Saturday, May 26, 2012

Take me home, country roads—Cherokee, NC Bound


Some of my regular readers may have noted that my regular posting has declined.

In college I spent three of the most magnificent summers doing the outdoor drama, Unto These Hills in Cherokee, NC. Cherokee is like a second home to me and I’ve been granted an opportunity to return for the summer and will stay until late October. I’ve spent the past week preparing to head up.

The mountains of Western North Carolina have a marvelous spiritual energy and the area is positively crawling with spirits and paranormal activity. I’ve previously written here about the Thomas Divide Lights and a personal encounter I may have had with the Cherokee Little People just outside of the theatre. If you’re visiting the area, be sure to stop into the village for recreations of the 1761 Timberlake Expedition, a series of peace talks between the British and Cherokee! 

A performance of a Stickball Dance near Cherokee, 1897. Photo
by James Mooney, courtesy of Wikipedia.

When I’m not tramping around in a tricorn hat I plan to pursue the spirits and legends of this wonderful area and the surrounding region. I’ve tentatively planned a few trips to nearby cities and will write about those here. Hopefully, I can also work on the book I’ve been wanting to write for some time.

If you have any suggestions of places to check out in the area, please let me know! Please keep reading as I head for my home in the hills.

The mountains are calling and I must go. – John Muir

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Newsworthy Hauntings 5/23/2012

I’m starting a new regular segment where I’ll briefly highlight hauntings or haunted places in the news and in some of the regular blogs I read.

The Nikwasi Mound (Nikwasi Lane), an ancient Native American mound in Franklin, North Carolina, is still stirring up controversy a few thousand years after it was built. The City of Franklin, which owns the mound that is still considered sacred to the local Cherokee people, recently sprayed herbicide on the mound. The herbicide was sprayed because mowing of the mound has lead to some deterioration of it. Local Cherokee, however, are not pleased with the actions, have expressed their opinions and demanded an apology from the city.

 The mound’s builders are not known, but scholars believe that it was built by one of the early Mississippean peoples. The Cherokee utilized the site and it became part of Cherokee mythology as one of the locations where the Nunne’hi lived. This was a mythical race of beings that lived underground. Nineteenth century anthropologist James Mooney recorded a story that during a battle near the site, the Nunne’hi emerged to defeat the Cherokee’s enemy. Roger Manley records in Weird Carolinas that the Nunne’hi may have also guarded the town during the Civil War when a contingent of Federal troops attempted to the seize the Confederate stronghold. The Federal troops retreated when they saw a huge number of troops when in actuality there were only a few Confederates guarding the town. Manley also notes that some claim to hear drumbeats within the mound.

 The mound is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but there has been controversy about its preservation. Some have considered creating a park, but there is contention as to who will pay for it and control it. Hopefully, the herbicide will not adversely affect this place where the heartbeats and drumbeats of Native America may still be heard.

 Sources
Dalrymple, Maria. “Nikwasi Mound deed could be transferred to create park.”
     Macon County News. 3 September 2009.
Manley, Roger. Weird Carolinas. NYC: Sterling, 2007.
McKie, Scott. “Chief: Tribe wants apology on Nikwasi Mound issue.” Cherokee 
     One Feather. 21 May 2012.
Mooney, James. History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. Asheville,
     NC: Bright Mountain Books, 1992.
Nikwasi. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 21 May 2012.

In Chesterfield, Virginia, the Chesterfield Historical Society has announced that they will be hosting ghost tours of Magnolia Grange (10020 Ironbridge Road). The magnificent Federal plantation, one among the many famous James River Plantations, was constructed in 1821 and named for the circle of magnolia trees that once, with formal boxwoods, constituted its formal gardens. These gardens were destroyed after the Civil War.

 The home is now owned by the county and administered by historical society. The ghost tours are being conducted by Spirited History, a local paranormal group that is working to help local historical sites with funding by investigating and educating the public about the sites’ paranormal history. Among the activity that has been reported in the house is the appearance of a beautiful, blond woman seen standing on the steps. A photographer taking wedding pictures in the house some years ago encountered her and mentioned the woman he had seen in period clothing to the staff. The staff informed him that no one was working in period clothing. Investigations of the house have also yielded a number of EVPs.

