seen the last of Ketch (who is still alive, though with a wound Castiel can’t heal) and Kevin (who is a ghost, but still “alive” as a character in the story) is unclear. And I don’t think it’s unclear for the sake of suspense. I think it’s unclear for the same reason we never found out what happened to most of the redshirt characters this week – lazy and sloppy writing. The calling card of the Nepotism Duo who wrote this episode, but also business as usual for the writers room under their questionable leadership.

There are two fan misconceptions that have come out of this episode. I mentioned the first one, already – that when Castiel said that “we” were “real” to Dean’s “rats in a maze” speech, there’s no actual indication that he was talking about his relationship with Dean. He just meant that Free Will was a real thing for Chuck’s creatures, even if Chuck has manipulated them a lot and frequently acted as a puppet master.

I can’t say that I’ve been impressed by what we’ve got of either Dean or Castiel so far this season, let alone of them together. Mostly, they grump at each other about Jack. Dean saves the day (after all the guest star grandstanding this week and obsession with Sam’s new Speshul Storyline, ruthlessly save the day is precisely what Dean did). Castiel tries to heal people and can’t (or hovers over Rowena’s shoulder for some reason). I sure hope things pick up for both of them or this is gonna be a very long season.

The other misconception is about Sam’s wound. I see a lot of spec that Sam will get special, even godlike, superpowers from his connection to Chuck. While I wouldn’t put anything past these writers, that’s not how the connection has been set up so far. Chuck said last season about his weapon that whatever was visited on the person shot by the gun would also be visited on the shooter. Dean suggested the example that if the person shot died, so would the shooter, and Chuck confirmed this.

The thing is that in order for Sam to gain powers from Chuck, there would need to be a transfer of power. But in Chuck’s explanation, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s a transfer and sharing of damage from the gun. It’s more like sympathetic magic (sticking a pin in an object to cause harm to a person the object represents) than the vampiric power transfer of power this fan theory assumes.

While Chuck is definitely getting weaker, that doesn’t mean Sam is getting stronger. There’s no evidence that Sam is becoming, let alone replacing, Chuck, just that he is sharing Chuck’s growing pain and weakness.

This brings up a rather disturbing idea – is Chuck dying? If so, will the balance between Light and Dark be disrupted, destroying the SPNverse? Did Sam’s impulsive stupidity just doom the world (wouldn’t be the first time).

Is this what may bring Amara back to help TFW? She still doesn’t appear to care much about humans if her verbal shrug after Chuck smote her masseuse for kicks is any indication. So, I guess worrying about humanity still isn’t her thing. Then again, this version of Amara doesn’t seem to care about anything except hedonism and has totally forgotten about her bond with Dean Winchester. So, it’s hard to tell whether we’ve seen the last of her or she’s just going through an ennui phase.

Speaking of Chuck and Amara, their pettiness makes them too human and not godlike enough in this episode. I’m not talking about a conscious choice to make them petty (Greek gods were petty, too), but that they are portrayed thinking and caring about things that they shouldn’t and wouldn’t care about.

For example, why is Chuck complaining about not getting food when he doesn’t need to eat and could conjure up anything he wants, including the waitstaff? I can sort of see Amara liking massages, but what is the attraction for her in meditation? And why is she so slow to notice her brother’s condition when they are permanently and psychically linked (“Yin and Yang,” as Amara puts it)? Why is she unaware that Chuck opened Hell?

And what does Chuck know? When he touches his wound, there is no indication in the story that he is aware that Sam can feel it, too, or where Sam is, or how the whole ghost army situation is going. Is he just not following his own story, anymore, even as he’s in the middle of it?

This seems like the usual thing the show does at this time of the season. At the end of the previous season, they introduce a Big Bad that turns out to be a little bit too Big and Bad. So, they have to rein in said BB for that character to last (and the Brothers to survive) until the end of the season. So, the show has elected to limit God. That doesn’t mean the way they’re writing this storyline makes much sense.

This is also a reason why the ghosts are such a dud as a mytharc storyline. As I noted last week, they are pretty much the opposite of ethereal and that makes them not-scary. SPN ghosts are noted for being crazy violent (literally), but that also means they are effectively mindless.

Having ghosts plotting and coming up with nefarious plans is a bit like writing zombie as actual characters who can think and pick locks. The whole point of Romeroesque zombies as something different from other revenants like vampires is that they can’t think. Similarly, the Supernatural version of ghosts can’t, either. And yet, here we are, with ghosts plotting to take over the world, and it’s as boring as salt-less oatmeal.

