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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #30: Ghost Tales of the Moratoc (1992)


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Carter, Catherine T. Ghost Tales of the Moratoc. John F. Blair, Publisher, 1992.


This is another one from the publisher John F. Blair, dating to 1992. It consists of 18 tales and is the author’s only collection. Most of the tales incline toward the romantic or sentimental in the telling, notably the two about Somerset Place in Washington County (“Charlotte, Ghost of Somerset,” which inspired the cover illustration, and “Blood on the Floor”) and Native American tales like the Tuscaroran “White Feather,” from Bertie County. I was a bit confused by how the two Somerset stories fit together, as they were each told without mentioning the events of the other, despite occurring in about the same time period.

It was nice to see some Tuscarora influence, for once, but odd to see a Cherokee tale about Spearfinger (“The Witch Hag of the Roanoke” from Martin County) so far east, albeit with new details related to the Colonial period. The same period also produced the Zorro-like “Phantom of the Forest.”

“Moratoc,” according to the author, is an old word for the Roanoke River, which originates in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and comes down through the northeastern Coastal Plain of NC to the coast. The name comes from a large tribe that once lived on the river’s banks.

There are several other stories that contain common folkloric tropes seen in other parts of NC. There’s a story from Bertie County of desecrated Native American bones in “The Restless Skull.” An ugly 1920s love triangle in “May She Rest in Peace” results in both women dead and the “spiteful” wife’s ghost blamed for hastening the mistress’ death. The author does not fill out the rather obvious Bluebeard-like subtext in the survival of the husband who played the two women against each other before marrying them in turn.

“The Oyster Shells” from post-Civil War Washington County is a somewhat more elaborate version of the “Fork on the Grave” trope, where a mean and ungrateful son is apparently frightened to death by his mother’s apparition.

You’ve got the “Mystery Lights of Tyrrell County,” also known as “The Death Light” or “The Doom Light,” as well as the lights of “Dymond City, Ghost Town of Martin County.” Washington County also has a spectral “Coach of Death” and a “Hanging Church” where mysterious tramps have been wont to kill themselves.

But not every story follows the usual NC tropes, especially the unclassifiably whimsical Christmas story of “Aunt Liza and the Sweet Baby Jesus,” from Washington County, and also the two creepiest tales. “The Little Red Man” in this collection should not be confused with the more-famous Little Red Man of Old Salem. The vicious being (which may or may not have been a ghost) that drives a poor family from their new home in Martin County bears a lot more resemblance to Redcap from Scottish fairy lore than the benign Moravian brother who plays gentle pranks on the living.

“The Rag Doll and the Knife” runs like a Twilight Zone episode and dates from the same period. It’s not necessary to believe the person who stabbed a rag doll on a pillow in lieu of a young girl hiding under a bed in Beaufort County was a ghost. The non-supernatural explanation is, if anything, even more disturbing than the supernatural one.

Another largely non-supernatural tale is “Brotherly Love.” It’s a gruesome 1950s true crime story about a Cain-and-Abel-style murder-suicide in Washington County, with a few ghost stories tacked on the end. Of all these tales, this one may be the most tragic because the tragedy was both unnecessary and inevitable, considering the personalities of the two brothers involved.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #29: North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 3: Haints of the Hills (2002)


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Barefoot, Daniel W. Haints of the Hills. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 3. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2002.


So, this is the third volume in Daniel Barefoot’s hundred-county experiment and we finish up in Appalachia. The alliterative title may seem redundant, but it’s actually not. “Haint” is believed to be a folkloric entity originally from the African American Gullah people on the Carolina coast. In South Carolina, it’s a specifically evil entity that haunts children, but this isn’t true everywhere. I talked earlier about this bit of folklore when discussing the use of paint in “haint blue.” The title, therefore, is specifically stating that these haints (or “hanks” as they may be called in Virginia) are from the mountains and not the coast.

Since the Mountain region is very popular with folklorists and ghost storytellers, it should be no surprise that several of these stories would be familiar. You’ve got Tom Dula and his love quadrangle representing Caldwell County, the giant leech of Cherokee County, and the unfortunate hanging ghost of Dan Keith for Rutherford County. But even in these familiar tales, there may be some new angles. For example, the tale of the newlyweds lost in a storm from Cursed in the Carolinas gets a location (Mount Pisgah in Buncombe County) and a rough period (late 19th or early 20th century).

In the Dan Keith chapter, there’s an eerie coda to the original haunting. Historic preservationists failed to save the old jail where he was hanged from demolition in 1971 (still not an uncommon occurrence, as the case of a developer with more money than brains, who demolished the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Montana earlier this year, basically just because he could, can attest). Every business established in the new building built on the site (at least, up to 2002) has failed miserably. And some employees began to report seeing a shadow of a hanged on the wall – again.

Some omissions are rather puzzling, not just because of choices Barefoot made, but because they reflect equally puzzling omissions made by other popular ghost storytellers. Barefoot gives us a rather abrupt and uninteresting story, of a gold prospector who hit it rich and disappeared on his way to Connecticut, for Burke County. This ignores what is probably the most notorious story for that county – the night in 1831 Frankie Silver killed her husband with an ax and burned him in the fireplace. The only woman ever hanged in Burke County, Silver was railroaded through a two-day trial by her angry in-laws, despite possible evidence that her husband had been abusive and her crime self-defense. Ghost story collections don’t tend to carry the Frankie Silver story (which I first encountered on Investigation Discovery’s Deadly Women), even though a famous ballad and at least one recent ghost story are attributed to her.

True to form, Barefoot gives us more stories of witches (Alleghany, Haywood and Macon counties), Native Americans (Jackson and Swain counties), a haunted college theater (Catawba County), Bigfoot (Yancey County) and the Devil. In fact, possibly the creepiest chapter in the entire series hails from Ashe County. This chapter focuses on a natural feature called the Devil’s Stairs. It’s pretty common in the western part of the state to call particularly rugged terrain (especially if it has a lot of Cherokee lore about it) after the Devil. Barefoot even mentions some of these features. But he claims that the Devil’s Stairs (a manmade formation created by dynamite blasting in 1914 during the building of the railroad) is the most haunted of them all. It’s got fatal railway accidents, infanticide, ghostly coffins, Phantom Hitchhikers, and at least one guy who died of a quick wasting illness after supposedly encountering Old Scratch himself. Tough to top that.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #28: North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 2: Piedmont Phantoms (2002)


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Barefoot, Daniel W. Piedmont Phantoms. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2002.


