From Bigfoot and beautiful mermaids to sea serpents and Cherokee folklore, meet North Carolina cryptids and uncover the best urban legends.
North Carolina urban legends are pretty spooky (and deadly); we cannot get enough of them.
Living in Asheville, especially, everything seems haunted – even our favorite watering holes. You might just run into the Pink Lady at the Grove Park Inn or a devastated woman at Helen’s Bridge.
Riverside Cemetery is full of ghosts along with those randomly standing Western North Carolina chimneys…
Not to mention that North Carolina folklore is filled with tales – or tails – of (hopefully) benign mermaids and Cherokee legends involving child-hungry yellow jackets.
For classic North Carolina monsters, The Tar Heel State boasts endless Bigfoot sightings. We even have our own version of the Loch Ness Monster.
So, what are the best legends of North Carolina? Which North Carolina cryptids should you try to spot – or avoid?
Let’s get started, and don’t forget to let us know your favorite NC legend in the comments.
*Due to the fantastical nature of this post, many of these photos are merely fun examples, recreations, fabrications, and similar animals/beasts.
Afterward, explore even more of Asheville’s urban legends with these haunted houses.
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10 North Carolina Cryptids, Urban Legends, & Folktales
By Jeremy Paterson
If you’re going to talk about North Carolina cryptids, you are almost obliged to start with the one and only Bigfoot.
Of course, it would be disingenuous to say that Bigfoot has its roots on the East Coast of the US.
But there have been over 100 reported “sightings” in North Carolina, so perhaps it vacations here frequently?
In any case, that is not an insignificant amount of cases and near misses.
It probably goes without saying that Bigfoot is reported to be a large, ape-like creature that roams the forests of Northern America.
Bigfoot is one of the world’s most famous creatures, with debate as to its existence still raging on today.
Adding fuel to this fire is the fact that there is just so much “evidence” that supposedly proves Bigfoot is real, including almost 1 minute of notoriously blurry video footage taken by civilians in 1967.
The Monster of Lake Norman
Head out to Lake Norman near Charlotte, and you might hear tales of the Lake Norman Monster.
Just like its Scottish counterpart in Loch Ness, the Lake Norman Monster is a beast that has been reportedly sighted by locals both on and near the water.
And, just like Nessie in Loch Ness, the Monster of Lake Norman is known locally as Normie.
There are differing accounts of what species Normie belongs to. Some believe it to be a large alligator; others think Normie is an oversized catfish or a sturgeon.
No matter which accounts you hear, the one thing they all have in common is that Normie is a very large creature, and possibly one of the largest North Carolina monsters around.
Some part of the legend is linked to the fact that Lake Norman is man-made.
It was created by flooding and submerging a town that contained multiple houses, churches, farms, and fields – all of it Normie’s territory.
Many of those buildings are still fully built under the water, and divers frequently swim down to explore them, possibly catching glimpses of Normie in the process.
If you are hoping to catch monsters near Asheville, try these WNC lakes. We don’t know if there are any North Carolina urban legends behind them… yet… but they are worth a visit.
Back in 1900, an eccentric developer named S.C. Satterthwait built the Eagle’s Nest Hotel high up in the North Carolina mountains near Waynesville.
Unfortunately, despite being a high-class establishment, it was plagued by the appearance of a strange and unusual creature.
This being, nicknamed the Boojum by locals, was said to be 7 feet tall, covered in shaggy hair all over (remind you of anyone?), and had two particular habits.
First, it was exceedingly fond of gems, said to be plentiful in the North Carolina mountain area. Second, it loved to spy on young ladies trying to bathe in the rivers and lakes of the area.
According to the legend, most ladies ran away in fear when they spied the face of the Boojum staring at them, but one, in particular, did not flee.
A girl named Annie (or Maggie in some versions) instead recognized the sadness of a lonely soul in his eyes, fell in love, and married the Boojum instead.
What makes this one of our favorite legends of North Carolina is the way Annie and the Boojum communicated.
By hooting at each other to know where they were, we got the word “Hootenanny.” That’s almost certainly untrue, but we love the idea!
Close to Waynesville, head to Maggie Valley if spooky and abandoned North Carolina places catch your interest.
Here, you’ll find remnants of Ghost Town in the Sky as well as a tragic plane crash site.
The Mermaids of Cape Fear River
Roughly 30 miles southwest of Raleigh, NC – where Haw River and Deep River meet and combine to form Cape Fear River – lies our next place of NC folklore: Mermaid Point.
It was near here where, in the 18th century, a man named Ambrose Ramsey decided to build a tavern in a small community called Lockville.
Patrons of Ramsey’s Tavern would walk home past a long white sandbar in the middle of the river confluence. Some reported sightings of mermaids there.
Witnesses believed the beautiful sea creatures had come up from the Atlantic to wash the salt out of their hair.
Ramsey had hoped that the burgeoning Lockville town would thrive, and therefore so would his business. Sadly, that was not to be the case.
A flood destroyed the tavern in the late 1800s, and coincidentally that’s when sightings of the mermaids stopped.
If you love North Carolina folklore like this, meet tipsy, scary, and fun mermaids on our sister site’s mermaid books reading list.
The Beast of Bladenboro
Trigger warning: animal deaths
For one winter in 1953 – ’54, the town of Bladenboro was beset by a string of mysterious attacks in what is undoubtedly one of the scariest North Carolina cryptids around.
