Tag Archives: witches

The Official Supernatural: “Golden Time” (15.06) Live Recap Thread

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

It’s been a tough year, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. I actually intended to be a few reviews more down the road, but the early part of December was busier than I expected and once I did hit a break, I kinda … faceplanted. Sorry. Hoping to be at least caught up with season 15 by the time it comes back from Hellatus in two weeks.

As of this review, I now have 58 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 14 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 72 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: After a rather standard recap of the season so far for Castiel and Rowena’s storylines, we cut to a hallway in a very nice apartment building (all marble walls and such). A young blonde woman in hipster plaid clothing and a long jacket strolls toward a door. She knocks and calls out to “Ms. Mcleod,” claiming to be a concerned neighbor. Yeah, right.

Hearing nothing, she leans down and whispers, “Aperiator” into the keyhole. The door opens.

To Cobra Ramone’s “So Quiet” on the soundtrack (shocker! Some actual rock!), the young woman (rather obviously a rival witch seeking to loot a dead witch’s stuff) starts trashing the place. The fact that she not only is ransacking it, but deliberately smashes things she doesn’t need to, says a lot about what kind of person she is. So, when she gives up for a moment in frustration and yells, “Come on! Where is the good stuff?” it’s hard to feel sorry for her when her nose and eyes start to bleed. Even when she doesn’t quite make it back to the door and the deadly hex Rowena left behind takes her out.

Cue title cards.

At the Bunker, Sam is on his laptop when something transparent, but not quite invisible, comes through the door. Sam senses it, but is more puzzled than alarmed. Dean enters the kitchen at that moment. He’s in a bathrobe and pajamas, eating cereal out of the box and reading the simple jokes on the back, while “marathoning Scooby-Doo.” Even though he is laughing and seems outwardly cheerful, it is clear that Dean is very, very, very depressed and taking a much-needed Mental Health Day. Or maybe a week. Or a month.

Sam decides this is problematical, even though he did exactly the same thing a few episodes ago, for at least a couple of weeks. But nope, he’s over that and busy looking for Chuck and why isn’t Dean taking this seriously? Screw you, Sam.

Dean does ask if Sam has found anything (that’s a big negative) and if he’s had any more dreams (also a big negative). Sam asks if Dean noticed anything when he first came in (nope) and suggests that maybe the dreams have stopped.

Dean is skeptical about that. He figures Chuck still has a plan for them – “The Winchester Bowl: Cain and Abel 2.0” – and won’t let up until it’s finished. “We don’t need to worry about finding him. He’ll find us.”

Meanwhile, Castiel is somewhere woodsy and folksy, getting himself let into Simmzy’s Bait and Tackle Shop. It turns out he’s been fishing to pass the time. He mentions Dean in passing (though not by name).

As he’s getting a new fishing map, Castiel notices that the friendly shop owner, Andy, is drinking the booze early in the morning. Andy admits that he’s a volunteer firefighter and they had a bad call last night. They pulled the dead body of a local teen, Shane Coogan, out of the lake. Andy says the weirdest thing was that the kid’s body was drained of its blood.

Back in Lebanon, Sam is jogging (it’s finally back into Vancouver’s long rainy season/fall, so we’re free of that damned incessant sunshine from the season’s earlier episodes). He quickly realizes something is up when his breath fogs. As he glances over toward the waterside, he sees the same transparency we saw in the Bunker. This time, it resolves into a ghost – that of Eileen Leahy, the badass, Irish (and deaf, thanks to the banshee that killed her parents) Hunter who was murdered-by-Hell Hound in season 12 by Arthur Ketch.

Back at the Bunker, she’s talking to the Brothers and Dean is asking her questions. It turns out that because she was dragged off by the Hell Hound, she ended up in Hell. When Chuck blew open all the doors, she got out of there as fast as she could and cleared the area before Belphegor’s barrier went up (note that this means there could still be some very naughty ghosts out there). It turns out she circled back and has been trying to get the Brothers to see her ever since.

She now has a huge dilemma. She has no desire to go back to Hell, but if she stays a ghost, she’ll “go crazy.” Dean explains to her that they already found out (via Kevin) that souls that have been in Hell can’t go to Heaven afterward (I really hate that stupid bit of LOL!canon the writers pulled out of their asses this season). Obviously, she’s disappointed, though she struggles to be philosophical about it.

As the Brothers go off to consult in the corridor, Sam whines that Dean didn’t “sugar coat it” about what Eileen faces. Dean’s like, whatever. He actually has a different idea. He suggests using a soul catcher (like the crystal Rowena used to capture the Hell ghosts in the first couple of episodes), one which would house only Eileen. It’s at least better than Hell or going insane on earth.

Sam says the magic is complicated, but Dean tells him that he’s now like “Rowena’s protege, Ginger Jr.” and can make it happen. Is Dean … aware of what Sam did to Rowena to force her to help him lift the MoC from Dean’s arm at the end of season 10? Because the writers sure have forgotten and it was actually a pretty ugly incident in Sam’s arc.