This second volume is the longest of the three in Daniel Barefoot’s North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred trilogy. It’s 187 pages to the other two’s 130 each. There is actually a good reason for this. As I’ve said before, North Carolina is divided up into different distinct regions. But there are four, not three: The Coast, the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, and the Mountains, and they are separated along geological lines. Basically, the Coast is the current coast. The Coastal Plain is what was under water up almost to Raleigh not so long ago and may end up under water again if the oceans continue to rise. The Piedmont is an area of metamorphic, disrupted rock from when continents were jamming together and pulling apart, creating the Appalachian Mountains, which comprise the Mountain region. The Uwharries lie in the Piedmont. This has relevance to Barefoot’s material, since the regions affect the folklore due to natural features and resources. The Coast has lots of stories about haunted marshes and ghost ships. The Coastal Plain and the Piedmont have stories about gold rushes, plantations, and the Revolutionary War. The Mountains have a lot of Appalachian lore. And so on.

I guess Barefoot (or his publisher, John F. Blair, which also published Whedbee’s collections) decided he preferred a trilogy over a tetralogy. Since Barefoot was doing that, he had to fit one of those regions into at least one of the other books. That “lost” region turned out to be the Coastal Plain, where I live. It is also sadly neglected by North Carolina ghost story books in general, even though we actually have some pretty distinctive stories of our own.

The Coastal Plain is a curiously diverse place, further divided into the Outer and Inner Coastal Plains, or into the Upper and Lower Coastal Plains (though apparently not both at once, since one division is more environmental and the other is more political). I live on the Inner and Upper Coastal Plain.

For Volume 1, Seaside Spectres, Barefoot included the Outer Coastal Plain as part of the coast, but he also included parts of the Inner Coastal Plain (such as Edgecombe and Halifax Counties). For Volume 2, he includes the eastern parts of the Inner Coastal Plain (such as Nash, Wilson, Johnston and Franklin counties) in the Piedmont section. The methodology is confusing, but I guess it kept the books more or less within shouting distance of equal length.

As with Volume 1, there are a lot of witch stories (and also one about the Devil’s footprint in Largo, Warren County). In part, that’s because NC has a lot of witch stories. In part, I suspect Barefoot just likes them. He gets to decide which stories to include, after all.

I was glad to see some African American ones in this volume. As I mentioned in my reviews on the two folklore articles about witchcraft and Guilford County, African Americans have contributed quite a lot of NC lore, frequently without much recognition of that fact. Despite this contribution, their presence in popular ghost story collections has been scant. Curiously, Barefoot shows no knowledge of the Guilfort County article, choosing instead to discuss a haunted theater for that chapter.

Barefoot manages to stuff in two witch stories from Person County, involving encounters with children. The general impression I got from this chapter was that children can be terribly cruel (not a shocking revelation to me, considering I got bullied mercilessly as a child) and you have to school that out of them with some lessons about appearances and compassion. In the first section, two young boys balk at helping an old woman who seems, to them, to be a teleporting witch. The folkloric motif that Carolina witches and ghosts are not necessarily a separate category appears here.

In the second section (which shows the shamanistic aspect of NC witches in the powers of shapeshifting and flight), a bunch of children brutally bully an elderly African American field hand (it’s implied the children are white). Finally, she snaps. She beats them and curses them by predicting “sudden and horrible deaths” for them. The brats tattle on her and get her fired. This causes her to curse the whole lot of them, kids and parents.

Soon after, two of the kids die of mysterious illnesses. Historically speaking, this was the kind of thing that led to a lynching, but the witch in this story gains herself a happy ending of sorts. When a mob of men confront her at her cabin, the old woman coolly faces them with a large owl perched on her shoulder. When they attack her, she escapes them by turning into a bird and flying away. Unnerved, some of the families move out of the area. Moral of the story: Don’t be a bully. You might end up cursed by a witch.

The story for Nash County is rather blah (another Theodosia-in-Distress story? Really?), but the Wilson County one is quite intriguing. North Carolina used to be a lot larger than it is now, even after splitting from South Carolina, because its original borders extended to the West Coast, encompassing what is now Tennessee. This means that certain famous figures (like the Harpe Brothers) and legends (like the Bell Witch) from points further west had their origins in NC. The story of the Bell Witch, in fact, begins in Wilson County. That’s where the Bell family came from.

It’s probably not a huge surprise that Barefoot chooses the Bentonville Battlefield for Johnston County. Not only is it a famous site that’s appeared in other collections I reviewed this month, but it’s also quite haunted. The Franklin County section eschews the numerous college hauntings in Louisburg for a story about a traveler (known only as the Lady in Blue) who died at a plantation house in Belford in 1835. She continued to appear as a ghost for another century until she managed to save the owners of the house from a devastating fire. Her final purpose fulfilled, she appeared no more.

Tomorrow, I’ll review the third volume about the Mountain region, Haints of the Hills.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #27: North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Volume 1: Seaside Spectres (2002)


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Barefoot, Daniel W. Seaside Spectres. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 1. John F. Blair, Publisher, 2002.


Remember how I said (when I reviewed the book that claimed to contain every known ghost story in North Carolina) that there was no way there could be less than a hundred ghost stories in NC? This book (which is part of a trilogy) is how I know. The neat conceit of the trilogy is that the author picks a folkloric story from each of the hundred counties in North Carolina and retells it. Collectively, these three books have 100 stories in them. Therefore, there have to be at least a hundred ghost stories and legends in NC because that’s how many there are in this book. And since I know for a fact that Barefoot left many out (because he could only choose one for each county), I happen to know that there are, in fact, many more than a hundred.

And that’s the really cool thing about this trilogy.
The trilogy breaks things up into three regions: the Coast, the Piedmont area, and the Mountains. This first one is for the Coast.

Some of these stories, I already knew. The Edgecombe one was fairly disappointing, for example, as not only was I well aware of the Banshee legend, but I already knew all those details. And there are some others from that county that might have been more fun.

There are some quite-creepy stories in here (Barefoot knows how to give you a chill). There are, for example, several stories of ghost lights (some including pretty close encounters with what sounds almost like a fireball) such as the Cove City Light and the Pactolus Light. One story from Bladen County also involves a brief case of multiple spontaneous combustion (though no one died).

Several about the Devil show up (a few new to me, though not all of them). The book starts off with the curse of Bath in Beaufort County by the Reverend Whitefield early in the 18th century (and a quick segue to include the Devil’s Hoofprints, also of Bath). The creepiest is probably the rather-less-lucky Reverend Glendinning’s being plagued by a short demon while he was staying with a family in Halifax County a few decades later. The demon would knock at the door and yell at him through the window. North Carolina used to be a real tough crowd for itinerant preachers.

