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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #16: Haunted Uwharries (2009)


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Morgan, Fred T. Haunted Uwharries: Ghost Stories, Witch Tales and Other Happenings from North America’s Oldest Mountains. Bandit Books, 2009.


Fred T. Morgan classifies himself as a storyteller. He’s still with us and lives in Albemarle, NC, running a B&B where you can stay the night and interview him or listen to him tell his stories. Yes, I am saving my pennies.

Morgan’s big focus is the region of the Uwharries. This one is part of a series about the area. The Uwharrie Mountains are a low and ancient mountain range, half a billion years old, in the Piedmont (central) area of North Carolina. Once higher than the Rockies, this heavily wooded range is now a series of rolling hills barely topping a thousand feet. For comparison, the Appalachians are about twenty million years younger, with the Rockies being 55-80 million years old and the Himalayas a mere 55 million years old. The area boasts its own National Forest.

As with many such ancient places, the Uwharries are a region that seems to brood and brim with secrets. A lot of the stories in here follow well-known folkloric tropes of NC and the South: a headless man chasing a hapless tramp out of an abandoned witch house, a particularly chilling and brutal Bluebeard of the Uwharries who dispatched his seven terrified wives with their own knitting needles, the siren of Rocky River who lures unstable musicians to their doom, a ghost child who asks for a ride and then turns into an enormous monster that breaks down mules, the crying ghost of a baby buried beneath a hearth, more than one shapeshifting witch, a hermit, a girl frightened to death by accidentally staking her dress to a grave, and so on. An entire section, in fact, is dedicated to witch tales. All of these are garnished by clear and evocative black-and-white illustrations by Tim Rickard.

Morgan tells these stories as if they are actual stories (much like Nancy Roberts) rather than recountings of local history or legends (as Morgan claims they are in his introduction). There is at least one that is historical, retelling the local stories surrounding the area’s experience of the massive 1886 earthquake of Charleston, SC. Some of the entries in the final section, though (such as the tale of an enchanted pipe whose smoke can show strange new worlds or the morality tale about Lucifer the crow), seem entirely fictional.

Some are also just plain funny, like the tale of the drunken turkeys (from still mash) who are accidentally plucked by a housewife who thought they were dead. They then give everyone a scare when they show up on the doorstep, naked and hungover, but very much alive.

Morgan spins a good yarn (particularly memorable are the monster baby and the skilled horsewoman who takes revenge on the creepy suitor/stalker who murdered her) and some of these are new. There’s a Phantom Hitchhiker tale of an old woman who walks along a lonely stretch of dirt track with her laundry on her head until a traveling preacher takes pity on her and picks her up. In another traveling preacher tale, the minister takes home a grieving mother whom he finds lying on her dead baby’s grave, only to find when he gets there that she, too, has died. He was giving a ride to a ghost. In another traveler tale, visiting midwives are felt up over the bedclothes by a ghost in a haunted porch room (an exterior room of the porch made up for visitors in old country houses).

There are also several tales about African Americans back in the day, such as Celia Easely and her husband Old Free Harry, who once worked their way up to owning 400 acres in the Uwharries during the 19th century. Then there’s the odd story of Old John, an old man with a magic ball who may have originally come from Ancient Egypt.

One of the creepiest is the very strange tale about the squeaky pines of Rocky Hill Road in Rocky River. Those passing by a certain spot in their carts would see the ghost of a hanged man before being accosted by three witches and five goblins, intent on murder. A country doctor on an emergency call finally busted through with his assistant. This apparently broke the spell, but for years afterward, people saw three crows harassing five field mice in the area. One theory advanced in the story is that the goblins were the ghosts of five slaves who once lynched a cruel slave master and the witches were the ghosts of the slave master’s sisters, who sought revenge on the slaves, but never got it in life. But in truth, the mystery is never fully explained. It’s just straight-up creepy.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #15: The “Wettest & Wickedest Town” (Salisbury, NC) (2011)


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Lilly-Bowyer, Karen C. The “Wettest & Wickedest” Town: An Illustrated Guide to the Legends & Ghosts of Salisbury, North Carolina. Frank Chodl, photos. 2011.


I was pleased to find this book while attending a conference in Salisbury a couple of years ago. It’s the kind of local, indie book that is very hard to find outside of its own location. You’d probably have to call the South Main Book Company in Salisbury (where I bought the book) to get a copy. It’s self-published (with the ring-binder, that shows), and it’s short (73 pages), but the sepia photographs look really nice on glossy paper and there are ghost stories here you won’t find anywhere else.

You know a town has a pretty dark history when one of the ugliest “legends” (an extremely notorious group lynching that put Salisbury on the map for a time in the worst possible way) is just cold, hard fact. There’s a lot more to Salisbury than that, but the chilling unsolved ax murder of a family and the three unfortunate men whose lynching for the crime made international news in 1906 is probably its most famous tale. As with most lynchings during this time period, race was a major factor and the real murderers of the family (possibly the oldest two children, who survived) got away with it, as did the mob. At least, in a court of law. In the court of international opinion, Salisbury was thoroughly condemned.

The crime still resonates today. Just this year, the town council has been considering two resolutions that themselves thoroughly condemn the lynching and they’ve generated a lot of controversy, even in 2018.

The tree is still there.

But there are other tales, too. There are 14 in all from the author’s ghost tours in Salisbury. Though some of them follow folkloric tropes (such as the ghost of a little girl spotted in an upstairs window in the Wrenn House), you’re not likely to see very many in other collections. For example, there’s the quote used in the title. Salisbury began as a county courthouse and a tavern (known as an “ordinary”) in 1755. A century later, it had so many whiskey distilleries, saloons and whorehouses that it was considered “the ‘Wettest and Wickedest’ town in the state.” Prohibition had little effect on the town other than to drive its activities underground.

The Sessions House, on land once owned by the rich slave trader Maxwell Chambers, is built over the family graveyard and belongs to a nearby church. It’s speculated Chambers felt guilt late in life about his profession and wanted a connection to the church, but why are the graves under the house and covered by stone slabs? The author floats a more sinister theory – that Chambers feared the family’s bodies would be stolen by medical students looking for cadavers.

Unsurprisingly, the local cemeteries get an entry (some going back to the 18th century). In addition to being the cemetery for a former Confederate prison, one also has possible Masonic graves. Lutheran Cemetery has an odd ring around one tree of permanently trampled earth, reminiscent of the Devil’s Tramping Ground in Chatham County. The author also mentions legends of pirates and of tunnels under the town (some of which may actually have existed as escape tunnels from the prison).

All in all, Salisbury has a fascinating history and folklore. Even Lilly-Bowyer admits that this book just scratches the surface of the folklore, but it’s a good effort that adds some unique material to the North Carolina collection of ghost stories.


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Halloween in North Carolina: Day 14: Best Ghost Tales of North Carolina (2006; 2011)


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Zepke, Terrance. Best Ghost Tales of North Carolina. 2nd ed. Pineapple Press, Inc., 2006; 2011.


General wisdom would indicate that unless you’re a completist like me, you should try anything which has “best of” in the title in it early on in your reading binge to avoid boredom and repetition. This is true to a certain extent for Best Ghost Tales of North Carolina.

You’ve got a lot of the old standards here, like the Maco Light, Blackbeard, The Devil’s Tramping Ground (which Zepke calls “The Devil’s Stomping Ground”), Lydia’s Bridge, the Brown Mountain Lights, and the mystery of the wreck of the Carroll A. Deering. There are also some lesser-known, but still oft-told stories like the mystery of the death of the Hermit of Fort Fisher, haunted Old Salem Tavern, and Helen’s Bridge, as well as the creepy story of the door that wouldn’t stay closed.

Probably the most original material here is Zepke’s introduction (in which she explains both her background as a ghost hunter and folklorist, and the revisions she’s made to update the 2011 edition), and her chapter on safe and ethical ghost hunting, “How to Conduct a Ghost Hunt.” I highly recommend the latter. There’s a lot of good advice and she even gives a specific recommended equipment list.

