Sally’s Family Ghosts
Time was the old folks would sit around on evenings in the dim light of a candle. – or maybe a kerosene lamp — with the flickering flame of the fire in the fireplace, surrounded by the portraits of folks long passed and relate to each other these tales.
Aunt Bessie Pierce told this tale. It took place at Maple Lawn when Bessie and my father were children.
” One day, all of the family were eating the midday meal in the dining room when a female relation arrived for a visit. As she came down the hall, she looked into the parlor and saw an old lady sitting in the rocking chair. ‘Hmm,’ she thought, ‘ it’s strange that this person is sitting in here alone while the rest of the family are all at the table.’
When she got to the dining room, she asked, ‘Cousin Arthur, who is the guest in the parlor?’
He was very surprised and declared ‘But there’s nobody in the parlor.’
He jumped up and rushed in there, and sure enough, the room was empty.
Arthur then turned to his cousin and asked ‘What did this person look like?’
The cousin described in some detail, ‘She was an elderly woman dressed in black, trimmed in white lace and sitting in the rocking chair.’
When he heard these words, he exclaimed If only I could have seen her,
I would have asked her where the money was!!!
The cousin asked ‘What are you talking about?’
He explained, Many years ago, my grandmother was saving all of her money to send her young daughter to school in England. One day, the little girl was running and playing in the yard. She tripped over a tree root and fell. Severely injured she died shortly after that. My grandmother was very distracted by her grief.
She hid the money away and refused to tell anyone where she put it. She carried that secret with her to the grave. However, she has since been seen many times. If you ever see her again, you must ask her, ‘ where is the money?’ and she will tell you.”
Her sister Julia Moore then told this tale:
“Some friends and I saw this same apparition sometime later.
We were grown young women, walking along the farm path through
The fields at Maple Lawn when we saw a strange woman in an old-fashioned dress walking towards us. She swept past us never saying a word.
We all thought ‘This is certainly a rude somebody.’ Turning around to look
for her, we found that she had vanished!
Her disappearance left us feeling a bit odd as we were standing in the middle of peanut fields, and there was just no place for any mortal being to hide.”
Aunt Nell’s story: “Shortly after the Civil War, Arie Rayner Lenow and her family lived in the old Etheridge house upon the west bank of the Chowan River near Colerain. The Etheridge family had moved elsewhere leaving the house furnished, including the family portraits hanging on the walls. One night a violent storm swept over the countryside. Lightning flashed continuously, and thunder jarred the house. Midway the storm the grandfather clock began striking while the
Hands were on neither the hour nor half-hour. Amidst the bong, bong, bongs, Mr. Etheridge’s picture quivered and then fell shattering to ‘the floor, splattering the glass.
Next morning, the news came, and it was not unexpected. Mr. Etheridge had died during the night and at the exact time, his picture had fallen.”
Cousin Eunice relates Aunt Pat’s tale of The Phantom Coach: “John Alexander Rayner had two sisters, Pat, and Sally, who lived at the old Rayner homeplace in Bertie County between Powellsville and Cremo. A third sister (Arie), had married the widower Lenow lived in a small house down the road apiece. Before the War Lenow had lived in Rocky Mount with his first wife. He was rich then, and now he delighted in telling the Rayners about his fine coach and many servants. Such stories were just about the only riches either family had brought out of the war. Having advanced in years, one Sunday afternoon Lenow became very sick, and he was expected to die at any time. Meanwhile, Aunt Pat was sitting on the front porch of the Rayner home. Suddenly she sees this elegant coach coming down the road, a beautiful coach with a red-capped coachman and two fashionably dressed black men standing behind, and drawn by fine black horses, stepping high. The coach carried only one passenger, a woman; it comes on down the road and goes around the corner towards where the Lenows lived. Then, just about five minutes afterward, word comes to the Rayner home that Lenow had just died.
