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Bullard, Tim. Haunted Watauga County, North Carolina. Haunted America, The History Press, 2011.
Here’s another entry from the Haunted America series at The History Press. This one is a series of folkloric reminiscences about Watauga County in the western part of the state. Like other entries in the series, Haunted Watauga appears not to have had much in the way of editing. That’s by far it’s biggest flaw.
I really wanted to like it, especially since the author was a reporter for a long time in the area. He has personal reminiscences and acquaintances in law enforcement and EMS going back to the 1970s (he even mentions the Frank C. Brown Collection). There’s a lot of potentially intriguing stuff in here, but it’s chaotically told. It feels like a closet full of potential treasures that were just casually tossed in, willy-nilly. The author will start telling a story about, say, witches and then wander off to talk about mountain climbing and then a bit of history about something completely unrelated. A lot of it reads like stream-of-consciousness.
Bullard’s storytelling flaws stand out the most in the two longest and most intriguing stories. One of them is a piece of research journalism about the Durham Family murders in 1972 and the other is a mostly-eyewitness account of the capture of some escaped cons. Bullard was on the case during their siege.
The first story, a chilling true crime tale, is about the triple murder of two parents and their son on February 3, 1972 near Boone. The wife was strangled with a rope, while the husband and son were drowned in the bathtub. The case officially remains unsolved, though you get the impression that the police knew exactly who did it. They just can’t prove it.
The chapter is very well-researched. It is not well-written. Bullard wanders from time period to time period and from witness interview to witness interview. He throws in everything, including the kitchen sink. One of these elements, though, appears to be unique to the book. He interviewed people now living in the house where the murders occurred and they claim it is indisputably haunted.
The second story with the convicts involves a phlegmatic cameraman straight out of central casting. I’ll be he was fun to work with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much of a climax because the author missed the actual capture. This, along with the recurring semi-finished folklore about witches, is probably the most frustrating part of the book.
I think the best part is the chapter about a long-running theater play (similar to the Lost Colony play in Manteo) called Horn in the West about the life of Daniel Boone. The town of Boone in the county is named after him. Glenn Causey played the title role for 41 straight seasons. There’s also a Haunted Horn in the West version for Halloween. Causey doesn’t haunt the stage now that he’s passed on, but another named Charles Elledge (he’s a benevolent spirit) does.
I hadn’t known about this play and it doesn’t appear in the usual collections, let alone the haunting connected to it. It’s an example of all the unique material in the book. I just wish this one had been written up and presented better.
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