Sam admits that if “it’s what Eileen wants,” maybe he can find a crystal at Rowena’s apartment. Seems, after all this bitching at Dean about taking a day off, Sam still hasn’t gone over there to clear out her place. Yeah, seriously, screw you, Sam.

Sam is upset when Dean tells him to go ahead and take care of it. Seems Sam wants Dean to come over with him and hold his hand through the process. Dean points out that it’s “a milk run,” so “kick it in the ass.” And he walks off, leaving Sam looking pissy.

Castiel is at the sheriff’s office, trying to find out more about the dead kid. But it seems the sheriff is out getting his hair cut, as he does every Tuesday (pretty sure this is a Victor/Victoria reference).

A woman also sitting in the waiting room asks Castiel for help, since she’s heard he’s FBI (he says he’s on vacation) and the sheriff’s novel-reading receptionist is useless. Seems the woman is a mother who heard about the dead boy. Now her son is missing after having gone camping the night before. Castiel agrees to help her.

At a SureGas station, Sam is gassing up the Impala, while apologizing to Eileen for her situation and not being able to fix it. Well, turns out Dean was right and Eileen is fine with the solution they’ve got. It sure beats the other alternatives.

Sam then tells her he was once in Hell, too, but she says she doesn’t want to talk about it just yet. He uses sign language and she’s flattered (as a ghost, she wouldn’t be deaf, but the show has been making ghosts way too solid this season, anyway).

I have mixed feelings about this team-up. On the one hand, I liked Eileen and I like Shoshannah Stern. And I like that the show is doing representation for the deaf community with an actress who is actually deaf (not exactly common on television). And she did have chemistry with Sam in her first appearance.

On the other hand, the writing is already de-evolving her from Eileen Badass Scarred Hunter (the deafness being the MOTW-induced scar she grew up with) into Sam’s New Girlfriend We Sure Hope The Show Won’t Kill Off This Time. Sam treats her with a kind of syrupy condescension that doesn’t sit right with me. Even Dean, who is all for the relationship, calls Sam out on decisions Sam keeps making for Eileen instead of helping her with decisions she’s made herself.

Also, I can’t say I’m thrilled they fridged her in the first place, in a way very similar to how they fridged her character in Jericho. So, that leaves a bad taste, too.

Sam and Eileen arrive at the apartment, only to find the place trashed and the Doomed Teaser Witch on the floor. As Sam comes in, a nearby mirror ripples and there’s a quick cut out to a white service van, with the words “Keep ‘er Movin’: “you Go we Pack” on the side, in the parking lot outside. It turns out that two other witches inside it are scrying/spying on Sam as he discovers a convenient tattoo on the dead body that identifies her as a member of the Ordo Maleficarum (Order of Witches). In the van, the older witch has a red hood, violet eyes, and an Oirish accent.

Sam figures the young dead witch sprang a trap, but doesn’t stop to wonder if he will also be affected as he closes the doors and goes off to find the Macguffin somewhere in the apartment.

Back on Castiel’s summer vacation, he’s talking to the sheriff, who is even lazier than his receptionist. The sheriff identifies the woman Castiel just met as one Ellen Krakowski, a woman who just moved into the area and is a frequent complainer at the station. Needless to say, the sheriff is dismissive of her concerns about her son. He also dismisses the recent drowning victim as an OD, saying only tourists go missing in town, not locals.

Castiel makes his hostility about the sheriff’s sloppy detective work obvious, especially when the sheriff insists the body has already been “shipped off to Cheyenne,” so Castiel can’t examine it. The sheriff then starts questioning Castiel’s credentials, so Castiel gives him a number. This number goes to a cell phone in the Bunker that is part of a network similar to the set of landlines Bobby used to have to help Hunters with their fake law enforcement credentials. Dean happens to be walking by in his bathrobe when the phone rings and answers it (after some quick sorting to figure out which one it is and which name to use).

After identifying himself as Castiel’s boss, Dean has the sheriff put Castiel on the line. Very reluctantly, Castiel takes it. After pointing out that Sam has been trying to call him, Dean quickly tells him that Chuck is back and to start checking his messages, already. Then he hangs up. After looking uncomfortable and rubbing his face with the phone, Castiel fakes a response and hands the phone back to the sheriff. This wins a concession from the sheriff to hand over the records for the drowned boy, Shane.

In Rowena’s apartment, Sam realizes that there is nothing of value there. Where is Rowena’s real “stuff”? Eileen gets an idea and walks through a bookshelf wall, then calls out from the other side. It turns out to be small storeroom. Once Sam gets it open, he finds Rowena’s important stuff, including journals that she kept up until her death about all her spellwork. Eileen asks if Sam “missed her” and Sam admits that he killed her as part of a spell to stop the Hell ghosts and save the world.

Sam: You ever feel like you’re the punch line to some cosmic joke?

Eileen [passing her ghost hand through his]: Are you kidding?!

Yeah, Sam, get your head out and get with the program.

Sam says that “Rowena got it. I mean, she didn’t know all the details, but she knew the game was rigged, so this … magic … this was how she kept control.” Well, that’s an awfully benign way to put it, Sam.

