The area known as “The Devils Stairs” is on NC 194 about six miles north of West Jefferson in Ashe County. Near the junction of SR 1507 (or Stanley road) is a bridge that spans Buffalo Creek. To the left of the bridge is a rock formation of four near perfect stairs, each nearly twelve feet high. The formation was man made in the early 1900’s for a railway. But the number of hauntings in the area goes back farther than we know.
Before the area was settled, the Native Americans knew the area was haunted and steered clear of it at all costs. Why they thought it was haunted and who they thought haunted it is now lost. However, there are plenty of stories to take their place.
During the construction of the now abandoned railroad in 1914, a black laborer was killed while trying to dynamite a large rock in the way. According to a few old men in the area, parts of the man were found in the surrounding woods over the next few days. The locals believed that Satan had something to do with what had happened on the site, and so the name “Devils Stairs” was born.
Not long after the accident, the first of many terrifying stories began making it’s way around the community. People claimed to hear a voice singing old hymns as he walked along the railroad. Other people swore that they saw a headless man dancing on the stairs.
A second tragedy took place less than a year later when a mentally ill woman climbed on a rock near the bridge and threw her unwanted newborn into the creek below. A few days after the child died, fisher men claimed they heard the cries of a baby along the banks.
One night a man named Jim Pullman was headed home to Warrensville from West Jefferson. As he approached the stairs, He saw something in the middle of the road. As he got closer, he saw it was a coffin containing a corpse. Just before he reached the coffin, his horse stopped and refused to go any farther. Jim tried to get down and lead his horse around the casket, but had no luck. Finally, Jim decided he had to spend the night at a friends house.
As his friend recalled later Jim was “So soaked through with sweat, you could have wrung water outta his clothes”. The next day, a nervous Jim tried to make the trip again. This time, there was no coffin. No explanation has been give for this event. Old folks in the area say it might have been the coffin of the railroad worker that died in the explosion.
These are just a few of the stories of the Devil’s Stairs. In the coming weeks I’ll bring more.