By far the creepiest tale of the lot is one I hadn’t heard before: “The Shadow Man” from Big Lick in Stanly County. Man, what is it about Stanly County?

“The Family That Didn’t Exist,” from Cedar Mountain (Transylvania County), is one I had heard before, but Zepke tells quite an eerie rendition of it. This is the story of a man who, long after his wife and children died in an epidemic, continued to have dinner with their ghosts (at least, according to the occasional traveler who stopped by and took shelter with them). As a matter of fact, Zepke is quite a decent storyteller. She also includes some illustrations that will give you a chill.

Zepke is one of the more conscientious when it comes to giving time and place (or at least place) to these stories. Each one is carefully introduced according to town (or unincorporated area) and county. She even gives the reader an index. There aren’t a whole lot of citations in her Resources section, but she beefs them up by annotating each one.

Overall, a pretty worthwhile read for such a slim (and general topic) volume.


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The Official Supernatural: “Stranger in a Strange Land” (14.01-Season Premiere) 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.

Whoo, we’re in season 14. A whole new season for the writers to screw up. So much fun.

Anyhoo, there’s a longish recap of the previous season to AC/DC’s “Shot Down in Flames.” This segues to Sam driving down the road in the Impala, listening to the song on the radio. He turns it off. It’s dark and he has a hiatus beard, but he’s not wearing sunglasses.

Cut to a guy waking up in the Middle East to the early call of the muezzin to dawn prayer (this is the scene from SDCC). It turns out to be the alarm on his cell phone. He gets up in his tiny efficiency apartment, lays out his rug, and starts the prayer (there are subtitles, for verses related to the strict monotheism of Islam). He kneels before an empty chair, but when he rises up, a man is sitting in it. A man dressed like a 1920s gangster and looking like Dean Winchester – alt-Michael. We’ll just go with “Michael” for now, ’cause I’m tired of using the dash all the time.

“Hello, Jamil,” Michael says, apparently in English.

The man – Jamil – is quite shocked and asks who he is. Michael recites a verse from the Quran (in Arabic, of course) about the angels Gabriel and Michael, and his eyes glow blue. Jamil guesses he’s God. “Close, but not quite,” Michael says in clipped tones, sounding vaguely irritated. Jamil then guesses Gabriel. A little more annoyed, Michael says, “The other one. The better one.” Finally, Jamil guesses Michael. “There you go,” Michael says.

Then they have a conversation in which Michael asks Jamil what he wants. Michael says he already knows what he wants, but he’s been going all over the world, asking all sorts of humans, what they want. Now he’s asking Jamil.

Jamil gives the usual response (“peace and love”). Michael smiles at this, but it’s not a nice smile. He points out that if Jamil believed in peace, he wouldn’t have abandoned his friends to death in Syria and if he believed in love, he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife, she wouldn’t have left him, and he wouldn’t be “living in this…rathole.” Furious and humiliated, Jamil attacks him from behind and Michael (eyes glowing again briefly) tosses him across the room without even looking. He calls Jamil “lost.”

Jamil, bloodied, asks, “What do you want?!”

Michael replies, “What I’ve always wanted – a better world.”

Cue pretty new title cards with glowing blue wings.

I have to say that Michael is a lot more interesting so far this season than he was last season and Jensen Ackles seems to be having a blast playing him. Michael’s body language is quite still compared to Dean’s. Alas, I have a feeling we won’t be seeing too much of this, partly to keep from ruining a good, scary villain and equally because the writers just aren’t up to it. But we’ll see.

Back at the Bunker, where Mary is talking with some dude who knows how to make magic bullets of all kinds and Maggie is still acting squeamish about treating bloody wounds (seriously, how did this girl survive the alt-SPNverse?), it seems that the people from the other universe are engaged in Hunting trips against monsters all over the U.S.

Sam comes in and infodumps with Mary about the current situation. It’s three weeks later, and Dean is still in the wind and possessed (obviously). Sam was following an angel sighting in Atlanta (which didn’t pan out). Castiel is in Detroit. Ketch is in London. Sam is getting discouraged (after only three weeks? Suck it up, Sam).

It’s funny that some fans have blamed Dean for saying yes to alt-Michael and making things “worse,” but he really didn’t. Lucifer was going to unmake the SPNverse within a week, starting with Sam and Jack. Three weeks later, Michael is still traveling around, doing research, and hasn’t done much damage so far. Dean sacrificed himself, fell on the possession grenade, to buy everyone else time and so far, it’s worked. The situation won’t last, of course, but he did buy them time.

Sam yawns and Mary is all solicitous (how much has she really been like this with Dean since she came back?). Somebody comes up and says there are some vamps prowling the highway, so Sam orders people out on a Hunt. He then sits down and Mary tells him he needs to sleep, blahblahblah. Sam then asks about Jack, which is an obvious segue.

Jack is getting his ass kicked, is what Jack is doing. It’s a boxing session with Bobby (let’s be frank – he may be from another timeline, but he’s basically Bobby), who is trying to teach Jack how to defend himself. Bobby quotes something about self-defense and Jack thinks it was from Ghandi. Yeah, he has a lot to learn.

Castiel is in a bar waiting for the latest Crowley-lite would-be King of Hell to show up. It’s so obviously a trap that I take some time out to do Other Things around the house and then come back. Yep, it turns out the entire bar is possessed. Not only should Castiel have seen that coming, but he should have literally seen that coming since we’ve known since season four that angels can see demons’ real faces. Ugh. Such lazy writing.

Next, we see Sister Jo leaving a church with money when she hears an angel fly in from behind her and Dean’s voice say, “Hey, Jo.”

Jo immediately thinks it’s Dean (even though she heard the wings) until she turns around and sees someone else inside Dean’s body. She then, horrified, identifies him correctly as an alt-verse Michael with her angel vision. I have to say that this is quite a beautiful and scary image, visually evocative of what kind of coldly inhuman character Michael is without dialogue. You wouldn’t expect mercy from such a creature. Hope they do it some more.

She asks him why Dean Winchester would ever say yes to him. He says, “Love,” which pretty much cinches the writers’ confirmation that Dean made this earth-shaking decision for the “right” reasons, despite the eventual consequences (“love” is always the right motivation on this show). She pretends to be sarcastic about this, but you can see she’s affected.

She then tries to run away and he warns her rather politely not to do that (even if he weren’t so powerful, he has wings and she does not). He then asks her what she wants. She says she wants human riches. He gets annoyed and tells her to stop lying. Apparently miffed because, in her mind, she really wasn’t, she says she’s telling the truth. He says that no, she likes to believe she is a “rebel” and materialistic, but what she really wants is to “belong.” She wants “love.” Michael finds this “very, very human and so disappointing.”

He says that he is well aware the angels are in dire condition in the SPNverse and thought he might “help,” but if they’re all like Jo, he doesn’t see the point. They’re not “worthy.”

I have to say that even allowing for the knowledge that these two are married with children, so it’s not all that surprising, the sexual chemistry between the actors in this scene is really distracting, since it’s fairly obvious the writers don’t intend for Jo to be (or fake being) sexual attracted to Michael the way she did for Lucifer.

Back at the Bunker, Sam is giving discouraged Jack a pep talk in his room. He reassures Jack that he will be able to move on without his powers and it will be okay. This is interrupted by Mary coming in and saying “He’s awake.” Jack still looks discouraged after Sam leaves.

Sam and Mary go to another room, but Mary won’t go in, saying she can’t look at whoever is in there. The person is sitting on a bed on top of a devil’s trap. It turns out to be Nick, very much alive, but still wounded (from the stabbing from DeanMichael that killed Lucifer inside him). He and Sam speculate that the archangel blade is engineered to kill the possessing archangel but leave the vessel alive. Well, that would be a whole lot different from pretty much any other angel blade. It also doesn’t explain why Gabriel’s vessel appears to be quite dead. This is fairly obvious foreshadowing for a possible way to rescue Dean (assuming they can find another archangel to stab Michael, or for Dean to regain control and stab himself), but I have a sneaking suspicion the Michael storyline will eventually end up with some Michael stuck in Heaven, powering it back up permanently. Then again, even Michael and Jo haven’t discussed that in detail and it doesn’t appear that Sam & Co. know about it.

