Happy Halloween

Halloween is here – time to party!


Blair staffers got in the spirit with some great costumes. Pictures coming soon!

For a good scare or some ghostly inspiration check out Blair’s collection of folk tales and legends.

However you choose to celebrate, get lost in the spirit of the day and have a happy Halloween, from Blair!

1 Day Until Halloween

Tomorrow is Halloween! On the eve of this holiday when all souls are said to roam free we present the tale of one lost soldier who found his way home.

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GhostsSouthernTN“Home Is Where the Heart Is”
from Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley
by Georgiana Kotarski

The story of a soul returning to comfort a loved one in time of grief is common among people sharing tales around the kitchen table or campfire. Of all the emotions that bind a spirit to earth, the greatest of these is love.

One day in the late 1940s, Earl came down the stairs of his Pisgah, Alabama, home carrying a heavy duffel bag. He was dressed smartly for his trip to a military base in Alaska, more than four thousand miles away. His mother reached for him one last time, holding tight and bracing herself for the long separation. Earl hoisted his duffel bag back over his shoulder and, reminding his mother of the date he would return, started out. As he passed through the doorway, down the porch stairs, and out through the yard, he whistled his favorite tune. He was always whistling. It was his way.

Following a long but uneventful trip to his faraway post, Earl began his tour of duty. He never completed it. One morning, his buddies could not rouse him. He had died in his sleep.

As the weeks and months passed, most of the stunned family made peace with their grief. But Earl’s mother “was just grieving herself to death,” her granddaughter remembers fifty years later. “She was constantly upset and worried about Earl.” She couldn’t understand what had happened to him. Was it a mistake? His body had come home in a closed coffin. His mother had not seen him. She could not touch him, stroke his once-soft face while confessing her love to him in the long night during the wake. The next morning, they had lowered him into the naked earth, then gently pulled his choking mother away.

In her sorrow, Earl’s mother had only his parting words to cling to—words that had made it clear not only that he was coming home, but even when he was coming home. She thought of him every day. Maybe he’ll write, she found herself thinking. She felt secretly eager when mail time drew near each morning, even leaving the eggs frying on the stove or the laundry swinging by one pin when she heard the crunch of gravel heralding the postman’s approach. She moved her chair to the window and spent more time looking down the road than she did mending or snapping beans. “Light’s better here,” she told the family.

The day Earl was due to return, she just didn’t feel up to going to the church singing. She stayed home. That evening, she fell into bed but couldn’t sleep. The grief seemed to wash over her afresh. In the middle of the night, she threw the tangled covers off and set out for the outhouse. In the light of a nearly full moon, she had no trouble picking her way across the roots and ruts of the worn path. It was too cool to bother looking for copperheads in the damp grass. She pulled the plank door open and let it close partway. The baying of dogs in the distance sounded like a dirge. Even here, perched on a cold seat, she thought of Earl. He once got stuck in the outhouse, she remembered, before they bought a real seat to cover the crude hole.

As she started back to the house, she heard whistling. Earl’s tune! Clear as a fiddle, too. She stopped and steadied herself against an old dogwood. Looking up toward the house, she saw a soldier coming through the yard with a duffel bag on his back. His whistling grew louder as he neared the steps and sprang up onto the porch. It was Earl!

As he went in the front door, she ran in through the back, which allowed a view straight through to the living room in the front of the house. She saw Earl, real as rain, walk into the living room.

“I’m home,” he said.

Then he vanished.

“He was always one to play tricks,” remembers the granddaughter, “and Grandmother thought he had slipped upstairs or something real quick. She had every one of them out of bed, searching the house. They looked under beds, they looked in closets—anywhere he could’ve possibly been hiding. But after that, Grandmother thought that Earl was home. She didn’t see or hear from him again, but he was home.”

The family thought it was just her mind playing tricks. “No one else ever saw anything there. Only my grandmother saw him. But it put her mind at rest.”

Years later, the old home between Flat Rock and Pisgah was torn down and its lumber salvaged to repair other houses.

But no matter to one Alabama soldier. Home is where the heart is, and his is with Mama.

