Details are hard to pin down. (Satanists don’t usually send church notes to the newspaper.)
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.”
Date posted: January 13, 2011
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