Originally posted on October 26, 2022
This is part 2 in a two-part series. Click here to read part 1
Believing as we do that the vanishing hitchhiker of Jamestown has overshadowed some more unique local ghostly happenings, we continue this series with five additional stories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Enjoy, but keep the lights on!
Cries from the crawl space
The old public school house in Greensboro next to the Presbyterian Church was long believed to be the site of paranormal activity. But in the spring of 1872, something truly startling happened: two women passing the building heard the cries of an infant emanating from the crawlspace beneath. Fearing for the child, they immediately raised an alarm. A thorough search ensued both within and under the building. No child was found, nor was any explanation ever discovered. Had the remains of an unwanted infant been secretly interred there?
A ghastly murder breeds and apparition
Laura Hiatt was a young Black woman living in Greensboro in 1888. On the evening of October 24, just a week before Halloween, she appeared at the storefront of Mr. Dudley about 9 p.m. opposite the water tower, grievously injured. She began to speak but fell dead to the sidewalk before she could reveal her killer’s name. She had been stabbed between the shoulder blade and first rib. In January 1890, Wesley Smith, passing by the area where Laura had been accosted and killed, encountered, in his own words, “a creature” near the door of the grain mill. It was amorphous and not obviously male or female. When he tried to approach, it vanished. He was so spooked, he ran all the way home. Within a month of the apparition, Lige Moore, who was awaiting trial for Laura’s murder, attempted a daring escape and reached the next county before he could be apprehended. Perhaps, he too, had seen the ghost!
Long before Lydia, Jamestown’s vanishing hitchhiker, the town played host to another victim of unexpected tragedy. But he was far angrier and far more dangerous. His name was Craig Murdock. A farm hand, he drowned at Logan’s Factory on Deep River in early July 1893 while bathing after a long day’s labor. His friend Ad Horney attempted to save him but failed and nearly drowned himself. Only 31 years old, Murdock was suddenly ripped away in the prime of life. No wonder he was angry. Even though carefully buried at Deep River Friends cemetery, he continued to be seen on the river bank over the coming weeks. Occasionally, he would pursue those who observed him. In one case, he chased a man down the river bank for half a mile. The poor devil could feel the breeze from a bony hand sweeping past as it endeavored to grasp him by the scruff.
That thing at the railroad tracks:
In the summer of 1909, the night watchmen at various warehouses and factories on West Broad Street in High Point swore they were seeing a strange entity crossing the tracks night after night. It assumed the size and roughly the shape of a bear, but was as white as snow and moved in a gliding fashion as if unmoored from solid earth across the railroad tracks into Markley’s Woods, where it would simply vanish. The story was so intriguing, crowds would sometimes assemble between nine and midnight to catch a glimpse. No explanation was ever found, but many stories were exchanged about “the Ghost.”
By the time this 1949 photograph was taken of Tate Park, the former site of Jane Grant Mann’s home had been transformed from a family garden of exotic plants to a city greenspace tended by High Point’s garden clubs. The park was located at the corner of North Main and Church Streets, wedged in between the north side of the First Baptist Church, the Chamber of Commerce’s Chest of Drawers office building, and Elm Street School. The City established the park around 1926, and it was named in honor of former mayor Fred Tate in 1944. The lot eventually became the parking lot for the First Baptist Church. Stop in the Heritage Research Center at the High Point Public Library to learn more about the Witch, Lydia, and other area apparitions, tall tales, and spooky stories.
The Witch of Inverness
Do you believe that a piece of ground can be cursed? Apparently, there was once just such a spot in the commercial heart of High Point.
Tate Park lay at the conjunction of Church Avenue with North Main, and until 1881, it was nothing more than an empty wagon lot for farmers bringing in tobacco and produce for rail shipment. The lot was then purchased by a strange old Scotswoman named Jane Grant Mann. She built a house for herself and her German husband, a noted engineer active in the local gold mining industry that revived here after the Civil War. They had a beautiful garden full of strange and exotic specimens to whose cultivation she was particularly devoted. After she died in 1895, she continued to be seen on the grounds lingering in the garden. Her husband lived ten years more and was well-liked by all. The family of Dr. J. W. Burton, to whom she had bequeathed the house, though they occupied it immediately upon Professor Mann’s death, stayed no more than a week before moving out. It was considered a haunted location. (Dr. Burton hanged himself in 1909.) The structure was later moved to another spot in town, but the plot remained undeveloped as Tate Park until its acquisition for a potential Sears and Roebuck department store in 1952. At the time, people thought a commercial enterprise on the site would anger the Witch of Inverness, who was a jealous guardian of her prized plantings. In the end, Sears did not develop the park tract. First Baptist Church turned it into a parking lot once more, just as it had been the mid-19th Century.
And now, in 2022, Jane Grant Mann’s plot of land will soon be up for sale again. Who will buy this bewitched piece of earth with all the supernatural covenants that go along with it?
Contributed by Larry W. Cates. Larry is a Reference Librarian at the Heritage Research Center of the High Point Public Library where he specializes in family and local history. Contact him at 336.883.3637 or email@example.com.