In the county court house of Yanceyville in Caswell County there is a room in which a murder took place well over 100 years ago. While it is debatable whether the man killed deserved to die, some people claim that what is not up for debate is that his ghost haunts that room to this day.
John Walker Stephens came to Yanceyville in 1866 and was well known as a miscreant. In fact, there is a story that before he moved to the town, he sold his mothers house without her knowledge and tried to leave her behind when he left. She later caught up with him in Caswell County only to be found in her room with a slit throat months later. Her son’s explanation? She had fallen on a cracked chamber pot.
His nickname was ‘Chicken’ which as the story goes was earned when he killed 2 of his neighbors chickens when they’d wandered on his property. For this offense he was arrested only to attack his neighbor with a stick on being released. Two bystanders came to the neighbors rescue only to be shot by Stephens.
Amazingly enough, Stephens was well liked by those in political power in Caswell county and by 1868 he was elected to the state senate. His power trip reigned unchecked and it was widely accepted that the good senator was the force behind the destruction of the barns, crops and livestock of his opponents. Even the inferno that took out the Yanceyville Hotel was thought by most to be the will of ‘Chicken’ Stephens.
However, like most things, Stephens’ reign of terror had to come to an end. The governor of North Carolina at the time William Holden, at the request of Stephens and other republicans, asked the legislature to pass a bill allowing Holden to get rid of Habeas Corpus. Once the general population of NC heard about this Stephens was living on borrowed time. Around 8 members of the klan found him in a small office on the first floor of the courthouse where he was stabbed and strangled to death.
Those that were responsible for the death of ol’ Chicken Stephens got off scot-free… in this life anyway. It was only after the death of the last murderer that a sealed affidavit was opened that the fate of the politician was revealed.
The room at the Caswell County courthouse where Stephens was killed is still there, holding it’s secret. It’s said that the door to the room opens and slams itself shut. Perhaps the former senator is trying to escape his fate.. or exact revenge on those responsible.