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Renegar Michael, and Amy Spease. Ghosts of the Triad: Tales from the Haunted Heart of the Piedmont. Haunted America, 2011 (ebook edition: 2013).
When I saw one of the authors of this was Michael Renegar and the other was Amy Spease (Greer), I perked right up, despite having read several books about this area, already. Although I haven’t yet got hold of Roadside Revenants, I thoroughly enjoyed Looking for Lydia: The Thirty-Year Search for the Jamestown Hitchhiker and Tar Heel Terrors last year. I had a feeling I would be in for a good, well-researched yarn and I was not disappointed.
First things first – let’s establish where the Triad is. The authors do a solid job of this in their first chapter. Which is good because I initially confused the Triad with the Triangle. The Research Triangle is an urban region of three cities in Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham counties: Raleigh (the capital), Durham and Chapel Hill. These are more-or-less in the center, in the Piedmont region. Where I am about an hour east is known as the much-more-rural Tri-County area of Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties on the Upper Coastal Plain. But then you’ve got Tri-County Community College in the western part of the state, which serves Cherokee, Clay and Graham counties.
So, the Triad is points further west of Raleigh, rather than east. It comprises Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point, in Forsyth and Guilford counties. As the authors note, it’s smack dab in the middle of the Piedmont. Hence the subtitle.
If you’ve been reading my reviews, you’ll already know about a fair number of famous ghosts from Moravian Old Salem. The authors start right off with the most famous one – the Little Red Man. Contrary to his sinister name, which evokes the vicious Scottish Borders goblin Redcap, Andreas Kremser was a real person. This cheerful shoemaker and Moravian brother died horribly when a cellar caved in on him in 1786. He is (or was, since a visiting, rather intolerant minister reportedly exorcised him about a century ago) a mischievous, but friendly, spirit who likes to play pranks on people, but won’t hurt anyone.
The authors also discuss the tavern ghost in Old Salem of a man who died without identification, but visited the innkeeper after his death to send a message to his brother in Texas. The message duly sent and received, and the man’s family arrived to retrieve his possessions, the ghost never haunted the inn again.
Spease tells of a house her parents bought in the Historic Waughtown District (Winston-Salem), before moving away. After moving back in as an adult, she didn’t mind the hauntings at first. The resident ghost was a benign elderly lady. But the house later became infested by a darker aura and the appearance of shadow people. She met her co-author Michael Renegar in the process of trying to figure out what was going on and they tried several ways of “cleansing” the house. Nothing worked, at least not for long. Eventually, after a particularly scary dream involving coffins, she was forced to move out. Her stepfather still owned it, but no one lived in it, at the time of publication (2011).
The chapter on the bizarre life and mysterious shooting of tobacco empire heir Zachary Smith Reynolds (1911-1932) at Reynolda House in Winston-Salem is almost a textbook case in how you write the family history of an old house in an interesting way. The shocking case of Reynolds’ Jazz Age death (murder? Suicide? Misadventure? The jury remains out) actually overshadows reports of the path outside the house being haunted by Reynolds’ mother, Katharine.
Other famous sites like Korner’s Folly in Kernersville get a look-in, and there are several haunted theaters and inns. But some of these tales come about from the authors’ own experiences or their investigations of historic houses as Camel City Spirit Seekers. This results in a lot of talk about EVPs and we get to see folkloric stories at various stages in their development.
For example, Spease reports a haunting of a backyard that started after one of her neighbors hanged himself outside his house. There are stories of ghostly encounters with phantom soldiers at the site of The Battle of Guilford Courthouse (1781) in the National Military Park in Greensboro. Lydia gets a chapter, but she’s not the only roadside revenant. And then there’s Spookywoods Haunted Attraction in Archdale, near High Point, which is allegedly really haunted by ghost lights and other shadowy figures. It’s open this time of year, so you can go check it out for yourself.
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