Witches show up in several tales, though they often are as sinned against (as in “The Evil That Will Not Die” from Dare County) as sinning (“The Bewitched Miller” from Chowan County and “Bewitched in Currituck” in Currituck County). In Tyrrell County, you get an alleged Native American legend (though it sounds more like an especially misogynistic Victorian romance) about a young Native American girl who was burned as a witch simply because she was beautiful and spoiled, and wouldn’t marry anyone. Naturally, since this is the coast, you’ve got a fair bit of cursed coastline, with a haunted island in Carteret County and a haunted coastal woods in Martin County called Devil’s Gut Creek. One of the nastiest stories is a cursed house in Pasquotank County.

Many of these are just legends with few facts to support them (especially since history on the coast goes all the way back to the 1580s). But some are based on actual, recorded tragedies. One of the most notable is the murder of inventor Henry Gatling in Hertford County. Gatling was working on an early version of an airplane some three decades before the Wright Brothers when he was murdered in 1879 by a man who claimed he was angry at Gatling for refusing him a ride the day before. Gatling’s ghost reportedly still haunts the area, though the house has long been torn down.

Obviously, a book like this is worth a read. There are no other projects of this type that systematically include at least one legend from every county in NC. And Barefoot is a good storyteller who also often includes a fair number of facts, certainly enough to go do your own research. While some of these may be rather overexposed and oft-told, there are also some more obscure gems. Check it out.


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The Official Supernatural: “The Scar” (14.03) 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.

Recap of events up to this point. Still no rock and the incidental music is frequently dull this season.

Cut to Now and Dean walking back into the Bunker with Sam. Dean is already back in shirtsleeves and talking about how he doesn’t remember anything from saying yes in the Bunker to waking up in front of TFW:TEP at the end of last week. This is almost certainly a lie, since Dean was fully awake and fighting when he went up against Lucifer in the season finale.

Dean is a little shocked to see the Bunker’s HQ turned into an actual HQ (and where the hell were all these people last week, when Castiel was pulling double duty, babysitting Jack and Nick?), and even more so that people are already calling Sam “Chief” after just a few weeks. Yeah, I know. Convenient writing. Just roll with it.

Dean is reunited with Jack and Castiel, who seem glad to see him again, especially Castiel. Then Dean makes the excuse that he needs to go shower and leaves. As the others ask Sam if Dean is all right (think that’s a big old NO, Ghost Rider), and Sam hedges, we see Dean enter his room, take off his outer shirt, and spot a ginormous scar on his right shoulder in the mirror.

Cue title cards.

So, Dean hides this and pretends nothing’s wrong – wait, that’s only half-right. He actually goes to tell Sam and Castiel. No secrets. Who are you and what have you done with Dean Winchester?!

Dean insists that Castiel do a mind-meld (i.e., soul read, which, as we know from season six’s “The Third Man,” is extremely painful) to dig up his memories. Castiel finds some fragments of already-filmed stuff of Michael and his experiments, and seems puzzled why a powerful archangel would be creating monsters (you and me both, dude). He then discovers a new memory – one of DeanMichael getting stabbed in the shoulder, creating the odd scar. There’s a lot of screaming, but no blood (of course) and also no angel light (whoops, continuity error or just plain being cheap about the FX).

Dean has no idea what Castiel just dug up, so they call Jody. Not sure why, but it’s what they do.

Jody is getting a text from Claire (I think) about Alex’s laundry. Claire asks if Jody is on a hunt and Jody says no. Then she gets a call from TFW 1.0.

So, the reason they called her is that Dean recognized the figure that stabbed him/Michael as the same hooded figure that casually murdered Kaia in the “Bad Place” last season. We know (though they don’t) that this was Bad Place!Kaia, so I want to reiterate that she murdered her own counterpart in this world, without an ounce of apparent remorse. I’m thinking that will be important later.

Anyhoo, it turns out the hunt Jody wasn’t telling Claire about involves headless bodies with the same scar.

Dean immediately packs. He, Sam and Castiel are heading out when Jack comes in and wants to help. Sam and Castiel hedge, but Dean’s the one who gets blamed for “hurting” Jack’s feelings by saying he’s not strong enough to go. Yeah, because that’s much worse than taking him along and letting him get beaten to a pulp by demons – oh, wait.

Roadblock number 2 is a female Hunter coming in (apparently Yet Another alt-SPNverse Denizen) with the only survivor of a witch. The witch is dead, but she apparently hexed the girl with an ageing spell. Castiel can’t immediately cure her, so he stays behind to work on it. Dean forges ahead with just Sam.

Oh, by the way, it was established earlier in the ep that Nick is still in the wind and TFW:TEP has no idea he’s turned into a murderer.

In the car, Dean is speeding a bit (75 doesn’t really seem very fast, but okay) and Sam decides it’s time to get pissy and have The Talk about how Dean’s not acknowledging his feelings. Because this has gone so well before, mainly due to Sam always using what info he worms out of Dean to hurt Dean later. Just sayin’, Sam.

Sam whines that time may not have passed for Dean, but it passed for him and he’s worried and he wants Dean to tell him stuff Dean claims he doesn’t remember. Dean is charitable enough not to throw in Sam’s face the times Sam took off on him and did things and told Dean they were none of his business (not to mention that whole “year off” when Dean was in Purgatory and Sam didn’t look for him).

BTW, Dean thinks Sam needs to lose the beard. I’m kinda with him on that.

They arrive at Jody’s, in a meeting at night in the woods. Jody and Dean enthusiastically hug, and Jody admits she’s been hiding the hunt from Claire. Alex is still working at the hospital. Patience is still in school. Jody likes the beard. Dean rolls his eyes at Sam behind her back. Then Dean suggests they go right off into the hunt, even as Sam suggests they wait until daylight. Uh, Sam, honey, Jody just met you at night in the woods and said she doesn’t want to go home until the hunt is done. Go hunt.

There are three bodies so far. Jody thought they were human, but if they’re headless, you can’t really check to see if they’re vampires. Since, like, now vampires can bleed, and all. LOL!canon. And they might be werewolves

Back at the Bunker, Jack decides to pack a bag and leaves note to “Sam,Dean,Castiel.” But as he’s about to go do the Little Orphan Annie shtick, he hears voices down the hall. It’s Castiel and the Hunter, trying to cure the Damsel in Distress in the infirmary. When Jack comes in, Castiel explains that he can’t heal the girl because “the spell is too knotted.” Whatever that means. Castiel got hold of Rowena, who told him to try a reversal spell, but it’s complicated.

Castiel notices the backpack and asks if Jack is leaving. Jack, with a new look of determination, says no and enters the infirmary, presumably to help the girl.

Is the Hunter this week being played by the actress who played the detective in the Warner Bros cartoon ep? She was fun.

