Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hudson Brothers Deli (Newsbyte)

115 South Lee Street
Rockingham, North Carolina

It excites me to see the media reporting more and more on ghosts and the paranormal. One trend I have noted is that news outlets enjoy reporting on investigations and that’s what we have from the Richmond County Daily Journal in a article from earlier this month. The Sandhills Paranormal Research Society set out to investigate Hudson Brothers Deli, a bar in Rockingham.

Unfortunately, due to lack of information online, actually researching the location first hand is not possible, so I must rely solely on the article. According to it, the structure originally served as a funeral home and has, in recent decades become a bar. The owner even mentions the existence of crematoriums in the basement.

Among the reports from the bar are the apparition of a girl seen by both a bartender and a manager. One patron reported seeing the apparition of a man in a business suit that told him to, “wait right here.” A former owner reported that an employee sent on an errand to the basement ran screaming from the establishment and never even returned to pick up their paycheck.

The investigation of the location appeared to be successful with the group picking up evidence including the odor of flowers in the basement and EVPs. The group stated that there was definitely spiritual activity in the location.

Brown, Philip D. “A haunting in Hudson Brothers.” Richmond
     County Daily Journal. 5 April 2011.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lake Lure, North Carolina’s Two Haunted Inns

Hickory Nut Gorge was viewed as a vacation destination as early as 1880. That year, Chimney Rock, a 315 foot granite monolith that overlooks the gorge, was made accessible by a series of stairways. In 1904, Chimney Rock was purchased by Dr. Lucius Morse with the aid of twin brothers Hiram and Asahel. Dr. Morse envisioned a mountain resort community within the gorge all surrounding a mountain lake. In 1925, work began on damming the Rocky Broad River and the lake had begun to fill by 1927 when the both town of Lake Lure was established and the Lake Lure Inn opened. The area has grown into a notable resort destination and the Morse family recently sold Chimney Rock to the state of North Carolina to create a state park. Of course, with such activity the area has seen in the past century, it’s no surprise that there are spirits.

Chimney Rock with Lake Lure behind it,
2008. Photo by Jmturner, courtesy of

Lodge on Lake Lure
361 Charlotte Drive

Opened initially as a retreat for highway patrolmen and their families, the Lodge on Lake Lure was created as a memorial to George Penn, a highway patrolman shot and killed in the line of duty. It’s only appropriate that this 1937 lodge, opened to the public in 1990, would be the current residence of Mr. Penn. His gentle spirit has been seen in Room 4 when he tends to stroll into the occupied room, walk about and then disappear into the closed, and sometimes locked, door.

One former innkeeper referred to the spirit as “naughty.” She reported that he would often steal the toilet paper out of Room 2. When puzzled guests would turn up at the front desk inquiring about the missing toilet tissue, the innkeeper invariably knew that Penn has probably taken the paper out of Room 2 again. Other activity reported from the spirit includes moving flower arrangements and at one time throwing a glass goblet against the wall when someone stated that they wished the ghost would do something. If you stay at the Lodge on Lake Lure, just be sure to keep such wishes to yourself.

1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa
2771 Memorial Highway

1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa from a panoramic view of the resort and the lake.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Interest in the spirits of the Lake Lure Inn has risen recently with the publication of a photo taken inside the inn by the Events and Catering Manager in November of last year. The photo, showing an ice sculpture prepared for an event, also shows a figure standing behind the sculpture. While the figure is very fuzzy, the face appears to be that of a young boy or man. The photo may be viewed here.

Lake Lure’s initial popularity with the construction of the Lake Lure Inn and the filling of Lake Lure was believed to be on the rise. The hotel was visited by such names of the period as novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, President Calvin Coolidge and future president Franklin Roosevelt. But no one could have predicted the Great Depression that would follow the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and how it would sink the economy and, by extension, resorts like Lake Lure. The Inn limped through the 1930’s until the outbreak of World War II.

