Haunted Downtown Wilmington Dog Walk
COPY TO COME
#1: COTTON EXCHANGE
321 N Front St, Wilmington, NC 28401
Ever since the 1700’s, the area that houses The Cotton Exchange has been in use (originally known as known as Paddock’s Hollow -or Paddy’s Hollow to a few whom had a few too many drinks- included a horse pond and paddock). In 1886, there was a fire that wiped out much of that area that was used by squatters living in lean-tos and rickety shacks. Renovated in the 1970’s, these building were turned into a mix of shopping and dining venues. Over the years, there has been sightings, weird happenings, and more that suggests The Cotton Exchange and its’ many shops are haunted! A few such tales include:
- The German Cafe has a ghost (a Victorian-dressed woman) that likes to appear around dinner hour at the top of the steps leading to the upper dinning room.
- The Golden Gallery has an apparition of a man in a black top hat and long black coat that stands and disappears quickly in the corner of the shop.
- The Top Toad employees have heard the clanging of hangers, footsteps and murmurs — even though there was no one else in the store. There has been unfolding of shirts and displays knocked down too.
- When Paddy’s Hollow was closed down for renovations, the manager saw a man dressed in black who turned away fast and disappeared through the kitchen door. He chased after the figure, but when he reached the rear kitchen door, the manager noticed boxes stacked in front of it, thus making impossible for anyone to have opened the door.
- One shop owner has her shop redecorated some mornings. She named her ghost Henrietta.
- The Scoop has a ghostly little girl who likes to cause a little mischievous. In the past she has played with the wind chimes, presses the buttons on the kitchen equipment, knock the napkins of the counter, and even knocked over dishes. Employees have said they have seen the little girl’s image in the glass case in the store.
#2: ORTON HOTEL
133 N Front St, Wilmington, NC 28401 (Now Orton’s Billiards & Pool Room)
Orton Hotel (now Orton’s Billiards & Pool Room and the oldest continuously operating pool room in the United States) was built in 1888 and burned down in 1949. Due to the deaths that the fire had caused, Orton’s is rumored to be haunted. The ghosts of two men who died in the fire are rumored to still be there and ‘haunting’ the pool hall.
(1) One of the guest registered at the hotel on the night of the fire was on his deathbed at a hospital close by. Bill, his brother, had come to town to be with him in his finale days. Without informing anyone, Bill decided to use the hotel to sleep at on the night of the fire. In the cleanup process, the body of Bill was found face down on the mattress.
(2) On the night of the fire, a tugboat hand told some people he was going to visit the hotel. He was never seen again. During the cleanup after the fire, a part of his skull and a third of his body was found by workers. No one ever found the rest of the remains of his body.
A few of the strange and unexplained happenings are:
- Pool balls on the table moving themselves around without anyone touching them
- Toilets in the restrooms flushing themselves and faucets turning themselves on while no one is in there
- Disembodied voices and muffled footsteps are often heard where there are no people
- A ‘full bodied apparition’ that appears and introduces himself as Bill, the brother who died in the hotel room. Some people have claimed this ‘apparition’ will excuse himself, for he has business on the fourth floor, although today the building is only one story.
#3: PARADISE ALLEY
15 S Water St., Wilmington, NC 28401 (Now Blue Post Billiards)
Around the 1700’s in Old Wilmington, there used to be a ‘red-light’ (prostitution area) district called Paradise Alley. This area was known for its’ level of violence of knifings, shootings, strangulations, robbery. In the middle of this area was a brothel called Blue Post (known as Blue Post Billiards today) which was ran by the bouncer Gallus Meg, a mountain of a woman standing 6 feet tall and weighing in at 350 lbs.
Meg was a legend of her day. She was known far and wide for her ‘methods’ of removing unruly patrons at the Blue Post. It was said when such patrons were thrown into the alley, she would rip off one of their ears with her large canine-like teeth. She would keep these ears as souvenirs in a large pickling jar in the bar. As is usually the custom where violence begets violence, Meg’s dead body was found in the Alley thus ending her reign of terror. And luckily since then, no accidents of bitten ear removal have been reported!
