Spooktacular Sights and Sounds

Exploring Wake County's haunted history

Illustrated by Lane Singletary

Did you know that Wake County is filled with dark stories, legends, and spirits of the deceased who are said to walk among us, especially after dark? With the generous help of Nelson Nauss and Al Parker from The Ghost Guild (learn about them in the sidebar), we have put together 10 locations, mostly in the NC State University and downtown Raleigh areas, so you can explore our area’s haunted history on your own (or take a friend because it might get spooky)!

Note that some of these locations are on private property, so please be respectful of property owners and keep your ghost-hunting activity confined to the streets and public sidewalks in front of these locations.

Theatre in the Park

107 Pullen Road, Raleigh

While the building was originally constructed in 1936 as a National Guard Armory for the 30th infantry division, it was converted to a theater after the division was inactivated in 1974. The building is located in Pullen Park, on former farmland donated by Richard Stanhope Pullen. The cast and crew, including David Ira Wood III, have reported seeing a little boy. He has allegedly appeared both in the lobby and in front of the stairwells. Strange and unexplained noises are also often heard. On several occasions, The Ghost Guild, the theater’s exclusive paranormal research team, has heard what sounded like someone walking up and down the bleachers; however, no one else was in the building at the time, and the retractable bleachers and stairs were completely pushed in.

Mordecai Historic Park

1 Mimosa St., Raleigh

The Mordecai House is the oldest home in Raleigh still on its original foundation. The original portion of the house was built for Joel Lane’s son, Henry, but the house acquired the name Mordecai when Moses Mordecai married into the Lane family and took ownership. It’s a more recent occupant that captures local imagination. Although Mary Willis Mordecai Turk died in 1937, she’s routinely been reported playing piano in her prim black dress. Local historic guides talk about tour groups reporting a lady in period costume in the house, while some have seen just a swirl of mist and heard a pleasant tinkling of the piano keys. There are reports of doors opening and closing on their own and pictures that will fall off the wall if you remark negatively on the property, curse, or otherwise act improperly in the house.

Guardian Angel at Oakwood Cemetery

701 Oakwood Ave., Raleigh

The Guardian Angel of Oakwood, a statue located at the grave of Etta Rebecca White, is visible from Watauga Street after hours when the cemetery is closed. Legend says that the eyes of the statue follow those who visit the cemetery after dark, and that the head of the statue spins around 12 times precisely at the stroke of midnight on Halloween. Etta died at the age of 38 of a cerebral hemorrhage after being committed to the Dorothea Dix mental hospital for a month. The face of the angel was modeled after Etta. The statue has been broken and repaired due to previous vandalism. Night visitors have reported mysterious scratches on their arms, stings, and welts on their skin.

The Executive Mansion

200 N. Blount St., Raleigh

Construction began on the North Carolina Executive Mansion in 1883 using bricks and convict labor provided by the nearby penitentiary. Work was completed in 1891, and Governor Daniel G. Fowle moved in; however, he died within three months. In 1969, when Governor Robert (Bob) Scott took office, he had Governor Fowle’s bed removed and replaced with a longer bed that would better suit a man of his height. Soon Governor Scott and his wife began hearing knocking sounds coming from the wall behind the headboard of their new bed. Former Governor Pat McCrory stated that he used to say “goodnight” to the friendly ghost before going to bed. In October 2017, Governor Roy Cooper had Fowle’s bed returned back to its original spot. Governor and Mrs. Cooper say they have never heard any knocking or spirits while they have occupied the residence.

State Capitol Building

1 E. Edenton St., Raleigh

Legend says that night guards and visitors report hearing screams in the building. A ghostly cavalryman has been seen patrolling the building and the grounds. The stench of a stale cigar is reported to be the ghost of former Governor Zebulon Vance, who died on April 14, 1894, and may still haunt the building. A night watchman has seen the elevator, which is manually operated from the inside, move, and when the door opens, no one is inside. The library is the most common spot for paranormal activities.

Death and Taxes

105 W. Hargett St., Raleigh

This building, which is now the location of the perhaps appropriately named Death and Taxes restaurant (owned by Chef Ashley Christensen), was built in 1907 as a coffin shop. A few years later, many victims of the Spanish flu pandemic were served by this shop. Guests have heard footsteps and strange noises, and have seen a young girl converse with others who were not in the room.

