Friends or Foes?
The Outer Banks has long been known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, and stories of ghosts and hauntings abound — captivating locals and tourists alike, along with a fair share of other ghost-hunters and experts in the paranormal. Ghost tours, haunted houses, and newer attractions like PsychoPath flourish in an area rich with history — as if thousands of boats and an entire colony disappearing wasn’t enough! These tales just might shiver yer timbers right down to your spines, maties.
Make no mistake about it: Unlike Mr. Tumnus from C.S. Lewis’ series The Chronicles of Narnia, this is one faun/satyr who isn’t going to guide your children through a magical land to safety. The specific accounts vary and sightings have been reported all over the country, but it is said that Goatman resides in a rickety old yellow house deep in Nags Head Woods. Our local boogeyman, he gets his kicks harassing and kidnapping teenagers — many of whom have made searching for him a daring pastime, not unlike The Blair Witch Project. If the images you can find of him online aren’t creepy enough to keep you up at night and out of those woods, just try picturing the details of his alleged satanic rituals performed on cats. Baaah, no big deal.
The Legend(s) of the Duck Deer Cow
I’ve had the unique pleasure of spotting this gorgeous and haunting creature in my neighborhood and my yard, as have countless locals and visitors. The lore behind the “deer cow” — named for it’s unique coat that’s mostly white with brown specks — is all over the map. Is it Virginia Dare reincarnated? The ghost of Blackbeard himself? A government experiment gone wrong, or a deer that mysteriously keeps rubbing up against a freshly painted white house time and time again? Nobody knows, but this guy has quite the local following, including his own Facebook page and countless posts from folks who have been able to grab their cameras in time to capture pictures of this beautiful four-legged mystery.
Guardians from Beyond the Grave
We can take comfort in knowing that some ghosts are here to protect, not spook or harm us. There are dozens of legends and books dedicated to sirens and spirits that haunt our seaside locales with good intentions.
Wash Woods is the name given to Coast Guard Station #166, built in the early 1900s and restored by the Twiddy family. Located in North Swan Beach on the northernmost tip of the Outer Banks, it lies beyond where the sidewalk ends, quite literally. Over the years, many claim to have seen and heard the ghost of Mose, said to make his presence known occasionally in order to keep the station safe from harm. In recent years, one man who spent the night there awoke to find clothes he had cast in a wrinkled pile on his bed nicely folded into neat piles. Now this is a ghost I’d like to meet — Mose, if you’re reading this I’m sure there’s a long line of folks who would be thankful for that kind of “haunting”…including this writer!
The Gray Man
The Gray Man is another old salt said to lurk about near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, making himself known only to warn residents and visitors of incoming storms. He was supposedly a sailor who drowned in a hurricane at the turn of the last century, and it’s said that he returns to save others from the very same fate. Locals don’t dread the Gray Man — in fact, his presence is welcomed, and he’s accepted as one of the town’s residents by many who hope to be spared if anything wicked this way comes!
The Cora Tree
Located in Brigands’ Bay in Frisco, this magnificent live oak is legendary for its haunted history. Cora was a young woman who lived alone in a hut in the forest outside the settler’s village in the 1700s. She always carried a baby with her everywhere she went, yet no one in the community seemed to know her story or where she came from.
Accusations and suspicions about Cora began to mount not long before Captain Eli Blood’s ship was stranded offshore during a journey from Salem, Massachusetts. Hearing local gossip that included stories about a boy she touched who became gravely ill and cows she encountered that were rendered suddenly dry of milk, he tasked himself with determining whether or not she was, indeed, a witch.
His “tests” included tossing her in the sound to see if she would drown, “readings” of blood droplets in a bowl, and other methods used in the Salem witch trials. After a body mysteriously washed ashore, he proclaimed Cora a witch and sentenced her and the baby in her care to death, binding them to a live oak as he prepared to set them on fire.
When another captain tried to intervene and handle her alleged wrongs through the court system, lightning struck. Once the cloud of smoke cleared, onlookers saw what appeared to be a panther or a large cat escaping the scene. No other signs of human life remained — except four chilling letters found burned into the tree that can still be seen today: CORA. Small towns have always been infamous for their rumor mills, and while that last part still may ring true, at least the consequences have become a tad less deadly!
Mansions and Inns and Restaurants, Oh My!
You won’t have any trouble finding material on ghosts at many local establishments — including both historical texts and modern-day first-person accounts.
The Whalehead Club in historic Corolla, constructed in the early 1920s by Edward Collings Knight, Jr. and his wife, Marie Louise, is well known for its haunted history and even hosts its own ghost tours. Both early inhabitants of the mansion as well as subsequent tourists or employees of the estate have reported everything from dogs barking at nothing to numerous accounts of folks seeing individuals that were never really there in the first place. Whether the ghosts were clanging pots and pans in an empty kitchen, slamming doors, or just reading books, it was of small comfort to many on dark and stormy nights in that big old drafty mansion!
The Island Inn on Ocracoke
The Island Inn on Ocracoke has Mrs. Godfrey, a murder victim who reportedly roams around and first made herself known to her widower husband, whom many suspected of the violent crime. To this day, guests tell tales of her rearranging items, wandering through the rooms, and even tucking them in at night.
The Croatan Inn
The Croatan Inn, built around the 1930s, later became two well-known restaurants (Papagayos and Quagmires) before the building was torn down in 2005. It was a more than appropriate setting for a wildly popular haunted house that was held there over the fall months for many years. Rumored to be inhabited by the ghost of a woman in her 30s who many nicknamed “Jimmy,” a number of employees throughout the years — including yours truly — bore witness to her hijinks. From turning lights on and off, to stacking dishes sky high in the kitchen, to voices calling out from the rooms upstairs when nobody was there…. We thought it sounded nuts too until we witnessed it firsthand with no other possible explanations to shrug it off.
Black Pelican Restaurant
The Black Pelican Restaurant was once the old Kitty Hawk Lifesaving Station, and in the late 1800s Keeper James Hobbs reportedly shot and killed an unruly young surfman by the name of T.L. Daniels right there in front of the crew. Past and present employees still claim to hear and see the ghost of Daniels to this day.
So ask yourself one question before venturing out into the woods or any of the other old “haunts” on the Outer Banks late at night: If the Goatman comes for you, who ya gonna call?!? ♦
Lindsey Beasley Dianna is a longtime resident of the Outer Banks and mom to three young kids. She’s still deciding, but she’s pretty sure she’d like to be a writer when she grows up!