Friday, October 24, 2008

Haunted History, Urban Legends and Tall Tales


Near the community of Spring Lake, an old house is rumored to have claimed the lives of the people who have lived there. On three different occassions, three different men met odd ends. Nobody knows why these men were driven to early graves, but everyone knows that the circumstances surrounding their deaths are far beyond the realm of the normal. Construction on the house began in 1910, and the strange occurrences first plagued the house as it was being built. The first contractor mysteriously disappeared. Finally, a second contractor was hired and the job was finished. The owner rented the building to a tenant, but the house was not his home for long. Less than six months after he moved in, the tenant hanged himself from a rafter in attic for unknown reasons.

After the unexplained suicide, the house stood empty for a while. When a few months had passed, a family from Virginia came to settle in North Carolina and bought the house, not knowing of the gruesome event that had occured on the top floor. Six weeks later, the man of the family hanged himself in the attic on the very same rafter where the first owner had met his untimely death.

Now the site of two grisly suicides, the house became a completely undesirable location. It stood vacant for many years, making it suspectible to the ravages of age and environment. The dark, weather-beaten facade was an ominous sight, and no one would live there. In desperation, the owner finally offered the house rent-free to anyone with the nerve to live in it and keep it repair. A Fort Bragg soldier from Boston took the owner up on his offer.

The soldier and his wife moved in and tried their best to make the creepy old house into a suitable living area. However, the plague was not over. Strange happenings disturbed the house and its owners. Alarm clocks rang inexplicably at the wrong hour in the middle of the night. Closed books opened up on their own, and locked doors unlocked themselves.

When news of the house's many curiosities spread throughout town, visitors began showing up at the house. Sometimes, more than 40 people per day would knock on the doors and inquire about the supernatural phenomena. Finally, the dubious publicity struck the young soldier's last nerve. One day, his wife found him dead, hanging from a rafter in the attic-a rafter that was worn with a smooth groove where two other ropes had been looped before.


On a dark and solemn night in the tiny community of Vander, railroad switchman Archer Matthews was alone at the train station. While he awaited the next train to pass by the depot, he lit his lantern and stepped outside onto the platform to smoke a cigarette. A misty rain began to fall. In the distance, an unexplained noise pierced the darkness. Startled, Matthews leaned over the edge of the platform to investigate the source of the sound, but he lost his balance and fell onto the tracks below, knocking him unconscious.

Finally, the lonesome, crying whistle from the incoming train sounded. As the train barrelled toward the station, the conductor saw no one waiting to board at the Vander station. He did, however, see a faint glimmer on the horizon. When the conductor finally realized that the glimmer belonged to a lantern, he caught a glimpse of Matthews' body sprawled across the tracks. The conductor slammed on his brakes, but it was too late. Matthews was killed instantly.

Now, one can allegedly see a flickering light above the train tracks where Vander Station used to stand. The light floatover the tracks for a few seconds and then disappears. Watch your back, though. Eyewitnesses have claimed that if you get too close to the light, it will indeed disappear...only to reappear a few seconds later behind you.

Legend has it that the flicker is the flame from the old switchman's lantern, swinging back and forth from Matthews' ghostly hand. Naysayers may claim that the light is merely phosphorescent swamp gas, known as will o' the wisp. In marshy areas, such as the area where the Vander station was, natural gas is known to escape from the ground and glow as it rises. Skeptics might believe this story, but anyone who has actually seen the Vander Light holds firm to the idea that the light indicates the spirit of Archer Matthews, still waiting on the train that never comes and searching for the sound that literally scared him to death.


Now the home of the Women's Club of Fayetteville, the Sanford House on Dick St. is rumored to also be the home of a ghostly presence. Eyewitnesses have seen the spectre of a woman in black. The spirit has been known to slowly descend the staircase and then forlornly ascend to the landing and disappear. Who is this phantom lady? There are a couple of possibilties.

The most popular tale tells of a young woman searching for her lost love. As the story goes, a Civil War soldier was killed in the Sanford House and buried in the basement-possibly in the old vault that was used when the house served as a bank in the 1820's. The soldier's sweetheart searched the house for him, not knowing that she would never see him alive again. Devastated by her loss, the young woman mourned for the solider until her own death-a death which some say occurred as a result of her broken heart. Now she haunts the stairs of the house, still searching for her love for all of eternity.

Other stories claim that the spirit may be Margaret Halliday, the daughter of a prominent Fayetteville family and the wife of banker John Cameron. Cameron, who was the cashier of the Bank of Fayetteville, lived on the second floor of the house when it served as the bank's headquarters. Upon his marriage, Cameron bought the house and the family lived there for several years. Incidentally, the Oval Ballroom, which stands next door to the Sanford House, was supposedly built for the Halliday-Cameron wedding.


Speaking of the Oval Ballroom, the ornate and oddly-shaped structure has some secrets that lie within its walls. Its story centers around Ann K. Simpson. Her 1850 murder trial was the "trial of the century" in her time-a captivating and controversial tale for a captivating and controversial woman.
On the night of November 8, 1849 Ann's husband Alexander, a wealthy carriage shop owner, died suddenly. Autopsy results revealed that Alexander had been poisoned with arsenic. The only suspect was his wife. A warrant was issued for Anne's arrest, and she was extradited from Havana, Cuba where she had fled to shortly after Alexander's demise.

Anne was the first woman ever tried for murder in Cumberland County and possibly in the state of North Carolina. The testimony presented at her trial was truly sensational: letters alluding to infidelity and Ann's visit to fortune-teller Polly Rising, who predicted that Alexander would be dead within a week. Then, there was the most damning evidence of all. An employee from Samuel J. Hinsdale's drugstore testified that Ann had purchased an ounce of arsenic, supposedly to kill rats, soon before Alexander's death. The prosecution claimed that Ann had used the rat poison to taint her husband's coffee at dinner in the Oval Ballroom on the fateful night.

In his closing statement, defense lawyer D. K. MacRae said, "You cannot give her peace. You cannot restore her joy. But gentlemen, you can let her live." The jury deliberated for three hours and returned with a not guilty verdict.

Did Ann really poison her husband and fool the jury into believing that she was innocent? Or was she the victim of an unusual coincidence? She took the truth to her grave. Only she (and perhaps Alexander) knew whether she had gotten away with murder.


The Kyle House, the grand Greek Revival Style house on Green Street, might be home to a restless spirit of its own. Several witnesses have claimed to hear strange disembodied noises in the house, such as furniture moving on its own or footsteps on an otherwise empty staircase. When one enters the Kyle House, there is definitely a strange vibe radiating from its elegant walls. Maybe its visitors are being watched.

The house belonged to family patriarch James Kyle, a merchant and prominent city figure who immigrated to Fayetteville from Scotland. He built the beautiful dwelling around 1855 after his first home was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1831. After Kyle's death, his daughter Annie lived in the house. Annie was a nurse during the Civil War era. She eventually rented the house to borders, and for a while, the Kyle House served as city offices.

The strange atmosphere in the house is most often attributed to the presence of the spirit of old James Kyle. Is he still roaming the hallways, still taking care of his home from beyond the grave? Visit the Kyle House and listen up. Maybe you'll hear him yourself.

By Lepprichaun72

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