Abandoned town, monster beneath NC lake: 6 eerie legends with real historic roots in NC
Posted September 17, 2021 3:56 p.m. EDT
Updated September 18, 2021 1:11 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's historic folklore dates back for hundreds of years and encompasses a variety of magical legends – from fairies in the North Carolina mountains to Bigfoot in the Uwharrie Forest; from mermaids in the Cape Fear, to an abandoned community and Loch Ness Monster beneath Lake Norman.
Our state has folklore great and small – from the eerie Santer to the mysterious Moon-Eyed people – with roots in oral and written historic tradition.
While no North Carolinian knows the real stories behind these strange myths, we do know the tales date back generations and play an important role in the overall culture of North Carolina.
For locals who love mystery and hidden history, here are six mystical creatures with historic backgrounds in North Carolina.
1. Mermaids in the Cape Fear River
The legend of Mermaid Point dates back to the 1700s, when Revolutionary War soldiers claimed to see mermaids sitting on a sandbar, washing seawater from their hair in the moonlight. According to the legend, the mermaids swam up the Cape Fear from the Atlantic Ocean.
Near the sandbar, which is a real place that earned the nickname Mermaid's Point, was at the intersection of the Deep River and Haw River, right near the headwaters of the Cape Fear. On the riverbank stood a watering hole named Ramsey's Tavern, where soldiers congregated for drinks in the evenings.
Mermaids were spotted multiple times throughout the war – but it's notable that they were always seen after a long night of drinking, and during a particularly stressful time in America's history.
Ramsey's Tavern and mill played a major role in serving patriots during the Revolutionary War. The British Army seized control of Ramsey's Mill after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Several skirmishes played out in the area – and after the battles, the mermaids were never seen again.
Over the passing decades, Mermaid's Point eventually flooded and is now underwater. Ramsey's Tavern is also gone without a trace, save a historic roadway sign marking Ramsey's Tavern.
2. The Big Cat – The Santer, the Beast of Bladenboro, the Vampire
The mysterious Beast of Bladenboro is thought to be responsible for the brutal killing of hundreds of dogs, goats and other small pets and animals within a 200-mile stretch of North Carolina, from Bladenboro to Charlotte.
The legend began in 1953, when terrified locals claimed to find their beloved pets with crushed skulls – or with all the blood drained from them.
According to local papers, the townspeople first began finding the remains of mangled animals back in 1953.
"According to some locals, the killings happened nearly 200 miles apart, stretching from Bladenboro to the Charlotte area," explains an article in Bladen Online, "Some people said the beast was living in the swamp."
The beast was described as an eerie twist between a cat and a dog, looming nearly 5 feet long, with long vampire fangs and wild black hair.
Dating even farther back, the tale of the Santer – another local beast that hunts livestock and pets – originates in the late 1800s.
Although the Santer's legend is decades older and based in the Statesville area of North Carolina, it's depicted similarly. It appears as an unearthly cross between a dog and a cat, with long fangs. However, the Santer's fur glows in the darkness, and its long tail can be used as a weapon. Its cry is a piercing, baby-like wail, according to one paranormal website.
In 1897, an issue of the Carolina Watchman described a terrifying encounter with the Santer near Salisbury. “On Monday night it visited the houses of two widow ladies. It reared up against the door and growled. Mrs. Cozart screamed loud enough to wake up the wife of a neighbor."
The wife opened the front door to check on her neighbors, when the Santer sprang at her in the darkness. However, her husband got his pistol and chased the creature away before it could harm her.
Given that the Beast of Bladenboro was said to wander up to 200 miles, is it possible the Beast and the Santer are one-in-the-same?
3. Bigfoot in the Uwharrie National Forest
Tucked away in the 50,000 acres of the Uwharrie National Forest is the legendary home of North Carolina's own Bigfoot.
Even as visitors camp, hike, boat and fish in the idyllic forest, they may not realize they've tramped right into Bigfoot's habitat. The nearby Town of Troy embraces their connection with Bigfoot to increase tourism.
Locals and hikers have reported mysterious sounds coming from the Uwharrie National Forest – everything from unearthly screams to knocks on tree trunks, so loud that the echoes carry for miles. Hikers have also claimed to have their tents shaken in the night.
Then, of course, there are the mysterious footprints.
