On Highway 64 in Martin County between the county seat of Williamston and the nearby town of Jamesville is a stretch of swampland known as The Haunted Woods. It is said that from almost the earliest times to the present, strange things happen in those woods…
Usually in hauntings you have one ghost or phenomena in a given area. The Haunted Woods is blessed (or cursed) with several.
First of all you have the floating lights. Small balls of light float through the swamp. For years, hunters have tried to shoot the lights, with no luck. On at least one occasion, a pair of brothers hurried home to get rope to try to lasso the lights after their firearms failed them. Their attempts to capture the lights failed them as well. The scientists who have studied the lights have given the standard answers for the glowing balls. Gas from the swamp, lights from hunters in the area and car headlights. None of which have satisfied the residents of Martin County. They have offered their own theory in return.
They believe the lights are from early settlers in the area brutally killed by Native Americans near the Roanoke River. The nature of the killings made the souls unable to rest and so they fly around in the swamp, looking for peace.
Aside from the lights, reports of ghosts have came from the swamp as well and not just human spirits, but animals as well. Stories of pale white cows, deer and dogs have been told for generations. Like the ghost lights, these animals seem immune to a bullet.
Finally, there is the lynching tree (or hanging tree). Still talked about in the lore of Martin County, this now long gone tree had extremely long limbs perfect for hanging a man. In a time long past lynchings were common place in North Carolina. Martin County was no different. Many men lost their lives at the end of a rope on that tree.
One such man was accused of being a horse thief. After he met his end, folks began to report seeing a ghost hanging from the same limb as the horse thief. The ghost was said to give of a pale, silvery light. As the tale of the hanging ghost was told again and again, more people went out to see it. One night, a group of about 25 people went to see the spirit. As they got close to the tree, they sent 5 people ahead to see if they could spot anything. Seeing nothing, the men sent for the rest of the people. As soon as everyone gathered around the tree, the ghost appeared horrifying everyone there.
As one person who was present said, “It chilled the blood in our vains”. The entire group quickly got out of there and supposedly not one of them ever returned.
The Lynching Tree is long gone but it’s ghosts still haunt the area known as Devils Gut. Sobs and cries can still be heard near where the old tree stood. Not to mention the temperature is several degrees higher that the rest of the swamp.
So if your on Highway 64 at night between Williamston and Jamesville, roll down your windows, look and listen. You may see the floating balls of light or hear the sobs of a person who died of mob justice. You could also stop to investigate the ghosts of the haunted woods, but I won’t…