I’ve seen unhappiness on Twitter about this storyline, but as I’ve said in the past, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to see Nick again (Crowley’s dialogue about boosting up Lucifer’s vessel is just vague enough that he could have resurrected Nick and just kept him comatose). The character has two pretty major reasons for PTSD (his wife and baby’s deaths, and what Lucifer did using his body) and isn’t played out the way Lucifer was. He was barely introduced before he said yes. There’s stuff to mine there. And I like Mark Pellegrino as much as the next fan. He’s a good actor who’s quite capable of mining it.

My main concern is that the writers are using this as a way of reintroducing Lucifer after a pause. If there’s one character I never, ever, ever want to see again at this point, it’s Lucifer.

Sam interviews Nick about what he remembers from Lucifer. Nick says that he remembers nothing useful about Dean’s whereabouts and all he knows about Michael’s plan is that he told Lucifer he wanted to do things right this time. Oh, yay. That doesn’t sound ominous, or anything.

Sam then gets a call from the demon who has kidnapped Castiel. The demon tells Sam that they need to talk or Castiel will die. So, Sam has to go take care of that.

It’s interesting that a lot of the chatter I’ve seen on social media talks about what a great leader Sam is now and how well he handles things in this episode in Dean’s absence. But I’m more struck by the differences and how much Sam is bogged down by housekeeping duties when he should be triaging the situation better.

Dean is by no means perfect (hell, that’s why he’s so fun to watch and relateable), but he is, as his own brother has stated many times (and been backed up by others) a genius of a true leader. In Sam’s place, Dean would be putting out some fires, too, it’s true, and he’d definitely be leading from the front. But he would also have a laser focus on the main goal – stopping Michael. He wouldn’t lose that focus, either.

Sam wants to find his brother, and I think he’s quite dedicated to that goal, but in the process of dealing with all the different pieces on the chessboard, he seems to have lost focus on the fact that there is a worldkilling archangel out there that needs to be dealt with three weeks ago. Instead of having every single person in the Bunker deal with the Michael problem, Sam is actually draining his resources by having people go out on minor hunts (and how alt-SPNverse humans would know how to navigate in the SPNverse is a big old plothole, anyway).

It’s almost as if a part of him is relying on Dean to somehow keep a rein on Michael from inside until Sam and his team find him (and there are some hints that may even be possible), but it’s shortsighted to do that. If Dean can’t stall or hold back Michael, then everyone else is completely on Michael’s disturbingly inhuman timetable and that’s not good.

If Dean is Julius Caesar, then Sam is Mark Antony.

Sam recruits a team consisting of himself, Mary, Bobby and Maggie (no, I have no idea why, either). Call them Team Free Will: The Expansion Pack. Jack wants to come, too, and Sam agrees over Bobby’s objections. Oh, come on, Bobby, you guys are already taking Maggie. How much worse could Jack be than her?

At the bar, the demon explains in excruciating detail to Castiel that he is bait so the demon can get something from Sam. Castiel does try to warn him that Sam won’t do a deal with him, but the demon has apparently not heard about all the CRD’s Sam has killed (this is a BED). In the previous scene, the demon had made a crack about Destiel being a thing and Castiel hadn’t exactly disagreed.

Castiel wonders what the demon really wants and, lo and behold (without mentioning the archangel’s name, unfortunately for Castiel), the demon has been visited by Michael and asked what he wanted. The demon now says he wants “everything.”

This brings up two interesting points – Michael apparently isn’t killing the people he visits, and he’s asking questions of more than humans and angels. The first is really important because while we know Michael doesn’t kill without reason, we’ve also seen that he has found a whole lot of reasons to kill. And it would be sensible to kill those he asks so they can’t rat on him to Sam or anyone else. It would also have been sensible (in the way Michael thinks) to kill both Sam and Jack in the church after stabbing Lucifer. But he didn’t do that, either. So, it makes one wonder how much real control he has over his vessel who, strictly speaking, only ever gave conditional consent. And is his control growing or receding?

The second point isn’t fully developed, yet. Let’s see where that goes.

Driving through the night, Bobby reassures Jack that the alt-SPNverse humans are still grateful for everyone he saved back in their ‘verse and that they still believe in him. Jack seems to perk up a little about this.

Sam is less sanguine about Mary’s pep talk in the Impala. He worries what Michael is doing to Dean, or if Michael has perhaps even burned Dean out and moved on to another vessel (he’s the Michael Sword, dummy; there aren’t any other vessels). Mary brings him up short, saying that Dean is out there “alone and scared.” She starts to choke up a bit as she says that she has to hope things will turn out okay and they’ll find Dean because she can’t afford to “drown in the bad.” This is actually a good scene between the two of them, and well-acted, showing their guilt and grief and concern without quite spelling it out ad nauseam. This mission is as much about redemption for them both as rescue.

They arrive that morning where Castiel is being held. Sam gives Mary the Spork before going into the bar, reasoning that they will search him. Indeed they do and Crowley-lite smarms all over him, trying to butter him up. Sam blows him off to check on Castiel, who says he’s okay.

Crowley-lite introduces himself as Kipling (“Kip for short”), as we get a bit of eye-rolling virtue signalling from Dabb. As Sam demands to know what he wants, Kip says he warned Sam to come alone. Other demons bring in Jack and Maggie, then beat them up a bit. Sam does his damnedest not to let on that the two genuinely competent Hunters remain in ambush.

So, Kip monologues a bit. We find out he’s been 600 years topside and has been a very naughty boy. He was an even naughtier boy in life during the 12th century, riding with Genghis Khan. He preens and brags and gets annoyed (though he never seems terribly dangerous) when Sam balks at doing a deal with him. Kip wants the “deal” Crowley had with the Winchesters (pretty hard to do that with Dean not there, Kip, just sayin’) and Sam says there was no deal. Kip says that Hell is in a bind, since it’s without a King for the first time in a very long time and he wants to be King. Sam says no. Then all (slowmo) Hell breaks loose.

Mary and Bobby burst in through the door. Bobby is shooting a machine gun. Mary has a pistol. She tosses the Spork to Sam, though she also has an angel blade, with which she dispatches a demon. Bobby gets some of the demons with his gun, but then gets it knocked out of his hands. Sam goes after Kip, but gets TKed into a wall. All this with that annoying “let’s slowmo this Kodak kill moment” stuff that’s so popular lately. Jack tells Maggie to stay under the table they just dived beneath and goes to help. This does not go well. He quickly gets punched out, though he does distract the demons kicking Bobby.

Mary gives Maggie an angel blade, then gets tackled by a demon in a female host. The demon starts choking her, but then gets stabbed by Maggie. As Mary and Maggie wrestle with some of the remaining demons, Sam gets the crap beaten out of him, but finally manages to stab Kip when Kip is distracted by admiring the Spork he’s holding.

It occurs to me that Dean probably could have cleaned up most of the bar all by himself, starting with Kip. This is a very choppy fight and Castiel keeps disappearing as he watches helplessly. Remember how well Cain was integrated into the fight Dean had with three demons? Yeah, not like that.

Anyhoo, once Sam stabs Kip, he yells at the other demons and they stop in shock. He tells them there won’t be any new King of Hell, ever, and come-at-me-bro-demon if any of them want to argue. Instead, they all smoke out.

Oh, and none of them ever finds out that Kip talked to Michael.

Back at the Bunker, a battered Castiel apologizes to a battered Sam. Sam says it’s no big deal. He would have tried the same thing, too, if he’d thought of it first. They infodump about Ketch in London (no mention of the LOL), looking for the egg that tossed Lucifer out of the POTUS, but not finding it.

Castiel then goes to give Jack a pep talk while Jack mopes about how he’s “useless.” Castiel thinks Jack’s grace should regenerate eventually (though can’t he still fly? Hello?), but Jack doesn’t know what to be without his powers.

