Appalachia Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Haunts – Ghosts – Boogers in Western NC

Today’s spooky guest-post was written by Charles Fletcher.


Canton NC

HAUNTS, GHOSTS, AND BOOGERS written by Charles Fletcher

The people that lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina when I was a boy believed in many strange things. They believed in the supernatural. They were believers in “Haunts, Ghosts and Boogers”.  If one of the children did something that they were not supposed to they were threatened by their parents. “The haunts, ghosts or boogers will get you.” This usually did the job. The children believed there were such things.

There is a difference in these three supernatural threats. The one used depended on how bad a thing you did. The Booger was used for the lesser punishment. These were the things that were under your bed and would do you harm after you went to sleep. One of these threats would have us keeping our head under the covers on the bed.

Next were the Ghosts. This was where you would see white sheets and other scary objects floating around in the dark. It was thought that they would get you under their sheet and carry you away.

The Haunt or Haint was the really bad one. It was meaner than the others. These were where you would see someone riding a white horse with his head in his hand. You could actually see the blood on the white sheet he would be wearing. Other times there would be some sort of thing flying over your head dressed in white and screaming and making other scary noises. This was the one we were most scared of.

When I was a boy we were living in the Piedmont section of North Carolina. My dad quit working in the paper mill and we moved to Gastonia. My grandma, dad’s mother, had a large house where she kept boarders. They were workers in one of the many cotton mills that didn’t have a home. Cotton was the king of this area and the mills were hiring anyone that applied for a job.

We had lived there about one year when mom began to want to visit her family back in Western North Carolina. Dad agreed that my mom, sister, brother and I could go on the train for a visit. He would get the tickets and schedule. Mom was to write a letter to grandpa Pressley telling him when we would be there.

We children were really excited about the train ride and that we were going to grandpa Pressley’s house. The big day arrived and we headed for the train station that was located on the other side of town. This was about a two mile walk for mom who had to carry the suit case and keep us three kids together. We were at the station about one hour before the coal fired steam engine with the passenger cars arrived. Mom didn’t want to miss the train. It only went to Canton about once each week.

“All aboard” the conductor hollered. We were in our seats in nothing flat. I got the window seat because I was the oldest. I promised to let TJ and Louise have the window seat on part of the trip. We would be on the train for most of the day. I don’t recall what route it took but I know that the train went through the tunnels of Black Mountain before we arrived at the Asheville station. There were many stops along the way. It seemed that we stopped at every village to pick up and leave mail and other things.

Finally in the late evening we arrived at the station in Canton. Grandpa and one of my Uncles were there to meet us. They, like most everyone else in the 1930s, didn’t have a car. We would walk the two or more miles to his house. We didn’t mind. We were used to walking everywhere we went.

After a couple of days we asked where Uncle Fred lived. Grandpa said that it was about a mile to his house. He lived in the section called West Canton. “I want to go visit him before we go back home,” I said.

That evening after supper Uncle Clifford, mom’s youngest brother who was two years older than me said he would go with TJ and me to visit Uncle Fred. “Don’t stay too late” mom said. “Something might get you she joked.” “We are not afraid after dark,” I said. We were soon on our way.

When we arrived at Uncle Fred’s house he was setting on the porch talking with one of his neighbors who was visiting. They were discussing nothing in particular, just talking about what had happened since they talked the last time they were together.

The three of us, Clifford, TJ, and me found us a place to set and was listening to everything that they were saying. Uncle Fred must have noticed that we believed whatever they were talking about. He changed the subject.

“Did you hear about the hyena that is prowling around here lately? They say he has killed and eaten several dogs, cats and even a half grown steer. It’s not safe to be out after dark, they say.” “Pretty mean critter,” his neighbor said. “Shore don’t want anything to do with him,” said the neighbor.

“Another thing that bothers me lately is at that bib pine tree that stands alone beside the roan going over to the Pressley house” Fred said. “Never heard about that, what’s taking place at that tree?” He said “Well— the other day Bill Hall that lives down the road from the Pressleys said he came by there the other night a little after dark and he heard something that sounded like a horse running. He looked up and down the road and didn’t see anything.  He happened to look toward that big pine and low and behold, guess what he saw?”  “What—what—” said Fred’s neighbor. “He swears that there was this big white horse with a rider dressed in white that had no head. At least no head on his shoulders, he was holding his head in his hands and you could see blood running down the sleeves of that white outfit he was wearing. He said that as soon as he saw that horse and the man with his head cut off he headed home as fast as he could run. Said he would never get caught out after dark anywhere near that tree.”