Several locals have created casts of huge muddy footprints discovered in the woods. The reports are credible enough that Animal Planet visited the area in 2011 for their series "Finding Bigfoot."
4. Normie: The Loch Ness Monster of Lake Norman
Just as the infamous monster of Loch Ness in Scotland is known as Nessie, the mysterious monster of Lake Norman near Charlotte is known as Normie.
In fact, many unusual things lurk beneath Lake Norman.
Before Lake Norman, which is man-made, was filled with water in the 1960s, the land held an entire community of houses, churches, farms and buildings. Similar to Jordan Lake, some remnants of the flooded community remain beneath the surface of the water.
According to one local real estate website, "Only a few of the taller buildings were demolished because of the risk they may have posed to boats traveling on the lake, and a few standalone graves as well as entire cemeteries were relocated. Besides those few items moved or destroyed, everything else in the town remained as water began to flood the city."
Divers who go deep enough can find remnants of the lost city.
It is amongst the sunken city and airplane that a monster named Normie is rumored to live. Fishing boats claim to have seen an enormous creature swimming through the lake. Some describe Normie as having the appearance of a large alligator; others say Normie is a sturgeon.
Some extra-large fish have been caught in Lake Norman, perhaps due to the unusual topography which allows for more hiding places and protection from predators. Is it possible the 'monster' of Lake Norman is just a sizable catfish who has outlived its normal years – or has the 60-year-old lake already drawn a monster, who has made a home in the lost city beneath the surface?
5. The Moon-Eyed people of Appalachia
The legend of the Moon-Eyed people dates back centuries in Cherokee, North Carolina.
The Moon-Eyed people were described by indigenous tribes as very small people with white skin and huge blue eyes. They were considered to be their own tribe, and some locals thought them to be immortal. Their wide, blue eyes were easily blinded by the sunlight, so they lived in dark woods and caves, only coming out at night.
Small humanoids with stark white skin and wide blue eyes who only hovered across the mountains in the dark – the sight would have been quite unusual and memorable to the tribes who lived in the area.
In the 1800s, a European farmer unearthed a haunting effigy: A statue that matched the description of the Moon-Eyed people.
Historians say that rather than being carved, the statue was 'pecked' – a much older art form that involves hitting the stone with another stone. Because of the way it was made, historians believe it to be very old.
"One legend finds the Moon-Eyed people driven from their home by the Creek tribe from the South. The story goes that the Creek waited until the light of the full moon became even too bright for the nocturnal cave-dwellers to face, ambushed them in their weak moment and drove them from their homeland into parts unknown," said one account.
Other historic accounts from the 16th century speak of a man named Prince Madoc, who was believed to have sailed from Wales across the Atlantic and landed in what is now Alabama. This would have happened in the 1171, long before European settlers made their way to North America.
Some believe Prince Madoc and his Welsh crew ventured into Appalachia and vanished. Centuries later, some European explorers claimed to discover an indigenous tribe with lighter skin, blue eyes and who spoke remnants of the Welsh language. It's possible, then, that the Moon-Eyed people were, in fact, a real tribe of direct descendants of Prince Madoc's expedition.
To this day, many historians cannot fully explain the legend of the Moon-Eyed people, but many believe they could have been another tribe that lived among indigenous people prior to the arrival of European settlers.
6. Fairy Crosses
Fairy crosses are an extremely rare formation, only existing in five areas of the world – including the mountains of North Carolina.
European settlers attached their own legend to the small stones, which they believed were connected to the cross of Jesus. However, the legend dates back much farther than the settlers' arrival.
One legend states that the Cherokee spun a tale of 'little people,' such as fairies, nymphs or spirits who lived deep in the forest.
The Little People were known to play with the Cherokee children and help guide them home. However, when the Cherokee were forcibly marched to Oklahoma, the fairies remained behind and cried, their tears becoming fairy crosses.
European settlers reinterpreted the tale, saying the fairies cried upon hearing of the death of Christ, which is why their tears formed the shape of a Christian cross. However, the cross shape was also important in Cherokee culture, symbolizing the four cardinal directions.
Whatever their origins, locals have held fairy crosses as totems of protection or magic for centuries. Even today, the rare stones, properly known as Staurolite, maintain a mystical and mysterious significance in North Carolina – perhaps proof that fairies once danced, and wept, in the Appalachian Mountains.
More eerie North Carolina legends
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