shot of sass, served on (n)ice

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Definite Chill in the Otherwise Warm Springtime Air

gallows When M came to visit Pen in the spring of 2003, she insisted on doing all sorts of crazy “tourist” things to see and learn about this historic little North Carolina town, like taking the trolley tour while Pen went to work, and then dragging Pen along to this wacky museum that is solely devoted to snakes. But this story, alas, is not about the Serpentarium. One evening, they meandered downtown to take part in the local Ghost Walk, the very idea of which creeped Pen out. While waiting down by the river, they gazed into a tattoo and piercings shop, Pen briefly pondering the acquisition of an eyebrow ring. Luckily for her mother, it did not happen. Also, they happened to see Dawson (of the Creek), who was filming that evening and accosted by several young teeny-bopper types for autographs. I wondered, Couldn’t we do the Wilmywood Tour instead? No, no we could not.

Our tour guide eventually arrived, a middle-aged woman wearing black and gray, hair pulled back into a tight bun, and carrying a lantern. The group that night was a small one, and together we traipsed from haunted place to haunted place, all within a five-block or so radius, and all entirely too close to my apartment at the time. This place is just haunted, y’all.

We stopped by a haunted bar, a waterfront restaurant, an alleyway next to another bar, learning from our most excellent guide of all the spirits within, and then moved on to a few downtown houses. Things began to get especially creepy standing in front of a house where a ghost was known to be spotted in one of the darkened, third-floor windows. Did anyone see movement? Did anyone not? We couldn’t be entirely sure. In another house, the ghost of a woman who died in childbirth haunted the house to look after her own baby, and now allegedly looks after the children of others. Then, a graveyard, haunted by the ghost of a man buried alive. We were so close to my apartment by then, couldn’t we have just broken off from the group and ran home like bats out of hell? No, no we could not.

We then arrived at Gallows Hill. An empty lot next to a big house that had been converted into an office building for an architect’s firm. Why was it called Gallows Hill? Because back in the day, lots and lots of people were hanged there. And lots of people, without family or friends living in the area, were buried on site. Some of these people apparently had unfinished business. None of the ghosts in the house have been documented as mean, per se, but they are definitely present. Mirrors frost over on hot summer days, and a window upstairs is often spotted with the word “HELP” written in the same sort of ice on the glass. Certain smells with seemingly no source have been noted in the house: pipe tobacco and baking bread. Furniture moves from one spot to the other. A girl staying in the house once upon a time felt a ghost’s fingers running through her hair. In response to the site and the tour guide’s story, Ghost Tour walkers have been known to experience chills, a strong feeling of unease, or even sickness. Babies have cried, women have vomited into the azalea bushes upon stepping onto the property.

As for M and I, we were of course sufficiently creeped out by the stories, and me particularly creeped out thinking the my apartment was no less than two blocks from these premises. Then M remembered her earlier trolley tour, which passed by the site, and the hair on the back of her neck had stood up—just before the trolley tour guide had announced they were on “Hangman’s Hill.” There was something about this place, for sure. We were cold, and there was the prevailing sense as our tour guide continued to speak that we just needed to leave. Which of course we did not.

Well eventually, yes, we moved on again with the tour, which ended shortly thereafter, and made our way back home, thoroughly spooked by our surroundings, which we now knew all too much about. Clearly, being five years ago, I need to take this tour again and offer a follow-up report. Do you dare me?

Happy Halloween!

5 tips left at the bar:

mendacious said...

seriously! so true... shivers. i have never felt such a pervasive cold clamped down onto my neck and back in my life, and i've lived in chicago... though the screaming in death alley at my chicago dorm comes in a quick second.

sheila said...

You TOTALLY need to take the tour again!!! Do it -- tonight!!

niki said...

I double dare you!

That picture gives me the willies.

Andi said...

I agree -- do the tour again, you've got to see if it has the same effect now that you know what to expect.

And that picture is totally haunting.

Andi said...

(is it over, are you off the hook until next year?)