Aunt Pat finds no other person who saw the coach although she inquired up and down the road several miles. Then she was convinced: Lenow’s first wife whom he seemed to have loved so dearly was waiting for him. When he died ‘she came and got him.’ “
Raynor Moore would relate “In 1863 shortly after the old Doctor Godwin Moore had returned from a very late house call and had retired to his chamber for the night. Suddenly he heard someone going up the stairs. Godwin looked out into the entry-way and recognized his son Jim mounting the stairs. Surprised to see him, Godwin said, ‘Jim, you’ll have to bed your horse yourself as there is no one here to do it.’
And Jim said, ‘All right, but first, I want to see my sons.’ and went on up the stairs. The exhausted doctor returned to his chamber and never heard his son come back down the stairs. The next morning they found Jim in the stable, still holding onto his horse and saddle just as if he had just slipped off his horse — dead. His father, the old doctor, always wondered ‘What did I see on the stair?’ “
Grandmother Parker would then tell: “Tim, my husband, heard his mother call him very clearly, ‘Tim, Come here.’ He got out of his chair and climbed the stair before he remembered that she was not there, but in Norfolk with his sister.
The next day word came that his mother had died at nine pm. Nine pm was the exact moment that Tim had heard her calling him.”
Mama then would tell: “One night my Papa, Tim Parker, was driving home alone in his buggy through a very swampy area between Middle Swamp and Sarem. Suddenly his whole world lit up in a glow as bright as day. This green light stayed with him all the way home. By then he was very panic-stricken, he turned his horse into the lot, unhitched the buggy, and rushed into the house and just stood there shaking.”
Aunt Bessie and Aunt Julia told about how their Grandmother Ann Ward Moore, shortly after the death of one of her small daughters, saw one evening her daughter’s image rise at the foot of the garden and slowly ascend into the heavens.
They also told of the time one of the neighbors to celebrate the New Year SHOT his Farm Bell and broke it into a thousand pieces.
From James Moore: The Strange Package: While Aunt Airy was living in the Etheridge House at Colerain, her two sisters came to visit. While they were there, a wedding took place in the neighborhood, and they were all invited to attend.
Since everybody was in reduced circumstances due to the recent War, it was customary for people to lend their china, silver, cut glass and linens whenever there was a wedding or similar festivity. Accordingly, Aunt Airy and her sisters bundled up the few valuables they had and set off for the wedding.
It was a short distance away, and they decided to walk. They had to pass over a small branch in the woods. They had just crossed the stream when they saw a small package on the ground. They assumed that somebody going on ahead of them had dropped something.
All three of them bent down to pick it up. All three of them said, “I have it.”
All three of them stood up. All three of them looked down to see that they were empty-handed
There was no package ANYWHERE. They decided that this was not a place to linger in, so hurried on to the wedding!
For many years tales have circulated claiming that Mulberry Grove is haunted by the restless spirits of the Cottens and Moores: J.T. Lewter, who rented the farm for many, many years told Margaret Colvin that when he and his family first moved there about 1927 or 1928 they were standing in the East Room upstairs and looked out onto the upper porch and saw a ghost woman in a rocking chair.
This ties in with a tradition that women ghosts can be heard rocking there.
Once the tenants were all sitting in front of the fire in Grandmother’s Room, which was at the back of the main part of the house downstairs. The wood ran out and a big girl Irene Lewter offered to go and get some out of the wood box in the parlor. Just before she opened the door, she heard a noise. However, she ignored it, thinking that it was a cat which had knocked down some of the wood in the box. When she opened the door, she was shocked to see a woman in white standing in the middle of the room. She glided instead of walked across the floor. She appeared to be sunk in the floor with only her body from the knees up being visible. Irene declared that the ghost “fixed me with her eye” and then glided over to the southeast window, where she vanished. Irene began screaming and told her family she would never spend another night in that house. It was only with the greatest difficulty that she was convinced to continue living in Mulberry Grove. Irene told this herself to Margaret Colvin.
On another occasion, the Lewter family saw two ghost women leaning on the fence next to the Office and looking towards the east.