***

Check back for more terrifying legends in our Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.

2 Days Until Halloween

Halloween is almost here! Get ready with a Cherokee legend about a terrifying creature from Western North Carolina.

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MountainGhostStories“Ulagu, The Giant Yellow Jacket”
from Mountain Ghost Stories and Curious Tales of Western North Carolina
by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett

“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,” wrote Robert Frost in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” He certainly wasn’t thinking of Nantahala Gorge. There the woods are scary, dark, and steep.

Some of the most dramatically rugged scenery in western North Carolina can be found in the Nantahala Gorge, which runs along U.S. Highway 19 between Wesson and Nantahala in Swain and Macon counties. Cut ages ago by the Nantahala River, the gorge is so steep that it was called Land of the Middle Sun by the Cherokee because daylight reached the bottom of the gorge only when the midday sun was directly between the high cliffs on either side.

The bottom of the gorge was a dark and forbidding place where numerous monsters were known to dwell. One of the most ferocious beasts who lived there was a giant yellow jacket known as Ulagu, the Cherokee word for boss or leader.

Ulagu developed a taste for children. For many years, the yellow jacket terrorized the Cherokee by swooping down out of the sky to carry off children who were shocked into immobility by the suddenness of its attack. The appearance of Ulagu, its body as large as a house, was always accompanied by a wind created by the beast’s huge wings. Its whirring flight drowned out all other forest sounds and was said to be as loud as a persistent roll of thunder.

Ulagu was also a rapid flyer. While the Cherokee men often tried to track the yellow jacket that was carrying off a screaming child to its secret hiding place, it always flew too swiftly to be followed.

In a desperate attempt to discover Ulagu ‘s nest, the Cherokee set traps of fresh meat for the monster yellow jacket. White strings were tied around the meat. Cherokee hunters believed that Ulagu could be traced more easily with a string dangling from its clutches. Yet each time the horrific Ulagu carried away the meat, it darted so swiftly that the yellow jacket was out of sight before the string could be followed. The Cherokee hunters increased the size of both the bait and the string until a whole deer was finally offered. The meat was tied with a long string the thickness of a rope.

The giant yellow jacket returned once more and seized the bait. This time, however, the load proved heavy enough to slow Ulagu’s flight and to cause the monster yellow jacket to fly much lower in the sky. The rope could be followed as it dangled just above the tops of the trees. A group of hunters pursued Ulagu along a high ridge, then watched as it flew across the gorge and disappeared into the side of the cliff opposite.

The hunters marked the spot in their minds where the white rope had disappeared into the face of the cliff. With a great shout, they ran down into the dark gorge and up the other side. There they discovered a hidden cave out of which a strong breeze blew, the air stirred by the working of Ulagu ‘s enormous wings.

Standing outside, the hunters saw that the top of the cave was covered with a thick comb of six-sided chambers made from a waxy, papery material. The cave was teeming with yellow-colored wasps of normal size. Afraid they would be stung to death and eaten by Ulagu, the Cherokee hunters decided to kill the great beast and the smaller wasps by filling the cave with smoke.

A fire was built and tended at the mouth of the cave until the nest was entirely filled with choking smoke, killing Ulagu and most of the smaller yellow jackets. A few of the normal-sized wasps, though, managed to escape. According to Cherokee legend, the escaping wasps flew into the forest and multiplied until they lived everywhere in the world.

The offspring of Ulagu continue to be a stinging nuisance to people today. Whenever a Cherokee is stung by a wasp, he is likely to be reminded that long ago a much greater evil inhabited the earth. A visit to Nantahala Gorge inspires the feeling that when monsters inhabited our planet, they must have chosen the spookiest of places to live. And those who know the legend of Ulagu are apt to drive through the Land of the Middle Sun with the windows rolled up.

***

Check back for more terrifying tales in out Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.

3 Days Until Halloween

Halloween is only 3 days away and to celebrate we bring you the tale of a ghostly ship that reappears every year off the North Carolina coast.