As he waves the journal around, Sam accidentally knocks a paper out of it and is surprised to find out it’s a spell. It seems Rowena was trying to bring back Mary (even without a body) until she found out Mary was Heaven and decided not to finish it. However, he thinks he can finish the spell and use it to resurrect Eileen. Well, that’s convenient.

However, as soon as he gets the stuff into the trunk, he’s hexed. He finds the hex bag, just as the other two witches get out of their van and approach him because sure, that’s smart, and the older one calls him by name. Sam signs to Eileen to get Dean, right before the older witch conveniently banishes her, presumably back to the Bunker. Yeah, not the brightest logs on the Yule fire, these two.

Sam wakes up inside the van, tied to a chair (natch). The older witch starts Evil Overlord monologuing about how Rowena’s dead and they came for her stuff, but they didn’t think they could get at it until Sam came bumbling along because Rowena hexed the apartment and only Sam is immune.

The dead witch is Jacinda, her oldest daughter. The other girl is apparently her other daughter. That one has just made a doll from Sam’s hair and hands it to the older witch with a nasty smile. Her mother uses it to torture Sam.

Sam tries to make a deal to get them ingredients (not mentioning that he just put them in the Impala’s trunk, which the witches should have seen already), in exchange for the spell, but the mother refuses. She figures she needs it to bring Jacinda back and Death will only allow the spell to be used once. She’s just going to torture Sam into cooperating, instead.

How have these women lived as long as they have, again?

Meanwhile, Castiel is looking over the records of the dead and missing people around the lake (most of them look young) and making a pattern of x’s on a map. When he goes out to survey it, Ellen follows him (Ellen … Eileen … awfully similar names to use in the same episode for guest characters, Show). Seeing Castiel’s map and getting an explanation out of him, she insists her son wouldn’t come out to the lake because it’s not safe. There’s a silver mine in the area. Castiel has to agree to let her lead him there. She won’t just give him directions. Scenery’s nice, though cold – a foggy BC lake.

Sam is walking up to the apartment with other sister, Sam carrying a cardboard box, she the doll. He works out that her name is Emily and tries to sweet-talk her. It only partially works. She tortures him to make him shut up, but he gets a break when he enters the apartment and she sees her sister’s body.

Her reaction is strange. When Sam offers to cover up the body, she asks if he thinks Jacinda is pretty, since everyone else thought so. Sam points out that Jacinda is dead (i.e., dead bodies aren’t sexually attractive except to necrophiliacs). It turns out Jacinda bullied Emily pretty severely. When Sam shares a story about Dean putting Super Glue in his toothpaste, Emily shares that Jacinda made her invisible for a week, tried to sell her soul to a demon, and murdered her first crush with magic – “then she got mean.” She tells Sam to get packing. Nice family.

Castiel and Ellen are chatting as they walk to the silver mine. He tries to give her The Talk about monsters (he thinks the MOTW is a djinn, which makes a silver mine a rather strange lair for a creature averse to silver), but it’s interrupted by her son Caleb popping up unexpectedly on the trail.

Back at the apartment, Emily is still talking about how rotten Jacinda was – killing her pet rabbit for the bones, turning her tongue into a snake, which bit and disfigured her. Seeing how much she doesn’t want Jacinda revived, Sam tries to do a deal with her. If she lets him have the spell, he’ll give her Rowena’s books and she can use them to run away and hide from her mother. It doesn’t work. Calling him a liar, Emily takes pleasure in stabbing the doll to make Sam suffer.

Cut back to Castiel’s vacation, where he and Ellen are talking to her son. Caleb is reluctant to tell them what happened, at first, because he thinks they won’t believe him. Castiel reassures him that they will. Caleb then says he saw someone dragging a dead body to the lake. He was going to record it with his phone, but the murderer saw him. When he ran, he broke his ankle. He says the murderer was “a monster.” A literal one.

When Castiel asks if he “got a good look” at the murderer, a voice sounds behind him. It’s the sheriff. He’s the murderer. And he’s also a djinn.

When Castiel pulls out his angel blade, blocking him from shooting Caleb, the sheriff’s eyes glow blue and his djinn tattoos show up. He shoots Castiel. Castiel heals with an angry angel whine (greatly shocking Caleb and Ellen).

Going into a rant about “little men in positions of power,” he takes another a bullet without much harm, then grabs the djinn’s gun from him and throws him to the ground, where he stabs him to death with his angel blade. A whole lot.

Back at the apartment, Sam has the box filled and Emily wants him to hurry up and get out of the apartment with it. But Dean unexpectedly (for Emily) shows up, with Mom Witch at gunpoint. Emily threatens to voodoo-doll Sam to death and Dean says he could just shoot her mother, so they’ve got a “standoff.”

The mother then decides to call up her dead daughter for help. This goes well for the witches, at first, with Jacinda knocking Dean to the end of the hallway. But Ghost!Jacinda takes a little too long to gloat and Emily is distracted. This allows Sam to knock the doll out of her hand, drawing Mom’s attention. Mom starts torturing Sam, yelling at Emily to finish him. Emily picks up the doll and starts twisting it and Sam appears to be losing consciousness.