And that doesn’t mean the show can escape those limitations for this type of MOTW so easily, or without unfortunate implications for the story. The writing for Jack the Ripper, for example, is bog-standard awful. Not only did they pick an historical suspect who was American, but they then cast an actor who didn’t look or sound anything like how that candidate did in real life.

Nor does he act like Jack the Ripper in his kill pattern (except that he’s about as thunderously stupid in his Evil Overlord planning as you would expect for the ghost of a maniac killer who escaped capture largely due to police incompetence). In the teaser, he disembowels a woman. But that is the very least of what the real Jack the Ripper did.

He was a sexual sadist who butchered his female victims in highly sexual ways. His last known victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was the youngest and reputedly the prettiest of the women. The killer left her sprawled in a sexualized position, carved to pieces, with no face. None of that vicious vibe appears in the teaser for this episode, let alone later on.

Apparently, portraying a young black woman in a master-slave position with a white man, complete with dog collar, is A-okay for these writers. But portraying an attack by Jack the Ripper with anything approaching historical accuracy is a CW bridge too far. Well, don’t pick Jack the Ripper as your EVOL spokesghost, then.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #23: Smoky Mountain Tales, True and Tall, Volume II

Check out the rest of the month’s reviews here, and last year’s reviews here. If you enjoyed this review and want to help out with my folklore research, head on over to my Patreon page and join up, make a one-time donation on this site or directly through Paypal, or send me a coffee.

Baldwin, Juanitta. Smoky Mountain Tales, True and Tall, Volume II. Suntop Press, October 1, 2008.

It wasn’t until I got to the end of this one that I realized had probably read the wrong book. Yes, they’re called “true” tales as well as “tall,” but just as often in this genre, such tales are more tall than true.

The author’s book of Appalachian ghost stories is called Smoky Mountain Ghostlore (and the number on this one indicates there’s a first volume I likely should have begun with). Though the book does have some legends, the only “ghost” story is about a woman who spots a light over a grave in a cemetery at night – only to discover it was a solar lantern left on a child’s grave. According to the mother, her son had been afraid of the dark and she didn’t want him to be uneasy in his grave.

Most of the stories are historical and even from the author’s own family, but there are some legends. Admittedly, the author spends as much time in Tennessee as North Carolina, but the folklore doesn’t exactly recognize that boundary, anyway. Yeah, I probably should have dropped this one early on, but it was short and I found the stories charmingly told. So, sue me.

There’s an amusing tale (unsourced) about the Devil and kudzu. The legend goes that the Devil stirred up his rebellion while God was away planting the Garden of Eden (the Devil was jealous because God wouldn’t allow the angels to visit His new creation – Earth).

When God returned, he kicked the Devil out and the Devil promptly went to the South because it was one of the nicest places in God’s new creation. God reassured the rest of his angels that He had everything taken care of. He’d altered the kudzu just a little bit so that the Devil would exasperate himself trying to manage it. You could say kudzu can bedevil the Devil himself.

The author also includes several stories about gold/silver mines and lost treasures. One John Smith became wealthy from mining silver in the Appalachians during the Colonial period. But he ran afoul of Royal sentiments when visiting Britain during the Revolution. By the time he returned 15 years later, he was old and nearly blind, and his friends and colleagues had all died or scattered to points unknown. So, he was no longer able to find his mines. A whole mess of people have been looking for them since he died in 1800, leaving behind his maps.

From the same time period is Sequoyah. He created a different kind of treasure by inventing the Cherokee alphabet, and teaching his people how to read and write in it.

Another lost mine is the Perry Shults Mine. It’s said you can find it by following a big black bird.

My favorite stories by far, though, are of the tough and pioneering women of the Appalachians. Most notable is Malinda Blalock, a Civil War combat veteran from Watauga County. Her husband Keith was pro-Union and anti-slavery when the Civil War started, in a region where that sentiment was brutally suppressed. When Keith was drafted anyway by the Confederate Army, Malinda disguised herself as his younger brother and marched off with him to war.

After she was shot in battle, her secret was eventually discovered and she was kicked out. Keith rolled in poison ivy to get a temporary discharge and join her. Then the two of them lit out for Grandfather Mountain (in Avery County). They were eventually able to join up with the Union Army and become guerrilla fighters for the rest of the War. And by “fighters,” I mean that Malinda was right there in the thick of it with her husband.

