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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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