In 1943, the Third Army Air Force leased the Lake Lure Inn for use as a convalescence home for wounded and shell-shocked soldiers. One soldier who spent time at Lake Lure later described it as “a benediction of nature on us all after the horrors of war.” An army band under the direction of Albert Hague (who was later an actor on Broadway and in the role of Professor Shorovsky in the TV series Fame) would serenade dances or while the patients stared off at the sun-dappled lake.

The army’s use of the inn ended in 1945 and the inn has remained popular. Though there are some ghosts left over from the inn’s more painful moments. Lon Strickler’s marvelous blog, Phantoms and Monsters, provides the account of a former inn staff member who had a few run-ins with the spirits. The staff member speaks of seeing shadows in the spa area and having their name called by a man with a low-gravelly voice.

The staff member continues and describes the other spirits said to be witnessed by guests including a woman who was supposedly murdered in the 1930s in Room 217. A man, believed to be Dr. Lucius Morse, has been seen in the dining room. Articles on recent paranormal investigations speculate that he may also be the spirit seen and heard in the spa.

Paranormal Scene Investigators, a paranormal investigation group from nearby Forest City, has performed a number of investigations of the inn and always seem to have discovered very interesting evidence. Among some of the more interesting evidence is a woman’s scream recorded on two occasions in Room 217, where the murder may have taken place. Oddly, the screams, recorded on two separate occasions, sound almost identical. Other evidence includes an interesting photo of a ball of energy in one room. While the group cannot conclusively state that the inn is haunted, they will state that there is paranormal activity. Certainly, the spirits here and at the Lodge have picked lovely spots to spend eternity.

Baughman, Scott. “Things weren’t normal at this LL
     convention.” The (Forest City, NC) Daily Courier. 11
     March 2009.
Bunch, Pam. “Guests, ghosts share Lake Lure Inn.” The
     (Forest City, NC) Daily Courier. 28 February 2007.
Chimney Rock State Park. “History: Lake Lure and Hickory
     Nut Gorge Tell a Story.” Chimney Rock State Park Website.
     Accessed 22 April 2011.
Chimney Rock State Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 22 April 2011.
DePriest, Joe. “A place that healed sore soldier’s souls.” The
     Charlotte Observer. 23 November 2003.
Evans, Laura. “Scare up a spooky place to stay.” The News
     & Observer. 10 January 2007.
 “Ghost hunt a high-tech operation.” The (Forest City, NC)
     Daily Courier. 28 February 2007.
Justice, Birchette T. “Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.” in
     The Heritage of Rutherford County, North Carolina, Vol. 1.
     Winston-Salem, NC: Hunter Publishing, 1984.
     Phantoms and Monsters. 21 December 2010.
Turnage, Sheila. Haunted Inns of the Southeast. Winston-
     Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2001.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Caswell County Courthouse

Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, North Carolina
Front facade of the Caswell County Courthouse.
Photo taken for the Historic American Buildings
Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.

I must admit that I’m torn about this blog entry. On one hand, the location and the story are fascinating, but on the other there isn’t much paranormal phenomena reported. But, I’m disregarding my reservations and writing about it anyway.

There is a room in the Caswell County Courthouse with a door that opens and shuts on its own accord. According to two different sources, (though I think one source likely used the other) that is the only phenomena reported in this magnificent edifice. But then again, the story behind it is just as fascinating.

Oblique view of the courthouse.
Photo taken for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS),
courtesy of the Library of Congress,
Prints and Photographs Division.
The Caswell County Courthouse is the county's fourth courthouse and was constructed between 1857 and 1861. The architecture is unusual for a government building of the period in that it employs the Italianate style; a style quite different from the other buildings in the area. The courtroom, located on the second floor is noted in one description as one of the most beautiful in the state with carved benches and partitions and an ornate plaster ceiling.

