The specter of specters awaits on Bryson City’s Ghost Walk
By Peggy Manning • Correspondent
Tim Hall relishes in the history and folklore of the mountains but also knows when a little embellishing is in order — especially when it comes to ghost stories.
Hall, the voice behind The Storytelling Center in Bryson City, is launching the new Bryson City Ghost Walk on streets of downtown this weekend. Halls hopes the mystique of ghost stories will entice people to come on the tour and in turn learn about the history of the town.
While the tour ultimately focuses on actual historic people and events, he doesn’t discount the value of ghost stories, which can be indicative of the heritage of the Southern Appalachians.
“Some believe if you rattle the bones of the dearly departed, they are not truly gone,” Hall said. “Departed spirits are still revered in the mountains of Western North Carolina, as evidenced by ceremonial decoration days for graves.”
Hall was in the midst of developing a walking tour of Bryson City when a regular visitor to Bryson City reached out to him about starting a ghost walk. He was immediately intrigued by the idea.
“I had already been working on a history tour of Bryson City but knew there was a lot of folklore and ghost stories available,” Hall said.
Bowyer, a retired language arts teacher and current newspaper columnist, started a similar Ghost Walk in Salisbury four years ago. Bowyer has visited Bryson City numerous times and said she thought the town was ideal for a Ghost Walk. During one of her visits to the mountains, she met Hall and figured he was a natural to lead a ghost walk similar to the one she started in Salisbury.
During the one-hour tour of Bryson City, participants will hear a medley of legends and ghost stories, while learning historic facts about the town.
Along the tour, about a dozen stories will be shared, some going back to the early 1800s, including a factual account of Andrew Jackson “Jack” Lambert. Lambert is the only man who has ever been hanged in Bryson City.
Lambert was accused of killing Dick Wilson in December 1884. Despite Lambert insisting that he was innocent, he was hanged on July 1886 at the present site of the First Baptist Church in Bryson City.
“Authorities found out many years later that Lambert was indeed innocent after a death bed confession by the man who killed Wilson,” Hall said.
One stop along the walking tour will be the Calhoun House, which was built in the early 1900s, and in later years was purchased by Granville Calhoun and operated as a hotel.
“Granville’s son, Seymour, used to open the doors of guests’ rooms to announce that dinner was about to be served. There’s a story that the doors have been seen opening around dinner time to this day,” Hall said.
Bowyer stresses that the tours are not intended to be like “haunted house” tours, with things jumping out to scare people. The walks will be held in the evening but will not enter any of the buildings along the tour, she said.
“There are some reputable paranormal societies interested in exploring some of these legends. If they should find evidence of paranormal activity, and if the owner of the building is interested in opening their building up to the public, that could happen in the future,” Bowyer said. Regardless, any findings of the paranormal societies will be shared during the tours, she said.
The Salisbury Ghost Walk has been very popular, Bowyer said, and was recognized by the N.C. Main Street program as the best evening event.
“The Salisbury walk has brought a lot of tourists into Salisbury, and I hope the same thing is true for Bryson City,” said Bowyer, who plans to be actively involved with the Bryson City Ghost Walk.
Dare to take a gander?
Bryson City Ghost Walks are held Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., beginning this weekend and continuing through October. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children (5 and under are free) and can be purchased at The Storytelling Center, located across the street from the train depot downtown.