We uncovered some ghost stories of haunts and legends found in Manteo (Roanoke Island) and other select sites found along the Outer Banks, North Carolina's barrier islands, from Kitty Hawk to Hatteras.
The Mystery of Roanoke Island
It was 1587 – the year the English landed on the island of Roanoke and first settled. The “lost colony of Roanoke” would mysteriously disappear 3 years after being founded, having either died from the elements or having assimilated in with local Native Americans who might have saved them. The legend of a white doe haunting the island is local lore and said to be the the spirit of the first American-born English settler, Virginia Dare, whose essence will speak with those who approach her if seen.
Craven County Courthouse Ghosts
The courthouse found in the heart of Craven County is not far from the Outer Banks, North Carolina and originally had reports, for years, from employees who would see what looked to be people, walking on their knees, up and down the hall within the old building.
After a renovation, workers discovered the original floor to be a foot and a half below the current, newer hallway. The apparitions that had been witnessed were not on their knees, it would seem, but walking upon the original flooring. Spooky! It is believed that these ghosts were residual energy and not part of an active haunt -- ghosts from environmentally-recorded past events.
The Tranquil House Inn
Originally situated in Magnolia Square of Manteo and run as a boarding house (it burnt down in 1939 when the town caught fire), the impressive Tranquil House Inn was rebuilt by the water anew. The first floor is said to be haunted with foot steps, slamming doors, and electrical disturbances (such as TVs turning on and off), and a female ghost is said to appear in first floor mirrors. A phantom fan noise in the air vent cannot be resolved by the owners (there is not a fan inside of the vent to cause such a disturbance). Room 3 has had a report of the toilet seat being repeatedly put up, and then, slammed down in front of one guest.
White Doe Inn
Built in 1908 and having 19 rooms, the White Doe Inn was originally a family home, largest on the island, that was converted into an inn in the 1950s. A little room under the stairs used to be used by children to play hide-and-seek. Now guests report hearing a door slamming and closing under the stairs even though the door to the little room no longer exists. Different rooms are said to give eager guests different experiences such as lights flipping on and off, windows going up and down, with the Eastlake Room given the title of “most haunted.” In the Eastlake, playful ghosts are said to turn water faucets on and off and mess with electrical appliances. Supposedly, one mischievous spirit caused a radio to turn on for the bed and breakfast patron who kept turning it off (only to have it turn back on). So, the guest unplugged the radio. And to his or her surprise, it turned back on and continued to play!
Roanoke Island Inn
The Roanoke Island Inn is said to still be haunted by Manteo's former postmaster who once owned the mansion. “Roscoe Jones” slipped out of the public eye after being let go by the US Postal Service. Due to the humiliation, he retired to his upstairs master bedroom never to come down except at night to grab his dinner in secret. His ghost has been seen in the house near the stairs and outside doorways according to the town locals. There is other activity that begets legend of haunting, such as phantom footfalls, moving blinds, and vases breaking. Room #7 is said to be the most active haunt.
What are HooDoos?
HooDoos are of lore native to Roanoke Island of North Carolina and are described as hooded, dark, dwarf-like, shadow creatures who are thought to be powerful, even magical. (In North Carolina, “hoodoo” means folk magic, something that is still practiced today – perhaps there is a connection?) Hoodoos are believed to play pranks on humans and Mother's Vineyard is said to be a place where a hoodoo might be spotted at night. (We heard this to be private property, so you'll want to gain permission before exploring.) Another story tells of the hoodoos making their presence known, under the dock there, if you stand on top of it at night. Local teens are said to challenge each other to see how long they can stand on the dock as the the boards underneath are hit by the hoodoo. After you leave, the mischievous creatures will swarm the boards and can be seen from afar.
Outerbanks: "Graveyard of the Atlantic"
Stories of ghost ships have long been reported, supposedly still sailing the Atlantic Ocean near these barrier islands. But why here? Sandbars and currents are what we were told. The shores of the Outer Banks were once used as operation points for both pirates and bankers, the latter preying on ships that wrecked along the island shoals (sandbars), collecting the treasures that washed ashore. Sometimes, the pirates and bankers would work together to lure ships into the shallows. One trick employed used an old horse, or “nag,” to walk along the beach with a lantern tied around its neck and its leg weighted to make it bob more. (This is how “Nags Head” got its name, by the way.) From sea, the buoying lantern appeared to sailors like a moored ship – a safe place to come ashore. Once stranded on the shoals, pirates would overtake the bewildered ship's crew, and the spoils would be shared with the bankers.
With over 2000 shipwrecks along the North Carolina coast and inlets, the Outer Banks has many a ghost tales of people hearing crying at night or seeing apparitions walk along the beaches. One group of surfers saw a lost lady as recent as 2012 and attempted to help her. She refused. Later, they realized they might have met the famous ghost of Theodosia Burr.
The Ghost of Theodosia Burr
The daughter of infamous dueler, Aaron Burr, met tragedy by shipwreck off the coast of Cape Hatteras seashore after it was boarded by pirates. Theodosia was sailing to see her father and had a gift for him: a portrait of herself. The event caused her to go insane; and the pirates, not without a heart, took her to shore so locals could take care of her. Theodosia was left on the beach clutching the painting – a gift her father would never see. Over time, still mentally ill, she grew old under the watch of caretakers, her identity not known by anyone until after she decided to walk into the ocean and drown herself on a whim. After her death, someone who knew the Burr family saw the portrait hanging in her room and recognized her likeness. Long lost Theodosia had been found and her family notified. Her phantom is still reportedly seen as a woman who appears frantic and lost, walking up and down the beaches of Cape Hatteras.
Other Outer Banks Haunts to Check Out
An old movie theater found in Manteo, the Pioneer Theatre, we hear is a place that some locals believe to be haunted. Its former owner is thought to watch over the place, demanding people be respectful of one another – not a bad thing. Cell phone use is prohibited inside the theater, and so, the report that a ghost knocked a cell phone out of a young girl's hand, while texting, is interesting.
We heard reports that the Black Pelican Restaurant, a former life-saving station, has its ghost of the past, too. The spirit of a former “surfman” who was murdered by his superior on-site a century, or more, ago is said to still appear inside the building.
Teach's Hole is an Ocracoke Island cove once used by famous pirate Edward Teach, also known as “Blackbeard.” Eventually settling on this island, Blackbeard would later meet his demise in battle where he was beheaded, his headless body tossed into the ocean. Many still wonder if the fearsome pirate still walks the sands of the Outer Banks.
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