Meanwhile, Mary and Bobby are enjoying a beer. Called that one last season.

Sam, back in his (Dean’s?) room, gets a call from a mysterious number. It’s Sister Jo, saying they need to talk. Guess she’s finally choosing sides.

Meanwhile, Michael has found someone “worth saving.” It’s a vampire. Remember that second point I talked about? Michael’s going with the monsters.

Credits.

This wasn’t as bad as it sounded on Twitter. Sam actually made plenty of mistakes and he’s no Dean Winchester. And TFW:TEP is no TFW, either 1.0 or 2.0. That was more interesting to watch than the SuperSammy who has everything go his way crap that they’ve done in the past. Also, yay for Mary finally getting organic stuff to do besides run away from her sons.

And I like watching Michael, even if some of his characterization and motivation doesn’t work too well in light of last season (why would he focus on vampires now when he ignored them pretty literally to death in the alt-SPNverse?). He’s interesting to watch and quite scary (Ackles really knocks it out of the park). Also, powerful and deliberate enough not to rush his EVOL World Rebuilding Plan. After all, it took 13 billion years to work through the previous one. Too bad the show apparently cut down the little screentime he already had (his first scene was reportedly longer at SDCC, if the audio out there is any indication).

Dean’s absence is keenly felt in this one, though, especially in the fight scene. And I don’t particularly like the idea of using Michael vampires because the show has overdone that MOTW. I guess we’ll see.

Anyhoo, we’ll see what happens next week. Ratings were not wonderful (a 0.5/2 and 1.49 million, which tied it for second for the week with Riverdale and only 10 thousand behind in audience), but still good for the way the CW is shaping up so far this season. There’s a promo for 14.02 out here.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #13: Witchcraft in North Carolina (1919)


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’ll be posting notes about my research all month long on Patreon.


Cross, Tom Peete. “Witchcraft in North Carolina.” Studies in Philology, 16:3 (Jul. 1919): 217-287. Reprinted Forgotten Books, 2018.


This is the second-oldest of the books that I’m reviewing this month and it, too, is technically an article. But it is a very important article that is nearly as long as a book in pages, and easily packs enough for any three regular ghost story collections. It is dense. It is arcane. It is well-researched. Though obviously dated (having come out in 1919), it has footnote sections that are two-thirds the length of the page. But in those footnotes, you will find some stories that may well make you want to read with all the lights on.

“Witchcraft in North Carolina” is a very comprehensive study of its subject. Also, unlike many academic articles, it firmly places its regional topic within the larger subject of witchcraft with a brief history and overview of that subject up to that point in time (99 years ago). This is quite useful, for Virginian folklorist and Celtic scholar Tom Peete Cross (1879-1951) holds to the theory that all witchcraft is based on the concept of maleficium – that some people have the power to do magic that can both help and harm others. The ones who do harm are called “witches,” though the line can be very blurred between helpers and harmers.

Stuart McDonald, Canadian author of The Witches of Fife: Witch-Hunting in a Scottish Shire, 1560-1710 (2002), would argue there is also an element in which political and religious elites use witchcraft charges to root out and eliminate “heretical” dissent. Hence why I reviewed this article today. Today is the 711th anniversary of the arrest (for heresy) of the Knights Templar in France. Their subsequent multi-year trial became an exemplar for later trials during the witchcrazes, even though the Templars had been tried as heretics (and the results were ultimately and officially inconclusive). The witch accusation evolved out of the heresy accusation.

There was certainly this “heresy” element in the Salem Trials (and previous Puritan witch trials) of 1692. However, North Carolina was a very different area. North Carolinians were notoriously irreligious early on and had a different mix of Europeans, Africans and Native Americans than New England. From what I’ve seen in my research, the more humble maleficium was pretty much what you got in NC.

That doesn’t mean that witches were treated better than in Puritan New England, but “conjurers,” were perhaps tolerated more. One really intriguing element is how Cross notes that the distinction between “witch” and “ghost” is fairly meaningless in North Carolina. In NC folklore, witches are not human, but are spirits or demons, already.

So, a story like “The Witch Cat” can have versions where a house is haunted variously by witches (in the form of a black cat) or ghosts, and the ghosts are usually a headless man. The Headless Man in Celtic folklore is actually a fairy (themselves often conflated with the unbaptized dead) called a Dullahan, a very dark member of the Unseelie Court whose appearance invariably signals death – except when the story is mixed up with a dead man’s ghost who is seeking to give away his hidden treasure to a worthy person. Yeah, folklore mutates like that.

Witches in NC folklore are also adept shapeshifters, usually appearing as a black cat or a sow or a black dog. Black dogs (also known as “black shucks“) have their whole own sinister folklore from the British Isles that connects them to fairies, as well, but they can be found all over the world. The measures traditionally used against a witch indicate a cringe-worthy and grim history of extreme animal abuse, especially against black cats. But curiously, there are also traditions where cats shouldn’t be harmed, especially if they are black.

Overall, while this is definitely an academic article and it’s definitely aged, “Witchcraft in North Carolina” is worth a read if you are looking for material for your own stories or want to find out more about NC folklore and its origins. I’ve included a link to it, but there are other, free versions available around the internet, since it’s now well out of copyright.


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The Official Supernatural: “Exodus” (13.22) 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.

Okay [cracks knuckles]. Let’s blow through this one and get to the season premiere.

So, we start with an overly long and detailed recap (two minutes) of the season so far. And we come back to Now, which is Sam getting hugged by Mary, while Dean asks him how he got away. Sam admits that Lucifer brought him back.

Lucifer, of course, immediately starts humble-bragging about what a great guy he is and immediately sidles up to a confused Jack. This sparks an instant custody battle between Dean and Castiel on one side and Lucifer on the other (Sam is conspicuously silent). Jack loses it and flies off, leaving them all behind.

Cue title cards.

Gabriel goes after Jack, while Dean yells at Lucifer. Lucifer claims he’s an ally now and he’s even beaten Michael once (as if!). No one believes him. To “prove” his point, Lucifer lets Castiel slap some demonic cuffs on him. Lucifer also tells them that he left Rowena enough grace for about 31 hours left of rift-time. So, Sam sets a clock. Yay. Flash to Rowena at the Bunker, getting a migraine trying to keep the thing open.

Sam apologizes to Dean for bringing Lucifer along. Dean tells him it’s fine, since Dean thought he was dead and now he’s alive again. Dean hugs him. Then they discuss Lucifer and Sam insists he will take care of Lucifer. Dean looks skeptical. Well, we all know how that turned out.

Jack, exhausted from flying around, leans against a tree trunk and recaps his entire friggin’ biography, hitting mostly on the mistakes. Bored now.

As Castiel is dragging him past her, Lucifer unwisely decides to taunt Mary (because that went so well with Rowena). She punches him in the face. Her sons, coming in from stage left, express appreciation.

That appreciation turns a bit sour when she tells them she’s staying in the alt-SPNverse to save a bunch of people she hardly knows. Both brothers protest (especially Dean), but she seems adamant. Oh, Mary, you can be such a bitch, sometimes.

Sam decides to break the deadlock by suggesting they bring everyone back. I’m not quite sure why Mary was so concerned about supplies before, because it turns out there are only 25 people in the camp. Jeez, a couple of episodes ago, she was acting as though they had hundreds. If you’re wondering why the writing got so linear, especially in favor of making Sam look like a Big Damn Hero for not much effort, and why the pacing drags with so much filler, yep, this is a Nepotism Duo script.

Jack comes back, just as Lucifer is trying to manipulate Castiel. Castiel tries to dissuade Jack from having conversation with Lucifer. It doesn’t go particularly well. Jack insists on talking to Lucifer and Lucifer immediately turns on the charm. Jack’s first question is “Why does everyone hate you?”