Also, one of J.T. Lewter’s daughters told Cousin Margaret that she tried to open a door one day and something pushed against her from the other side. When the door was finally opened, there was no one there!
Tenants weren’t the only ones to “see things” at Mulberry Grove. Members of
The Moore family also had unusual experiences: One night William Edward Moore was riding home in his buggy from a trip to Aulander. He was coming down the road by Pleasant Grove Church and could see the house before turning into the Rich Square-St. Johns Road. Every room in the house was lighted up. Thinking that a large number of guests had arrived, he hurried to the house. As he pulled into the front yard, however, everything was dark. He then discovered that his family were the only people there, and they were all in bed.
On another occasion, Uncle Will was off carousing in Aulander, so his wife Aunt Annie had the two children Helen and Felix sleeping with her in the East Room. In the middle of the night, she was awakened by a great knocking on the door. Then she clearly heard her dead mother- in-law Julia Wheeler Moore calling to her
“Annie, Annie, Get up! Where’s Will?” She was so unnerved by this experience that she sat up for the rest of the night.
Supernatural occurrences followed the family to other locations: The LeVert Tale
This was told by John Wheeler Moore to his grandson Raynor Moore.
Dr. Godwin Cotten Moore’s sister Emeline married the brother of Dr. Henry B. LeVert who lived in Alabama. When Henry’s father died, he left a will that displeased the son. Therefore, Henry went to court and broke the will and ended up with the entire estate. Shortly afterward, strange things started happening. Every night, the family would see doors open and shut and hear people walking up and down. However, Henry LeVert could actually SEE something – the ghost of his father.
Night after night, Henry would pace the halls quarreling with the invisible phantom:
“Why in the devil did you come back here? Why are you bothering us?
What do you want?”
Becoming concerned for her husband’s brother’s reason, Emeline wrote to her brother Dr. Moore in North Carolina. He eventually went down to Alabama to investigate the situation. He later told his family that he too saw the doors open and shut and heard the footsteps. But he never saw the ghost of Old Man LeVert.
Finally, the situation became so bad that the family had to sell the place and move away.
This story was told to Margaret Colvin by her mother Helen Moore Stevens. Starting in 1855 John Wheeler Moore and his wife Ann Ward lived in a magnificent brick mansion on the outskirts of Murfreesboro. It was called “Anniesdale” and immediately behind Chowan College in the area now occupied by the dormitory Parker Hall. Their daughter Helen Manly Moore was born there on November 17, 1862. The Civil War was in its second year. The Union blockade was in force and prevented medicines and other essential supplies from getting through not only to the Confederate army but also to needy civilians. Little Helen fell ill with malaria, and her family was in despair. Then John’s brother Jule found a druggist who sold him some quinine, the medicine needed to treat malaria. He hurried to Anniesdale, where they gave the drug to Helen. To everyone’s astonishment and horror, she died almost instantly. Later investigation revealed that the druggist who sold Jule the medicine had been drunk. Instead of quinine, he had given him morphine. Helen died on May 9, 1863, and was buried in the yard at Anniesdale. Uncle Jule grieved greatly over her death and always blamed himself for it. Also, this was the first child that John and Ann lost. They took it hard. One evening around dusk, Ann Ward thought she saw something jumping around near her child’s grave. She went down to see what it was. She saw a sort of mist in which was in the form of her child. As she watched, it rose up and then disappeared.
Anniesdale burned in 1865, and the Moore family moved to Maple Lawn, which was Ann Ward’s property. Bessie Pierce told this to Nancy Wertz.
Later they went back to transplant some roses from the Murfreesboro
garden. While they were digging up the bushes, they saw the old gardener,
who was quite dead!
