Churches and Halls

St. James Church

Samuel Jocelyn was born to wealth and privilege in 1787, and spent much of his fortunate boyhood with his best friend Alexander "Sandy" Hostler. The two shared an interest in the afterlife and they made a pledge that whoever died first would come back to contact the other.

Young Samuel married Mary Ann Sampson, an equally wealthy socialite, but shortly after their wedding the couple had a lover's spat that sent him out into the night, riding his horse into a dark and dismal swamp, never to return. A search party found his body half-submerged in frigid waters, brought it back to Wilmington and buried it in St. James Churchyard.

True to his word, Samuel appeared before Sandy in flickering candlelight and urged him to dig up his body. That seemed a bit radical to Sandy and Samuel had to appear two more times to convince him to do it. Sandy recruited a friend well known to both of them, Louis Toomer, to help him exhume the body, and they worked through the night with picks and shovels.

They opened the coffin to find that their friend had been buried alive, the corpse rolled over face down, his face frozen in an eternal scream, his fingertips shredded to the bone. The interior of the coffin had been clawed to shreds. Men of science later concluded that a blow to Samuel's head coupled with submersion in freezing water likely slowed his breathing and heart rate to the point of being undetectable—and the stethoscope wouldn't be invented until 1920.

People walking past the graveyard have reported hearing Samuel's muffled cries. School children have attempted, on a dare, to lie on top of the grave for an hour. None have lasted so long.

St. Thomas Preservation Hall

A well-dressed, well-connected gentleman arrived from London and had not been in Wilmington very long before he turned up rather permanently missing. A passing stranger found his bony hand protruding from some roadside muck near Third and Dock streets still wearing a ring known to belong to the gentleman by the name of Llewelyn Markwick. Apparently he'd been shot in the back but not robbed, for reasons that remain unknown.

Soon after that the section of the road that had been his grave began sinking, and a distinguished gentleman was seen many times stumbling about the area as if in need of help. People stopped for him and he vanished right before their eyes. A couple crashed a car into the Confederate War monument at that intersection and told police that a man had stepped off the curb in front of them and though they swerved to miss him—and wound up hitting the monument—their car had gone straight through him. Still others have reported seeing Markwick on horseback charging down the alley near St. Thomas Preservation Hall.

St. John's Masonic Hall

Mary Ratcliff was the daughter of a plantation owner and his slave, freed at the conclusion of the Civil War. She became involved with James Heaton, a state congressman who wanted to keep their mixed-race relationship secret. He was a nasty drunk and a jealous man, and after a huge fight Mary resolved to escape his abusiveness.

She was hiding in an alcove trying to avoid him when James appeared out of nowhere and offered his hand in apology. She refused it and he offered two more times. Then he became incensed and pulled out a pistol, shooting her in the chest at point blank range. He took off running with police in hot pursuit and when he was at last cornered, he put the pistol to his own temple and fired.

The scene of the crime was a grocery store when Mary Ratcliff was shot down in the doorway, then became St. John's Masonic Lodge and, in the early 1990s, was transformed into the Rhino Club. This was a private bar that by state law could only serve liquor without food to club members.

The name "Mary" has appeared on the bar and in the mirror over the bar. A bartender working in the stock room heard a voice right behind and a hand reach under his shirt to touch his back. A manager found a wall of kegs stacked from floor to ceiling in a back room—that could only have been stacked that way from inside the room.

Mary wears a floor-length black dress and James also appears occasionally, decked out in a vest and top hat.

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Terms: Wilmington Ghost Stories: Churches and Halls

Wilmington Ghost Stories: Churches and Halls

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