Lucifer whines and downplays and blames humans, though he falters a bit when Jack brings up his own mother. Lucifer is awfully persuasive and manages to make it seem as though he is the victim. The monologue goes on long enough for me to say “Y’all aren’t Shakespeare, Buckner and Ross-Leming. Wrap it up.”

Sure enough, Jack decides to be persuades by Lucifer’s greasy buttering up. And then they all walk out to the rift because it’s not as though they’ve got two archangels and a naphil who could fly everyone to the rift, one by one, pretty much instantly. Oh, wait.

Gabriel is getting chased by a group of angels (speaking of characters with wings not using them). He warns everyone and the two groups face off. Then Lucifer wastes the angel squad because it turns out the demonic cuffs don’t work on him in the alt-SPNverse. For convenient plot reasons.

Man, I hate recapping Nepotism Duo episodes.

So, after that damp squib of a conflict, everyone arrives at alt-Bobby’s. Alt-Bobby remembers the Brothers, is strangely nice to them, and generally protests far too much that he’s not basically Bobby resurrected. Okeydoke.

We hear that Ketch and alt-Charlie have gone off to hunt down some angel squad that’s executing Resistance members. Any excuse that keeps any version of Charlie off my screen is fine by me.

Lucifer is still shmoozing Jack with his own, weird distorted version of family history and Jack’s illustrious family tree. He tries to get Gabriel to play along, but Gabriel calls him out on it and stalks off.

Unfortunately, we “get” to see Ketch and alt-Charlie’s raid, such as it is (she gets herself easily captured and Ketch, completely out of character, gives up his weapon and surrenders). Morticia Addams channels my feelings, both about Charlie and The Cat in the Hat: “Oh, no. She lives.”

Sam, Dean and Mary are engaged in a recruitment speech for bringing people back so they can get some lore and return to beat alt-Michael when alt-Bobby magically gets news that alt-Charlie and Ketch were captured. How this news got back, let alone so quickly, and why the two of them were out there on a raid alone in the first place are not questions that are about to be answered. So, we’ll move on. The important thing here is that while Ketch is getting the crap beaten out of him and alt-Charlie is looking upset while tied to a chair, the Brothers decide to go rescue them. Because clearly, they don’t already have enough on their plate and alt-Bobby’s crew are clueless. Gee, if only they had some people on their side with wings – oh, wait.

Now, keep in mind that this is the second-to-last episode of the season, and the show really doesn’t have room for extra storylines. So, of course, now is the perfect time to bring all the plot momentum to a screeching halt so that we can have Ketch and alt-Charlie meet…wait for it, now…the alt-SPNverse version of Castiel. You heard me. And how do you know he’s EVOL!Cas? Because Misha Collins uses a really bad German accent and sneers a lot.

That’s good, because back at base camp, Dean is having Our!Cas torture the guy who set up Ketch and alt-Charlie into giving up their location. We surely don’t want to be confused, or anything.

Gabriel and Lucifer are told (by Dean) to stay back at the camp in case any angels come by. Because I’m sure they wouldn’t be useful on this raid, or anything, what with having wings. Gabriel tells Lucifer some cold, hard truths about Jack, that “he’s a kid; he likes shiny objects and magic tricks,” but that he is also fundamentally different from Lucifer. Whether it’s his human blood or his human upbringing, Jack is probably already mostly beyond Lucifer’s corruptive influence.

Lucifer insists he’s changed. Gabriel mocks this, pointing out he’s known Lucifer since the world began. Lucifer doesn’t love or feel empathy for anyone. And Chuck didn’t lock him up because Chuck was mean, but because Chuck realized he was a cancer of evil that would spread. Gabriel says that Lucifer was jealous of humans because Chuck loved them more than he loved Lucifer. He says it’s too late for Lucifer to change and he walks away.

Back to the interrogation, in which EVOL!Cas goes on and on and on a lot more about what a stone-cold badass alt-Charlie is, while Felicia Day gives off waves of scared fluffy-bunny vibes. He then basically does the same thing Our!Cas did to the guy back at base camp until the lights go out, and alt-Charlie screams a whole lot.

Damn, if I weren’t recapping this, I’d totally be FFing this whole scene. Well, soldiering through….

So, as EVOL!Cas runs outside to something-something, Jack takes out the guards, while Mary and her sons burst in and kill all the angels guarding the prisoners. Because angels totally can’t fly, anymore – oh, wait. Dean helps Ketch, while Sam helps alt-Charlie. Sam hugs a startled alt-Charlie (who seems none the worse for wear from her torture) and Ketch snarks about Dean saving him instead of the other way round.

Outside, Our!Cas catches up with EVOL!Cas and, after some banter about how they’re the same, dispatches him with an angel blade. Which makes sense in an interdimensional Circle of Life sort of way. I guess.

Back at the camp, Bobby tells the Brothers that everyone voted to go with them (well, wouldn’t you?). Now, the problem is how to get them there. Gee, if only they had some people in their ranks who could fly – YES, I KNOW IT’S A PLOTHOLE, BUT AT LEAST ADDRESS IT, SHOW.

Dean spots a bus at the edge of camp. Even though they have just a few hours left, Dean has it running by daylight. Because of course he does. And they only have half an hour and a half left (based on Lucifer’s seriously inexact estimate), but they can totally drive there in time. What tunnel full of vampires? That was so last episode.

So, Jack decides to waste even more time saying he’s going to go kill alt-Michael and check that off his To Do list, first. Sam and Lucifer talk him out of it. Kid, when the Devil is giving you good advice, you’ve really been heading in the wrong direction.

We then get an extended montage of the caravan driving through the woods because I guess the Nepotism Duo couldn’t stretch the melodrama quite enough to fill the run time (they even waste time on an obnoxious “bitches” line from alt-Charlie before she goes through the rift. So much hate). In the Bunker, an exhausted Rowena is saying a spell that extends the time for the rift to last. People start heading through, though not the people she expects, at first.

Back in the alt-SPNverse, alt-Michael arrives unexpectedly (okay, maybe only because nobody mentioned he might be coming). His landing kills most of the remaining redshirts, including at least one who had lines earlier. Maggie has gone through and a lot of other people. Gabriel decides to stay behind because he’s tired of running and Sam has been pushing Lucifer back. Lucifer fights alt-Michael first and gets his ass kicked. Gabriel tries and gets stabbed to death (though whether this is any more real than last time? Who knows?). Dean is horrified when he sees Gabriel get stabbed, but Sam urges him to go through the rift.

Sam has hung back for a reason. As Lucifer tries to follow him, he shoves him back to the ground, saying “How’d you think this was gonna end?” And then he goes through the rift. Alt-Michael tries to rush after them, but (presumably, after Sam yelled at Rowena to close it on the other side), the rift evaporates. Lucifer is trapped on the other side with alt-Michael.

Welp, that was mighty cold of Sam and I don’t blame him a bit.

At the Bunker, it’s Miller Time, though Jack is sad about . Sam tells Rowena he owes her (and she insists she will “collect”). She regrets not being able to leave the rift open any longer, so I guess Sam didn’t warn her to close it.

Dean mopes to Sam and Castiel about Gabriel’s death. When Castiel asks Dean about Lucifer, Dean calmly replies, “Sam handled it.” Oooh. Ice cold. Not only did Sam intentionally ditch Lucifer on the other side, but he and Dean had planned it beforehand.

Alt-Bobby gives a speech (because we’re still short a few minutes of air time) about their fallen redshirt comrades (who apparently don’t merit names), and how they’re gonna get strong and go back to the alt-SPNverse and kick it in the ass. Then he proposes a toast to the Brothers Winchester.

Too bad that deadline’s about to be rushed. On the other side of the rift, Gabriel is still dead, but Lucifer is alive and telling alt-Michael all about the spell to go through the rift (isn’t it the same one alt-Michael got from Kevin? Pretty sure it is). They make a deal. Lucifer will get his son and alt-Michael will get “everything else.”

Credits

Of course, I’ve already recapped the season finale here.

Alas, this one took me a while (as I said, Nepotism Duo episodes are a bit of a slog), so I’ll have to tackle the season premiere tomorrow evening. I do have it, though, so that shouldn’t be a problem.