One baby and several war wounds later between them, they settled down after the War and started a country store. Despite vicious opposition from some of their family and neighbors, they prospered, had more kids, and outlived most of their enemies.

Then there is Evelyn Brian Johnson (1909-2012), a famous aviator from Morristown, TN. Still alive at the age of 98 when the book came out in 2008, she gave the author an interview in which she talked about how she got into flying. At the time of her death, she had more flight hours than any woman and more than any living person (57,635.4), and held the record in number of people trained (about 9000). Starting in 1944, she flew planes until a car accident and glaucoma grounded her in 2006, after 62 years. She also outlived two husbands.

These two women are the epitome of “Slid into home, beat to hell, yelling, ‘Wow! What a ride that was!'” I hope I’m able to do the same when I go.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #22: Ghosts of the Triad: Tales from the Haunted Heart of the Piedmont

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Renegar Michael, and Amy Spease. Ghosts of the Triad: Tales from the Haunted Heart of the Piedmont. Haunted America, 2011 (ebook edition: 2013).

When I saw one of the authors of this was Michael Renegar and the other was Amy Spease (Greer), I perked right up, despite having read several books about this area, already. Although I haven’t yet got hold of Roadside Revenants, I thoroughly enjoyed Looking for Lydia: The Thirty-Year Search for the Jamestown Hitchhiker and Tar Heel Terrors last year. I had a feeling I would be in for a good, well-researched yarn and I was not disappointed.

First things first – let’s establish where the Triad is. The authors do a solid job of this in their first chapter. Which is good because I initially confused the Triad with the Triangle. The Research Triangle is an urban region of three cities in Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties: Raleigh (the capital), Durham and Chapel Hill. These are more-or-less in the center, in the Piedmont region. Where I am about an hour east is known as the much-more-rural Tri-County area of Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties on the Upper Coastal Plain. But then you’ve got Tri-County Community College in the western part of the state, which serves Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties.

So, the Triad is points further west of Raleigh, rather than east. It comprises Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, in Forsyth and Guilford counties. As the authors note, it’s smack dab in the middle of the Piedmont. Hence the subtitle.

If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll already know about a fair number of famous ghosts from Moravian Old Salem. The authors start right off with the most famous one – the Little Red Man. Contrary to his sinister name, which evokes the vicious Scottish Borders goblin Redcap, Andreas Kremser was a real person. This cheerful shoemaker and Moravian brother died horribly when a cellar caved in on him in 1786. He is (or was, since a visiting, rather intolerant minister reportedly exorcised him about a century ago) a mischievous, but friendly, spirit who likes to play pranks on people, but won’t hurt anyone.

The authors also discuss the tavern ghost in Old Salem of a man who died without identification, but visited the innkeeper after his death to send a message to his brother in Texas. The message duly sent and received, and the man’s family arrived to retrieve his possessions, the ghost never haunted the inn again.

Spease tells of a house her parents bought in the Historic Waughtown District (Winston-Salem), before moving away. After moving back in as an adult, she didn’t mind the hauntings at first. The resident ghost was a benign elderly lady. But the house later became infested by a darker aura and the appearance of shadow people. She met her co-author Michael Renegar in the process of trying to figure out what was going on and they tried several ways of “cleansing” the house. Nothing worked, at least not for long. Eventually, after a particularly scary dream involving coffins, she was forced to move out. Her stepfather still owned it, but no one lived in it, at the time of publication (2011).

The chapter on the bizarre life and mysterious shooting of tobacco empire heir Zachary Smith Reynolds (1911-1932) at Reynolda House in Winston-Salem is almost a textbook case in how you write the family history of an old house in an interesting way. The shocking case of Reynolds’ Jazz Age death (murder? Suicide? Misadventure? The jury remains out) actually overshadows reports of the path outside the house being haunted by Reynolds’ mother, Katharine.

Other famous sites like Korner’s Folly in Kernersville get a look-in, and there are several haunted theaters and inns. But some of these tales come about from the authors’ own experiences or their investigations of historic houses as Camel City Spirit Seekers. This results in a lot of talk about EVPs and we get to see folkloric stories at various stages in their development.

For example, Spease reports a haunting of a backyard that started after one of her neighbors hanged himself outside his house. There are stories of ghostly encounters with phantom soldiers at the site of The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781) in the National Military Park in Greensboro. Lydia gets a chapter, but she’s not the only roadside revenant. And then there’s Spookywoods Haunted Attraction in Archdale, near High Point, which is allegedly really haunted by ghost lights and other shadowy figures. It’s open this time of year, so you can go check it out for yourself.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #21: Ghostly Spirits of Warren County, North Carolina & Beyond

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Bice, Arlene S. Ghostly Spirits of Warren County, North Carolina & Beyond: Extrordinary True Stories Told By Ordinary People. 2016.

