Find out why some of the state’s most enduring ghost tales have perplexed—and scared—so many.
Stories of specters and spooks fill the air this time of year, when crisp winds stir crackling fall leaves. From the mountains to the coast, North Carolina has its fair share of ghostly legends. Here are four of the spookiest.
1. Lydia’s Bridge, Jamestown
The ghostly hitchhiker story is one of the world’s most prevalent legends, and North Carolina has its own with Lydia’s Bridge in Jamestown. The story goes that Lydia was killed in a car accident near the bridge sometime during the 1920s. Since then, drivers would see her glowing apparition—clad in a white dress—trying to catch a ride near the old East Main Street bridge. Those unlucky enough to pick her up discovered she would vanish before reaching their destination. Today the bridge is no longer in use due to a rerouting of the road, but that doesn’t stop thrill-seekers from visiting the old Guilford County bridge in hopes of spotting the lonely lady looking for a ride home.
2. Brown Mountain Lights, near Morganton
For centuries, mysterious glowing light balls seem to rise from the darkness of the Brown Mountain ridge in the Pisgah National Forest, hovering and wobbling before they disappear. These orbs—dubbed the Brown Mountain Lights—have confounded the skeptical searching for a logical explanation. Legend says the lights are the spirits of Cherokee women searching for their lost men who died in a war between the Cherokee and Catawba. Researchers have presented many theories of the origin of the lights, from swamp gasses to car headlights, but all have been debunked over the years. Want to see the lights for yourself? Observers say cool autumn nights are best, and the Brown Mountain Overlook, Wiseman’s View Overlook and Lost Cove Cliffs Overlook near Linville Gorge provide good views.
3. The Maco Light, Maco
A few miles west of Wilmington, a lonely stretch of railroad has struck fear in generations of North Carolinians with the legend of a ghostly light that hovers over its tracks. The story of the Maco Light dates back to the 1800s, when legend has it a railroad worker named Joe Baldwin realized the caboose he was sleeping in had disconnected from the train, coming to a halt on the tracks. Knowing another locomotive was headed his way, he knew he had to signal the next train to avoid a collision. Baldwin stood on the platform at the back of the caboose, swinging his lantern frantically, but while the train slowed—saving the lives of everyone onboard—it couldn’t stop quickly enough to prevent hitting the caboose and killing Joe. For years afterward, locals would see an eerie light floating above the tracks, swaying back and forth just like Joe’s lantern. But the sightings ended in 1977, when the railroad tracks were removed.
4. Blackbeard’s Ghost, Ocracoke
In November 1718, the fearsome pirate Edward Teach—better known as Blackbeard—met a dramatic end on Ocracoke Island. After a ferocious battle with the crew of a ship sent by the governor of Virginia, the pirate was shot, stabbed, and eventually beheaded, with his body thrown overboard and his head hung from the bow of the ship. The gruesome fight happened in a small channel on the island known as Teach’s Hole, and in the centuries since, locals and visitors have reported encounters with the pirate’s ghost. Some see a strange light floating over the water of the cove, while others claim they hear a disembodied voice crying, “Where’s my head?”