Tales and Folklore from the NC Coast

Coastal Legends

The North Carolina coast is home to countless tall tales, legends and haunted stories to accompany its stunning and unique landscape of marshes, maritime forests, miles of beaches and sometimes unforgiving storms. From this locale, hundreds of stories have stemmed from actual events and local liars, and while some of these stories have museums and landmarks to pay homage to the tale, others simply survive by word of mouth. No matter which stretch of the Carolina coastline you explore, chances are there is a story hidden somewhere just below the surface.

On the Outer Banks, few visitors ever hear about or visit the Cora Tree, a sizeable live oak that is in the center of the Brigands Bay community in Frisco, but that hasn't stopped its legend from staying alive.

According to the legend, in the early 1700s, a strange woman named Cora showed up and began living in a crude hut in the forest not far from the Cora Tree. Cora lived alone with no one for company but a baby whom she carried with her everywhere. Folks were suspicious of strangers, but left Cora to her own. After some time, they noticed that Cora was usually in the neighborhood just before misfortune struck. A cow she touched went dry, a little boy who mocked her baby got sick and nearly died, and fishermen stopped catching fish even though Cora always seemed to have an abundance of fresh fish.

Locals were certainly suspicious, but did nothing until a body washed up on a local beach with the digits "666" burned into the man's forehead. Small footprints indicated that someone had fled the scene, most likely a woman.

Eli Brood, a Salem, Massachusetts captain of the brig Susan G., heard the stories about Cora and decided to test her to see if she was a witch. He tried to cut her hair, but was unable to because it was "tougher than rope." Next, he tied her up and threw her into the Sound, but she floated to the top of the surface. These were indications to Brood that she was indeed a witch.

They tied Cora and the baby to a live oak tree with dry kindling at her feet, and while Brood and the locals argued about whether it was right to burn her, the baby suddenly turned into a cat with green eyes and ran away. At that moment, the sunny sky was covered with a giant dark cloud and a bolt of lightning crashed into the tree, covering the tree and the onlookers in smoke.

When the smoke cleared, the kindling was untouched, and ropes were still tied around the live oak, but Cora was gone and never heard from again. Only two signs existed to testify to her existence. The live oak tree was split in two from the power of the lightning bolt, and four letters were burned so deep into the tree that they are still clearly visible today: "CORA."

All of the coastal towns of North Carolina seem to have their own legends and hauntings. Fort Fisher's most well known ghost is General Whiting, a confederate general who died at the Fort during the Civil War.

Fort Fisher was widely known as the protector of the last trade stronghold of the South during the Civil War. Wilmington was the last of the Confederate South's trade ports to remain open during the end days of the Civil War, and Fort Fisher allowed it to stay open to blockade runners and to Robert E Lee's Army. By the time it fell in January 1865, Fort Fisher protected over a mile. Today, the ground that still stands is a State Historic Site - Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

This Fort was virtually impossible to defeat until December of 1864, when two major battles were fought there. On Christmas Eve 1864, the first attack came in the Union's effort to close down the South and win the war. By the next day, 28 Fort Fisher solders were dead and many more missing, captured or wounded, but Fort Fisher still held its ground.

Late that December, Major General Alfred Tenny was chosen to lead the next assault. By January 12, 1865, the arrival of the Federal fleet commanded by Tenney could be seen at the Fort. The next day massive bombardment began as the Fort was assaulted from sea and land. General William Whiting was injured on January 15 on the third traverse, and then was forced to officially surrender to Major General Tenney that night. Fort Fisher had been defeated, and with it, the Confederate South.

The staff at Fort Fisher have reported that the spirit of General Whitting had been seen to this day walking along the Old River Road in the Pine Grove. The River Road led from the Fort to the Port of Wilmington.

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Terms: North Carolina Tales, North Carolina Folklore, NC Tales, NC Folklore, Coastal Legends

Various Tales and Folklore of the North Carolina Coast: Coastal Legends

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