Beginning on December 29th, local townspeople began to find the bodies of animals – dogs, rabbits, even a goat – that had been viciously mauled and/or crushed by an unknown creature.
Most mysteriously, some of them appeared to have had almost all of their blood drained.
This lasted for a couple of weeks, with some witnesses attesting that they had caught glimpses of a creature like “either a bear or a panther,” with a long tail and a cat-like face.
One chilling account even described a noise “like a baby crying” as it passed by in the bushes.
No one to this day has been able to agree on exactly what species the Beast of Bladenboro was, or whether it is still at large today.
The Wilmington Sea Serpent
The city of Wilmington has a rich history, but one of the oldest parts of it concerns the legend of Willie the Wilmington Sea Serpent.
Way back before the USA was born, in 1524, the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazano was exploring the Cape Fear region of the east coast.
In his journal, he wrote of a “great snake” that one of his men reportedly saw resting on the waves near the shore.
There were further recorded instances, including those by the Earl of Wilmington in 1732 as well as by Union soldier and naturalist James Calden in 1865.
Calden told of locals who reported a grey creature 40 feet long and 4 feet wide, which they named after the town.
If Willie is still around today, it would be around 500 years old, making it one of the oldest North Carolina cryptids on this list.
Wilmington is not only famous for its massive North Carolina monsters. It is also home to the largest production studio east of California where many terrific films are made.
Maybe Willie will make it to the big screen.
This North Carolina folklore is part of Cherokee legend.
There was once a great yellow jacket that roamed the skies of Nantahala River in modern-day Macon County.
The creature was named U’lag’û. It was as large as a house and could snatch children up and carry them away.
In order to trap U’lag’û, the local people tried to lure it with food. First with a squirrel, then a turkey, then a deer ham, but U’lag‘û simply carried them all away.
Eventually, they used a yearling deer, which was heavy enough to slow U’lag‘û down. The people tracked it to a cave filled with thousands of other smaller yellow jackets.
There they set fires and engulfed U’lag‘û in smoke, but the smaller yellow jackets outside the cave escaped and spread about the world.
Today the cave is still known as Tsgagun’yi, meaning “Where the yellow jacket was.”
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The Sunshine Woman
What began as the last request of a dying woman has become one of the most intriguing North Carolina urban legends of recent times.
Leila Maud Davidson Hansell was a schoolteacher and wife of a powerful judge, who sadly developed terminal tuberculosis and passed away in 1915 at the age of 54.
Before she died, she requested of her husband that she not be buried in darkness.
In order to honor her last wishes, the judge ordered the construction of a large above-ground vault in Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville.
To make sure she was not in darkness, the vault had thick squares of prism glass as a cover so that sunshine could always enter.
After her internment, locals reported seeing strange occurrences at the grave, including seeing Leila’s skeleton smiling, wreathed in flowers, or moving out of the way of shadows cast by nearby trees.
Eventually, the glass was covered in concrete in order to give Leila’s body peace from snooping tourists.
Hendersonville, a 40-minute drive from Asheville, is a fantastic day-tripping option, filled with museums and nearby historical sites, especially for book lovers.
Haunted Highland Hospital
Not many North Carolina urban legends can claim to involve a famous literary figure, but if you travel to Asheville, you’ll find the final resting place of Zelda Fitzgerald.
The famous writer was staying at Highland Hospital in Asheville’s Historic Montford District in 1948 when, on one fateful night, a fire broke out in the main building’s kitchen.
Due to the flammable dumb-waiter system (allegedly), the flames spread so quickly that soon the entire building was engulfed, and Zelda – along with eight other people – perished in the fire.
Today, many claim that the former grounds of the hospital – which burned to the ground – are haunted.
Eyewitnesses claim to have seen a woman in white with Zelda’s description wandering amongst the trees nearby.
Perhaps you will see her as you read the plaque dedicated to her on the hospital’s former grounds.
Today, Montford is home to Shakespeare in the Park, and if you take a haunted LaZoom ghost tour, you might just “see” Zelda…
Or – if you love North Carolina ghost stories – head to Riverside Cemetery, which is known for its paranormal activity. Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry are interned here.
Read more about North Carolina’s famous writers, including Zelda’s partner, F. Scott who vacationed here.
The Blood Shower of Chatham County
In perhaps one of the most bizarre and inexplicable events of North Carolina urban legends, we must look at the night of February 25th, 1884.
While walking home in Chatham County, Mrs. Kit Lasater heard what she thought was a bout of heavy rainfall. But when she checked the sky, it was clear.
Upon looking at the ground, however, she found that it was covered in what she described as a “shower of pure blood” in an area some 60 feet in circumference.
Several neighbors, who also checked the scene, confirmed Mrs. Lasater’s version of events, and a professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill even collected samples.
He determined that the red liquid was indeed blood, and chillingly could offer no explanation at all.
Save The Best North Carolina Urban Legends & Folklore For Later:
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Thank you to UA contributor, Jeremy Paterson
Jeremy (pronouns: any) is an autistic writer, hobbyist, and movie buff, as long as that movie is Labyrinth. Since leaving the corporate world behind in 2018, he has read more books than he thought possible. True to his British upbringing, his first instinct in any given situation is to put the kettle on.
What North Carolina folklore and monsters do you know?
What are your favorite North Carolina urban legends? And, which North Carolina cryptids capture your attention the most?
Have you seen any ghosts or strange beasts in-person? Let us know in the comments.
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