I finished my most recent book, Haunting The Carolina Coast, this week, with some final touches to the cover and last little edits to make some paragraphs flow better. These are the little things that are part of a much bigger part of writing. I want to make sure that the typos and spelling issues don't get in the way of these stories. And these are great stories! I searched for a new collection of tales, not the usual ones that we have heard before. In my first collection of ghost stories, Haunting The Outer Banks, I found a good mix of stories we had all heard on the coast, and then told them in new ways. I wanted to keep them, and keep them entertaining. For this book, I wanted all new stories. And by new, I really mean a mix of old and new. I found some tales that had not been written in any book, only told by storytellers, or printed once as a feature in a newspaper. A few were legends I knew well. I had heard them, told them, seen them, and experienced them. For some of those stories, they were a part of my life, solid as the dunes and houses that sat on my beach. I just didn't know how fluid those "solid" parts of my beach life would become.
The Haunted House had been there forever. It never got older, but rarely looked worse. It always looked haunted. This was a wonderful mystery that sat solid on the coast probably for over a hundred years. Everyone knew it was haunted, but they disagreed on the ghost. It was a little girl who died in a well, or a boy who drowned in the ocean. All I know is that the place had a spooky vibe. And I needed to know about it. I wrote a slightly fictionalized version of a little excursion I had as a kid long ago in this book.
Nags Head Woods was a place of darkness and mystery as a kid to me. It was only the domain of wild teenagers in the 70s, during the day, and at night more nefarious and cruel groups were said to haunt the place. The mystery changed with the decades, from evil people, to demons, witches, and the Goat Man all making appearances. Before that it was a community, but with their own brand of good and bad. When I found a story of a witch that lived back there, I had to put it in the book. Then I found something better. It was more than just a legend. The Wright Brothers even made notes of Mad Mabe, the witch, who lived in the woods on the sound, down south of their first campsite. Discovering that the legend, the tale, had an attachment to reality, to the sound minds of two engineers who came to the coast to build an airplane, added a sense of validity to the story. It was no longer just a story.
The Wright Brothers Monument is a bold obelisk on Big Kill Devil Hill, which makes it seem somewhat stoic, sure of itself, a monument to the real world, and hardly a place for a ghost. Which is why I think the legend I heard about the ghost inside all the more rare. It was told so quietly, and with so little conviction, that I don't think anyone believed it. It was just a story. I had heard that someone had been trapped inside, stuck on the narrow spiral stairs, and that was why the monument was closed. But then I heard more, that they really saw a ghost, of sorts. I'm not going to give away the entire story, of course! I had finally found a legend that the monument was haunted by a man who was crushed by one of the giant stones used to build the monument. I don't know if I bought into that story until I took a boat out and found the giant stone that slipped off a barge during construction, sitting in the shallows by my house. I still don't know if someone is underneath the stone, or if the monument is truly haunted, but I can believe it a little more than when I was a kid.
I tell these hints of stories to explain why I wrote this book. I could have found another collection of the same ghost tales that everyone tells, but I needed to preserve these stories. These aren't ones told and repeated, or well known. Now they will be. I wanted first to have more stories that could resonate and scare and thrill and delight my readers who are fans of the old ghost stories. I also wanted them to have something "new", that is, a greater slice of the life on my Outer Banks, the stories we locals shared, knowingly, kids trying to find a way to retell a tale to scare the next kid. But there was more that came about when I did this. The Haunted House? It's gone. While I was writing this, the bulldozer came and laid waste to an icon on the beach. Whatever ghost was there, it's gone now. We are one generation away from no one remembering the stories and ghost tales of that place, the flickering glass, the strange noises, the preserved insides. It's gone.
Nags Head Woods is a preserve, with some nice trails for hiking. They do marathons and 5Ks back there. There's houses back there now. Goat Man? Okay, he wasn't really Goat Man, there was just a shack used for fishing and for shelter that some jerks used to vandalize, but the building is gone. The graves of the communities that used to be just off the road? Most are lost, gone, or fenced off behind private property. It's a nice place now. A good thing, but still, no witches, nothing scary, the old land is swallowed up or fenced off.
The Wright Brothers monument is now open at the base at least, on sunny days. We can no longer climb it. I never could. It has been closed off since I lived at the coast. I have never seen the interior, and will never know if there is a ghost in there or not. It's solid and secure construction with sealed gates and doors mean that if there is a ghost in there, it has been a long and lonely time all alone inside the big granite pylon. See, the stories need to be preserved. They need to be read. They need to be told again and shared. Because we are losing the ghosts behind the stories. I hope you will all enjoy Haunting The Carolina Coast. I certainly hope you will get a copy for your library, and share with your friends. Check it out here... Haunting The Outer Banks I'll have autographed copies soon. It's up to you to get the ghosts to sign them.