Meanwhile, Jacinda is still gloating when Eileen appears in front of her (the perils of calling up spirits is that you don’t know who-all will answer). Eileen says, “Not today … bitch!” and knocks her rather bodily back into the apartment. Eileen TKs after her and they have a pretty concrete fight for two ghosts.

This gives Dean the needed breather to recover his gun and shoot Emily, killing her and enraging Mom. Not really good with multi-tasking, Mom then starts killing Dean, but this gives Sam enough time to recover and tackle her. He then shoves a hex bag he stole from the apartment into her mouth and says a killing spell.

Dean rushes into the apartment (whaddaya know? He’s immune to Rowena’s hex, too), where Eileen is getting the worst of the ghost fight. Eileen points at Jacinda’s body and tells him to burn it. Admittedly, this is very much of an As You Know, Bob moment, but in Dean’s defense, this is the first time he’s seen or even known about Jacinda’s body there, so he may not have noticed it in the heat of the moment.

Dean grabs a decanter of (probably very expensive) booze and pours it on the body. Distracted with throttling Eileen, Jacinda takes a little too long to stand up and go after Dean, even as he fumbles the lighter. He torches her body and she goes up in flames, as her mother dies hexed in the hallway.

Back at the lake, Ellen is finally taking The Talk from earlier to heart. Castiel comes up, saying he threw the sheriff’s body into the lake. He then heals Caleb’s leg, but it take a lot more effort than healing himself did. Caleb and Ellen are appropriately amazed and grateful. Ellen asks if Castiel came from God. Castiel says he can’t tell them anything, except that he’s “grateful” he met her and “it’s time to get back in the game.”

In the Bunker, Sam is drawing up a bath and sprinkling it with herbs. He then pulls out Rowena’s spell. Eileen steps into the bath (now, they make her look ethereal?) and lies down, fully submerged. As Sam turns away (unable to look, I guess) and says the spell in Latin (it’s more of a prayer than a spell), Eileen changes from a ghost in full Hunter gear into a live naked girl. She comes up gasping out of the bath and stares at her wet fingers.

Sam doesn’t turn around until Eileen puts on a towel and steps over the edge of the tub. They touch hands, she signs “Thank you,” and they hug.

Dean is out in the map room/library, drinking his evening sixpack. Dean praises Sam’s baby-witch skills in saving Eileen (who is taking a much-needed nap) and says he didn’t do anything. Sam points out that Dean “killed a witch, saved my ass.”

As Dean looks uncomfortable (and admits that knowing all of their lives has been out of their control “messes with my head”), Sam tells him that they can “find a way to beat [Chuck] … ’cause we’re the guys that break the rules.” But Sam can’t do it alone. He needs Dean. He needs his “big brother.”

Credits

The show dropped in the demo to a 0.2/1 (the first time ever), but rose slightly to 1.14 million in audience.

The preview and synopsis for the next episode is up.

Review: I … didn’t actually hate this one. Mind you, it had issues, but there were some clever bits and it moved faster than previous entries this season (the pacing has been really dreary this year). And it took me awhile to get through the recap because the beginning, especially, post-teaser is rather dull. Still, it was a bit of an improvement on the earlier part of the season.

There was the way they introduced Eileen as a ghost, which was a bit creepy, and the idea of a witch who was also a ghost. Those were clever. Rather less clever (and definitely not ethereal) was the knock-down drag-out between them at the climax, but okay.

I also liked the opening song (which is apparently about a young couple committing suicide by drowning to escape an apocalypse) and the general premise made sense to me. It mirrors what we saw in season one’s “Dead Man’s Blood.” Just as Hunters descend on a dead Hunter’s house and strip it bare, so, too, would witches with one of their own. It’s bleak and Darwinian, but that’s the way the SPNverse is. Or, at least, the way it was before Dabb & Co. got hold of it.

Dean was an unmitigated hoot in his dead man’s robe and hot dog jammies, taking a much-much-much-needed-and-overdue Mental Health Day. He also got to save everyone, though I was irritated at the Dumb on Cue moment where Eileen, of all people, had to remind him to salt-and-burn a corpse to get rid of a ghost.

But even though it had better pacing than previous entries of the season, this one still dragged a tad and felt sluggish, except for the moments when Dean was onscreen. He wasn’t in this one a lot and that killed much of my interest in the goings-on for the other characters. Dean brings considerable energy to the show that is lacking in episodes he’s barely in. Which is why Dean is usually in a lot of episode space, even when he’s acting like expositional wallpaper. I’m sure the showrunners are aware that whenever he leaves, so does most of the dramatic air.

The idea behind the bitter dynamics for the witch family in question wasn’t half-bad, but the execution was lacking. And here is one of my biggest beefs with the story. I’ll grant you that aside from Rowena, the witch characters were never what you’d call fleshed out. Even with the Banes family, which had a clear sense of a loving witch mother and her two witch kids, the two female members were summarily fridged in one episode to motivate the one remaining male member to go dark.