Fred’s friend began, “There is also talk of a big black panther that someone saw a few nights right here in West Canton. Been killing some cattle, I hear. And how about that snake that is nearly ten feet long. Been swallowing half grown pigs, not even bothering to chew them. They say that snake could eat a ten or twelve year old boy.”

By this time they had done what they wanted to do. Scare the “Day-Light” out of Clifford, TJ, and me.

I knew the tree they were talking about. You could see it from Grandpa’s house. Grandma had pointed it out to me the day before. “See that big pine up there beside the road” she said.  “Old Jack, my pet crow has a nest up in the top of that tree. He carries everything he sees around the house that is shiny up to that tree. I’m going to get one of the boys to climb up there one day and get all the things he has stolen.”

It had become real dark; Clifford had gone inside and gone to bed. He wasn’t going back this night. He had been convinced that either the hyena or that headless man would get him. TJ was thinking the same. “We better get back to grandpas” I said. “I’m not going out in this dark” he said. “You can go if you like; I’m going inside and get in bed with Clifford. I am spending the night with Uncle Fred.”

I thought “I’ll show them that I’m not afraid of that Hyena or that man on the horse. I’m going back to grandpa’s house.” Off I went. I was walking at my regular pace but began to think I was hearing noises along the side of the road. I came in sight of the pine tree and began to walk a little faster. Soon I was running as fast as I could. I didn’t slow down until I was in the yard at the house.

Everyone was still up. No one had gone to bed. They were waiting for us to come back from Fred’s. “Where are Clifford and TJ?” someone asked. “They decided to spend the night with Uncle Fred” I said. I didn’t dare tell them about the “Haunts”. Nor did I tell them that I had run the last mile on my way back. I think they knew because I was wet from sweating.

The next morning Clifford and TJ came home. They never mentioned that they were afraid to come home last night. For the rest of our visit with grandpa TJ and I never ventured out after dark. We didn’t want to take any chances of meeting any “Haunts” that roamed the mountains of Western North Carolina.

We would take our chances with Ghosts and Boogers. But not the Haints, they were the meanest.


I hope you enjoyed Charles’s post as much as I did-leave him a comment and I’ll make sure he reads it!



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  • Reply
    Carl Mullin
    October 21, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    What a story, reminds me of “ART WILLIS HOWEL” a local man that was killed and his head was cut off—for years we were told of seeing him with his head in his hand at spots around the mountains–this was a true story that was made into a real scary story back in my days of growing up in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.

  • Reply
    October 19, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I loved that story!! I miss those stories from my youth. I know they are supposed to be scary but there is just pleasure in listening to (or in reading) them. Thank you Charles for sharing.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 18, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    A lot of those old scary tales were made up by moonshiners to keep youngins from stumbling across their distillation operations back up in those dark hollers. The real spirits that are about are the ones that are dripping out of their maker’s chinbeard.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 18, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    I always considered ghosts and haints to be one and the same. I’ve seen a few of them in my day but they never ever came toward me. It’s as if they were more afraid of me than I them. Maybe that is a statement about me.
    Now boogers are little fiends, imps, goblins and three year old boys. Either of them can wreck a house in a heartbeat but I’ll put my money on the human kind.
    I have heard my fair share of unworldly goings on back in the hills and hollers of Appalachia but they can’t hold a candle to to the scary things we witness every day on the TV.

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 18, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Kinda reminds me of some of the stories our maternal Grandfather use to tell to scare us. I remember when I was very little, Grandma C. had an upright piano in her house, and to try to get me to sleep, he’d play the keys from starting from the tinniest to the basest and say it was the boogyman coming to get little girls who were still awake.
    Now how that was suppose to relax me into sleeping, I don’t know. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Pam Danner
    October 18, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    What a great story, I really enjoyed it! Love to hear spooky stories of the mountains and their haunts, ghosts and boogers.