It is still said though that Meg has not left the Alley and still patrols it to this day. If this true or not, we don’t know, but a few strange happenings are:
- Sometimes people walking down the alley at night outside of Blue Post will hear faint footsteps behind them. When they turn around, some claim to see a huge shadowry figure of a woman turn and walk through the walls
- Men are sometimes still ‘not safe’ at the Blue Post. Some drunks who have accidently wander into the women’s restroom have reported of a large woman moving toward them aggressively to remove them from the premises.
#4: LULU’S PUB
138 S. Front St., Wilmington, NC 28401
In times of old in Wilmington, there used to be many brick tunnels underneath the river district probably used to channel the various creeks and streams in the area (now paved over with houses above them). Many say that these tunnels also used by pirates and smugglers as hideouts and murder and other nefarious deeds were connected down in them. One such deed have become known as the haunted tale of Cooter!
In the mid-1800s, Cooter was a slave who had a habit of escaping and running away. His plantation owner said that Cooter ran away more than any other slave he ever heard of. Cooter would make his way to Wilmington (by the way of the Cape Fear River) hoping to find a sympathetic merchant from the North who would take him away.
As one story goes (there are many variations), the last time Cooter was tracked down by his owner, he was chased by dogs and caught in a dead-end tunnel in Wilmington. This particular tunnel was connected into an underground railroad system underneath a general hardware store — which is now Lulu’s.
Being fed up with all the times Cooter escaped, his finally agreed to grant Cooter his freedom papers — but of course there was a catch! Before these papers were signed, the plantation owner had his henchmen beat Cooter mercilessly and then whack off his feet. As he left Cooter bleeding to death (now as a freeman) in the tunnel, the former master’s had a few parting words … ‘You won’t be running away anymore but you’re free to go anywhere you’d like.’
In time, Cooter’s legs healed into sensitive stumps where his feet used to be. Cooter found relief from this pain in the banks of the Cape Fear River. He decided to stay not only for the relief, but also to help other slaves like him.
Lulu’s Pub is accessed by a long, dark subterranean tunnel and they say you are in the presence of the former slave Cooter when you enter it. Many of the strange occurrences there are thought to be caused by the ghost of Cooter.
- Some claim to have seen a shadowry figure lounging against the wall that separates the bar from Cooter’s death chamber or catch a glimpse of him in the mirror above the bar
- One bar patron has claimed the men’s restroom door was slammed behind him when there was no one there
- A woman stated that one time someone was trying to pull her through the wall where Cooter met his fate
- Barstools are said to be mysteriously move sometimes when a patron tries to sit down
- With all the weird things happening, the regulars at Lulu’s decided to have a séance to determine who was haunting the pub. The group posted suspected names on Post-Its all over the bar and asked the ghost to reveal themselves. According to Mick Sherwood, a co-owner at Lula’s, the people gathered together watched as one by one the names fall off the wall … until a single Post-It remained … “Cooter”
#5: ST. JOHN’S MASONIC HALL
125 Market St., Wilmington, NC 28401 (Now Slice of Life)
At the conclusion of the civil war, Mary Ratcliff (daughter of a plantation owner and his slave) was freed and became involved with James Heaton (a state congressman). James wanted to keep their affair secret, scared of what might become of him if it became known. He was an abusive, jealous and nasty drunk. After one huge fight, Mary decided to leave leave the relationship and escape his violent tendencies.
During her escape, Mary hid in a doorway alcove at a nearby grocery store while trying to avoid James. James appeared out of nowhere and offered his hand to Mary as an apology. Mary refused the gesture. James offered two more times, but each time was refused again. In anger, he whipped out a pistol, pointed it point blank range at Mary and fired it right into her chest. With police hearing the noise and in pursuit, James took off running but was at last corned. The coward that he was, he put his gun to his own temple and fired and thus killing himself.