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Flaming_Ship“The Flaming Ship of Ocracoke”
Abridged from The Flaming Ship of Ocracoke and Other Tales of the Outer Banks
by Judge Charles Henry Whedbee

Some most unusual things continue to happen just off the northern shore of Ocracoke Inlet… but the Ocracoke Happening, they say, repeats itself year after year, always under the same conditions and always at the same spot. Many people have seen it time after time, and always on the night when the new moon makes its first appearance in September….

In the region itself, the most widely accepted explanation is… of the time when Anne was Queen of England and many efforts were being made to colonize the Carolinas….

In the beautiful Rhine River Valley in 1689, the retreating armies of Louis XIV had brutally scourged and laid waste the entire countryside, leaving everything destroyed and most of the people destitute. Some ten thousand Palatines, as they were called, flooded into England for refuge, and the authorities did not know what to do with them….

…Baron Christopher de Graffenried… proposed taking several hundred of these poor people to the Province of Carolina in the New World across the sea….

The mass migration… resulted in the settlement of a large portion of land in what is now eastern North Carolina….

Most people, though, do not know about a later shipload of Palatines whose financial status was much better but whose destiny was not to be so bright. While homeless, they were still possessed of a large amount of gold and silver plate, gold candlesticks, and many valuable coins and jewels, which they had managed to conceal from invading armies….

At that time, Ocracoke Inlet was the principal point of entry for ships with passengers or cargoes bound for the interior of North Carolina….

Thus it was with the ship carrying these later Palatines….

By the time it was fully daylight, all the Palatines were dressed in their best clothes and were assembled on the deck of the ship…. Not wanting to risk the theft of their valuables, they made the mistake of bringing these belongings up on deck with them. There they stood, their eyes full of hope and anticipation and their hands full of more treasure than the ship’s captain had ever seen in any one place in his entire lifetime.

Unknown to his passengers, the Captain had, at one time, been a pirate, but he had taken the “King’s Pardon,” promising to lead a law-abiding life. At the sight of the Palatines’ treasure, however, his new moral code promptly went by the board. Calling a hurried meeting with his officers and then an even briefer meeting with his crew, the skipper found them all of a like mind to his. This was too easy a chance to be missed.

So the plot was laid….

…The sun had set some hours before, and the new moon was low in the sky when the crew, led by the Captain and both mates, slipped up behind the few passengers still taking the air on deck and silently strangled them with short lengths of line. Then, silently and swiftly, they crept below, knives in hand, and cut the throats of every remaining passenger, children as well as adults. Not one was spared.

These brutal murders accomplished, the crew then brought lights into the hold and methodically ripped open all the sea bags and chests belonging to the murdered people, stealing all the gold, silver, jewels, and coins they had so much coveted on the deck of the ship that morning. Pirate-like, they divided their loot on the deck of the ship. Then, lowering the ship’s longboat into the sea, they prepared to go ashore. Just before they left the ship, they spread the vessel’s mainsail and jib and slipped the anchor chain so that the craft could run before the gentle southwest wind. As a final touch, the Captain set fire to the large pile of rifled sea bags and chests which had been heaped near the mainmast. This was to make more credible the tale of disaster they intended to tell when they reached the shore.

… The fire had spread more rapidly than he had anticipated…. Now, all the sails seemed to be set, and the ship was driving at full speed, not in a northeasterly direction but almost due west, right toward the crowded longboat.

The sails seemed to be solid sheets of flame, and from the hold of the burning ship came long, loud, pitiful wails, filling the dark sea with the mournful sound of souls in torment. The inferno ship bore down upon the frantically fleeing longboat until, with a crash of splintering timbers, it rolled the doomed little craft over and over under its keel, spilling the murderer-robbers into the sea. Most of them were drowned outright. Some, however, were able to cling to pieces of wreckage from the longboat until they were washed ashore many hours later. Amazingly, the burning death ship then came about and, with no living soul at her lashed helm, set a steady course toward the northeast again, her sails still aflame and the mournful wails still emanating from the hold.