Perhaps I should have seen the misspelling (not mine) of “extraordinary” in the title as a bad sign. But as I’ve said in the past, self-published local collections of ghostlore can be good, despite the need for a decent proofreader or copy editor in some (most?) of them. This one, however, was more in the category of requiring a substantive editor. This is a revised version, too. Go figure.

I’ll admit to being a bit more salty than usual with this book. I paid over twice as much as I generally would for a Kindle book (this one cost $5.99 in Kindle format, $14.00 in paperback). If you’re going to charge me for that, at least deliver a final product with some decent editing.

A big problem is that the author just tosses a lot of stuff in that not only includes the kitchen sink, but the plumbing all the way out to the septic tank, for good measure. For example, she reproduces interviews with owners of Warren County Antebellum mansions, in their entirety. She does things like, “Mr. X continues, ‘As soon as we finished the renovation, the ghosts came back.” Cue a long and rambling account, with plenty of side trips well outside the county. This is standard for the way people interview, but it should have been incorporated more coherently into the book itself.

That’s too bad, because the section on Traveler’s Rest (AKA the Devil’s Den) that comprises the first quarter of the book could have been quite fascinating. The city itself (which is near the northern border of North Carolina) got its official name from being an important stop for travelers from the 18th century onward. Kind of like Natchez down in Mississippi, but in the North Carolina mountains.

We get the story behind both names. A respectable woman forced to stay at Traveler’s Tavern (now The Marshall-Moore House), sometime after it was built in 1788, referred to the tavern after her night there as “the Devil’s Den.” Guess it wasn’t to her taste.

The house’s reputation has continued into the 21st century (though it’s funny how what started out as an Early American den of ill repute has come up in the world by dint of sheer survival over nearly two and a half centuries). A “clairvoyant” student of one of the owners Bice interviewed declared about the house, “The walls are full of black snakes and the house is full of spirits!”

That said, the spirits don’t seem to get up to an awful lot of specific things that the snakes and bugs in the walls don’t. Keys go missing. Doors are found open. The smell of roses occasionally appears. More interesting is the nearby roadside revenant, a gentle haunt that appears as the ghost of a white mule. This spirit goes back to the days of the horse and buggy, when it would appear, peeking over the side of the wagon, to the astonishment of the occupants.

We get a lot about haunted Antebellum piles like Oakley Hall Plantation in Ridgeway (owned by the same people who owned and renovated The Marshall-Moore House) or the Somerville-Graham House in Warrenton. There’s also a very odd chapter on a woman Bice met while doing jury duty who had visions of angels and shadow people, protecting her from harm or trying to get her to do evil. In another chapter, the author is invited to a ghostly children’s tea party at the Putnam House (also in Warrenton).

The chapters tend to be of different lengths and they ramble quite a bit. Lots of family history is stuffed in, with a mind-numbing parade of names and dates of the biblical “begat” variety. Yet, basic info like the house’s location by town and how long it’s been there is buried in the text. These are quite-famous houses, too, so protecting the owners’ privacy doesn’t seem to be the reason.

In these chapters, house owners do renovations that rev up the spirits. Then they talk to them, reason with them, yell at them, do cleansings and banishings with sage, bring in psychic investigators, and so on. Dealing with the ghosts becomes part of dealing with the general environment of the house.

Here and there appear photos taken at the sites by the author. Some of them have rather … odd … photographic anomalies. You decide for yourself what they may entail. Personally, I found them intriguing and creepy. I would have liked some more info on them.

There is also an interview late in the book, with Michael La Chiana from The Heritage Hunters Society (THHS), a paranormal investigation group out of Raleigh, that probably should have appeared earlier. The chapter also references G.H.O.S.T.S and NC Hags, both also out of Raleigh. The group did an investigation on The Putnam House.

The Legends section talks about Person’s Ordinary (c.1770) in Littleton. An ordinary was a stagecoach stop/inn for lower-class people who could not get introductions to the nicer mansions of the rich when they traveled. Stains on the floor allegedly come from an assassination attempt on the visiting (incognito) General Lafayette, who killed the assassin in the struggle. The other story is about a local ghost light called Bragg Light, named after a prominent local Antebellum family.

