With a historic district spanning more than 230 blocks and an authentic heritage stretching back several centuries, it is not surprising that spirits from Wilmington’s storied past still linger today. Read on for a preview of the apparitions you might encounter while exploring one of the South’s most actively haunted cities.
Boos and Brews
In the early 18th century, Wilmington was a notoriously rough and rowdy seaport – a far cry from the city’s current reputation as a welcoming cultural hub. As pirates circled the coast, sailors flocked to the Blue Post, a bar in the area now known as Michael’s on the Waterfront. The bartender, Gallus Meg, ruled the Blue Post with an iron fist. Her nickname was derived from the word “gallows,” as she was reputed to grab unruly men by the neck and lift them off their feet, making it appear as though they were being hanged. Today, her ghostly presence is said to roam the area, a part of the lore you'll uncover during a Haunted Pub Crawl. Raise a glass to spirits, both liquid and spectral, as you visit haunted pubs and unearth the hidden tales of Wilmington's past.
Stories from Beyond the Grave
Market Street’s St. James Parish serves as a resting place for Samuel Jocelyn Jr., who stormed off on horseback in a fit of rage and was later found lying in a shallow swamp. As his friends and family mourned his supposed death, Samuel appeared to one of his friends, Sandy, and asked that he exhume his body. In disbelief, Sandy waited three days before visiting his friend’s gravesite, only to discover Samuel had been buried alive. To this day, some locals refuse to walk by the graveyard alone due to rumors that you can still hear the muffled cries and scratching noises as Samuel attempts to escape his grave. Ask for all the chilling details of Samuel’s death on the Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington, as seen on MTV and Discovery Channel. Guided by professional storytellers and ghosthunters, this year-round tour takes you on a 90-minute journey through the city’s eeriest homes and burial grounds.
Historically Haunted Buildings
On Friday evenings each October, Poplar Grove Plantation opens up to ghosthunters to search for the spirits that haunt the manor. The Paranormal Investigation Tours uncover the true stories of the deceased family members and why they are trapped on this side of the nether. Another historic property, the Latimer House Museum, sheds light on darker elements of upper-class life in Victorian Wilmington through In Memoriam: A Victorian Mourning. This house tour, held on select evenings in late October, focuses on the era’s death practices, including customary decorations, mourning clothes and burial traditions. Tickets for both experiences sell out quickly, so be sure to plan ahead!
By day, the Cotton Exchange is a unique shopping experience full of art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants. By night, the complex’s 19th century brick buildings become full of frights, earning the Cotton Exchange its reputation as one of Wilmington’s most paranormal locations. Year-round guests are invited to tour the eight interconnected buildings during Tour Old Wilmington’s Haunted Cotton Exchange Tour. Don’t forget to grab your ghost hunting gadgets to capture all the strange things that are known to happen during this tour.
Ghostly Wartime Legends
The area’s rich military history echoes with ghostly lore surrounding battles on land and sea. Wilmington was named the nation’s first WWII Heritage City for its contributions to U.S. wartime effort – a legacy honored by the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. Formerly described as “the greatest sea weapon in the world,” the vessel now rests across from the Riverwalk on the Cape Fear River. The ship welcomes both believers and doubters aboard to search for supernatural activity. With a ticket to join the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA Ghost Hunt and Tour, which usually sells out quickly, in early November, you can investigate haunted areas of the ship that are normally off-limits to the public. Guided by a psychic medium and equipped with EMF readers and trigger objects, you may even catch a glimpse of the ghost of a young man with blond hair in the passageways, who is said to be one of the sailors who lost his life during a Japanese torpedo strike.
Kure Beach’s Fort Fisher State Historic Site saw the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War, and legend maintains that certain fallen soldiers’ restless spirits linger on long after the fateful Battle of Fort Fisher. Reports from visitors suggest sightings of a uniformed soldier fulfilling his duty by standing guard along the fort. Another apparitional figure, referred to as “the sentinel” or “the watcher of the woods," supposedly serves as the protector the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area’s grounds and maritime forest. He has been spotted several times and is rumored to open doors without apparent cause.
Fright-Free Family Fun
Wilmington’s haunted history offers frights for serious thrill seekers, as well as several not-so-scary activities everyone can enjoy. Break out the matching costumes and listen to the family-friendly ghost stories of downtown Wilmington on a Halloween Ghost Trolley tour from Springbrook Farms in late October. Visit Poplar Grove Plantation during Hallo-weekend for Goosebumps in the Grove, a festival full of tricks and treats for the whole crew. Check out all the holiday happenings in Wilmington here.
From haunted houses and bars to spine-chilling ships and forests, there is no shortage of paranormal activity in Wilmington and its nearby beaches. Plan your trip to discover the historical depths and captivating darker tales of this must-see Southern destination.