To this day, they say, that flaming ship reappears on the first night of the new moon in September. Her sails are always sheets of flame and her rigging glows red-hot in the near darkness. Always there is the accompanying eerie wailing, as she sails swiftly and purposefully toward the northeast….

***

Check back for more terrifying legends in our Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.

5 Days Until Halloween

Only 5 days until Halloween! Get pumped with this tale about the friendly spirits inhabiting a house in Tennessee.

***

“The Oakslea Place Haunting”
from Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee
by Christopher K. Colemanghost&haunts_tennessee

Lying nearly halfway between Nashville and Memphis, Jackson is a convenient stop for weary travelers…

John Read was the presiding judge for two different county courts and a highly respected local citizen. In 1860, he built Oakslea Place on a quiet branch of the Forked Deer River. Back in those days, the house was deep in the countryside and surrounded by a stately stand of oak trees on a large tract of land….

As the years passed, Jackson grew up around Oakslea. Sections of the plantation were parceled out for other houses. Today, Oakslea is situated in the middle part of Jackson on a quiet, tree-lined boulevard. One of the oldest homes in town, it has accumulated a long history. It has also accumulated a few things not of this world.

In 2004, Oakslea Place came into the possession of its present owner, Richard Testani. From the first, Testani recognized the house’s uniqueness and set about restoring it with a view to turning it into a bed-and-breakfast. Meanwhile, he began to suspect he was not the only one to possess the house. After Oakslea opened to guests and others began having similar encounters, Testani realized that some of the house’s dearly departed had not quite departed.

At first, the new owner experienced things that might be easily dismissed as the products of an overactive imagination—the sounds of footsteps and of voices whispering. Then he began to notice things not so easily dismissed—the strong scent of a woman’s perfume and the distinct aroma of fresh flowers. Finally, the master of Oakslea started seeing full-blown apparitions. Nor was Testani the only one to witness the elegant bed-and-breakfast’s spectral residents. Guests staying in the four well-appointed suites experienced an assortment of paranormal phenomena and even had ghosts materialize before them.

Despite all the spectral activity, no one at Oakslea has expressed any fear at having to share their stay with the resident spirits. In fact, by all accounts, the ghosts who haunt Oakslea have impeccable manners.

Perhaps the most interesting apparition is a rather dignified spirit named Hampton. According to eyewitness accounts, Hampton appears as an elderly African-American gentleman always dressed in formal attire such as a butler might wear. His name is known because he once materialized before a bartender working a catered party in the mansion. The bartender was busy dispensing beverages when the tuxedo-clad apparition appeared and introduced himself by saying, “I am Hampton the butler.”

Over the years, the owners of Oakslea Place employed house servants. Hampton, by all accounts, was one of the home’s more devoted domestics, serving as butler there for most of his adult life. He has appeared to the present owner on a number of occasions and has occasionally materialized before visitors and staff. Apparently, his spirit still looks after Oakslea and its guests, making sure things run smoothly. Hampton’s dignified demeanor in death, as in life, adds a touch of class to the ambiance.

Hampton is by no means the only spectral presence known to haunt Oakslea. Two female apparitions are present as well. It is believed that they are mother and daughter and that they are former residents. It is to these ghosts that Testani attributes the various olfactory phenomena commonly experienced at Oakslea. At unexpected times, the scent of a woman’s perfume will flood a room. Similarly, guests may come into a room thinking it contains a large bouquet of flowers, only to discover that no such arrangement is there.

Testani and his guests have continued to experience the kinds of spectral encounters that the new owner first noticed—the sounds of footsteps and of barely audible voices, as if a conversation is being held in another room. Testani has even felt the touch of unseen hands. What ghosts are responsible for these phenomena and how many of them haunt Oakslea in this manner remain two of the house’s several mysteries.

A common element among all the uncanny experiences that guests and staff have had at Oakslea Place in recent years is that the specters definitely seem to be the protective sort. Apparently, these particular ghosts grew so fond of their abode in life that they have chosen to also abide there in the hereafter.

***

Check back for more terrifying legends in our Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.

1 Week Until Halloween

With only a week to go until the big day we bring you a tale of history and horror.