Winslow Hall at NC State University

Winslow Hall, Pullen Road, Raleigh

Winslow Hall is one of the oldest and most haunted buildings at NC State University. The building was opened in 1897 and is one of the oldest on campus. Because the building served as the infirmary for more than 60 years, it’s safe to say the building saw its share of death. During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, more than 450 students were treated and 13 died from the disease, including nurse Eliza Riddick, who was the daughter of NC State President W.C. Riddick. A female spirit is said to wander the halls of the building. Staff and students who have worked in the building have recounted the feeling of being watched over as the complete their daily work tasks.

Dorothea Dix Park

1030 Richardson Drive, Raleigh (Follow the site map to the cemetery.)

Across the street from the public parking lot on Umstead Drive is an old cemetery where patients from the old mental hospital, used from 1856 to 2012, are buried. Many of the headstones have been vandalized or lost to time. You can see a small collection of the broken stones as you enter the graveyard to your right. Visitors have reported hearing wailing cries of the dead at night, especially when the moon is in a new moon phase, when the graveyard is at its darkest.

Yarbrough Steam Plant Smokestack

2411 Yarbrough Drive, Raleigh

Built in 1925, the smokestack bellowed out thick, black smoke, which was the byproduct of the creation of heat needed to pump steam, the main source of winter heating, to the various buildings on the campus of NC State. Today it is still used, but in a much more environmentally friendly way. In 1989, rumors began to circulate that a student had fallen to his death from the smokestack. In fact, two students found an unlocked door and gained access to the ladder inside of the smokestack in the spring of 1989. While attempting to climb to the top, one of the students lost his grip on the ladder and fell to his death. Since then, witnesses have reported seeing a ghostly apparition standing on the top of the smokestack. The smokestack retains the former name of the university: State College.

Pine State Creamery Building

410 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh

Employees of the former Xoco Mexican Restaurant, which now houses Pine State Public House, had so many experiences and reports of unexplained incidents inside the building that they actually posted a sign at the entrance which read, “We are not responsible for the actions of any ghosts/spirits on the premises.” It is believed that the haunting is tied to the murder of Deborah Elliot, whose body was found abandoned in the building after being beaten to death by John Williams, Jr., a drug-fueled serial killer. Another of Williams’ suspected victims, Cynthia Brown, was found murdered along the railroad tracks nearby. Pictures and selfies taken in the building have shown mysterious images and shadows. Customers have complained of hearing whispers in their ears, of the restroom light being turned off while they are inside, and of glassware and cutlery moving on their own.

Take a Ghostly Tour

Ghost Guild member, Raleigh-based folklorist, and author Al Parker has created the “Raleigh’s Most Terrifying Ghosts, Spirits, and Haunts” tour that can be accessed on the free Built Story app. The tour is $10 and can be accessed throughout a 30-day period after purchase. The app uses cellular GPS functions to guide the user from location to location, where they can experience and learn about local ghost stories and legends. The tour includes 21 stops, along with photographs, recorded narration, text, and music.

The Ghost Guild

As the exclusive paranormal research team for Mordecai Historic Park since 2017 and Theatre in the Park since 2016, The Ghost Guild, Inc. is a registered nonprofit paranormal research organization based in Raleigh. Among its team members are professionals in fields such as information technology, project management, health services, aviation quality control, learning technology, photojournalism, environmental protection, and archeology. Each individual offers a unique talent to the group and to the organizations they partner with.

As part of the commitment to science-based investigations, the group captures data, drafts theories, and attempts to explains things with science as the first goal. If the data is not rooted in good practice and principle, or if it’s contaminated, it’s discarded. While the team has a foundation in science, they want to bring attention to these unique sites’ histories and preservation efforts.

During presentations, they educate audiences on the history uncovered, the science utilized, and the data documented and allow audiences to make their own conclusions. They present several times per year, including at the annual Haunted Festival for the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department, which takes place on the last Saturday of October. Before that, drop by and meet Ghost Guild members during the 50th anniversary of Mordecai Historic Park on September 10 from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a family-friendly program with vendors, stage performances, ceremonies, and various other small programs throughout the park.

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