I’ve decided to make this week’s post a special jaunt, headed west towards the mountains of North Carolina.
Deep in this culturally rich part of our country, you almost feel like you’re being watched, because you’re just a visitor. You’re not from the old roots, and you can love it all you want, but maybe you won’t stay. The very land feels haunted with a sad, beautiful history, stained by the forced migration of an entire people group, the Cherokee. There’s a little town up in Jackson County called Cullowhee. It’s unincorporated, and there lies Western Carolina University, one unique feature of which is a body farm, used in forensics to study the decay of cadavers under various conditions. I mention the university because it’s a landmark. The body farm lends a little atmosphere to this tale of strange disappearances and an old way of life.
If you were to take a drive just a little bit southeast of Cullowhee, in what would most likely be a 15 minute trip, you’d come upon a place called Tuckasegee. It’s also unincorporated, though there’s a post office and a couple of churches nearby. Tuckasegee is not itself a single town as we’d think of it; rather, it’s made up of a few scattered communities. People mostly live there, but a convenience store makes its home in the tiny place. One of the communites, which I won’t specifically name here, is where I set my tale.
Folks in the mountains can be wary of strangers. It’s a tiny town, and if you’re new, you stick out very sharply. They’re nice enough, but they protect their own.
I’m not sure how the robbery happened. It could be someone actually broke into the house. Or maybe, as the stereotype goes, the door was just left unlocked that day, like every day. But a group of men broke into someone’s house and stole the usual goods, electronics, appliances, stuff like that.
Sometime later, the men were found dead, shot, in the driveway.
No one saw anything.
It wasn’t long before some investigators came poking around in the community, looking for answers, ready to deliver a guilty verdict right there in town, just like on tv.
But when you’re that deep in the mountains, it’s easy to disappear without a trace.
It’s likely we’ll never know what became of those men. Roads are treacherous in the mountains, especially the deeper you go in, and it’s easy to get lost or pitch your car off the very edge of the highway. Perhaps that is behind this disappearance.
But no one saw a thing.
Then again, there is that body farm.
First official weird post!
So I think it’s safe to say that many Americans are at least a little familiar with the mysterious disappearance of the inhabitants of Roanoke Colony. I’ll give you a refresher if you’re not.
A Mr. John White helped found a colony on Roanoke Island in 1587, this one with men, women, and children. (The previous colony had been men only, as was the norm.) Sometime after it was established, John White returned to England to bascially get some stuff for the colony, and make known some of the troubles they were having (problems establishing friendly relationships with local tribes, who had never been very friendly with the English.) He couldn’t get back until three years later, literally.
You probably know how the rest goes. When John White returned, all he and his men found was the word “Croatoan” carved into a tree (actually into part of the fort.)
No other trace of the colonists was found.
Barring all the gruesome stories of what might have happened to these individuals, there are a couple likely situations. White himself believed that by carving “Croatoan” into the wood, the colonists had left a message for him, telling him where they really went, Croatoan Island. (The name of the island now is Hatteras, where, you guessed it, stands the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.) This is a definite possibility. The colonists had some boats at their disposal, so they definitely had the means to head to another location. White left before looking, mostly because of a storm. Storms on the coast of North Carolina can and do get nasty, so I definitely understand him there. I would not be shocked at all if Hatteras is where these folks ended up.
Another definite possibility is that, through whatever situation, the colonists came to live with the local natives. A sad situation may have attracted the pity of the tribe. Also, the area has a high population of people who are American Indian descent. The interesting part is that there are a lot of them who were reported, even a long time ago, to have blue eyes, which isn’t a common trait. So it’s also a possibility that the colonists did somehow basically integrate into the tribe.
But do you remember the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, and how he led all the children into a mountainside, never to be seen again?
There are a few who believe that the people of Roanoke Colony were led through a door in the earth, and the ground swallowed them up. This was only implied by a couple of folks I got in touch with, but these people swear that they’ve seen others open doors right where there shouldn’t be one at all. These people think that the odd blue eyes down at the coast came from something else entirely, and that the Roanoke Island colonists were led somewhere else, gone completely, leaving no traces behind but a word carved hastily into a post.
I suppose that we’ll never know.
All the weird legends and ghost stories that turn up about North Carolina always end up being about the Western part of the state, in the Mountains.
I intend to change that.
So welcome to Weirdly Awesome NC, delivering an attempted daily dose of Eastern North Carolina pics, stories, legends, and just plain old stuff. Of course, this isn’t to say I’ll completely exclude Western North Carolina, but when our side has Blackbeard and a hydrogen bomb buried deep underground, things can get pretty odd around here. Feel free to leave some links in the comments to other stuff you’ve come across, even if it’s not in North Carolina! I’d love to know about your weird findings. I also plan to have Twitter, and I’d be ever so delighted if you’d follow me.
Now grab a pint of Eastern NC BBQ and join me back here soon for one of our oddball offerings.