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What’s the truth behind stories of satanic activity at Airlie Gardens?

Ben Steelman

Visitors walk past the Airlie Oak at Airlie Gardens.

Details are hard to pin down. (Satanists don’t usually send church notes to the newspaper.)

It is a fact, however, that Lebanon Chapel at Airlie Gardens was the target of considerable vandalism in the 1960s and early 1970s, at a time when the little chapel was in disuse.

Published accounts say vandals destroyed the altar, gouged holes in the doors, hammered the organ and smeared excrement around the interior. They also damaged some tombstones in the adjoining burial ground, stole some tombstones and dug up graves. Whether this behavior was related to Satanism, witchcraft or simple thuggery is not known.

The vandalism ceased — or, at least, was substantially reduced — when the Rev. Herbert Aman, then rector of St. Andrews’s on-the-Sound Episcopal Church, discovered the chapel’s desecration and began to push for restoration. Aman enlisted the help of Bishop Thomas H. Wright of East Carolina and of the Corbett family, who owned Airlie at the time. Walter Corbett made a substantial donation to the restoration work and contributed most of the materials.

Lebanon Chapel was formally rededicated in 1974, with Bishop Wright presiding.

Officially, the chapel is deeded to St. James Episcopal Church

In 1835, Thomas Henry Wright (an ancestor of the bishop) deeded 6.5 acres of land to St. James for “the purpose of creating an Episcopal house of worship on Wrightsville Sound.” By 1836, the chapel was complete and services were being held there regularly. The name came from the Wrights’ adjoining property, then known as Mount Lebanon, reportedly from the number of cedar trees which once grew there. In recent years, the chapel has been a popular wedding site.

As for the Satanists, no traces have been found more recently. In 2003, however, former Airlie Gardens director Thomas Herrera-Mishler told the StarNews, “There’s a hundred-year tradition in Wilmington (of) sneaking into Airlie and messing around.”

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5 Responses to “ What’s the truth behind stories of satanic activity at Airlie Gardens?”

  1. On January 13, 2011 at 2:09 pm boo wrote:

    neo satan wannabes were there but mostly it was used in pagan rituals. The real satan live sacrfice kind of parties happened at the meat packing plant. One day someone will do some diggn there, literally dont forget the creek.

  2. On January 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm John Staton wrote:

    I’d also like to note here that, as portrayed in the film “House of the Devil,” which screened at Cucalorus in 2009, it was something of a fad in the 1970s to think that Satanists were running amuck and evening abducting people. There wasn’t much evidence for that actually happening, but it captured the public fascination nevertheless.

  3. On January 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm John wrote:

    “Boo” mentioned the meat packing plant. I had heard preached in my old church growing up that Airlie Gardens, the Meat packing plant, and the (used to be hidden) lake behind Roland-Grise school on the wooded lot bordering Lake Avenue, S. College Road, and Shipyard Blvd (some of it cleared for the Senior Citizens Center) were the “dens of iniquity” where Satanic activity took place.

  4. On February 2, 2012 at 12:26 am hamptonhowle wrote:

    I saw the damage done first hand as a child. My Grandfather was Wadell Corbett and I spent a lot of time there as a child and adult. It was the work of Satin regardless of the kids thought they were doing. Burned Bibles, it used to freak me out.

  5. On April 8, 2013 at 8:02 am Anne Russell wrote:

    My aunt Susan Bradley Wright named Lebanon Chapel; her summer home was on Bradley Creek next door to where my home stands. I love simple little Lebanon Chapel where my daughters were married, and I attend summer services here, with the windows thrown open to embrace surrounding flora and fauna. The Chapel was shabby 40 years ago; I am grateful that it has been restored and is in frequent use. (I am author of Wilmington A Pictorial History, and North Carolina Portraits of Faith)

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