It’s daylight in the woods and Dean wants to split up. Sam and Jody veto the idea, so Dean just strides ahead and they run to catch up. Dean finds a campfire (still smoking) with three heads – three vampire heads – on poles in front of it.

Jody and Sam debate over whether it’s just a really big coincidence, or whether these are her three John Does as Dean confirms that they are vampires. But Jody is confused by this. She says that she took their blood home and had Alex examine it. The blood didn’t react to silver or anything like that. Well, vamps wouldn’t.

Dean crouches by the fire and checks out how long it’s been since it was last tended. Then he looks up over his shoulder and is startled by a vivid and hallucinatory flashback of the hooded figure that stabbed him, with the spear in its hands. When he looks up again, though, the figure is actually there and poised to strike. It’s not a flashback. It’s a flashforward, a premonition sort of like Patience’s gift, except briefer and more shadowy. I’m reminded of Zachariah’s claim in “Point of No Return” that Michael foresaw the day Dean would say yes in great detail (except that Dean didn’t quite say yes that day). So, Dean may have a new power. Kewl.

And before anybody starts going on about Dean is fully human, folks, that ship has sailed, hit an iceberg, sunk, been rediscovered and brought up by deep sea submersibles, and set up in a museum. And besides, Nick sure as hell isn’t just an ordinary guy, anymore, either, and it took Sam a hell of a long time to become fully human again – about ten seasons, to be exact. So, no, Dean is not fully human anymore, if he ever truly was.

Anyhoo, the whateveritis gives a startled Dean just enough warning to dodge a strike from the spear. A fight ensues in which the refugee from Arrow gets all Kung-Fu genre on the three of them. Though Dean probably would have won if the hood hadn’t come off and the person he saw looked just like Kaia. EVOL!Kaia (sadly, the actress still only has about three expressions) knocks Dean over, tosses her spear to a mound nearby, swan-leaps over a fence, grabs it, and runs away. All of this is entirely unnecessary for a real fight and looks fake. I hate the way EVOL!Kaia fights.

Back at the Bunker, Jack sits with the young girl, who tells him her life story. As subtext anvils rain down, she asks of Castiel is his dad. Jack says, “One of them,” smiling fondly. When he asks her if there’s anyone they can call, she says her mother, but she fears Mom would hate her. She ran away from home out of rebellion (Jack looks guilty) and was taken in, along with two other girls, by the witch. She says the witch gave them gifts (Jack notices a big, honking necklace that Castiel and the Hunter apparently didn’t), but then the witch turned mean. She locked them up and the other girls withered away to husks. Now, she is withering away, too, but even faster, and she’s scared. Jack reassures her that Castiel will find a solution.

In the woods, Dean is still striding ahead and Sam still wants to chew the fat. This is basically just an excuse by the writers for some infodumping from Sam about how he thinks Michael sent his super-vampires (I guess he somehow found a way to perfect them?) to kill EVOL!Kaia for reasons as-yet unknown. Dean’s like, yeah, all right, but that doesn’t change the plan. Which is, obviously, to find and capture EVOL!Kaia. As Dean walks off, Jody pats Sam on the shoulder and follows Dean. Yay, Jody.

Thanks to Dean’s tracking skills (which are still excellent), they can follow EVOL!Kaia. And they do, as the day passes again toward night.

In the Bunker, Castiel and the Hunter do a Latin spell together, but it only speeds up the ageing process and DiD starts to choke as Jack looks on, distressed. I check my watch.

By the way, it was also infodumped at the beginning that Mary and Bobby stayed back at Michael’s laboratory to … uh … clean up his experiments.

Back in the woods, Jody skips a call from Claire. She tells Sam she promised Claire that she would cover all human-related cases but would let Claire know about “anything monster-y.” This, however, would be too much. It seems that Kaia was Claire’s “first love” (well, yeah, it would be rather awkward to continue much further with Claire’s weird puppy-dog hero worship thing for Dean, since he’s twice her age and totally not into it, or ever address again that whole Daddy Issues stuff she had going with her Fagin dude that Dean killed). So, Jody is not going to tell Claire. Or, at least, she’s going to put it off as long as she can.

Jody asks Sam about how he and Dean are doing (more infodumping about feels!). Sam says that Dean is “working something out – alone” (hey, man, you asked Dean to address what Michael did to him and he said he was by going on this hunt). Sam doesn’t think Dean is any more ready for this hunt than Claire would be. Jody points out that maybe Dean needs to be on this hunt. After all, hunts are how Dean works out dark and destructive feelings. Dean’s entirely barren field of fucks in “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things” fairly leaps to mind here.

Boy, the woods are really nice and clean and open here in Vanco – I mean, Sioux Falls (and it was amusing to see Sam geek out once again about serial killers, to Jody’s consternation and Dean’s exasperation).

So, cut from Sam’s manly, brooding, bearded face to EVOL!Kaia dropping down into a crouch next to some cabin. She enters, briefly scans the interior, then goes to the sink for some water. After stealing some crackers, she comes back out. The creaking of wood warns her, but this turns out to be deliberate. She turns right into a gun butt from Dean, who was waiting on the porch. As she falls, Sam and Jody happen to be standing there (even though they weren’t when she walked out onto the porch. Continuity error, there).

Gotta say, that was pretty satisfying. I rewatched it a time or two. She’s a tad high on the Jerk Sue scale.

So, they tie her to a chair and interrogate her. After they confirm that she is the Kaia from the Bad Place, they ask her why she came through the rift. She refuses to say why, so Sam asks her why she’s (still) in Sioux Falls. She says it’s “because of him.” She means Michael and Dean confirms he’s no longer Michael. She snarks, “I know. You’re much weaker.” Because really, she wasn’t already obnoxious enough. Gotta say that seeing any version of Kaia ever again on this show was not high up on my wish list and this episode is not changing that opinion.

Anyhoo, Dean says, yeah, whatever, but “you’re still scared.” She claims she’s not scared of Dean (but she sure should be). She’s afraid of “them.” She means the monsters Michael has been sending after her. Every time she stops running, more come. As she speaks, we get a view of her camp, with three new super-vamps surveying the severed heads of their predecessors and snarling.

EVOL!Kaia claims she wasn’t trying to kill her double, with whom she claims to have had a Very Special Bond, but “the blonde” (Claire). Which is bullshit, of course, because if she’d actually cared about her double, and seen through her eyes, she would have known perfectly well not to try to kill Claire.

