The best parts of “spooky season” have arrived

Published 10:55 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

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With full acknowledgement that I wrote a column just a few weeks ago about the silliness of celebrating holidays too early, I must admit I’ve already started putting up my Halloween decorations.

But to be completely honest, the Halloween decorations are my best ones, and I already leave some of them up all year long! (My favorite is a string of shiny bats that I’ve had since college.) My philosophy (when it comes to decorating at least) is that if you enjoy something, why not do it?

So with October finally arriving along with slightly cooler temperatures, I’d say that plenty of people are ready for “spooky season” to begin. Some like the aesthetics of color-changing leaves and pumpkins resting on doorsteps, while others enjoy the “sweater weather” they’ve been waiting for since winter ended. And then there are the people who simply enjoy getting an excuse to buy candy for Halloween. (Maybe I do this sometimes too…)

But many, like me, also enjoy all the spooky stuff.

Scary stories about scary monsters – like vampires, werewolves, and witches – can be a good thrill. There’s a reason why stories like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” have endured for more than a century with tons of adaptations and retellings along the way. I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but I’ll sit down and read old-fashioned horror stories anytime. There’s just something eerie yet satisfying when reading a story like “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving where the ending is open to interpretation. Was there really a headless horseman? Or was it all just a mean prank? It’s something that keeps the reader thinking long after they finish the story.

My favorites, however, are the ghost stories. These stories come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some hauntings are mildly amusing while others are downright terrifying. And even though there are plenty of common tropes among the stories (like the popular hitchhiking ghost who asks for a ride and then disappears when you arrive at the destination), there’s enough variation that the stories are still pretty interesting.

Perhaps I just like stories that give me goosebumps and weave a little bit of the supernatural into everyday life. And maybe this season is the perfect time of year for these kinds of stories. Don’t the trees start to look a little bit creepy when the leaves start falling and only bare tree branches are left behind, swaying and creaking in the wind?

Spooky season is a good time for folklore and legends too.

A few years ago, I read up on a couple of different tales from around North Carolina. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them?

Apparently, North Carolina has its own version of the Loch Ness Monster. “Normie” is the name of the so-called monster that might reside in the depths of Lake Norman, located north of Charlotte. No one’s been able to prove Normie exists, but searchers have found plenty of other items beneath the water’s surface, including a crashed airplane from the 1970s.

Chatham County is home to at least two different supernatural legends. Allegedly, people used to be able to see mermaids lounging on a sandbar in the Cape Fear River back in the 1700s. Of course, the people who reported seeing these mythical ocean creatures were patrons of the local tavern walking home from a long night of drinking, so… take that with a grain of salt(water).

Chatham County’s other bit of famous folklore is the “Devil’s Tramping Ground.” It sounds mysterious, but actually it’s just a spot of dirt where no plants seem to be able to grow. No one has been able to explain the phenomenon so far, so people created the legend instead. (The legend, however, does not explain why the devil allegedly enjoys stomping around in the dirt of Chatham County. Maybe he just likes the scenery?)

There are plenty of other strange legends and unexplained “supernatural” occurrences throughout North Carolina. You may have heard of the Brown Mountain lights in the western part of the state that no one can explain, or the ghost ship “Carroll A. Deering” which turned up off the coast devoid of its crew in 1921.

And, of course, we have mysterious local folklore too, like the Early Station Light (where, legend has it, a headless ghost conductor walks the train tracks searching for his lost head) and the Brown Lady ghost of Chowan University. The Murfreesboro Historical Association even has a whole tour based around local ghost stories and legends for those interested in learning more.

There’s no shortage of spooky folklore and monsters from around the world too, if you want to take an even deeper dive into scary supernatural stories. La Llorona (the weeping woman), for example, is a Hispanic legend about a vengeful ghost who cries for her drowned children. You don’t want to hear the sound of her wailing if you’re out alone late at night!

In the Philippines, they have a legend about a vampire-like creature called a manananggal. The difference from the typical vampire we imagine in other tales is that this creature can sprout wings and detach its upper body from its lower half. They say the way to destroy a manananggal is to sprinkle salt on the legs it left behind, so I assume the safest place to be to avoid encountering these creatures is at the dinner table. (Having to deal with the bad luck of spilled salt, however, is another problem entirely.)

Japanese mythology includes a lot of supernatural creatures, but the silliest one is perhaps the ittan-momen, which is basically a bit of cotton cloth possessed by a malicious spirit. If you’re not careful, it’ll smother unsuspecting humans. Beware of your fluffy bath towels, I guess!

As you can see, spooky stories can be frightening or humorous! This is just how I enjoy this time of year, but there’s no wrong way to do it. If you don’t like scary stuff, then just enjoy other great parts of the season: the cute pumpkins and colorful mums, a nice warm drink as the weather cools off, and a fun costume and candy on Halloween.

Whatever you do, remember to have fun!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or 252-332-7206.