The author runs out of steam about two-thirds of the way through. To pad the book up a bit, she includes a final section about Lake Gaston – but it’s not actually about Lake Gaston. It’s stories told by people who visit Lake Gaston from other places, who had experiences in those other places. This greatly disappointed me, as I would have liked to have heard some tales about the lake.

Bice does include a short bibliography at the end that has some sources I hadn’t seen before. So, there’s that. I just wish the content that came before it had been better organized.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #20: Myths and Mysteries of North Carolina

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Pitzer, Sara. Myths and Mysteries of North Carolina: True Stories Of The Unsolved And Unexplained. Myths and Mysteries Series. Globe Pequot, December 21, 2010.

This one surprised me. I put off reading it for quite some time because my expectations for it were low. The cover is cheerfully garish in a My Boyfriend Was Kidnapped By Ripley’s Believe It Or Not-Obsessed Aliens sort of way. I figured what I would be getting was a rehashed version of various familiar legends, with little new content.

So, I was pleasantly disabused of this notion by the author bringing in some new (or, at least, lesser-known) stories along with the old standards. For example, there’s an entire chapter on Salisbury, with some stories not in The Wettest and Wickedest Town” (which I reviewed last year), though I was disappointed that she didn’t touch on the infamous 1906 lynchings there. Salisbury is one of those towns that always end up inexplicably ignored in state-wide ghost story books.

But even more impressive was that she did her own homework on these tales and came up with some fresh twists. The only disappointment on that score was the chapter on the Lost Colony. Nice to see a detailed bibliography at the end, too. And it’s a quick read.

The author lives in the Piedmont (or did at the time the book came out), so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that her stories heavily favor the western part of the state. Even so, we do start off on the coast before heading west. There, she deals with ballad regulars Frankie Silver and Tom Dula, as well as a pretty detailed history of the railroad in the NC mountains, in her chapter on the Cowee Tunnel (which is, of course, haunted).

My favorite chapters involved Native American sites Judaculla Rock and the Pee Dee tribe. Judaculla Rock is a large surviving example of petroglyph (carved) rock art in Jackson County. No one knows its age, what it says, or who made it. The pre-Columbian Cherokee attributed it to their thunder god Tsul ‘Kalu, the “Slant-Eyed Giant.” In other words, they didn’t make it and they didn’t know who did, either.

The Pee Dee chapter is about an archaeological site surrounding the surviving Town Creek Indian Mound in Montgomery County. The Pee Dee (not what they called themselves) were a South Appalachian Mississippian Culture who flourished in what is now North Carolina and Tennessee in the half-century before the arrival of Europeans and who appear to have been wiped out in the 18th century. Several tribes claim descent from them.

Pitzer goes into a fair bit of detail about the Pee Dee culture and the archaeological finds at Town Creek. I’m a little surprised that she doesn’t mention Joara in either these chapters or the Lost Colony one. Archaeologists were looking for the settlement at the time, but as this book came out in 2010 and they didn’t discover the Joara site until 2013, perhaps she simply didn’t know about it.

This is a fun collection, with a bit more heft than I first thought. It also has info about paranormal investigators who were active in NC in 2010 and some of their investigations. Recommended.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #19: Weird Tales of Martin County

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The Skewarkians. Weird Tales of Martin County. Junior Historian Club. Bear Grass School, Williamston, NC, 1980.

So, remember the student compilation of statewide folklore from 1990, Whispers from the Past, that I reviewed a week or so ago? Well, this is a decade older, was done by a students’ club in a school two counties over, and is confined to just one county (though being a bit longer). They’ve also done a history of tobacco in the county. Personally, I like this one better. Not that Whispers from the Past was bad, but it lacked the focus of this collection and was stage-managed by adults in state government.

It’s weird to think that the kids who did this compilation are now my age and that most of the community elders they interviewed are probably now dead. But this is part of the value of these collections. The most amusing part is the rant in the introduction by one of their teachers about how a book like this is necessary in a day and age when kids are distracted by modern technology and don’t listen to their elders, anymore. Oh, those darn TV sets! Some things never change.

This collection has a big focus on “forgotten” history, beginning with the history of “Bear Grass” as a name in the county. The story is that the name is for the Yucca plant, which grows abundantly in Martin County. Local Native Americans used it to cure bear meat – hence, Bear Grass (the town) and Bear Grass Swamp as place names for the local community now.

