Sunday, August 15, 2010
Ocracoke Ghost and History Walk
The stories Phil related were not scary in and of themselves. No one jumped out from behind bushes. No one deployed or employed special props. No, this was not an amusement park haunted house sort of experience. Rather, Phil told stories recalling supposedly past hauntings, paranormal activity, and eerie experiences. Most of his stories involved former residents of Ocracoke, now long departed. Some stories called upon local seafaring history, including shipwrecks, deaths at sea, and ghost ships. It seemed that all his stories, well told with little dramatic flair, he based on a kernel of local historical fact. With a little embellishment, and the addition of the listener’s imagination, Phil’s tales suggested there was more to Ocracoke island and the village by the same name than one might expect—ghostly things.
The prevalence of small family cemeteries spread throughout the village, some of them included on the walk and containing the graves of Phil’s ancestors, added an ethereal element to the already liminal setting. I cannot say that I was ever scared during, or after the tour, but I was entertained and educated. Phil is a great storyteller and weaver of local yarns, and I am glad I went on the tour. In fact, I want to go again, either to experience the tour led by his daughter, or to tour the other side of the village.
Though I have not yet read it, Phil recently published a collection of Ghostly tails, Digging Up Uncle Evans: History, Ghost Tales, & Stories From Ocracoke Island, that I look forward to reading. I imagine, however, even though I will be able to hear Phil’s voice as I read those tales, reading them while sitting on the couch at home will not be the same as hearing Phil tell them while meandering down a winding and dusty road at dusk as that road passes by an old cemetery.