But even the barely-introduced witches in “Regarding Dean” gave off more of a sense of family than the ones here and more of a sense of urgency. Sure, the witches in that one also intended to bring their sibling back, but they intended to do so using human sacrifice, which is no small task and does provide a spiritual engine for the spell (a life for a life). And the sister (who was otherwise a huge and thunderously stupid nutjob) showed real grief over her brother’s death. Death wasn’t just a quickie learning experience for her brother to her. Plus, there was their ugly connection to Rowena’s past.

In this episode, I had a hard time buying that Keegan Connor Tracy’s character (Tracy back for a third and final role on the show) was the other two witch characters’ mother, rather than just their senior. I mean, sure, witches don’t tend to look their age. And I get that she was a cold and indifferent mom, who actively fomented the rivalry between the dead golden girl and the mousy younger sister. But the way she airily talked about how they were just going to walk in there and take Rowena’s magic, while resurrecting the golden girl along the way, pretty much sucked all of the dramatic air out of that situation. If she didn’t care, I sure didn’t, either.

Also, it was flat-out ridiculous how little these witches seemed to know or understand about the Winchester Brothers. Sam and Dean are not obscure players in the SPNverse, and everyone and their witch mom knew Rowena worked with them. Why weren’t these witches prepared for Dean to show up to save Sam, or even for Sam pulling a fast one on them? It’s basically the same plot as for the season 13 episode “Various and Sundry Villains” and it’s not any better this time round.

Speaking of taking Rowena’s magic, I was so over how entitled Sam acted about it, especially when he got on Dean’s case about taking a sick day. Sam spent days, even weeks, sitting in his room moping after Rowena died, instead of sacking up and getting over to her apartment to make sure everything was locked down. What if an innocent civilian had gotten in there and been killed by the hex?

I mean, it was eye-rolling enough for the script to bang home how suddenly, Sam was a son of a witch (ignoring how Rowena only became the most powerful witch in the world by slaughtering her rivals and stealing their magic) and wasn’t that wonderful? Rowena’s fridging is the gift that keeps on giving for Sam.

But he had a responsibility to her legacy, seeing as how he’d been the one who killed her, and he fell down on the job. If the episode had been written to have him realize that, I’d have been more okay with it, but they glossed over that and also allowed Sam’s berating of Dean (who was still holding down the fort and propping up everyone else emotionally until this week) to go unchallenged.

And apparently, the fact that Sam can now do some basic spells is supposed to make up for that fact that he’s useless as a Hunter these days. It’s yet another case of the show’s writing strenuously snowflaking Sam’s every achievement instead of just letting the audience come to its own conclusions. I already know Sam is an experienced and deadly Hunter. I don’t need to be banged over the head with it.

Speaking of glossing things over, how about the show never even once acknowledging that Ketch was the one who sicced that Hell Hound on poor Eileen? You know, Ketch, the dead character we were supposed to feel sorry for just a few episodes ago? I guess we’re pretending that never happened, now?

Let’s check out the B-story. Well, Castiel is back in this one and it’s not looking good. A lot of his fans on Twitter (those who aren’t fantasizing about how Dean needs to apologize to Castiel for refusing to be his punching bag) focused on his wildly off power and that it’s waning, but less on how it’s waning.

We now seem to have a pretty clear pattern where, when he’s pissed, Castiel powers up just fine and then goes into overkill mode. We saw this with Belphegor and we saw it this week with the sheriff djinn. But when he wants to do something more benign, like heal someone else (rather than himself while in battle mode), it really drains him. The way Chuck is currently writing Castiel amplifies his more negative emotions and affect.

A big problem with this is that this is the final season and that when Castiel gets angry in this way (you know, petulant and feeling sorry for himself), he gets self-righteous. And when he gets self-righteous, that quickly leads to poor decision-making along the lines of Godstiel and Casifer. And I guess I need to remind those same fans that Godstiel was originally intended to be Castiel’s endgame story. He was not supposed to come back from that one, let alone by the end of season seven. So, this isn’t a good look for him or a good sign for his eventual fate this season.

I hope to be wrong. I’m not gonna lie – my idea of a great ending for the series is God!Dean watching Sam – retired or teaching Hunters – while flanked by Billy the Reaper and Castiel all repowered up with wings. Dean then turns to them and says, “We got work to do,” as he sets out to make the SPNverse a kinder and fairer place. But I’m not the writers and there’s no guarantee this lot will even let Castiel get out of the series alive, let alone regaining his wings.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


St Andrews Day: The Witches of Fife


We need your help!

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.


MacDonald, Stuart. The Witches of Fife: Witch-Hunting in a Scottish Shire, 1560-1710. John Donald, 2002; 2014.


This was one of those books I was excited to read before I actually read it. I had (as most of you probably know by now) lived in St Andrews for six years and St Andrews was the primary town in Fife, even during the town’s low point in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today is St Andrew’s Day, the day for the saint who gave his name to the town for reasons rather legendary and complicated (they involve a shipwreck with the saint’s bones and a saint who may never have existed named “Regulus”).

St Andrews was a major hotbed for witchcrazes in the 16th and 17th centuries. According to MacDonald, over a thousand people (most of them women and most of them by burning) were executed for witchcraft in Fife over the course of about a century and a half, and a total of over three thousand were accused, some of them by “dying witches” who were either delusional or vengeful. Those are the low-ball numbers. We don’t know the real count.