Since Martin County is so near to the coast (and is part of the Coastal Plain region), much of its folklore has coastal motifs. There are several stories about witches and conjurers, including one about a witch cat. Ghosts, of course, appear in several stories. Slavery is also a recurring theme.

There is a ghost light (Swinson’s Light) in Bear Grass Swamp. The students trace it back to the 18th century and claim it is the oldest legend in the region (mmm … maybe, but wouldn’t the name “Bear Grass” be older?). The light is traced to an early settler named John Swinson who received a land grant from the Earl of Granville in 1761. The legend is that Swinson buried a treasure somewhere on the land and the light is now his ghost guarding it. Charles Gritzner cites the book and its version of this legend in his book, North Carolina Ghost Lights and Legends.

Then there is the Legend of the Screaming Bridge (which I first heard about from local author Jim Lee – thanks, Jim!). This dates back to the Civil War. A young girl from a prominent family named Yarrow was drowned near or under a bridge that crossed Sweetened Water Creek. The mystery is that it’s unclear if this was an accident, suicide or muuuuuurrrrrder. But sometimes, during a New Moon, people can hear her ghost near the bridge, screaming, or sitting nearby. The story is headlined by a photo of the bridge as it was in 1980, in Griffin’s Township.

There is also a story that connects 19th century horse racing (which generally occurred on Sunday) with the Devil. This one is called “The Phantom Rider.” In this one, the Devil (or a prankster dressed up in a dark coat and hat) appears at one such race, wins, and disappears with a “fiendish” laugh without collecting his winnings. Unless you assume, as some of the spectators did, that he came to collect their souls.

This legend did not actually stop horse racing in Martin County. Or ghost story telling, it seems. This one’s online (I put a link up top), so go ahead and check it out. The kids done good.

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Revenge of Halloween in North Carolina, Day #18: Watch Out for the Hallway: Our Two-Year Investigation of the Most Haunted Library in North Carolina

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Madia, Tonya and Joey Madia. Watch Out for the Hallway: Our Two-Year Investigation of the Most Haunted Library in North Carolina. Visionary Living, Inc., September 25, 2018.

When I first discovered this book, I got pretty excited about it. Basically, my first impression was that this book was like what Haunted Broughton turned out to be and Haunted Broughton would be like what this turned out to be. Go figure.

So, I was thinking, “Hey! Now I have a book of hauntings related to a specific hospital and one related to a specific library! Yay!” The library in question, by the way, is the Webb Memorial Library in Morehead City, which is down near Beaufort on the southeastern coast of the state.

Now, some of the book is actually pretty decent. The chapter about the spirits upstairs (even though the whole extended infodump about the “vortex” theory is silly) is pretty scary. In fact, the title is an alleged quote from a warning by one of the friendly ghosts about the upstairs hallway.

There’s a lot about the history of the library and all the events that probably caused the haunting folklore. The courtyard coming into the library, for example, is apparently quite haunted and people not-infrequently see things from the street such as lights going on and figures in the windows.

The “investigation” of the library occurred over a two-year period roughly 2016-7. This is something of a misnomer/exaggeration. What the authors actually did was conduct regular ghost tours at the library and keep detailed records about them. That’s hardly nothing, but bringing groups of civilians through a place like that doesn’t strike me as something nearly as professional as an investigation.

Lord, was this book tedious and bloated in parts. Stories in the chapters wander and twist and take a long time getting to the point. The authors go into a lot of detail about Tonya’s alleged psychic gifts. As I said in my review of Ghosthunting North Carolina, I’m not into that. I feel that if you’re going to create your own New Age narratives about the local folklore, at least tell me about the original stuff you’re riffing from, first.

There’s an embarrassing moment in the introduction when the authors are talking about their experiences prior to coming to the library. They once set up a Lakota sweat lodge outside their house in West Virginia and then experienced an increase in paranormal activity. A Shawnee friend pointed out that no Lakota had never lived in that area, so the local spirits might be a bit miffed. Cultural appropriation at its most well-intentioned, but obtuse.

One of the most frustrating parts of the authors incessantly going on about their psychic abilities was that the writing often made it unclear whether someone sitting in a chair in the library was a living member of a ghost tour, a ghost everyone could see, or just a strong impression one of the Madias had of them. It’s deceptive because a lot of the communication actually occurs via flashing lights on instruments. This vagueness had a tendency to “Scooby-Doo” the very ghost encounters that are the intended selling point of the book.

Ultimately, yes, there’s a lot of info about the library’s (and neighborhood’s) folklore and ghost stories. But boy, is it a wade to get to it in some cases.

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