Sources
Gregory, Donna C. “The past lives on at Magnolia Grange.” The Chesterfield Observer.
     26 October 2011.
“Historical Society to host ‘Spirited History’ at Magnolia Grange May 19.” Midlothian 
     Exchange. 17 May 2012.
National Park Service. “Magnolia Grange” James River Plantations. Accessed 21
     May 2009.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Places 
     nomination form for Magnolia Grange. November 1979.

 Over at the “eco-gossip” blog, Ecorazzi, two locations in the South have been featured in a list of the top 10 “naturally haunted” places in the world. While I give little credence to such lists (so many of them are just silly, unsubstantiated fluff), I was excited to see these two places in the list.

Adams, Tennessee’s Bell Witch Cave (430 Keysburg Road) is probably the most well-known of the two locations. Located on property once owned by the Bell family, the cave is believed to be the current residence of the famous Bell Witch who terrorized the Bell family in the early 19th century. Of the spirits in the American South, this spirits is perhaps the most well-known and certainly one of the most publicized spirits having a number of books written solely on the subject as well as a recent feature film, An American Haunting. Visitors to the cave have had a variety of experiences in and around it. The cave is privately owned and tours are given.

On the western shores of Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain, near New Orleans is Manchac Swamp, home to ghosts and the French Creole werewolf, the Loup-Garou. It was here that a number of small towns were wiped off the map in the New Orleans Hurricane of 1915. Tours now travel through this haunted wetland at night by torchlight scaring up alligators and the spirits of the victims of the hurricane.

Sources
1915 New Orleans hurricane. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     23 May 2012.
Bell Witch Cave. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 23 May 2012.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston- Salem,
     NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
 Freeman, China Despain. “The 10 Naturally Creepiest Places on Earth.” Ecorazzi.
     23 May 2012.
Smith, Katherine. Haunted History Tours Presents Journey Into Darkness…
     Ghosts and Vampires of New Orleans. New Orleans: De Simonin Publishing,
     1998.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Grand “Fighting Lady”—Photos from the USS Yorktown


Patriot’s Point
40 Patriot’s Point Road
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

I never quite felt comfortable aboard the USS Yorktown. I’m not a small guy and my height (6’2”) required that I ducked my head quite a bit as I moved through the passages of the ship and the camera bag hanging around my neck did not facilitate easy movement either. But there was also a feeling of never being alone on this fighting lady as well. There was a constant stream of visitors through the ship, but at moments when I found myself alone, I felt uncomfortable.

This is evidently not an uncommon experience aboard the ship. Last Wednesday evening as I was heading towards Charleston, a new episode of Ghost Hunters was airing revealing their extraordinary investigation of the ship. Having only read about the episode, I’ll refrain from commenting further on it. Before hearing of their investigation, I’d only read a bit about ghosts aboard the ship and had not pursued any other information.

The USS Yorktown in service sometime in the early 1960s.
Photo by the US Navy, courtesy of Wikipedia.

According to a Charleston Post & Courier article about the investigation, this show was really used as a platform for revealing the ship’s hauntings to the paranormal world. There seem to have been many staff and visitors to the ship who have had a variety of experiences. Primarily, these experiences tend to be aural: including voices and footsteps. But there are also reports of shadow figures and full bodied apparitions.

The ship was laid down on December 1, 1941, just days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She was named for the USS Yorktown which was lost in the Battle of Midway in 1942. She entered service in 1943 and served admirably in the Pacific throughout the remainder of World War II. Following the war she patrolled the West Coast and served in the Vietnam War. She was retired in 1973 before being donated to Patriot’s Point.
The ship's approach at Patriot's Point. Photo 2012, by Lewis
Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Part of the engine room. One of the docents mentioned that
this is where a mechanic was scalded to death by steam. Photo
2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.
One of the bunk rooms. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all
rights reserved.

View of part of the labyrinthine passages running throughout
the ship. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

The "island" rises above the deck. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell
IV, all rights reserved.

The ship's bridge. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Sources
USS Yorktown(CV-10)Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed
     10 May 2012.
Wise. Warren L. “SyFy’s ‘Ghost Hunters’ explore paranormal side
     of Yorktown.” Charleston Post & Courier. 2 May 2012.