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Who are some local ghosts?

Ben Steelman

* The Maco Light — Mysterious orb often seen floating over old railroad tracks at the Maco community, 14 miles outside Wilmington. Tradition claimed it was the ghost of Joe Baldwin, a brakeman killed in a train accident around 1867, looking for his severed head. A favorite of Wilmington teenagers, the light attracted even the attention of ghost hunter Hans Holzer, who investigated the area in 1964, didn’t see the light, but pronounced it genuine. Locals claim that Joe hasn’t been seen since 1977, when the CSX line pulled up the rail tracks at Maco, but researchers with Port City Paranormal claim to have caught a photo image of the lights in 2009. Another victim of a railroad accident was supposedly behind the “Spirit of Gore Lake Road,” spotted occasionally in northern Brunswick County.

* Samuel Jocelyn — The young Wilmington lawyer was found dead after an apparent fall from a horse in 1810 and was buried in the churchyard of St. James Episcopal Church, Third and Market streets, Wilmington. Within days, Jocelyn’s spirit appeared to his best friend, Alexander Hostler, beginning him to dig up his body. Jocelyn appeared more than once. When Hostler finally convinced family and officials to agree to a disinterment (the story goes), it was discovered that Jocelyn had, in fact, been buried alive — and had clawed at the lid of his coffin. The story wasn’t written down until after the Civil War, but Jocelyn was an actual, historical figure whose name appears in county court documents.

* Thalian Hall — Actors and stagehands in the historic theater at 310 Chesnut St., Wilmington [Map this], has repeatedly reported seeing figures in Victorian dress seated in the otherwise deserted first balcony.

* New Hanover County Public Library — A ghostly presence has repeatedly been reported in the second-floor local history room of the library at 201 Chestut St., Wilmington [Map this], removing books from shelves or rearranging titles. Sometimes, a chill presence is felt, sometimes a slim figure is vaguely perceived. Librarians have identified the “ghost” as a little old lady, a devoted researcher of local history and genealogy, who enjoyed her work so much, she didn’t want to give it up when dead. Another ghost, a Victorian male figure, was reportedly spotted in the library’s old quarters in the old Wilmington Light Infantry building, 409 Market St., Wilmington [Map this].

* The Bellamy Mansion — The historic home at 503 Market St., Wilmington [Map this], has had multiple ghost sightings in recent years. The silent figure of a Union soldier wandered through a group of Civil War re-enactors; another uniformed figure, with a lady in antebellum gown, has appeared in the windows at night, when nobody is in the locked building. Then there’s Miss Ellen Bellamy, who died in the house in 1946 at the age of 94. Her wheelchair keeps popping up in different places around the house, no matter where attendants store it, and restorers can’t keep smudges off the white paint in her bedroom. (Miss Ellen loved to read the newspaper until her hands were nearly black from the ink.)

* The Price-Gause House — This Italianate house at 514 Market St., Wilmington [Map this], has had multiple hauntings. When the Chamber of Commerce was headquartered here, a ghostly figure — sometimes described as a friendly-looking Victorian gentleman — was often seen coming down the front stairs as visitors arrived. Other spectres were less amiable. Before the house was built in the 1850s, tradition has it, the lot was the site of “Gallows Hill,” where the county’s condemned were hanged in colonial times. The Chamber of Commerce moved out some years ago. Not open to the public.

* The Battleship North Carolina Memorial — Ghosts of several World War II sailors are said to haunt the battleship. Several visitors (and longtime caretaker Danny Bradshaw) have seen the figure of a blonde man in passageways. Another figure sometimes appears in portholes. Doors and hatches open and close without explanation, and paranormal research groups report recording electronic voice phenomena (EVPs). The SciFi Channel series “Ghost Hunters” taped one episode, “Taps” aboard the battleship, and Bradshaw has published his own book, “Ghosts of the Battleship North Carolina,” available at the memorial’s gift shop.

* Airlie Road — According to local ghost researcher Brooks Preik, the tree-lined rural road with all the Spanish moss is home to a variant of “The Vanishing Hitchhiker. A young girl appears at the roadside and begs to be driven home. By the time the driver arrives at the address, however, the girl has disappeared. It turns out that she either drowned or died in a car crash years ago. (Accounts vary.) So many localities have such tales that folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand listed them as a modern “urban legend” in his book “The Vanishing Hitchhiker.” (Bruce and Nancy Roberts retold a similar tale, decades ago, that supposedly took place near Charlotte.)

* Fort Fisher — Legend has it that the ghost of Maj. Gen. W.H.C. Whiting appears at night on the anniversary of the battle, trying to rally the Confederates for one last counter-attack.

* The Brunswick Inn — The historic home at 301 E. Bay St., Southport [Map this], is supposedly haunted by “Tony,” a harpist who used to play at the Inn, as well as for formal parties on Cape Fear river boats. He drowned in a boating accident off Bald Head Island in 1882, and now “roams the halls regularly,” according to local historian J.C. Judah.

* Mount Misery Road — A road running along the west bank of the Cape Fear River near modern-day Leland, named for a large sandhill north of Eagles Island. Before the Civil War (according to some accounts), slaves were marched from docks near this point up to Fayetteville. Some reportedly died along the way. “Late at night, moaning and chains can still be heard,” according to J.C. Judah.

* The Gray Man of Oak Island — A mysterious figure that supposedly “shows himself” immediately before hurricanes on the Brunswick beaches. Those who see the “Gray Man” will supposedly be miraculously spared from harm. The apparition was depicted on the old “Unsolved Mysteries” TV series, and apparently has been spotted as far south as Pawleys Island, S.C. Stories vary about his origins: A hurricane victim, a tourist who came to a bad end or possibly a soldier, riding on horseback, who was killed in an accident on the way home to meet his sweetheart.

Sources for local ghost lore include the books “Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast” by Brooks Preik and “Ghosts of Old Wilmington” by John Hirchak. A “Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington” offers nightly tours; tickets $12 adults, $10 students, seniors and military. Reservations may be made by calling 792-1866.

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4 Responses to “ Who are some local ghosts?”

  1. On April 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm Darrell Parks wrote:

    The “Vanishing Hitchhiker” is in Jamestown, NC. Her name is Lidia. If you let her wear your jacket to keep warm, you will find it on her grave in the morning.

  2. On May 9, 2011 at 11:34 am mathew mak lukenjohn wrote:

    don’t forget all the ghosts at Orton’s pool room… scary stuff.

  3. On June 10, 2011 at 9:37 pm jerry sauls wrote:

    the old derosset house on the corner of dock st is haunted also because i was there on the morning of a cold febuary back in the early 1980.s our constrution company was doing some light renovation work and it was only me and my boss well my boss went to get some more bulding supplies and i went upstaires to go get a nice veiw of the river so i climbed up to the widows watch tower and was looking out over the town then i herd the what sounded like the downstairs door being slamed shut and herd someone walking upstairs untill they got to the top of steps and i said as i turned around to say why are you back so soon to my surprize there was no one there so i stood there for a few seconds then went back downstairs opened the door to see if my boss was back or mabe he forgot something and there was no one around so i decieded to wait outside until my boss had returned

  4. On October 15, 2011 at 12:41 am Ryan wrote:

    My friends have experienced some crazy stuff on Airlie Road. They refuse to go back and dont like to talk about it. Email if you want details. Another local place is the Dow Road cemetery.

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