North Carolina Ghosts

Bald Head Island

On Bald Head Island, a story of national significance unfolded. Aaron Burr ran against Thomas Jefferson for president in 1800, and Alexander Hamilton threw his considerable support behind Jefferson. For that and possibly a few other reasons, Burr and Hamilton dueled in 1804, and Burr killed Hamilton. Warrants were issued for his arrest and Burr made plans to flee the country.

Theodosia was his only daughter, and she was married to South Carolina Governor Joseph Alston. Her husband secretly arranged for Theodosia to accompany her father on his escape, chartering a boat to New York and purchasing cruise tickets for two to France. She did not get far. As her boat passed Bald Head Island pirates attacked it, killed the crew and sank the boat. The pirates retained Theodosia only briefly on the island before she saw her opportunity to escape, and with no prospects of rescue whatsoever and her immediate future looking astonishingly bleak, she took a deep breath and walked straight into the surf. When the pirate captain realized what had happened, he made the fellow who was supposed to be guarding her follow in her sandy footsteps.

And that's what residents of Bald Head Island see today, one apparition and then another walking down to the sea and plunging headlong into the surf.

Seafaring ghosts

Reports ran rampant for many years about a beautiful young woman in a flowing white dress loitering near the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. These stories are almost exclusively the accounts of young men, and they seem to fall into the same category as the countless tales of lovely young Indian maidens paddling canoes in the inland waterways, tantalizing and evasive, and vanishing entirely when their all-male pursuers close in on them.

If you happen to see the Gray Man of Hatteras loitering around the lighthouse, it's time to evacuate. He only appears when a hurricane is bearing down on the Outer Banks. Nobody knows who he is, but some say he's the spirit of a man drowned in a hurricane in the early 1900s.

Carroll A. Deering

Diamond Shoals near the Outer Banks is a notorious offshore death trap for oceangoing vessels, and back in the days of piracy men known as wreckers lured ships onto invisible rocky shoals by tying a lantern around a horse's neck and walking down the beach. Ships' captains who saw the light got the false impression they were farther from shore than they really were, and ran aground in punishing winds and waves. The wreckers boarded and cleaned out the cargo.

In a most recent and possibly similar episode, the Carroll A. Deering foundered and sank on these shoals in January 1921. She was a five-masted schooner that communicated with the Cape Lookout Lighthouse during her northbound voyage, asking that the lightkeeper report to her company that she'd lost her anchors during a storm in the Cape Fear Region. A day later, the Lifesaving Station at Cape Hatteras spotted her run aground and went to the rescue. She was completely deserted. The ship's log, all navigational equipment and the entire crew had vanished without a trace, and the ruins of this ghost ship still lie just below the sands of Cape Hatteras.

Beaufort ghosts

In Beaufort, a young girl's family arranged for her to marry the son of a prominent family while she was secretly seeing a sailor. On her wedding day she got word the sailor's boat was docking and she ran to the harbor in her wedding dress. She saw the sailor come down the walkway with a woman on his arm, and retreated hastily. In her stress she teetered and fell into the water, and would have drowned if her brother had not come along to pull her out. She confessed the whole affair and her enraged brother sought out the sailor and shot him.

Later the woman she'd seen with her sailor came to visit, and told her she was the sailor's sister. The girl went crazy and during her bouts of insanity she put on her wedding dress and stood at the harbor. According to various reports she's still wearing her ruined dress and strolling on the arm of a young man in a sailor's outfit.

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