Religious authorities were heavily involved, though local nobility participated. The rocky relationship involving the slow and not-so-willing union with England under one king (still nominally Scottish) turned the screws. But MacDonald tends to agree with other historians of the period that the witchcrazes in Scotland were mostly about “hunting women.” Can’t argue with that.

When I was in the Mediaeval History program at St Andrews, the Scottish History department was totally separate from us. Despite being right across the hall and up the stairs, they did an excellent job of utterly ignoring us. Something-something about us not being Scottish and being a bunch of total nutters. The upshot is that while I picked up a lot of local popular history and had chats with some notables like Peter Maxwell-Stuart, I got most of my impressions about the history of the Fife witchcrazes from looking around town.

What I found was bloody and ugly and scary. The Covenanters under people like John Knox who launched the religious sect of Presbyterianism had a passionate and stirring dream of a new society completely reoriented to God. Too bad that dream was twisted and fundamentalist and truly misogynistic to the core. MacDonald actually compares them at one point to the Taliban and that is not an exaggeration.

The Covenanters covered the Reformation period in Scotland in blood and no more so than in Fife (probably because St Andrews had been the ecclesiastical capital under the previous religious regime). The presbyteries of Scotland enthusiastically used accusations of witchcraft and the process of witchfinding to suppress all religious dissent. There is literally one woman in the book who was accused because she cursed out the minister and his wife. In another case, a man was convicted in the presbytery court of violating the Sabbath because he was riding on a Sunday to seek a pardon for his wife who was a convicted witch.

And a lot of people who weren’t quite accused (or whose accusations didn’t rise to conviction and execution) were denied the sacrament of Communion for years at a time by petty and spiteful religious authorities. Other people were “watched and warded” (a sort of torture that wasn’t actually considered torture in which people were kept awake and isolated from their families for days or weeks at a time) until they confessed, then executed within days of their trial with no appeal. The sheer viciousness, pettiness and self-righteousness of the Covenanters would be breathtaking if it weren’t repeated in so many situations and cultures over the course of history. Nothing scarier than a sadist who thinks God is on their side.

The scars of both the Reformation (when mobs stripped churches of their vestments and icons and even damaged the buildings) and the witchcrazes are visible in St Andrews to this day. There is what used to be a walled off area that had been a tidal pool for recreational swimmers. It’s near the St Andrews Aquarium, next to West Sands. The legend was that back in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was called “Witch Lake.”

Women were taken down there and “dunked” (in this case, tossed into the water with a thumb tied to the opposite toe). If the woman drowned and sank, it was assumed she was innocent (oh, well!), since witches floated and could not be drowned. If the woman managed to survive and float, she was dragged out and up to a nearby hill known as Witch Hill (also, Martyrs’ Hill, as some Protestant martyrs had previously been burned at the stake there) to be burned alive. Charming.

Unfortunately, one of the limitations of MacDonald’s book, which is rather short, is that it restricts itself to taking cases in Fife from a massive, country-wide compilation of cases created in the late 1970 called A Sourcebook of Scottish Witchcraft (1977). MacDonald himself admits that it doesn’t always deal with the most local cases, let alone the extra-legal executions, so we only get to hear about one such lynching from near the very end of the period, in 1710. No confirmation one way or the other about Witch Lake/Hill. So, that was disappointing.

Another disappointment was that MacDonald seemed to do a lot more scene-setting than he did actual analysis. Sure, I get that it’s an academic book (that’s why I bought it), that it’s got a specific focus and that we’re missing a lot of information about the cases (including, for many of the accused, whether or not they were ever executed). Even so, I felt he got bogged down in the geographical studies early on and rushed the general analysis of motivations and patterns at the end. I felt it would have worked better if he’d flipped that around and and that he chickened out a bit on extending his analysis as far as the information could have borne.

I also felt he left out a lot of potentially important context. If you didn’t know about Scottish history, and especially if you’d never been to Fife, you might well get very lost with this book. Even knowing about the period and having lived there for six years, I felt there were points where MacDonald could have fit his localized analysis into a more in-depth framework. I kept wondering what effect James I/VI’s obsession with witches had on the Fife witchcrazes, but found MacDonald’s suppositions too vague and unsatisfying. He seemed uninterested in looking too much at the few cases with lots of detail, with the excuse that we don’t have enough information on enough cases in general to tell if these more-famous cases were typical or not. This struck me as a cop-out. Nobody’s asking to invent information, but get wacky and take a risk or two, son. Come on.

I also found his conclusion that the witchcrazes fell apart in Fife because the coalition of religious and secular authorities responsible for them collapsed was too Captain Obvious. Well, duh, but surely, the repression of the Covenanters in the 1680s following the Restoration of Charles II had something to do with the timing of that collapse. Their successors called it the “Killing Time” because, like all fanatics, they would have to cast themselves as the victims, wouldn’t they, not all those poor women they burned? But their repression was a natural result of a bigger bully coming in and smashing the previous bully. Both the Covenanters and the lairds who supported them were crushed or at least diminished by the increase of English power over the country, so there went the coalition that created recurring witchcrazes.