Within this marvelous structure a heinous act occurred; an act indicative of the area’s rough transition following the Civil War. Reconstruction was a difficult process for much of the South. Nearly everything was in upheaval: the economy, cities and plantations lying in ruins, the social order and African-Americans suddenly thrust into a new social standing. Add opportunists into this mix, especially Yankees with a carpet bag in hand and a glint in their eye, and you have an explosive combination.

It is against this turbulent backdrop that 34 year-old John Walter Stephens made his arrival in Caswell County. He is described as a difficult fellow, but of course, that all depends on who you talk to. Stephens was born in North Carolina and had worked as a tobacco trader as well as being active in the Methodist Church. Apparently, shortly before his move to Yanceyville, he had been involved in a scuffle with a neighbor whose chickens had wandered onto his property. Stephens killed the chickens and the neighbor had him sent to jail. After getting out, Stephens confronted the neighbor with a gun and in the fight that broke out, two bystanders were wounded. This incident provided Stephens with the nickname, “Chicken.” It was something that he would never live down.

While continuing to work as a tobacco trader, Stephens also worked as an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau and was a member of the Republican affiliated Union League, which helped to control the African-American vote in the South. Needless to say, he was politically unpopular with the white citizens of Caswell County. Through the efforts of the Union League and the African-American citizens of the county, Stephens was elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 1868. Slanderous gossip was spread through town and Stephens received death threats, but he remained in his position.

According to the affidavit of John G. Lea, Stephens was tried by a Ku Klux Klan jury, found guilty and sentenced to death. This death sentence was carried out on May 21, 1870 in a storage room on the ground floor of the courthouse. Stephens, who was attending a session to nominate county officers and members of the legislature, was lured downstairs and took him into the storage room where a group of KKK members awaited. After Stephens was disarmed of his three pistols John Lea rushed in. Lea, the last of the conspirators to die, described the scene in an affidavit sealed until after his death:

He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood-pile, and he asked me not to let them kill him. Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. Stevens was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek.

Governor William W. Holden.
The turbulence, already boiling in the area, rose to a fever pitch after Stephens’ murder. The Ku Klux Klan stepped up its terror of African-Americans and their white enablers and in Graham in Alamance County to the south, an African-American town commissioner was lynched in a tree on the courthouse lawn. State Republican Governor William W. Holden, upset over the uproar in the area and the political threat to his seat from the mostly white Democrats, declared Caswell County to be in a state of rebellion and sent some 300 troops under the leadership of George W. Kirk to march on Yanceyville. Under the governor’s orders, some 100 local men were rounded up and jailed. With the suspension of habeus corpus, these men were held for some time and quite possibly mistreated during that time. The event, which ended later in 1870, became known as the Kirk-Holden War, despite the distinct lack of fighting.

With the August 1870 election, the Democrats swept the legislature. The governor was tried on charges of corruption for his participation in the Kirk-Holden War and he was removed from office. The New York Times reported in 1873 on a bill in the state legislature to give amnesty to the murderers. It describes a Republican representative giving an explicit account of the murder on the House floor. The bill passed, but I have not discovered if it was ever signed into law.

Things quieted down in Yanceyville, but there is still discussion of this turbulent bit of area history. And still, the door to the storage room on the courthouse’s ground floor opens and closes by itself. Is John Walter Stephens still walking the county?

Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2,
     Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2002.
Caswell County Historical Association. Caswell County Courthouse.
     Accessed 5 April 2011.
Caswell County Historical Association. Kirk-Holden War (1870).
     Accessed 5 April 2011.
Caswell County Historical Association. Senator John Walter Stephens.
     Accessed 5 April 2011.
“Life in North Carolina: The Murder of Senator John W. Stephens—
     A Terrible Scene—Shall His Assassins be Amnestied?” New York
     Times. 26 February 1873.
Stone, Jason. “The Ghost of Chicken Stephens.” CreepyNC.com.
     Accessed 5 April 2011.