Jody says they need to get her back to the station for more security and protection. Dean says they have to “break her” right then and there. While Jody and Sam look a bit horrified, EVOL!Kaia smugly claims all Dean wants is the weapon she normally carries (but, for whatever reason, stashed someplace because Stuff to Keep the Plot Going). It does not seem to occur to her that these people who knew Kaia and “the blonde” might want to break her for less esoteric reasons – like revenge. For all her sparkly weapon and fancy martial arts, EVOL!Kaia is quite stupid.

By the way, back at the Bunker, DiD has died. As Castiel covers her face with a sheet, Jack weeps over her body, proclaiming that he could have saved her if he’d still had his own sparkly powers. Then he gets an idea (very belatedly). He pulls off the sheet, looks at the necklace, and asks the Hunter where she put the witch’s body. Um … excuse me? Didn’t the woman just salt and burn the witch on the spot? Nope, she brought her back to the morgue, where the witch is in the cooler. That was their first mistake. The second was not noticing the Big Honking Green Necklace On Her Neck that is identical to the one on DiD’s neck.

Some days, there just aren’t enough facepalms.

So, Jack explains in excruciating detail for Castiel, the Hunter and any of the slower members of the audience that the witch is still dead because the witch-killing bullet is still inside her. But the necklace drained DiD because it was trying to revive the witch, which it couldn’t do because the witch-killing bullet was still inside (really, it’s that spelled out). He yanks the necklace off her neck.

Back in the cabin, Dean is admitting that yes, he’s there for the weapon and is willing to torture EVOL!Kaia for it. He then tosses her around a bit, but EVOL!Kaia just smirks because sure, why would she be the least bit afraid of a guy who is wearing the face of the immensely powerful being that is sending monsters after her, 24/7? I’m not sure if the actress would be any better with more competent writing, but the script sure isn’t doing her any favors.

Meanwhile, Jody and Sam want to protect this puir widdle not-innocent who just bragged about killing her own double and trying to kill Claire. Pretty sure if Jody were actually in character in this scene, she’d be shoving Dean out of the way and cutting strips of skin off EVOL!Kaia.

Meanwhile, the vampires are coming. In case anybody still cares.

So, she claims that Dean is just like Michael, with his “threats” and “violence,” and she starts blathering on about how she “saw” Dean shove a gun in her double’s face (yet shows no fear because bad acting and awful writing make for a totally unrealistic character), and he’s afraid and “weak.” And this is the part where the script really crashes and burns for me.

Yeah, Dean forced Kaia to get into a car with him. And there’s been a lot of bashing of Dean (some fans really dig that) over the decision. Now, I’m okay with scenes where an antagonist calls Dean out on being so violent, but the ones that work (like, say, the interrogation scene in season one finale “Devil’s Trap”) involve much better writing and acting than this one.

The thing is that no other reaction from Dean in the scene where he threatens Kaia would have been in character. To Dean, Kaia was just shrugging off that she’d been helped out of a bad situation (the clinic) and refusing to help him, Sam and Jack rescue their mother, who was being tortured by Michael, right at that moment.

It wasn’t just that Kaia was afraid to help. It was that Kaia made it abundantly clear that she just didn’t give a shit. Too bad, so sad, getting on a bus now. If she hadn’t been afraid, she just wouldn’t have been bothered.

And just as an in-character Jody would have been ripping EVOL!Kaia apart rather than standing weakly by and mouthing platitudes about how torture is wrong (because Jody is a mama bear when it comes to Claire), an in-character Dean would have been bashed just as cheerfully by the same parts of fandom if he had not gone full-on Mad Max in 13.09 to save his mother, once he found out she was actually alive and – oh, yeah – being tortured by the archangel he was once supposed to say yes to, on anyone who got in his way.

But even this is rather beside the point because the very person who is calling Dean out on threatening Kaia is the one who murdered her. And excuse me, but murder (“accidental” for being the “wrong victim” or not) is far worse than a threat that isn’t actually carried out. So, screw you, EVOL!Kaia, you hypocritical little Psycho Sue, and get off my damned screen.

By the way, back at the Bunker, Jack brings the witch’s necklace back to the infirmary, smashes it, and DiD is instantly revived. So, there goes that B-plot.

In the cabin, more painful infodumping as we get a flashback to Michael appearing to EVOL!Kaia and offering her a place in his army if she gives him the spear. She attacks him (because, well, she’s stupid) and he easily evades her attacks (some nice stuntwork from Ackles, which unfortunately shows up the Kaia stuntwork in all its flaws) until she somehow manages to knock his feet out from under him and stab him in the shoulder. Not the heart, not the neck, not the eye, not anything that might have been, you know, effective. Just the shoulder.

Also, it’s pretty sad when the writers forget that full-power angels have wings and can easily outmaneuver a human using them, not to mention, smite them. Remember Anna against Mary in “The Song Remains the Same”? Like that. So, this fight is just straight-up lame.

Anyhoo, all is interrupted by the arrival (finally) of the super-vamps, who proceed to beat the crap out of Sam, Dean and Jody. A plot hole bubbles to the surface when one of the vamps insists he’s only there for EVOL!Kaia and they proceed to beat the crap out of Dean. Because I’m pretty sure that Michael’s vessel is still every bit as important as a spear that could kill him. If not more so.

The vamps are so dumb that when Dean frees Kaia by shooting her chair leg and she jumps out the window, they don’t follow her. So, it’s not a real shocker that she stabs one of them from behind, and then the other two conveniently turn around so she can whirl her big stick a few times and lop off their heads. She then pauses for a bit and Jody says hey, you came back instead of leaving us to die. EVOL!Kaia sullenly insists she came back to kill the monsters (because that totally makes sense – not) and then she bails.

Oh, please, Show, can’t you just kill her off offscreen? I’m begging you.

Afterward, Jody has a broken arm, but insists on driving herself home, after telling Dean not to blame himself (which is a bit like telling Dean not to breathe, but I appreciate her effort).

Back at the Bunker, Castiel visits Jack in his room and tells him he’s proud of him. The Hunter (who now has a name, Jules) is taking DiD back home to her mother. Can we keep Jules? She’s about the only decent thing about this trainwreck of an episode.

After Castiel leaves, Jack coughs up blood, but doesn’t tell anybody. Because it wouldn’t be a Supernatural episode without Secreth and Lieth.

In the car, Dean feels guilty for having said yes to Michael and says Sam was right (well … not really. About a lot of things). He just wanted to skip to the end where he got the weapon and killed the Big Bad. He says he never should have said yes (Sam, who would not be alive, and who knows full well what Lucifer was planning to do to the universe, had Dean not showed up at that church, says nothing to contradict him).

Dean then admits that he actually does remember all of being possessed. He doesn’t remember most of what Michael was doing, but he remembers the possession mostly as a kind of drowning and being too weak to overcome it. Which makes Sam’s whinging earlier in the ep about how he had to deal without Dean around, while Dean got to not remember the past few weeks, look pretty damned bad.