I’m no fan of the English takeover of Scotland following the reign of James I/VI, but in this case, it appears the English invaders may have done the poor women of Scotland a favor.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


Halloween in North Carolina, All Souls’ Day: Bonus Round #2: Scottish Ghosts (1999)


We need your help!

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.


Seafield, Lily. Scottish Ghosts. Lomond Books, 1999.


So, as promised, I’ve continued my reviews through All Souls’ Day (today), but with the twist that the last two days, since they’re in November, are reviews of ghost stories from other regions than North Carolina. But possibly, these are regions that may have influenced or have similar tropes to what you find in NC.

I picked this one up at the bus station in Glasgow almost two decades ago. It’s one of several books I have of Scottish folklore. The cover above is very nice, but the edition I picked up actually looks like this:

Kinda cheesy, I know. The apparent editorial excuse is that this edition is for kids. It might be a bit too creepy and historical for American kids, though.

Also, for such a short book, it has a whole lot of stories in it – over 150. Each one is maybe a page or two, though the entry on Second Sight in the “Signs, Prophecies and Curses” section is (appropriately) several pages long, as Second Sight is a major part of Scottish folklore. With most entries, the author gets in, gets out, and then moves on to the next, grouping them thematically into several sections, such as “Military Ghosts,” “Fairies, Green Ladies and Devilish Struggles,” and “Poltergeists.” The stories are sometimes sad, sometimes horrifying, sometimes educational. But they’re also mostly fun.

My favorites, of course, tend to be about St Andrews, where I lived for six years. Alas, there are really only two stories (for some reason, the very haunted St Andrews Castle didn’t make it into the “Ghostly Castles” section). St Andrews Cathedral, for example, has a Lady in White and a ghostly monk who haunts St Rule’s Tower. The late-11th century St Rule’s Tower is the tallest (and probably oldest) building in St Andrews. It’s pretty much the only remaining intact structure for St Andrews Cathedral. It’s a bit of a hike that I’ve done a few times, but sadly (or not?), I’ve never seen the monk.

Stories range from the humorous to the creepy to the quite-disturbing. One of the funniest is the large “Demon Crab” of Dundee that crawls out of a drowned ferryman’s coat after he washes up on the beach. The Devil doesn’t last long in that guise, as he is quickly snatched up by a fishwife who happily cooks him for her dinner. One of the creepier ones is a story of a pair of eyes (just eyes) haunting a room in Crail, down the coast from Dundee, in the section, “Ghosts in the House.” And then there’s the scary tale from the “Mind How You Go” section of the Big Grey Man who haunts the mists of Ben MacDuibh in the Cairngorms (Scotland’s mountain range) and attacks anyone who visits it.

The witchcrazes of the 16th and 17th centuries hit Scotland especially hard. It’s believed that thousands were accused and over a thousand executed (by burning at the stake) as a result. You can see the scars of that and the rest of the Covenanters’ repressions to this day on the Scottish landscape (never been fan of John Knox).

The author is sympathetic to the doomed accused witches. She discusses the witchcrazes in her introduction, but also writes about some witch tales more sympathetically than how they appear in North Carolina folklore. The interesting thing is that you can see some Scottish influence (North Carolina has had quite a few Scottish settlers in its early history) on NC folklore.

For example, the famous tale of “The Miller’s Wife” ends fatally in North Carolina lore, with the blame clearly laid on the witchy wife (despite the Miller character being kind of an idiot). In Scotland, you get “The Cursed Mill.” In this story, set near Newtonmore in the Highlands, an old woman curses a miller and his mill. It’s never stated what the insult was, but you start to get some clues as the story progresses.

The first miller dies in a fire. The one after him contracts a fatal illness and the mill burns down. After the mill is rebuilt (because mills were critical to a town or village’s life), the witch relents a little and changes the curse. People can now use the mill for all except one day of the year. The mill runs well once subsequent millers follow these instructions.

However, long after the witch dies, the mill comes into the hands of an ambitious, grasping man who believes the curse is just superstition. So, he uses the mill on that one forbidden day of the year. Predictably, the mill grinds to a standstill. The miller tries again the next year, but this time, rats eat up all his corn. He gives up and sells the mill, but has no fortune in his business ventures thereafter and dies of a wasting illness.

The mill then goes to another man who is kind and gets the mill working again with the help of a young Traveler boy he adopts. After the man dies, the Traveler has to be recalled to get the mill working again. Once he dies, it falls apart for good.

This tale bears a lot of resemblance to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden, but in this instance, the sin is a refusal to observe a single Sabbath day of rest in the year. We humans just can’t resist crossing boundaries we just shouldn’t cross and that we don’t need to cross. There is also a clear subtext that when the mill is run with kindness rather than covetousness, all goes well. It’s only when the mill is run meanly, with greed, that everything comes to a screeching halt. Here, you can see the mill as a metaphor for Scottish society.