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“The Ghost of a Mad Housewife”
Ashland, Virginia
from Spirits of ’76: Ghost Stories of the American Revolution
by Daniel W. Barefootspiritsof76

Over the long, storied history of the United States, few Americans have been more renowned for their stirring words than Patrick Henry of Virginia….

Most Americans had little way of knowing that when Patrick Henry made some of his famous speeches, he was a troubled man in his personal life. During his service in the First Continental Congress, his wife, Sarah, was struggling with mental illness. She died in February 1775, just a month before her bereaved husband delivered his most famous address. Sarah Henry’s ghost remains in residence at Scotchtown, the expansive home where she and her husband lived from 1771 until her death….

Just months after the Henrys moved in, Sarah gave birth to a son. In the days that followed, she began to exhibit signs of mental instability, a condition that worsened until her death four years later. Few details of Sarah’s illness survive. Speculation has centered on puerperal psychosis, a severe sickness that most often occurs after childbirth.

As his wife’s condition deteriorated, Henry was forced to make a difficult decision about her care…. He decided to keep his wife at Scotchtown, where he could ensure that her needs would receive special attention.

In the last year of her life, Sarah displayed what observers termed “a strange antipathy” toward her family. For her own safety and that of the family, she was “hospitalized” in two dungeon-like rooms in the basement of Scotchtown. A servant was assigned to monitor her behavior until it became necessary to restrain her in a “strait-dress,” a device thought to be similar to a modern straightjacket.

When Sarah died, her body was buried on the estate in an unmarked grave, perhaps out of concern over neighborhood fears and misunderstanding of her sickness. Rumors were rampant that Mrs. Henry had been possessed by devils.

In 1777, just a year after he was elected the first governor of the commonwealth of Virginia, Patrick Henry chose to part with Scotchtown…. Sarah’s ghost, however, has lingered for more than two centuries.

… Staff members at the historic estate… have been witnesses to the supernatural presence of Sarah Henry. An unlocked door leading to the basement has at times been difficult to open, almost as if someone were holding it on the other side. Pieces of historic furniture often move without the aid of human hands. A candle surviving from the days of the Henry family has been mysteriously moved when Scotchtown was closed for the night.

Sarah’s ghost has enjoyed a “tea party,” moving a tea caddy and removing the top of a teapot while the house was empty. Unexplained problems with the house’s alarm system and motion detectors have reportedly brought law enforcement officers to the estate. Very much aware of Scotchtown’s haunted reputation, the police always request that estate personnel be the first to enter the spooky structure.

Before 1958, when the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities acquired and restored the old Henry estate, the dwelling suffered years of abandonment. While it hastened toward ruin, area residents regularly experienced frightening episodes there. During the 1930s and 1940s, they heard strange noises, including chains dragging across the floor.

Likewise, locals observed a female apparition dressed in a long white gown floating about the backside of the house. This ghostlike figure was witnessed by a group of adults and children for thirty seconds until it faded from view.

On Halloween night in 1990, a policeman reported that a neighborhood woman had noticed a light, apparently a candle, shining from a window of Scotchtown. When the lady made her way onto the estate grounds, the light mysteriously went out. Then she caught a brief glimpse of a spectral woman walking past the window, candle in hand….

…During one tour, a docent took a group into the room just above Sarah’s basement quarters. As the tourists were listening to the sad story of Mrs. Henry’s last years, terrifying shrieks and screams came from the “dungeon” where Sarah was confined. The visitors quickly scattered….

Should you tour Scotchtown, pay particular attention to the walls in the basement quarters. They need painting. But try as they might, professional painters have been unable to get even the best-quality paint to adhere to the walls in the two rooms where Sarah spent her last days. It literally burns off the surfaces. No scientific explanation has been offered for this anomaly.

When Sarah Henry grew ill at Scotchtown, she was robbed of the joy of motherhood, the pleasure of living at a magnificent estate, the opportunity of becoming the first first lady of Virginia, the excitement surrounding the birth of an independent American nation, and the companionship of the love of her life. Maybe Sarah’s ghost yet abides at the old Henry homestead, searching for the happiness that should have been hers.

