Tadd has a theory on why places are haunted, and it all has to do with money.
“Where money goes,” he coyly states, “follow the murders, suicides, deaths, tragedies, and ultimately—hauntings.”
Ghost stories, says Tadd, always seem to involve a tale where someone met a dramatic end and isn’t quite ready to leave. And, as the group leader of the Haunted Asheville Ghost Tour, Tadd has more than a couple of stories to back up his creepy belief.
Take, for example, the Jackson Building downtown. There was once a time when this Neo-Gothic skyscraper was the tallest in North Carolina, though once the Great Depression hit and fortunes instantly vanished, the building instead gained notoriety as a spot where hard-up bankers jumped to their deaths below.
According to Tadd, the local fire department, and scores of Asheville residents, it isn’t uncommon to see fleeting visions of men falling from the top—though when you look at the street below there’s nothing but brick and dust.
Across town, at the soaring Central Methodist Church that occupies a city block, it’s said a ghostly, undead nun still haunts the chapel and halls. The tragedy and drama in this one, it seems, is found in a story where the priest allegedly impregnated a local nun. Urban legends say he buried her body and disappeared, though more people seem to believe in the ghost than the reason for why she lives there.
It’s the grisly Eagle Street Massacre, however, where Tadd says the city of Asheville was overcome in tragedy and bodies. In 1907, when a wanted outlaw by the name of Will Harris came searching for a woman named Molly, he left behind the single bloodiest day in Asheville’s history.
At the time, Eagle Street was a sinful outpost known as “Hell’s Half Acre,” where brothels, saloons, and gambling dens sat wall to wall to wall. With a gun he’d purchased from a local pawnshop and whiskey on his breath, Harris went on a booze-soaked rampage where three civilians and two police were brutally shot and killed.
Though Harris would walk from Asheville unscathed in search of Mollie Maxwell, he soon met his ultimate fate when a posse with over 100 guns riddles his body over 100 times when they found him hiding in a thicket.
Standing on Eagle Street tonight in the glow of the city lights, Tadd mentions how others here were shanked, stabbed, and killed. Their stories, however, were less spectacular than that of famous Will Harris—though it isn’t to say their lingering souls don’t walk the streets today.
Finally, before returning to the Masonic Temple where the Haunted Walking Tour started, we stop in an alleyway outside of Zambra—a tapas bar downtown. While the scene in the intimate, outdoor archway is nothing short of romantic (tables for two, dangling bulbs, Tempranillo by night), the story about the apartments above is nothing short of Satanic.
According to legend, when the owner purchased the commercial building that holds the restaurant and shops, one of the rooms held a spooky scene that will never be forgotten. Here, it seems, a pentagon was drawn in the blood of deceased pigeons and rats—many of which were stapled to the room as part of a raunchy ritual. No one knew exactly who created the haunting scene, but after contractors encountered multiple instances of exceptionally creepy activity, an exorcist was eventually commissioned to rid the haunted building of ghosts. Today, the level of haunting and paranormal activity has allegedly come to a stop, though some still say the basement holds the ghosts of Asheville’s past.
With my historical interest definitely piqued and a cache of creepy stories, the tour finishes back at the museum in the Masonic Temple’s basement. Here we find all sorts of equipment for electro-magnetic readings—crucial info for locating ghosts and areas haunted by spirits.
We also find a photograph taken of a ghost beneath the White House, which is supposedly one of the clearest photos of a ghost ever captured on film. There’s a skull from an animal believed to be a Puerto Rican Chupacabra, and a slew of curious historical curios of paranormal activity.
While we didn’t we see any actual ghosts on the Haunted Asheville Ghost Tour, that isn’t to say they didn’t see us as we made our way around town. After all, this town was once the mountain retreat of America’s wealthy elite, and where the money and tragedy go, the ghosts, says Tradd, will follow.
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