Spooky tales of beheadings, murder and uninvited specters await in Charlotte

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Courtesy of Jason Tapp
Charlotte has its share of spooky stories and ghost tales.

I went in search of Charlotte ghost stories, thinking I was assigned a difficult task. I was dead wrong. 

There are more creepy stories and places – and people willing to share them – than you can imagine. 

These stories scared me in the daylight. I’m not sure how I’d react hearing them on a wooded walk with a hooded hunch-backed guide. Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, these tales will give you reason to pause next time you walk under the Herrin Avenue train trestle or grab a bite to eat at Alexander Michael’s. 

These stories have been passed down through the decades, and in the case of Devil Charlie, centuries.

Here are five spine-tingling stories to tell at Halloween parties in the coming weeks:

(1) The Man from Highland Mill #3

Courtesy of Matt Lemire
The 10th annual NoDa Ghosts & Legends Tour is Oct. 19.

NoDa residents Matt Lemere and his wife, Michele, share creepy stories with visitors on  NoDa’s Ghost and Legends Tour every year. Lemere likes to share this ghost story about NoDa’s Highland Mill #3 because it has been told by multiple people unassociated with one another and all containing the same details (a possible sign that the story is true.)

Lemere first heard this story about 10 years ago: A woman moved into a second-story apartment at the back corner of the Highland Mill Lofts, closest to the railroad and the YMCA. She was one of the first to move into it after the renovation.

“She loved it,” Lemere said, “except she kept smelling this smoky, acrid smell. It was a machinery type smell, and it wasn’t all the time. It was random occurrences.”

The woman became friendly with her neighbors and overheard their 4-year-old son talking to someone. The woman asked the mom who her son was speaking to, and the mom answered, “Oh, he talks to him all the time; it’s his imaginary friend.” The woman asked the boy to meet his “friend,” but was told he had to leave. The woman said to the boy, “Tell your friend I’d love to meet him.”

A couple of days later, the woman came home to her apartment at Highland Mill #3 with large bags of groceries. As she was putting them away, she turned and saw a man standing two inches from her face. He was wearing overalls and a white t-shirt. She screamed. 

The man looked sad and disappointed. Then he disappeared.

The neighbor next door came running over with her son in tow. The woman told them what happened.

“The little boy from next door grabbed her shirt  and said, ‘That was my friend, and you said you wanted to meet him. He came over here to play with you.’”

The smoky scent the woman had grown accustomed to was lingering in the air. 

Event details: 10th Annual NoDa Ghosts & Legends Tour is Oct. 19 from 6:45-10:45 p.m. Tours leave every 15 minutes from the corner of North Davidson and 36th streets. The tour is free, but donations are accepted.

[Related: Real estate firm in Charlotte adds ghost-busting inspectors for nervous buyers]

(2) The Lonely Local

Jason Tapp opened the @spookyclt Instagram account a year ago when he realized there wasn’t one place to highlight spooky things about Charlotte. He posts creepy historical facts about Charlotte.

One story he heard on a ghost tour in uptown Charlotte takes place in Fourth Ward at Alexander Michael’s on West 9th Street. Inside the restaurant, there’s a tucked away booth with room for just one. 

“A lot of servers have claimed to see someone sitting there after hours,” Tapp said. “Or if they walk by it, they’ll feel like someone is grabbing them. When they’re by themselves, they’ll hear their name called. They started referring to him as, ‘The Lonely Local.’”

(3) Fred from Carolina Theatre

Photo by Diedra Laird/Charlotte Observer
City officials took a tour of the old Carolina Theatre in 2012 to get an idea of how much of the aging structure could be redeveloped. Reovations are still underway.

Tapp first heard about the ghost that once haunted the Carolina Theatre on North Tryon Street, from Charlotte NC Tours guide Tremaine Tyson in a Charlotte Observer video. The ghost was believed to be responsible for moving and breaking props and lights. The stage director called him Fred — he’d been the first to see the spirit sitting in the seats. 

“While the Carolina Theatre was in its prime, a lot of the staff saw a white aura sitting in the stands when they were on the ground,” Tapp said. “And if they were in the booths, they’d see someone on the ground.”

The part of the building where Fred was active is under construction now. Many wonder if Fred will reappear once the renovation is complete.

[Related: Will renovation of the Carolina Theatre oust the ghosts rumored to dwell within?]

(4) Devil Charlie

Courtesy of Charlotte Museum of History
“Devil Charlie” is a well known figure of terror in Charlotte lore.

Even prominent families have secrets to keep. In 1785, Charles Polk married Mary “Polly” Alexander at the Hezekiah Alexander Homesite on Shamrock Drive. Polly Polk’s husband shot her in 1791. He was nicknamed Devil Charlie and referenced in stories collected 100 years later by several local newspapers. 

“Everyone wanted to tell the story of Devil Charlie,” said Lauren Wallace, K-12 education specialist at the Charlotte Museum of History. “Apparently all these stories had been passed down by their families, and everyone was itching to talk about this guy who essentially terrorized the city of Charlotte. Depending on who you talk to, he’s a sociopath or a prankster.”

In one story Wallace shared, Devil Charlie locked all the doors and windows at a party, except for one window above open cellar doors. Then he yelled, “Fire!” Everyone scrambled to jump out the one open window, falling through the cellar doors into the basement.

[Related: 13 events to get you in the Halloween spirit]

Event details: Learn more about Devil Charlie at “Terrors of the Past: Escape from Devil Charlie.” It’s a 45-minute guided theatrical tour through the woods and homesite at the Charlotte Museum of History. The event is Oct. 25 from 6-10 p.m. Tickets are $30 and $45 for the VIP experience, and organizers expect to sell out. The signature drink, “Dancing with the Devil,” will be available for purchase when the doors open at 6 p.m.

Courtesy of Charlotte Museum of History
“Terrors of the Past: Escape from Devil Charlie” is Oct. 25.

(5) NoDa Train Trestle Beheadings

Herrin Avenue in NoDa is separated by a train trestle. Years ago, it wasn’t. Cars and bicycles could ride through unimpeded. I walk under this train trestle fairly often and always get chills, never knowing why.

My neighbor Erik Schalburg’s story may explain my uneasiness. Back in the 1950s, a father and son were driving on Herrin Avenue in a pickup truck. 

“The son was in the back of the pickup truck,” Schalburg explained. “For some reason, the kid in the back stood up, and when they went under the trestle, he wound up getting beheaded.”

Ten or 15 years later, a couple of kids were riding bikes on Herrin Avenue, doing tricks. They misjudged the height of the trestle and were both beheaded, so the story goes.

Minutes from a Community Development Hearing dated Dec. 11, 1975, states: “Also [post] signs which might point out the dangerous curves, low train trestle, and such as that we have experienced on Herrin Avenue, the underpass where several people have been killed not realizing that it was a low underpass.”

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