The address for Scotchtown is:
16120 Chiswell Ln., Beaverdam, Va., 23015.
The telephone number is 804-227-3500.

***

Check back for more terrifying legends in our Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.

9 Days Until Halloween

Today in our Haunted Halloween Countdown we share the tale of a Halloween prank on a classic legend.

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HaintsWitchesBoogers“The Backfiring of Black Aggie”
from Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales From East Tennessee
by Randy Russell and Janet Barnett

Nearly every graveyard has its “Black Aggie” story. Black Aggie is the generic name for a horrifying apparition said to lurk in the shadows of tombstones late at night, often during episodes of dense fog or when the moon is full, waiting to leap out and snatch away a living victim, usually a woman.

Black Aggie stories vary little from location to location. The Black Aggie is usually described as a hag with flaming red eyes, dressed all in black, having a skeletal face and emitting a horrific scream. The apparition is usually identified as the ghost of a woman-often suspected of having been a witch while she was alive-who died alone and miserable because people were afraid of her. Her haunting of a particular graveyard, in which she may or may not actually be buried, is said to be her way to wreak vengeance on the living. She is said to be in league with the devil, promoted from witch to the exalted rank of demon after her death, possessing even more infernal power than she had while alive….

One October in Greeneville in the early 1960s, a certain young man and several of his friends decided they would play a prank on one of their female schoolmates….

The young man began the gag by informing the girl that on Halloween, a ghost often appeared over a certain tombstone in a cemetery located just off what is now U.S. llE. Then he told her that he and some of his friends were going to visit the cemetery to see the ghost. Of course, she wanted to be included in the party.

What the girl did not know was that the young man and his friends were arranging for their own phantom to appear, an apparition that would pop from behind the tombstone on cue and scare the girl out of seven years’ growth. One of the boys had devised a serviceable costume made from filmy cheesecloth, complete with a rubber fright mask that he had bought in a big-city novelty store.

At the appointed hour on Halloween, everyone met in the graveyard….

Right on cue, the “phantom” popped up from behind the tombstone, and the girl screamed and fainted. The boys were laughing so hard that they hardly noticed that the phantom was moving away from them and heading toward the woods.

When the young man who had organized the prank was through congratulating himself, he called to his friend, the phantom. But the friend did not reappear. Then one of the boys looked behind the tombstone and discovered that the boy in the costume was still there-lying on the ground, passed out cold .

As soon as he revived, he told his story. He had been crouched in the dark behind the tombstone, ready to spring, when a face suddenly appeared in front of him. It snarled, and that was the last thing that he remembered.

Then one of the boys yelled out a warning. The phantom was returning from the woods, heading directly toward them. It was a real Black Aggie! The boys scrambled to their feet, yelling at the top of their lungs, and hightailed it out of the graveyard, leaving the still passed-out girl to fend for herself.

The next day, the girl was mad as a scorned lover. “Why did you leave me in that place?” she asked the young man who had invited her, when she saw him in the hallway at school.

He confessed about the practical joke and told her what had really happened. He said he was sorry and that he had not believed there was really a ghost in the cemetery. He said that when they saw the Black Aggie coming towards them, they had forgotten about everything but their own skins.

The girl looked thoughtful for a minute, then asked, “You mean to tell me there was a real ghost in that graveyard?”

”Yes,” he replied meekly. ”There really was.”

“I don’t believe you,” she answered.

“But you were so frightened that you fainted,” he protested.

“Not at your silly ghost. Luckily, mine had a car.”

By now, the young man was thoroughly confused, so the girl suggested that he turn around and look behind him. Standing in the hallway was the same “apparition” that he had seen the night before,
the one that had made his friend in the costume faint. The ghost removed its mask, revealing the pretty face of another of his female classmates.

“I just thought that if your Black Aggie didn’t show up, I’d bring my own along just in case,” the girl said, laughing. “I would have really hated to disappoint you!”

***

Check back for more terrifying tales in out Haunted Halloween Countdown or pick up one of the spooky books they come from.