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The Official Supernatural: “Beat the Devil” (13.21) Live Recap Thread


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

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 basically of the whole Get Lucifer plot and the gathering together of allies against alt-Michael. Cut to NOW and Dean eating a seventh slice of pizza around the Bunker map table while Mary teases him, and Castiel and Jack count his pieces. Sam follows Mary out to the kitchen, helping her carry boxes. She thanks him for coming after her and Jack. And then he wakes up. Obviously, it was a dream, but after the recap, it’s a tad jarring and not in a good way.

Later, there is infodumping in the Bunker as everyone waits for Gabriel to pull out some more grace (while in Dean’s room, no less). But Gabriel isn’t able to produce quite enough and the rift Rowena creates quickly wilts (far, far, far too many impotence jokes in this scene).

So, now what? Castiel states the obvious. They have to find Lucifer and get at least some of his grace.

Cue title cards.

We come back to Sam being mighty unhappy about this new chain of events, but for once, someone is willing to tell him to suck it up. Castiel tells Sam that he, too, let Lucifer in. And it was painful and horrible and invasive and a big mistake. But the fact of the matter is that he and Sam both let Lucifer out of the Cage and now he’s their responsibility. Sam has no snarky response to this and, also for once, Dean doesn’t rush to his defense. So, Sam has to pull on his Big Boy pants and go with the plan. But they’re still stuck with the 24-hour limit, until Sam figures something out.

In the Library, Gabriel and Rowena are alone together for apparently the first time. He lamely tries to explain that he normally has a lot more grace than that. She snarks back at him about impotence (really, what is it with this line of “comedy”?). They start making cow eyes at each other and before you know it, TFW is returning to Rowena and Gabriel getting jiggy behind a column. The reaction shots are priceless (especially Castiel, who just looks at the floor).

Dean just says, “Sam has a plan.”

At a bar, somewhere, Lucifer is trying mighty hard to get drunk. He rambles at the bartender about how he can’t sense his son, anymore, and he’s totally done with the whole conflict between Heaven and Hell. When the bartender mentions Jack’s name, Lucifer becomes suspicious. But then he also becomes woozy.

Lo and behold, the bartender turns into Gabriel. Then Rowena shows up. A groggy Lucifer giggles that he’s killed them both, yet here they are. It turns out that Rowena spelled the latest bottle Gabriel gave to Lucifer. Then she magically binds him. Lucifer whines to Gabriel to just kill him, but Gabriel knocks him out, instead.

Back in the Bunker, Lucifer wakes up to all of the people he’s spent the most time tormenting. Sam infodumps that they are going to slowly drain Lucifer’s grace to keep the portal open as long as they need to get Jack and Mary back. So, Sam, Dean, Castiel and Gabriel go through (interestingly enough, Dean is last and he throws Lucifer a cold look as he passes by him). Rowena stays behind to maintain the spell and keep an eye on Lucifer. I’m sure this will end well.

There’s a pretty stupid moment when they pass through and go down a hillside. Only Dean manages the entry with class. Gabriel, for a bit of low comedy, ends up with his face in Castiel’s crotch. Castiel concentrates and decides they’re in former-Kentucky (which actually looks quite unspoiled, all things considered). So, they head north.

I know Castiel doesn’t have wings, anymore, but I don’t quite get why Gabriel doesn’t just transport everyone. Give him a shot of Lucifer’s grace and he still has his wings, you know? Are they worried about staying under the angel radar? It’s never explained.

Back in the Bunker, Lucifer taunts Rowena about being the women staying behind. When this fails (after all, she knows he’s not going to be the one to kill her), he starts singing minstrel songs (“Camptown Ladies,” to be exact). Berens, I’m embarrassed for you.

In the alt-SPNverse, Castiel tells Gabriel about the Heaven situation and Naomi’s offer (uh…has he told this to Sam and Dean, yet?). Gabriel says he doesn’t think they’ll want him back, since he’s a screw-up. Castiel points out that the previous administration ran Heaven into the ground, so maybe a screw-up would work better.

Meanwhile, Dean is commenting on how Sam seems so much “lighter.” Okay, now, Dean was drinking again last episode and now Sam is talking about how everything is coming up roses. Do we have a (temporary, of course) Winchester death coming up here?

Anyhoo, Sam asks, isn’t Dean happy that they’re so close? Dean doesn’t say anything. Uh-oh.

Suddenly, they hear a woman scream and a man shouting in the distance. Gabriel keeps saying, “Not our world, not our problem, right, guys?” but nobody’s listening. The Brothers go toward the sound and find two people fighting off a crazed vampire. After some beheading, they question them. The girl, Maggie, says they were heading north with seven other people through the Morehead Tunnel to Dayton. But they got caught in a nest of vamps and only the two of them escaped. The monsters are all starving because the angels killed off so many humans, so they’ve lost all ability to reason. Maggie says they could go around, but the pass takes a lot longer. The entire conversation sounds like Plot Couponing at a D&D game.

Gabriel points out that it also is safer (and what the hell happened with his wings?), but Sam starts shmoozing them about they don’t have time and how his group has encountered many vampires before. Vampires don’t scare them. Oh, dear, Sam. Do shut up. You’re not the brother who spent a year in Purgatory.

Back at the Bunker, Lucifer has found Rowena’s pressure point – bragging about the last time he nearly killed her. She finally breaks and comes over in a rage. But she has some taunts of her own. She tells him TFW is currently reuniting with his son in the alt-SPNverse. Lucifer hadn’t known this. Unfortunately, it gives him the strength of ten Grinches (or something) and, despite leaking grace for the past day or so (and already being a quart or two low), he manages to break free of her magical bonds and throw her into a wall, where he starts to choke her. But he takes too long Evil Overlord monologuing and manages to squeak out “Defendatur!” which tosses him backwards – through the portal.

A horrified Rowena realizes a second later what she’s done. Her first impulse is to pack up (including the Book of the Damned) and flee. But the better nature she’s been growing since her encounters with Chuck and Amara gets the better of her and she comes back. Then she tries to figure out a way to keep the portal open.

At the tunnel, everyone goes in with light sticks and such, Dean on point. The guy Maggie’s with trips over something and Maggie unhelpfully screams (what happened to being quiet?). It turns out he tripped over a bloodied and slashed child’s backpack. Yay, but at least it’s a little horror in all the plot stupidity.

They come upon a vampire feeding on a family. The vampire roars and attacks them. It gets beheaded. But everyone is sort of bunched up and following Dean at a slight distance, so it’s fairly easy for a vamp to silently slip down from the ceiling and follow them. Except that didn’t Maggie just say a little while before that the monsters are so hungry, they’ve gone blood-simple? So, what’s with the slow and patient stalking?

Anyhoo, the little party soon gets attacked. Maggie shrieks a lot and her friend goes to rescue her. This vamp gets beheaded, too. How Maggie managed to survive so long, let alone get out of the tunnel the first time, without either getting eaten by monsters or shot by her exasperated companions, I really do not know.

The party arrives at an open part of the cave under a sinkhole, through which it’s raining (a weirdly beautiful location). Dean finds a tunnel further along, but it’s blocked. He says they need to clear it. As Castiel and Gabriel move in to do so (presumably because of angel superstrength, but I suspect it’s mainly to distract those two characters while Other Things Happen), Sam and the other guy rather inexplicably split up to go look at the scenery, leaving a nervous Maggie alone under the sinkhole with an adze. This splitting up strikes me as a really stupid thing to do. I’m sure no good with come of it.

And no good does.

Vamps attack Maggie’s friend, first. I’ll give her this – she does rush over to try to save him, even if she’s utterly useless about it. He’s quickly dragged off as Dean and Sam rush over. Dean is temporarily shoved against a wall by a vamp while saving Maggie, as Sam gets pig-piled and has his throat ripped out. Dean sees it all and can’t do anything about it (admittedly, many of Sam’s actions leading up to this moment were not the best, so it’s hard not to feel less than broken up over his becoming, however temporarily, monster chow). Sam is dragged off before Dean can free himself. Dean kills two vamps as Castiel runs after Sam, but Castiel soon comes back, saying they can’t save Sam and there’s no time (nobody even stops to worry about Maggie’s bud). Dean is horrified.