The grocery store doorway that Mary Ratcliff was shot down in later became St. John’s Masonic Lodge, then became the Rhino Club in the early 1990’s and today is the Slice of Life. An interesting side note – one of the many reasons the Rhino Club was closed down was of another murder at roughly the same spot as the shooting of Mary — a man was stabbed to death in January 2011.
Since the death of Mary, many strange and unexplained occurrences have happened. Is this the Mary Ratcliff of old or just someone playing tricks? Most of these things occurred during the Rhino Club time.
- Every once in a while, the name “Mary” has appeared on the bar and in the mirror above the bar
- A chandelier with several lit light bulbs burn brightly, but when you take a picture of it (even with a digital camera), only one bulb is lit in the photo
- Occasionally a ghostly figure of a woman in floor-length black dress appears and every once in a while a man decked out in vest and top hat.
- A bartender working in the stock room heard a voice right behind and a hand reach under his shirt to touch his back.
- A manager found a wall of kegs stacked from floor to ceiling in a back room—that could only have been stacked that way from inside the room.
#6: THALIAN HALL
310 Chestnut St., Wilmington, NC 28401
Built in 1858 by one of the leading 19th century theatre architects, by John Montague Trimble, who had built 40 such theatres before he went blind. Thalian Hall has undergone many changes throughout it’s time dealing with remodelings, fires and more. In it’s current state is the historic city hall and theatre. Of course any building this old and possessing the history of such a place can gain notoriety for being haunted.
Besides just the age of the building, Thalian Hall was also built upon a sand dune that local pre-Columbian Native Americans used to likely buried their dead. Many skeletal remains have been discovered under the floorboards of the theatre during renovation efforts in 1988 and 2010. Throughout history some of the most ‘haunted’ places have been built upon graves, and the restoration and renovation of buildings have been known to draw forth the paranormal of spirits who loved/hated that particular location to watch, help, or even hamper the living.
Tony Rivenbark, executive director of Thalian Hall, likes to attribute countless unexplained events to the theater’s patron goddess, Thalia, the Muse of Comedy. Whether it is the Muse of Comedy, other ghostly beings, or just the wind and the oldness of the building, many strange occurrences have happened at Thalian Hall. Listed below are some of the ‘strangenesses’ that have occurred – we’ll let you decide who or what has been the cause!
- Three spirits (two male and one female) enjoy watching, and even experiencing, the theatre! For several years, reports of actors and actresses have often reported seeing these ghostly figures, decked out in Edwardian Costume attire, wandering the first balcony — especially during rehearsals.
- Actors have also felt “cold spots” and have heard eerie sounds (such as echoes of disembodied voices) to be perhaps caused by these three unseen presences in the dressing rooms, bathrooms, corridors and even the main lobby
- Items such as props, scripts or other items of the modern thespian world seem to mysteriously disappear — only to be returned at a later time, usually in a different location than where they disappeared from
- One of his most oft-repeated tales is of a director’s small dog somehow finding its way to the third-floor gallery and then was seemingly tossed over the rail. It landed unharmed in the audience on the first floor.
#7: ST. JAMES CHURCH
25 S 3rd St., Wilmington, NC 28401
In the late 1700’s, two friends spent much of their time discussing the afterlife and whether or not a dead man could return from the grave — and they promised each other that whom-so-ever died first would come back and contact the other one. These two friends were Samuel Jocelyn and Alexander “Sandy” Hostler.
Years later in 1810, Samuel married Mary Ann Sampson. Not long after their wedding night, the two had a fight and Samuel stormed out into the night for a horseback ride into the dismal and dark Cape Fear River. He never returned. A search party went out and found his body — half submerged in the frigid waters. It looked as if his horse had tripped on a stump and threw him into the water. His body was brought back to Wilmington and buried in the St. James Church graveyard.
To the horror of Alexander, Samuel kept his word and returned from the grave and delivered these haunted words: “Dig up my grave.”. Alexander did not know what was going on and did not heed the words at first. Samuel’s ghost had to visit twice more in order to convince Alexander to dig up his grave. Sandy and another mutual friend of theirs went to the graveyard and worked through the night to unearth Samuel’s grave.