This indicates that the witch’s original grievance was a sound one and the curse not due to an evil nature. It also shows the witch as a productive member of society who brings necessary justice to those who transgress by treating others badly (very different from how witches were perceived back in the Convenanters’ day!). Scottish folklore often shows a balance in the Scottish cultural psyche between great generosity of spirit and the kind of miserliness for which the Scots have too-often become famous (even when it wasn’t true) worldwide. This story is a classic example.

The plan from here on out is to continue reading NC folklore and reviewing the books, just at a slower pace and over on Patreon. If you found these enjoyable, and want to follow my research plans, you can do so there. I’ll still be posting stuff here (including my Supernatural recaps and possibly reviews), but it will involve another one of my projects this month (likely, my mom’s family cookbook). I got a lot done on the NC folklore stuff in October and now that I am thoroughly creeped out, I need to do some other stuff.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


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


We need your help!

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.


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.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


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


We need your help!

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.


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.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


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


We need your help!

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.


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.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


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


We need your help!

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.


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 are 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 treatment.

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.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


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


We need your help!

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.


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.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


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


We need your help!

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.


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.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!


Halloween in North Carolina, Day #20: Mountain Ghost Stories (1988)


We need your help!

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.


Russell, Randy and Janet Barnett. Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina. John F. Blair, Publisher, 1988 (13th printing, 2014).


The authors of this one hail from Kansas City, MO and first visited the mountains of NC on their honeymoon. Randy Russell (1964-?) is a poet and mystery writer who also wrote three other collections about haunted hospitals, ghost cats, and ghost dogs, all in the South. His wife Janet assisted him as his researcher and co-author for his stories. She also collaborated with him on The Granny Curse and Other Ghosts and Legends from East Tennessee in 1999.

Randy was active at least as late as 2014, doing a book signing as a “ghostlorist” in Asheville, where he then lived, for his latest book. As far as I know, he’s still with us. Janet Barnett appears with him as late as 2009.

It’s interesting to read books ghost story books from different periods. They tend to show distinct trends and styles that other periods don’t. Mountain Ghost Stories, which came out in 1988, is like Harden, Morgan and Roberts’ books in that it focuses more on telling a good yarn than on investigating the history behind the legends. You’ll find no paranormal investigations with bell, book and EMF meter here.

These are stories set in the Appalachian “Mountain” region of North Carolina, west of the Piedmont. There’s quite a bit of overlap with Haunted Hills, though the latter goes a lot more into digging up facts and history (including period photographs). Mountain Ghost Stories is more about legends. But that’s not to say it’s lacking in worth or just retreads what other collections have done, before or since.

The authors retell several classic Cherokee myths and legends. Notable is their version of Spearfinger (“The Wicked Witch of Nantahala”). “Ulagu, the Giant Yellow Jacket,” whom we met previously in Monsters of North Carolina, also appears, as does the famous tale of the maiden Wenonah and her beloved’s leap from Blowing Rock in Watauga County, in “A Lover Lives to Leap Again.”

But Dagul-ku (a goose spirit) and his theft of tobacco from the Cherokee, in “The Magic that Brought Back Tobacco,” was new to me, as were the Nunnehi (Cherokee mountain spirits) from “Fairy Crosses and the Immortal Nunnehi.” There is a ghost story (not in this book), about the vicious 18th century serial/spree killer Micajah Harpe, that refers to his being cursed for desecrating a clearing on the Natchez Trace where Cherokee witches danced. This may be a later distortion of the Nunnehi legend.

Even in stories that date from the time of European settlement in the area, starting in the 18th century, the authors like to include some Cherokee legends. “The Phantom Choir of Roan [Mountain]” in Mitchell County, where some people can hear a roaring like a great battle, has stories going back to the Cherokee period. Later witnesses were in disagreement whether the armies in battle were heavenly or hellish. Similarly, Chimney Rock Mountain near Hickory Nut Gap, has a legend going back to the gold rush days of a ghostly battle. But Chimney Rock Mountain also has Pre-Columbian legends that the mountain was inhabited by a host of evil spirits. Like Roan Mountain, which has a bald (a place where grass, but no trees, grows) at the top, Chimney Rock Mountain has features and legends related to the Devil.

The Brown Mountain Lights, of course, also appear, along with a murder mystery that allegedly occurred during the 19th century. A man murdered his wife and newborn baby, so that he could run off with another woman. But he was found out by the spirits of his wife and child, who appeared as ghost lights and led the local women to their bones. And then there’s the story from Rutherfordton of Daniel Keith, which appears in other Mountain region collections, how he was unjustly hanged and his shadow lingered on the jail’s outside wall until the last person responsible for his hanging died many years later.

Finally, the cover illustration is for the story, “Hannibal Heaton Hears a Hoot,” about High Hampton Inn. A version of this story also appeared in Haunted Hills. When General Heaton decided to sell the house, his wife told him she would kill herself if he did. He didn’t believe her, but she was good as her word and he arrived home from the sale to find her hanging from a tree. Later, he claimed she returned as a white owl that hooted by his window every night. He left town soon after and was not heard from again.


Did you enjoy this review? You can help keep the project going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee. And don’t forget to check out my ghostly folklore notes all month on Patreon!