Gee, if only they had someone in their party with superstrength and wings. Hmm.

Later, they’re out in the open. Dean is walking ahead like an automaton, clearly shell-shocked. Sam’s death keeps running through his head. Maggie tries to offer her condolences, but Dean just stares at her until she mercifully shuts up. When they arrive at the camp, Castiel can’t pass through the warding (Maggie seems completely unfazed that Castiel and Gabriel are angels, even though she lives in a world where angels are trying to kill all humans), so Gabriel burns out the warding. This brings human sentries running and, for some reason, Mary is right with them. She recognizes Castiel. Dean practically falls into her arms and, when she asks him where Sam is, he weeps.

There’s a whole lot of stupid in this episode, but Dean’s grief and Rowena’s Hero turn back at the Bunker are easily its best (and only genuinely good) parts.

Too bad this is almost immediately upended by showing Sam “dead” in the vampire lair and then revived. Welp, that Winchester death was awful quick.

It turns out Lucifer brought him back (after having recharged a bit by “eating” a bunch of low-level angels, even though angel canon used to be that “borrowed” grace harmed an angel) and is holding back the vampires. He wants Sam to bring him to the camp so that he can “have a relationship” with Jack.

At the end, Jack is not responding well to news of Sam’s death, and Dean is telling Mary he has to go back for Sam’s body, when the alarm rings and Sam stumbles into camp. Everyone looks happy – until Lucifer strolls in behind him. Gotta say, despite how irritated I frequently was with Sam this episode, Jared Padalecki does a nice job of conveying through Sam’s guilty look how much like a Judas Goat he feels at that moment. Granted, it was an impossible choice, but still, Sam’s not going to feel good about it. And it will have repercussions.

Credits.

Sorry, guys, but I’m gonna have to do the last one tomorrow. Then I’ll do the season premiere. It’s late and I’m tired and I gotta work in a few hours.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #12: Tales from Guilford County (1917)


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Parsons, Elsie Clews. “Tales from Guilford County.” The Journal of American Folklore, 30:116 (Apr.-Jun. 1917): 168-200.


This is the oldest of the books that I’m reviewing this month and as you can see, it’s technically an article. That said, it’s a densely packed, 32-page article that has almost as much information as some of the books I’ve reviewed. Some of those books are also heavily indebted to this article, so in it goes.

The article itself collects various tales (62 in all, not including variations within a tale) from a specific county in North Carolina in the early 20th century. Parsons (1875-1941) was a pretty major folklorist of the day, collecting Caribbean tales, as well as an anthropologist concentrating on Native American cultures, so you’ll see her pop up elsewhere, such as with her article on animal tales. She was not a Southerner, let alone a North Carolinian.

What Parsons gathers here is a grab-bag of different types of tales. There are animal tales that may go back to Africa (notably of the Brer Rabbit type). Others are based on well-known European tales like Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare.” There are also some ghost stories.

There are several stories about the Devil, several about witches, and one about Bluebeard. That last one is especially interesting, since Parsons’ theory is that these stories originally derive from the Bahamas prior to the Revolutionary War, even though most of the storytellers were native North Carolinians. Canadian horror writer Nalo Hopkinson, whose story, “The Glass Bottle Trick,” is based on the Bluebeard legend, is originally from Jamaica, so Parsons may have been on to something. The Bluebeard legend is also popular in NC and appears in several of the North Carolina collections I’ve read.

I’m not a huge fan of Parsons’ style. The way she transcribes African American dialect (the title aside, all of the storytellers recorded in this article are African American Southerners, whereas Parsons is white and a Yankee) has not dated well. It reads a lot more like Amos and Andy than it does like how real people speak and it’s pretty distracting.

I’m also not wowed by her relative lack of notes. She has an introduction in which she explains her Bahamas origin theory. She also gives (very brief) bios of her unnamed storytellers. These mostly include their ages, where they were born, and where they lived, and that’s about it. The most detailed bio is for the eldest, a woman who was born before the Civil War. That woman also tends to recount the most coherent and detailed stories.

Parsons also doesn’t do a very good job of gleaning info out of the storytellers beyond the surface level. While some of these are classics that have been told and retold many times since the article came out, like “Dividing the Souls,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Woman-Cat,” others are confusing and lack critical parts to them (like “Woman on Housetop” and “The Talking Bones”). Some would be quite chilling with a little more story flesh to them (notably, the vicious, disemboweling ghost in “The Spitting Haint”). But Parsons never seems to ask any questions or give more than the most basic footnotes to put any of them into context.

Overall, though there’s some material here still left to mine if you’re a horror writer, this one is mainly for the folklorist or the completist.


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The Official Supernatural: “Unfinished Business” (13.20) 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.

Extended recap of Gabriel stuff leading up to his killing Asmodeus and flying off to points unknown a couple of episodes ago. Hey y’all, I wonder if Gabriel’s coming back? [/sarcasm, heavy duty variety]

Cut to NOW and a guy with a kazoo (Louden Swain ref, I’ll bet) who looks a lot like Gabriel calling out a guy named “Fenrir Odinsbane” in a dark alley. Fenrir looks like a scruffy biker and not a world-killing wolf. Oh, Show, honey, you’re not really gonna do that to Fenrir, are ya? ‘Cause that’s just sad.

So, Fenrir is basically a werewolf dude with a glowy face tattoo, big teeth, and extendable claws. Whatever. He’s obviously a Doomed Teaser Monster, so let’s keep rolling.

Fenrir recognizes Gabriel (or is it?), but when they fight (Gabriel claims he always said he’d “do this honorably”), Fenrir is surprised when he bleeds. “Gabriel” then kills him by stabbing through himself into Fenrir’s chest. Then he checks his name off on a list that also includes Narfi (a son of Loki) and Sleipnir (he’s gonna kill Odin’s horse?).

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Brothers in a motel room (oh, here comes the obligatory introductory pre-Hunt infodump to explain what the hell we just saw in the teaser). Dean is getting off the phone and expressing frustration that they can’t find Gabriel. He’s somewhat mollified when he kicks the bed and discovers it has Magic Fingers. Sam is equally impatient, though to do what, I’m not sure. Go to Texas, which is the other place Gabriel would be in, maybe? This is supposed to be Colorado.

As they debate about how they are going to find Gabriel, there’s a knock on their door. It’s Gabriel and he’s wounded. So…looks like the teaser guy who looked like Gabriel is Gabriel.

Cut to Jack and Mary in the alt-SPNverse (which completely kills the momentum). Jack has just come back from killing alt-Balthazar and he has thirty more refugees. Mary points out they barely have supplies for the ones already there. Boy, Jack sure was cocky last season, wasn’t he?

Anyhoo, a guy comes up and tells them that word is alt-Michael’s angels are leaving his fortress. Jack scans out to it (um…wasn’t that Kaia’s ability?) and finds it empty. He’s convinced alt-Michael left because he was afraid of Jack. Mary tries to warn him that it’s a trap, but he’s determined to go. He tells her he’ll keep her (and, by extension, the team with them) safe.

At the motel, it turns out the wound Gabriel suffered was a slash wound from Fenrir. Gabriel sought out the Brothers, hoping to regain some of his grace because he is still weak. They tell him they used what they didn’t give him on a rift. He’s not thrilled and starts to leave, but his wound is pretty deep. So, he takes a nap instead. While they wait, the Brothers infodump – sorry, discuss – the situation.

They may not have much time for rumination. At the scene of Fenrir’s body, an older, bearded biker dude and a younger, nattily dressed boy, are checking out their “brother”‘s corpse. When the biker dude tastes Gabriel’s blood and deems it “archangel” blood (thus apparently confirming the real Gabriel is with the Brothers), the younger one decides to call their “father.” So, I’m guessing this is Narfi and Sleipnir.