Finally, I have the story my grandfather Raynor Moore told me of the one time he
thought he may have seen a ghost. This was at Maple Lawn when he was a small boy. One evening towards dusk, Rosa Skinner was going to go check a hen’s nest, which was down the hill back behind the barn at the edge of the woods. She asked Raynor to walk with her. They arrived at the right place and Rosa bent over to see how many eggs were in the nest. While she was occupied, Raynor saw something rise up in the woods directly in front of them. He described it as all white and looking like a cow with a sun bonnet on it! Raynor gasped “Rosa, look at that!” Rosa stood up, saw the thing and screamed. Then they both took off running for the house. Raynor himself confided that he was extremely upset by this event and that it took a great deal to calm him down. In later years, Bessie
Pierce, his sister, discussed this happening with Margaret Colvin. She said “Raynor was a perfectly normal, healthy country boy. If he had really seen a cow with a sun bonnet on its head, he would have laughed. Obviously, what he saw was too terrible to ever be put into words!”
The blacks over in Mooretown tell us that Raby Woods is haunted by old Mr. Raby and his son. It seems that the old man had hid his gold in the woods and when his wife’s son happened upon him one day counting it, they fell into fighting so fiercely they each killed the other.
(You will find the two widows listed in the 1830 Hertford Co census next to each other. I believe these to be James Jones II’s sister Sarah, who married first Wiggins and then Raby, and her son’s widow. smk)
From James: You and I KNOW what Maple Lawn is like. When the house is full of people, it has an almost beneficent aura to it, like a glow. However, when you’re there with one or two people or on your own, there is something creepy about it. It’s like you’re always just slightly off balance, or just barely missing seeing something out of the corner of your eye. About the portraits: you remember how Esther Cotten and Richard Johnston glowered down at you as you came through the front door. When Grandmama had her first baby, Granddaddy got an old black woman from Mooretown on the place to help out during Grandmama’s
10-day confinement. When my Daddy was born, Grand daddy went to get the woman again, and she absolutely refused to come (“I’m not going back up there in that big house and stay with Miss Annie’s EYES following me everywhere I go.”)
The Bazemore cousins have a portrait of Howell Jones, Ann Ward’s step-father with jagged tears in it. Seems the cook threw a stick of stove wood at it because HIS EYES followed her.
Esther Cotten’s portrait in the front hall was eventually usurped by the Mulberry Grove secretary which Cousin Margaret brought down from Washington in 1966/7. Some years later she told me how it would make all kinds of strange knocks and noises. I told her that I had never heard anything come out of it, so whatever was in it must have been happy to be back in North Carolina. Well, some time later I went to Mulberry Grove for something and then came straight to Maple Lawn. I came through the front door. As I turned into the parlor, the secretary let out a mighty knock! It did it again the day Grandmama was buried.
This leads me (James) to the strangest thing that ever happened to me at Maple Lawn. It was in the summer of 1974 after Grandmama died. Phillip was up there visiting (his Uncle Arthur.) At night, he and I would stay in Grandmama and Grand daddy’s old room at the end of the wing. Otherwise, the place was deserted, and he would spend most of the day up at my parents’ house with Michael and J.R. Anyway, one hot summer day, I spent the morning out in my two acres of tobacco doing whatever. Around the middle of the day, I walked over to the house and sat down on the screen porch to rest for a few minutes.
Suddenly, I heard something run through the Long Room upstairs. It sounded like a young girl in satin slippers – like a ballet dancer. This was immediately followed by three of the loudest, most crashing knocks that you can ever imagine. They were so strong that it SHOOK the place where I was sitting. Then all was quiet. I knew instinctively that they had come from the secretary, and I remembered Cousin Margaret’s statement that three knocks means that a spirit is near. I wasn’t frightened or upset, and in a few minutes walked up to my parents’ house for lunch. I didn’t tell Phillip anything about it. That night I got him to go with me as I unlocked the main part of the house and searched everything. As I suspected, everything was in place and nothing was disturbed.
Just a few weeks before his death, I, Sally, heard my brother Arthur Cotton Moore III tell his doctor “No, I don’t sleep very well (at Maple Lawn) as all night long the GHOSTS just keep waking me up .”