North Carolina Ghosts

Slave and Civil War ghosts

Slave owners strictly forbade drums and drumming, a tradition central to African religious practices, because they feared their slaves would communicate through drum signals to plan attacks or escapes. A slave named Jeeter worked at Hare's Mill in Hertford County and he secretly fashioned a drum out of found materials. He was playing it when slave owners converged on him and ultimately drowned him in the nearby mill stream. Area residents have often heard drum playing and some have seen Jeeter many times down by the old mill stream, on or near the bridge where he drowned.

Seven Sisters

Seven women captured from seven different African villages all wound up working as house servants in seven different households in Nags Head. When they were freed following the Civil War, three of them wanted to stay on to earn wages that would pay their passage home, while four wanted to leave Nags Head on the first boat to the mainland. When they'd huddled in the hold of a slave ship they'd pledged to stay together and look out for each other, and now they couldn't see how they could honor their pledge while going their separate ways.

One day all seven women collected their pay, packed their bags, and were never seen or heard from again. A colossal storm washed over the Outer Banks that same day, and when the wind and rain subsided, seven tall hills of sand stood together. This natural phenomenon was known for many years as the "Seven Sisters" at Milepost 14, right up until the area was developed.

The Confederate Sentry

Way up there in the northeastern corner of the state, the Albemarle Sound reaches its watery arms into mostly unsettled territory. Tiny dots on the map—Elizabeth City, Edenton, Ahoskie and Murfreesboro—leave huge stretches of open space, either surf or turf, between them. With scarcely a village to pillage, Union troops moved through that area looting and burning the occasional farmhouse or barn. Thick woods and many creeks were Hertford County's best defense.

In March 1862, the South readied itself for their visit all up and down the Chowan and Tar rivers. Near Winton was a small farming community known as Saint John's, where there stood one reasonably large farmhouse that Confederate troops knew would be a prime target, and they staked a sentry at a huge oak tree. His instructions were to simply wave a hand if he saw anyone approach or, after dark, light a couple matches that he'd cup in his hand, to signal the house.

He never had the chance. A Union sharpshooter picked him off his perch in the tree with a single shot, and it was that shot that alerted the Confederates to the enemy presence. After the ensuing scuffle, the remaining Union troops plotted an alternate route for their conquest of the South.

The sentry has not shirked his duty. He's still seen in his gray uniform sitting in the tree, greeting passersby. Sometimes he's lying at the base of the tree. At night neighbors have reported the flare of a small handful of matches coming from the fork in the tree—where any right-thinking tree sitter would sit—just long enough and bright enough to signal someone in the house.

The Battle of Bentonville

The Battle of Bentonville lasted three bloody days in Johnston County, March 19-21, 1865. A visitor to the Harper House next to the museum in recent years reported her conversation with John Harper, and two separate families reported watching a vivid battlefield reenactment on a day and time when no such reenactment was staged—at least not by the usual reenactors.

Fort Huger

Fort Huger was on Roanoke Island in what is now Manteo. Today the area that was occupied by the fort is privately owned and a huge fence has been erected to prevent Civil War buffs from inspecting the site of the cannon emplacements. So the widespread reports have almost faded away, at one time rampant and fairly consistent, describing a 19th-century sailor seen in a red striped shirt and suspenders, his invisible legs walking the shoreline as he looks out to sea.

Ben Combs

Ben Combs joined the Goldsboro Volunteers and the Goldsboro Rifles and was stationed at Fort Macon in the spring of 1862 when the attack came. He was killed but has not yet abandoned his station. Fort Macon State Park is one of the state's top attractions and the only one with a military fort, and park rangers there have long been aware of Ben's presence. On more than one occasion, they've noticed three shadows cast on the ground where two men stood.

General William Whiting

The fall of Fort Fisher, 15 miles south of Wilmington, was a pivotal event near the end of the war. Its ghost is Confederate General William Whiting, better known as "Little Billy," mortally wounded during the South's last stand and taken north as a prisoner of war to die. Apparently he's back in his gray uniform, mounting the earthen embankments to the parapet where he was injured, standing among the cannon emplacements near the visitor's center at one of North Carolina's historic sites.

The Jenkins-Richardson House

The Jenkins-Richardson House at 520 Craven Street in New Bern was briefly converted into a hospital for Union soldiers not long after it was built. A soldier by the name of Keefer spent an extended period of time there before dying of his injuries, and a series of subsequent homeowners have come to know Keefer.

When he takes items from the top of a dresser he neatly arranges them on the floor. He's been reported standing in his blue uniform at the foot of a bed and occasionally engaging the children of the house in conversations. He opens doors that were closed, plays the drum, and sometimes takes to moaning and crying. He once picked up a bed with two little girls in it and moved it about eight inches away from the wall. And what ghost doesn't randomly turn on the water in the bathroom?

The house is prominently featured on the Annual Halloween Ghost Walk sponsored by the New Bern Historical Society.

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