Credits.

This was a pretty inept script, full of endless, momentum-stopping, intelligence-insulting infodump, characters acting stupid or out of character simply to advance the plot, simplistic and linear plot turns (we still don’t even know why Michael left Dean, just how Dean got the scar), an unnecessary B plot, bad acting and some not-so-hot stuntwork, especially from the main guest star. Not what I would have liked to see from a Jody return or a Dean possession aftermath ep.

It’s probably therefore no big surprise the show got a fairly low rating of 0.4/2 in the demo and 1.39 million watching. in part due to audience bailing in the second half (though it seems that Legacies‘ unloved series premiere also dragged it down). Let’s hope next week has at least a tighter MOTW script because Show, you can do better than this.

Promo for next week.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #26: Ghost Stories and Legends of Murphy, NC (2015)


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Ault, Marie. Ghost Stories and Legends of Murphy, NC. 2015.


Murphy is the county seat in Cherokee County, in the Mountain region of the far-western part of North Carolina. The county is so-named because it was heavily populated by the Cherokee, most (but not all) of whom were forced to leave on the Trail of Tears. It has a lot of Appalachian history to it.

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this one, at first, whether it was genuinely a collection of ghost stories, a novel, a family memoir, or what. It turned out to be a collection in two main sections with a distinct literary conceit, and a non-fiction epilogue.

In part one, several children taking refuge upstairs in a house during a storm in the 1920s (for fear of the many floods that used to plague the area before several dams were built) decide to tell each other ghost stories to pass the time. One of the saddest tales involves a haunting sparked by a mother and her son who were swept away by a waterspout in 1906.

Many decades later, in part two, a bunch of teenagers around a campfire decide to trade some updated versions of these stories, as well as some new ones. The creepiest one, by far, in the second section, Prohibition era “Moonshiners and Police Shootout,” the author later exposes as mostly an urban legend. The shootout occurred, but though the legend has the moonshiners dying in a swamp and haunting/guarding it in a most deadly manner, it turns out they were later captured and put on trial for killing two policemen. So, no lethal ghosts as the two who appear in the story.

I’m not a huge fan of heavily fictionalized folklore (as is probably clear at this point), but something about using a campfire tale frame works for this book. Ghost stories, after all, are told and retold over the years, changing as they go. It helps immensely that while the characters Ault has tell the tales are fictional (she makes this clear at the beginning), the details they mention come from the research the author includes and discusses at length at the end. If you are looking for a folkloric and historical background to Murphy and Cherokee County, so the stories make more sense, you could do worse than to read the last part first.

Some of the stories are well-known, particularly the Cherokee legends of the Moon-Eyed People, the Great Leech, and Spearfinger. But even so, Ault manages to dig up some new details. There’s a photo of a sculpture in a nearby museum allegedly by/of the Moon-Eyed People and I didn’t realize Spearfinger had a male counterpart known as Stone Man (Nun’yunu’wi). Nor had I heard of the Legend of Hanging Dog, where a hungry young Cherokee hunter chooses to give up a chance to track down a wounded deer to save his trapped dog. He is then rewarded for his kindness when the grateful dog promptly finds the deer for him.

But there is more to this collection than Cherokee legends. For one thing, Ault digs fairly deeply into the checkered Civil War history of the area (the residents were about evenly divided between Union and Confederate, and bushwacker gangs terrorized the area during and immediately after the war). She also relates its bloody history of lynchings and even which trees for famous for their occurrence. Unsurprisingly, these parts of Murphy and its environs are reputed to be extremely haunted, usually by hanging specters.

Probably the ugliest story (though “Carson Lane Ghost” gives it a run for its money) is about a local slaver, Joshua Harshaw. Slavery was apparently unusual in Murphy, so Harshaw’s reputation was perhaps not the best with his neighbors. A legend that grew up after his death didn’t do it any favors. Like a real-life Ramsay Bolton, he reputedly would set his dogs to hunt down and eat alive slaves who were too old and/or weak to work. This may have been confirmed as a real story by recent archeological digs in a local cemetery that discovered bones gnawed by dogs.

It’s kind of a shame the author self-published, not because self-publishing is bad (I do it where it works for the material), but because the book looks self-published. The cover’s a bit too 1970s conspiracy theorist paperback basic, some of the typesetting is a little wonky (especially where the photos come in, though I liked their inclusion), and it could have used a good copy edit. I can’t help imagining this getting the Cursed in the Carolinas or the Haunted Hills.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot of good stuff in here, with sources, and Ault is an engaging writer (now I’m all curious about the one she did about Helen, Georgia). If you’re looking for a good overview of the history and folklore of the area, or just a good and creepy campfire tale, pick up this book.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #25: Legends of the Outer Banks and Tar Heel Tidewater (1966)


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Whedbee, Charles Harry. Legends of the Outer Banks and Tar Heel Tidewater. John F. Blair, 1966 (20th printing 2005).


Charles Harry Whedbee (1911-1990) was a judge from Greenville, NC who developed a life-long fascination with North Carolina’s Outer Banks at a young age. He visited and wrote about them every chance he got, even telling beach stories on an early morning TV talk show he hosted in the early 1960s. Published in 1966, this was the first of his five collections of stories about the area.

I had my reservations about reading Legends of the Outer Banks and Tar Heel Tidewater, since Whedbee was both contemporaneous with Nancy Roberts and equally famous for popularizing NC folklore. Those reservations were initially borne out by the second story, which is basically an unattributed synopsis of Sallie Southall Cotten’s The White Doe: The Fate of Virginia Dare, an Indian Legend from 1901. That book is a cheesy, late-Victorian romance I discussed yesterday as the origin of the White Doe legend. He was fortunate Cotten died in 1929, or she might have sued him for copyright infringement.

Whedbee has a tendency to embroider his stories – a lot – but I didn’t encounter any tales that seemed like pure invention on his part. His storytelling hook was that his stories came in three categories – ones he’d experienced himself (like a personal experience with the Devil’s Hoofprints of Bath), ones told him by trusted and reliable informants, and ones he’d only heard about – but he wouldn’t tell his readers which were which.

Beechland, for example, is a real place, with an established academic historiography discussing its possible connections to the Lost Colony. I know some of the more outrageous tales, like the floating church of Swan Quarter, are real history, because really strange stuff can happen on the coast at high tide in the middle of a hurricane. And then there’s the odd tale (illustrated on the cover) of the harbor porpoise that used to guide ships to safety in the 18th century.