What they found was horrifying beyond words. When they finally reached the coffin under six feet of dirt, they found the lid slightly askew. Opening the coffin up, they discovered that Samuel had actually been buried … alive! Samuel’s body was twisted so as to have rolled over face down (as if to push the lid with his back), and with his mouth open as if to give an eternal scream of horror and terror, forever frozen in time. His fingers were bleed raw to the bone and the inside of the coffin was shredded as he tried to scrape his way out of the coffin.
Scientist later concluded what must have happened was that the blow to Samuel’s head, along with the body being submersed in the freezing cold water, slowed down his heart rate to being undetectable. There was no stethoscope at that time to detect a beating heart — it wouldn’t be invented until 1920.
- To this day, it has been reported that people can hear Samuel’s muffled screams and cries of terror as he tries to claw his way out of his grave
- It is rumored that school children, on a dare, would try to lie on Samuel’s grave for an hour — not one ever lasted so much near that amount of time — just so you know wanna-be ‘ghost seekers’, no one knows where the gravestone for Samuel actually is, most of the stones are faded or knocked down or broken)
#8: ST. THOMAS PRESERVATION HALL
208 Dock St., Wilmington, NC 28401
In the spring of 1760, a young and handsome Welshman by the name of Llewellyn Markwick moved to Wilmington. As the story goes, Markwick had two possessions that he prized above anything else — a rather fine and distinctive Arabian stallion and a ring with a large diamond intertwined with two serpents. One day in the Autumn, Llewellyn went out horseriding for a short ride, his horse returned without him, and he was never seen alive again.
Eight years later, heavy rains had washed away much of a dirt path that is currently now Dock and Third streets. One day not long afterwards, a passerby was walking in that area and saw a flash of light glittering of something. He went to investigae and found the light was reflecting off a ring on a skeletal hand. The ring had a large diamond with intertwined serpents.
After the skeleton was dug out of the gully, it was discovered that a musket ball had been shot into the cracked skull. Apparently he’d been shot in the back and hit with a large, heavy object, but not robbed, for reasons that remain unknown. Markwick killers were never found.
Soon after the body was found, the section of the road that was Markwick’s grave began sinking. Not long after that, people began seeing a distinguished gentleman stumbling around the area as if he was needing some help. As people tried to stop and help him, he simply vanished before their eyes. To this day strange occurances have and are happening in the area of Markwick’s grave around the current standing of St. Thomas Preservation Hall.
- A couple crashed a car into the Confederate War monument at that intersection and told police that a man had stepped off the curb in front of them and though they swerved to miss him—and wound up hitting the monument—their car had gone straight through him
- People have reported seeing a ghostly figure on horseback charging down the alley near St. Thomas Preservation Hall
- Others have claimed to see an apparation of a figure in old-fashioned clothes at Third and Dock
#9: LATIMER HOUSE
126 S. 3rd St, Wilmington, NC 28401
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#10: BALDWIN HOUSE
3 S. 4th St., Wilmington, NC 28401
Some haunted houses and ghosts end on good terms, such as is the case with the ghost of the Baldwin House. Around 1862 (when yellow fever raged Wilmington and claimed 654 victims that ended up stacked along S. Fourth Street to rot), a dentist (Dr. Albert Baldwin and his wife Emma) built a house across from the street from St. James Church and used the first floor as his dentist practice. Emma died in the house, not under any mysterious circumstances — but it has been said that she never truly left.
In the early 1900’s, the Baldwin family lost the house to the bank — and many conclude the hauntings are because Emma is upset about the loss of the family house. When the house first changed hands in the mid-20th century, the new occupants found whole human teeth scattered all throughout the house — in the kitchen, on the staircase, on the bedroom dresser, on the living room mantel. This may have been just been random misplaced teeth (as this use to be a dentist practice), but it could have been an omen that the original an original occupant was still ‘inhabiting’ the house.