  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    October 18, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Very nice written story, thanks for sharing it. Hope we never see one don’yt you?
    Mary Lou McKillip

  • Reply
    October 18, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I just love Charles’ tales of when he was growing up. He is a very good writer and storyteller, like many of our Mountain Folks.
    One time me and a bunch of us boys thumbed a ride to Andrews to see a Vampire Movie at the Henn Drive-In. We waited until it got dark and snuck in by going down the side of Valley River and then popped up in the Drive-In, built us a fire and dried out as we watched the movie. That thing had us scared half to death and when the guy let us out about 1/2 a mile from our house, we broke to a run. About half way to the house, I could just feel that ole vampire breathing on my neck. I stepped on a snake, I felt it move and that just speeded me up. It was dark as smut, I didn’t know what kind of snake it was, didn’t care either, but made it home safely…Ken

  • Reply
    October 18, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Dad would try to get me to stay in bed by telling me there was a boogie man under my bed just waiting for me to stick my foot over the edge of the bed so he could grab my foot and drag me under the bed. He never said what the boogie man was going to do to me – just left that to my very fertile imagination. Now if he thought getting me to stay in bed was going to insure that I would soon be asleep . . . well . . . what do you think?!
    Sometimes reading your blog is like being a stranger walking along the roads in the hills and coming upon an extended family gathered on on porch on a Sunday afternoon visiting, sharing stories, and spinning yarns. The stranger pauses and finds a shady tree under which to rest just so he (or she) can listen and vicariously join in the warmth of the family’s banter.
    Thanks for providing a pleasant pause along life’s road.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Between twenty-five and thirty years ago, I had the pleasure of leading my eight-year-old son’s Cub Scout Pack II in Rumson, New Jersey. Our Pack joined the Monmouth County Troop camping in the woods, pitching tents and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a wood fire laid carefully within a circle of field stones. As night fell and the flames burned low, I taught my boys the folk songs which I love and then trotted out my favorite ghost stories. After scaring the heck out of them with “The Monkey’s Paw”, I ended with “Wait Till Martin Comes” and we all turned in laughing.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    October 18, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Charles: If there is one thing I remember about growing up in the Matheson Cove, it is the scary stories my Daddy would tell us! Your story is mighty close to those Daddy would share with his ELEVEN children! Mama did not participate in such foolishness!. THANKS VERY MUCH FOR THE RECOLLECTIONS!
    I will be at the Andrews Public Library on 10-28-16 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Maybe you can just haul off and make it to my presentation of my “Fiddler of the Mounrains” book w/CD of Unclle Johnny’s music. He was the best mountain fiddler EVER!
    Kindly, Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD

  • Reply
    Melissa P (misplaced Southerner)
    October 18, 2016 at 8:29 am

    Absolutely wonderful! I spent many a summer around Waynesville, NC (where we used to have a home – but it burnt). Pop Hyatt was a railroad man and he could tell some tales. Whenever things would get too gruesome or scary, Mom Hyatt could silence him with just one of her looks. He’d chuckle and change the subject. I truly believe, though, that there are some scary things in those mountains. I loved being out after dark to see the stars, hear the wind and the owls, feel the soft air, and smell the balsams, but you’d never catch me out far enough where I couldn’t see home. They say ol’ Boojum is still wandering the hills looking for his treasure.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 18, 2016 at 8:23 am

    I don’t recall ever being especially afraid in the dark. The closest I came was in tent camping alone and hearing critters rambling around nearby. My older cousin once told me he was amazed that I was not afraid in the dark in the woods. I think part of that came from Dad being a coon hunter and a night fisherman so from the time I was old enough to keep up I was in the woods at night.
    Like the story illustrates, one needs conditioned to be afraid or not. I somehow arrived at thinking there was nothing in the dark that was not around in the day time so not being afraid in the day I hadno reason to be at night either. That reminds me of the fella (can’t remember his name) who worked in the Smokies tracking lost people. When he found them, he always liked to spend some time with them talking about what scared them (usually night sounds if they were out overnight) and he would explain what made those sounds and dispell their fears so they wouldn’t remain afraid in the woods.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 18, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Thanks Charles, that was quite a story! I didn’t know there were tunnels in Black Mountain for the trains. Lots of walking going on back then. Guess everyone was fit and trim. Life involved a lot more physical exertion than it does today.
    It was a haint that they scared my mother with when she was a child. I don’t think she ever got over it.

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