But there were some stories (like the aforementioned Virginia Dare fantasy) I was familiar enough with to know he added a whole lot of detail to someone else’s already-tall tale, or a story where we really just have the bare bones of the facts.

Fortunately, things improved later in the book, and Whedbee’s affection for the Outer Banks and its people is infectious. At his worst (which is mostly near the beginning), Whedbee has a florid, overwritten style as a storyteller that greatly dates his material. At his best, he can be both dramatic and laugh-out-loud funny.

“The Boozhyot” and “The Boozhyot Apocrypha” is a hysterically funny pair of Prohibition era tales (where all of the names have been judiciously changed or left out to protect the totally guilty) about what happened when a rum runner accidentally dumped its load off the shore of a small Outer Banks village. Personally, I’m a tad skeptical of Whedbee’s arch insistence in the latter story that the Outer Banks residents were too honest to swindle a bunch of big city gangsters. I’ve read about Buffalo City, the nearby Inner Banks town that was a bootlegging capital at this time. But Whedbee’s retelling is still a hoot.

It’s also hard to fault a man who has a soft spot for cats. My personal favorite of the stories is “The Witch of Nag’s Head Woods.” It’s the story of an elderly female hermit from the early 20th century who told neighborhood children’s fortunes, and kept herself and her clowder of black cats in fish with a coyly not-quite-professed talent for controlling winds. Whedbee recounts the tale with a wry sympathy toward the title character and her cats not usually found in North Carolina storytellers when it comes to witches (or cats), real or otherwise.

Whedbee also goes into some detail about the only known survivor of the Carroll A. Deering wreck of 1921 – a ship’s cat found by Coast Guardsmen when they boarded the boat, after it ran aground on a sand bank one winter morning, and found it deserted by the crew (who were never seen again). The rescuers took the cat with them. I’m not sure if Whedbee found these details or made them up, but he describes the cat as gray, well-fed and friendly when they found it in the dining saloon, and that it was subsequently named “Carroll.” An odd detail with this story is that Whedbee repeats the same error as John Harden in The Devil’s Tramping Ground from 1949, in that he calls the ship the Carroll M. Deering. Makes me wonder where that error originally came from.

Even though Whedbee calls these tales “legends,” most of them are not at all scary and some are not even supernatural in nature. Strangely enough, the eeriest one is the Carroll A. Deering chapter. For some reason, abandoned ghost ship mysteries are extremely creepy. But the book is still a good way to pass the time and get acquainted with some of the Outer Banks’ stranger stories.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #24: The Lost Colony in Literature (1985)


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Arner, Robert D. The Lost Colony in Literature. America’s Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee. North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1985.


At first, I debated over whether to include anything about the Lost Colony. There is quite the cottage industry devoted to what happened to the first English colony in North America (technically, it was the second) after they vanished from their impromptu settlement on Roanoke Island c.1590, during Elizabeth’s war with Spain, leaving only a cryptic clue or two in the form of a name (“Croatoan”) carved into a tree. I could probably spend a month on books about this legend alone.

But the thing is, the Lost Colony is the very beginning of the English history and folklore in North Carolina. It’s one of the first non-Native American legends, the first big mystery. And it keeps popping up in the ghost collections I’ve been reading due to some paranormal elements having been attached to it later on. So, let’s check this one out.

I picked The Lost Colony in Literature because it deals with all of these myths and how they grew up over the centuries. Theoretical reasons for the Lost Colony’s disappearance range all the way from death by hostile locals to assimilation by friendly locals to starvation to drowning in a storm while trying to evacuate to nearby Hatteras Island to disease to aliens (yes, aliens).

Supernatural did an episode called “Croatoan” in season two that implied the colony fell prey to demons using it for a hellish kind of germ warfare (a theory the Elizabethan era English probably would have endorsed, since many early English settlers believed North America was Satan’s realm). Sleepy Hollow even did an episode in season one where the ghosts of the Lost Colonists showed up, speaking (of all things) Chaucerian English, and suffering from the bubonic plague that killed them.

Since this short academic chapbook came out in 1985, as part of the 400th anniversary of English settlement in North Carolina, it doesn’t cover the more recent theories (including the alien abduction one). But it does do a pretty thorough overview in three areas: the initial reports of the colony’s disappearance and the contemporary reaction in England (more brief and muted than you might think now), the revival and romanticization of the mystery during the Victorian era, and the commercialization of that romantic myth in the 20th century.

Arner has some rather acid things to say about how, like the first Thanksgiving, the Lost Colony was forgotten as an early failure until the young United States’ concerns with creating new origin myths brought it back to life early in the 19th century. The Lost Colony was elevated from a doomed experiment of dumping a bunch of working class Englishpeople on a hostile shore to a heroic first planting of English roots in American soil.

One particular set of legends centers around the first English baby born in North Carolina – Virginia Dare. There were older children who came with the expedition, and one other baby born shortly after Virginia, but Virginia was the granddaughter of the expedition’s leader, so she gets all the limelight. We never hear about the other kids.

The Victorian era and 20th century stories Arner writes about ignore the harsh realities of Elizabethan child mortality rates when they rhapsodize on and on about a Virginia Dare who grew up in the wilds of North Carolina, a white Pocahontas (or her mother), the perfect English pioneer princess gone native. The cold statistical reality that Virginia, more than likely, didn’t survive infancy, is carefully ignored. She still dies tragically in these stories (and a virgin). She just does so after she’s hit puberty.

The legend of her as a ghostly white doe first appears in Sallie Southall Cotten’s The White Doe: The Fate of Virginia Dare in 1901. In the story, she is wooed by a heroic young Native American. A jealous sorcerer of the tribe turns her into a white doe. Just as her young beau shoots her with an arrow to change her back, a third man shoots her with an arrow that kills her as soon as she does. No problematical marriage night for Virginia. Since then, the story has evolved that you might still see Virginia roaming about as a ghost deer.

As she dies in the story, her blood creates the sweet Scuppernong grape, famous for getting North Carolinians drunk since before the English ever set foot on its shores. Victorian literary cheese at its finest.

Dare County on the Outer Banks (where you’ll find Roanoke Island) is named after her family.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #23: Cursed in the Carolinas (2017)


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Wilson, Patty A. Cursed in the Carolinas: Stories of the Damned. Globe Pequot, 2017.


This one looked promising. It’s certainly appropriate for the Carolinas after two major hurricanes this fall. It was the third-most-recently published book I’ve got hold of. The cover is creepy as hell and the presentation is really nice. It’s well-edited. No illustrations, but the typesetting is large and clear. It’s very easy to read this book in the physical sense. I’d enjoyed a similar book in the past, Joe Citro’s Cursed in New England, and Wilson does tell a coherent tale, so I had hopes. The book covers both North and South Carolina, much like Nancy Roberts’ Ghosts from the Coast.