As time passed, some unmarried couples moved in and out of the house, the ‘weird occurrences’ ramped up and became more ‘vengeful. People were ‘shoved’ down the stairs, loud noise and broken stuff were common occurrences around the house — as to let its’ occupants know that they were not alone. Or perhaps it was Emma’s way of saying that she did not approve of unmarried couples living together — as she was a pious woman. Also of note, the Baldwin House had a winding and narrow staircase (which does not meet the modern code requirements) that comes with a high degree of risk for people falling down them.
In 1990, another family bought and moved into the house. One of the first things they did was sit down and have a little heart-to-heart with Emily, letting her know they would love for her to be part of the family. This talk must have worked for Emily previous ‘bad habits’ died down. Emily started leaving dimes around the house – they were always heads up, shine rubbed off and of some significant date to the finder. The new owners found two dimes waiting for them on the window sill when they moved in; dimes in sewing basket, under the television and elsewhere. One time the new owner went to Londo, and she found a dime on top of her closed suitcase — Emily must have liked them so much she went on the vacation too!
So if you are ever around this house, keep your eyes peeled for a dime waiting for you, such as what happened when a family, on a tour, discovered two dimes in front of the Baldwin house — the dates on the dimes were the years their two sons were born.
#11: BELLAMY MANSION
503 Market St., Wilmington, NC 28401
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#12: GALLOWS HILL
514 Market St., Wilmington, NC 28401
COPY TO COME
#13: COOKE HOUSE
321 S. 4th St., Wilmington, NC 28401
If a house could be considered cursed (or haunted), then the Cooke House would be the poster child. It all started back in 1784 when George Washington commissioned Captain William Cooke as the first master of the U.S. cutter Diligence, a ship that was part of the The Revenue Cutter Service — a precursor to the Coast Guard. This position was to help stop criminals and piracy along the Carolina coast.
Cooke, accepting the position, built a home in Wilmington — a two story house with a detached kitchen and candle shop. For twelve years Cooke did an exemplary job – bringing in a number of criminals and impounding many ships. The problem was, Cooke did such a fine job, that he and his son mysteriously disappeared in 1796.
Years later, another sea captain, Silas Martin, moved into the old Cooke home. He dreamed of taking his children on an epic voyage of sailing around the world. In 1857, Silas, John (his son) and Nance (his daughter) finally got to take the voyage they had been looking forward to. The voyage was financed by contracts at various ports that Silas had managed to arrange. During the trip, Nance developed a fever that at first appeared to be seasickness, but, was actually a virus, and died in Cuba while on the voyage.
Nance was tied to a chair and submerged in a cask of distilled spirits, to help preserve her body, until Captain Martin were able to take the body back home. Not long after Nance’s death, John mysteriously disappeared from the ship, many believing he was swept overboard during a storm. Not able to cope with the loss of both children, Captain Martin returned back home to Wilmington, and his house (the former Cooke house). He buried his daughter Nance (still in the barrel) in the Oakdale Cemetery.
In 1866, the old Cooke house got a new resident, William Anderson, a silversmith. Due to the south losing the civil war and the economy almost completely collapsing, silver was not in high demand and few people were buying it. Losing his fortune, and in debt and poor health, William hung himself in 1871 from a pecan tree in the backyard of the Cooke house.
Many strange happenings occur in the Cooke house. The house had a number of owners who had very bad fortune thrust upon them — deaths and mysterious disappearings happening to its’ residents. The house is claimed to be haunted, but by which of the many tortured and cursed souls?
People have heard light footsteps where there is no body (most believe it is Nance Martin pacing back and forth)
- Ghostly moaning is heard throughout the property. And at times many of the light bulbs fizzle and burn out at an alarmingly rate is thought to be William Anderson — in an act trying to conceal his horrible suicide.
- A ghostly figure surrounded in a blue-black haze, appears and levitates. Mot believe this is Captain Cooke.
- During a ghost tour, a man’s phone rang (he thought he had turned it off) and he answered it. It was a wrong number — but the person on the other end was looking for someone named Cooke.