They show up at the motel room, just as Gabriel is about to bail. Again.

They show their glowy green face tattoos (Sleipnir’s is a horse head). Gabriel helpfully identifies them as Norse demigods. Narfi attacks Sam and starts choking him. Dean fends Sleipnir off with a chair and manages to throw him over his shoulder. As he turns to help Sam, Gabriel stabs Narfi from behind and scares off Sleipnir.

Back in alt-SPNverse, Jack and Mary check out alt-Michael’s “fortress” and a weird map he left behind on an altar. Their team finds alt-Kevin in a dungeon and brings him in. The team wants to kill him, but when Kevin starts babbling about a spell, Mary gently asks him what he means. It turns out alt-Michael is going to a place down south where the walls between worlds are thin, so he can invade the regular SPNverse.

Back at the motel, the Brothers come back from sticking Narfi in a car crusher and demand some answers from a handcuffed Gabriel. Gabriel is, as usual, evasive, but they’re not going anywhere until he talks. So, in a flashback sequence full of montage, he does.

It turns out (at least, according to Gabriel) that when he ran off to Vegas with the porn stars, he lay low with Fenrir, Narfi and Sleipnir. But they allegedly got frightened that Lucifer would win the Apocalypse and find out they had hidden Gabriel, so they betrayed him. But to make a profit, they sold him to Asmodeus, who apparently didn’t tell Lucifer his brother was still alive. Now, Gabriel is seeking revenge.

More debating in alt-SPNverse as everybody but Jack tries to figure out why alt-Michael is being so obvious.

Cut back to the motel, where it turns out Gabriel actually has four swords, so which other god is he after? Turns out it’s Loki, the Trickster with whom he changed identities. He found Loki in a cave a long time ago, tied down with a snake dripping venom in his eyes (this is from myth) and freed him. In exchange, when the war between the archangels began, Loki helped him disappear. But now they’re enemies, for mumblety-mumblety reasons, and Loki was the one who ordered Gabriel sold to Asmodeus. Gabriel wants revenge.

Sam feels sympathetic toward Gabriel, who keeps acting as though Dean (or, for that matter, Sam) was never tortured in Hell. Dean is less impressed and points out that revenge never got their family much. And when Gabriel shows Dean his “kill list,” and says he’s going to go in order, Dean is very unimpressed. Also, I think, very suspicious. But off they go (after Gabriel agrees to help them if they help him), five minutes down the road to where Loki has turned a dive motel room into a palatial suite from Monte Carlo (yeah, I know I said Vegas before). To the tune of Spanish guitar.

Back in the alt-SPNverse, Mary tries to give the voice of experience to Jack, who still insists on going after alt-Michael. But he’s interrupted by alt-Kevin, who has been turned into a soul bomb by alt-Michael and sold a bill of goods about how he’ll be with his mom in Heaven. He blows himself up and Jack is only able to save Mary. Nice going there, Jack.

The Brothers and Gabriel show up at the motel, right after Sleipnir and a bodyguard. Gabriel is ranting about how the Brothers can kill everyone else, but he wants Sleipnir and Loki, himself. Dean tells him to knock it off with the elaborate plans and sure enough, everything’s blown to hell when the elevator opens and there are Sleipnir and his bodyguard. Sleipnir yells, “Get ’em!” and Gabriel blows the hallway light.

As Sam and Gabriel take the guards out and the lights come on to Gabriel stabbing Sleipnir, Dean has grabbed the bokken for Loki and slipped off to the penthouse suite.

Once there, Dean finds out that Loki wanted revenge for Gabriel getting his father, Odin, killed by Lucifer (in season five’s “Hammer of the Gods”). He had given his face to Gabriel only in exchange for Gabriel giving up being part of the archangel war forever. Once Gabriel got back in the game, he broke that promise.

Dean stabs Loki, but it’s just a projection, albeit a projection that can punch. Sam comes in and shoots it and it disappears.

Meanwhile, in a hallway, Loki is waiting for Gabriel, who doesn’t have the right sword and also doesn’t have his archangel powers back, yet. Loki proceeds to beat the crap out of Gabriel, saying he’s always expected someone to swoop in and save him, but no one will do it now.

The Brothers rush in and Dean tosses the sword to Gabriel, who gets Loki on the pointy end. Loki mocks him, saying he’s always “stood for nothing and in the end, you’ll die for nothing.”

“You first,” Gabriel says, then stabs him.

Afterward, he thanks the Brothers and drives off with them in the car, looking pensive.

In the alt-SPNverse, Jack has gone from arrogance to guilt, blaming himself for what happened. Mary tells him that you can’t prepare for everything (even though she was warning him before). Gotta admit that these alt-SPNverse interludes are quite boring and break up the momentum.

At the very end, Sam infodumps that Castiel is helping Gabriel “settle in,” while Rowena works on a spell, then decides to yell at Dean for going off without him and Gabriel during the fight. Dean says he’s not going to watch Sam die again, the way he did at the end of “Swan Song.” He doesn’t care about his own life and never has, but he’s going to make sure Sam doesn’t die again his watch.

Sam replies that they always do things together and that if they have to die, they’ll die together, too. Which would sound fine if he didn’t say it in that now-patented, pissy, “It’s somehow still all your fault, Dean” voice he’s been using the past 13 seasons, most of which he’s spent trying to ditch his brother like a three-day-old tuna sandwich.

Anyhoo…two more to go and then I’m all caught up for season 14.

Credits.


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Halloween in North Carolina, Day #11: Tar Heel Terrors (2011)


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Renegar, Michael. Tar Heel Terrors: More North Carolina Ghosts and Legends. Bright Mountain Books, Inc., 2011.


For reasons I honestly don’t get, this book has suddenly become very expensive since I bought it. I can assure you I didn’t pay $145 for it and I got a brand-new copy at, as I recall, Books-a-Million. So, I guess we can officially call it out of print.

The author, Michael Renegar, is a professional ghost hunter from Yadkin County. He has written other books about ghosts in North Carolina. His latest, out this year and co-written with Amy Greer, is about Lydia’s Bridge, a famous Phantom Hitchhiker haunting in western NC. In his introduction to this one, Renegar indicates that Tar Heel Terrors is really a sequel to a previous collection, Roadside Revenants, with overflow of stories he couldn’t fit into that previous collection. Unsurprisingly, several of the stories here are about roadside ghosts, such as the one about the ghost who cries “Slow down!” on the dangerous curve the killed her, or the Phantom Hitchhiker of Christine’s Bridge.

Renegar tells a decent yarn and the cover is super-creepy. While some of his stories (like the tales about the Battleship North Carolina) are well-worn by other folklorists, others are more original. He tells a collection of ones that were making the rounds when he was going to Appalachian State (“The Legend of the Unseen Hands”), as well as many historical ones from Yadkin County (notably, “The Deserters and the Cemetery”). He also tells some personal stories from his ghost hunting days, such as “Cold Spots in the Cemetery.” And there’s one recounting a friend’s experience with the legend of Payne Road. He even includes several family legends, such as the entertaining one involving Great-Grandpa Shober, the moonshiner, and his apprenticeship to a witch, which was foiled by his refusal to harm a cat.

One thing I quite like is that Renegar starts off each tale with subtitles under the chapter heading that list both the site and the county in which you can find it. That immediately gives a place to start in locating these tales. Granted, many of them are pretty obviously based on local legends (such as the tale, “You’ll Be Sorry,” with the old British Isles motif of the shapeshifting, mischief-causing witch), but where these legends pop up and who tells them are still very useful information. This is quite intentional on Renegar’s part, as he makes clear in the introduction, where he talks about how ghost stories (Payne Road being a prominent example) change over time.

It would have been nice to see a larger bibliography at the end. Then again, as I noted above, many of these stories come from family lore or personal experiences while ghost hunting. So, they’re not taken from books. And at least Renegar shows an indepth knowledge of how folklore works when discussing the stories in the text itself.


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