Sadly, the scariest thing by far about Cursed in the Carolinas is that cover. For a start, Wilson uses an extremely broad definition of “curse.” Pretty much any haunting can gain the designation because it was the result of a tragic death. Which is nice and all, but that’s not really the same as an actual curse. There are a few in here that are genuine curses, such as the Reverend Whitefield’s legendary curse of Bath, but most of these are a big stretch. It doesn’t help that Wilson pushes it with a final paragraph in each section, driving home a moral that serves doubly as an excuse for why a ghost story is in a book about curses.

I also was bothered by her using this definition for fairly recent events. I don’t think the surviving band members and relatives of Lynyrd Skynyrd would be too thrilled to hear that all their troubles boiled down to some vague curse of “fame” and the following story about a 1980s Episcopal priest who left the priesthood under the cloud of some undefined “sin” was just plain abrupt and unsatisfying.

Part of the problem is that despite the fact she has a list of some 13 books (one of them her own) in the back, most of her sources are websites. That wouldn’t be a big deal if she evaluated these sources at any great depth (lots of new folklore is generated online these days), but such exploration of the background to these tales ranges from cursory to nonexistent.

Another part of the problem is that it’s pretty clear from the more famous tales that she embellishes quite a bit and makes out that it’s part of the legend. “The Cursed Dwarf of Amos Road” in the South Carolina section has a lot more of The Hunchback of Notre Dame to it than the Carolinas. And “When Mary Lydia Died” twists the Lydia’s Bridge story almost out of recognition.

I’ve come to expect the usual nonsense for Blackbeard and the like, but when she turned around and made out in the intro to the South Carolina section that South Carolina split from North Carolina (which was almost completely wilderness at the time) to seek its own freedom in 1729, I rolled my eyes pretty hard. In “The Huguenot Curse” section, she also acts as though the French were the first to settle in North America, just because they stuck a fort in North Carolina a few years before the Spanish did. This blatantly ignores the fact that the Spanish had already established permanent settlements in the Caribbean by the end of the 1490s, over half a century before the French landed (briefly) in NC.

There are the kinds of problems with gender and race I’d expect from a book written in 1967 rather than 2017. The “Tecumseh” section is embarrassingly loaded with Noble Savage stereotypes – also, some wonky dates. Tecumseh was apparently only five years old when he fought in his first battle in 1791 (I think she accidentally interposed 1786 for 1768).

The only African American characters of any significance turn up in two stories. There are the two hapless slaves who are murdered to protect a treasure in “The Money Pit,” also from the South Carolina section. And earlier on, in the North Carolina section, you’ve got the Mammy and Jezebel stereotypes of Jo and Cissy in “‘I Could Slap the Life Out of Her!'” paired with the dated idea that slavery wasn’t so bad because some masters were “nicer” to their slaves than others. Yuck.

Then there is how she writes women. It’s especially bad in the South Carolina section. I’m not quite sure who started the trend of writing South Carolina ghost stories in a style reminiscent of Margaret Mitchell, but Gee Willikers, I wish they’d stop. It’s especially bad in “Poor Alice Flagg” and “The Tragic Ghost of Fenwick Hall Plantation.” Some whispy young aristocratic thing falls in love with The Wrong Boy and her male relatives decide to put a stop to it. Naturally, that does not end well because we are talking about ghost stories and curses, here. And if they’re not rich and dying of a broken heart, they’re poor and getting burned or hanged to death as a witch (as in “The Curse of Twenty-One”). Women don’t get a lot of agency (or luck) in the stories Wilson chooses. She even manages to reduce the formidable Theodosia Burr to a tragic suicide.

Of course, very few books of this type are entirely worthless. I hadn’t heard about “The Cursed Slave Cabin” at the Brown-Cowles House in Wilkes County before. And the one about the couple who ended up freezing to death in the hills was a new one to me, as well. Plus, she mentions a book I hadn’t run across, yet. But this is definitely one of those cases where you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, even if it’s a great cover.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #22: Ghost Stories In North Carolina: Every Haunted Place In North Carolina (2012)


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Mosley, Sean. Ghost Stories In North Carolina: Every Haunted Place In North Carolina. Booktango, 2012.


In light of the fact that this ebook (solely found on Google Books, for some reason) is only 59 pages long and only has 22 stories in it, I think that after three weeks’ worth of North Carolina ghost story book reviewing, we can all conclude the subtitle is both wildly optimistic and inaccurate. Yes, the author also discusses these stories as examples of folklore tropes, but the other examples he lists don’t even come close to the grand total North Carolina has (I suspect the true number may top five hundred, or even a thousand, but don’t quote me on that). I’ve got a trilogy by Daniel Barefoot on my pile, called “The Haunted Hundred,” that includes one story for each of North Carolina’s hundred counties. And even that’s just a survey collection.

So, yeah, this book is not comprehensive.

I’ll give Mosley points for covering as much territory as possible in a short space. There are no witch tales, ghost ship legends, myths about Judaculla, ghost stories about the Capitol building in Raleigh, or bootlegger yarns, but he does manage to include many of the most famous NC tales, from the Maco Light to Boojum to Lydia’s Bridge. He also especially likes Devil tales. This naturally perked me up, considering my present research focus.

For the most part, Mosley doesn’t embellish all that much. He tells the tale, but he largely sticks to what’s already in the legend. Then he concludes a section by picking apart its origins, its development, and what historical basis it may or may not have. In this, he’s reasonably consistent and efficient.

There are also places where his tendency to make lists proves useful and informative. For example, in his section on the Moon Eyed People (a legendary group from Cherokee folklore), he also mentions the Nunnehi (whom I’ve discussed in a previous review) and the Yunwi Tsunsdi (whom I had not previously heard about).

In his section on the Devil’s Tramping Ground, he talks about the Reformation era Scotch-Irish tendency to name natural features after the Devil (my research indicates it’s a bit more complicated than that, but yes, that’s one possible source), and lists several such features in the NC landscape.

He also gives a short version of the literary bibliography of Virginia Dare (the first English child born in North America in the Lost Colony) and how she became known as a ghostly white doe. And he discusses one of the popularizers of the Little Red Man legend, Richard Walser’s, influence on the growth of that story.

Unfortunately, the text could have used a good edit. There are numerous spelling and grammatical errors. Some of the formatting is wonky, though whether that’s my computer having issues with Google Books, I couldn’t say. Also, the black-and-white cover lacks context and seems a bit blah.

Overall, though, the typesetting is easy to read and the book is worth a look for the extra details and connections Mosley brings to these oft-told tales.


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