It’s that time of year again, the time when you’re liable to encounter ghosts and witches and all manner of spooky creatures. Here in North Carolina there are more than a few spine-tingling stories about spirit-beings you wouldn’t want to encounter in a dark wood when you’re all alone. There’s the one about a place where the devil reportedly walked the earth (The Devil’s Tramping Ground), or the one about strange lights that appear without explanation (the Brown Mountain Lights), and more ghosts than you can count (the Phantom Rider of the Confederacy, The Ghosts of Smithfield, and Haunted Wilmington, a town that has a ghost or ghosts hanging out in the welcome center, a library, a theater, an old Civil War post, and even a ship, the Battleship North Carolina which is at rest there.) So as you can see, things that go bump in the night are very popular around these parts.
I’ve always loved ghost stories and if I had to pick a favorite, I’d have to go with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I have both the movie (the one with Alistair Sim, which is, in my opinion, the best) and the book which I read every Christmas.
Before you ask, I’ve never seen a ghost or heard one, for that matter, but my great-aunt Bessie often told stories of hearing them around her house. They were, she believed, the ghosts of the slaves that used to live on the Zachariah Solomon plantation where she and my great-uncle Fletch bought property for their farm. She told us she heard them walking around outside at night, shuffling along in their chains and singing. She also told us of one occasion when she heard a mule and wagon turn onto their property, drive by the house and around to the barn out back. When she and Uncle Fletch went to see who had come to call, there was no one there.
She believed in ghosts and so do I, despite never having seen one. I did have one ghostly encounter…or I suppose a better term would be an Elvis sighting only instead of Elvis, I saw Ed McBain, aka Evan Hunter, one of my favorite authors. This was in 2005, shortly after he’d passed away and I was at KC’s, a sort of combination deli/convenience store, getting my daily fix of Green Mountain coffee. When I saw him standing by a rack of newspapers, the first thing to pop into my mind was that line from the movie, The Sixth Sense, “I see dead people.” Seriously, this guy looked so much like the younger and healthier Ed McBain whose photo graced the backs of his many books that I literally thought I was seeing his ghost. And of course, being an author, I hurried home and wrote the whole thing down exactly as it happened. That one scene, complete with the “I see dead people” line evolved into the opening for my novella, Unwilling Angel. By the time I finished the story the main character, Ted “Mac” McNabb, had morphed into an angel but when I saw him in KC’s that day, my mind practically screamed “Ghost!”
You’ll hear more about Mac in the next couple of months because I’m scheduled to do another Friday Favorites on clichés in November which will feature Mac because, well, I think I’ll wait and tell you next month. As for December, I’m working on a character interview with him, a first here on the Dames of Dialogue blog—that is, if I can get him to cooperate, he’s a bit surly since his untimely death and subsequent demotion from best-selling author to Apprentice Angel.
Until then, stay safe and don’t forget to say that old Scottish prayer before you go to bed at night:
From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord, deliver us!
Oh, and Happy Halloween!
To find out more about the ghosts and legends of North Carolina, visit Haunted North Carolina.