Haunted Asheville - Part 3
Riverside Cemetery was created in 1885 and is one of the most well-known cemeteries in North Carolina. Born out of a growing need in the area, Riverside was planned as a garden-style cemetery that would serve as a burial ground and public park. However, the cemetery fell into disrepair in the 1940's as the cemetery company ran out of money following the Great Depression. In order to save Riverside, the Asheville City Council accepted an offer to purchase the cemetery in 1952 for only $10. The city went to work upgrading roadways, clearing brush and correcting the setting of more than 5,000 graves that had sunk several feet below ground level.
Riverside Cemetery has more than 13,000 graves, including authors Thomas Wolfe, William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), influential politician Zebulon Baird Vance, as well as senators, a couple state governors and three noted Confederate generals. Monuments, mausoleums, and graves crown the stately hills overlooking the French Broad River and lend the cemetery an air of haunting elegance.
With the site of the 1865 Battle of Asheville less than a mile away, many of the haunting rumors that surround Riverside deal with the spirits of the troops that may have been left behind. Witnesses have claimed to hear the shouting of troops as well as the exchange of gunfire. In one instance, someone saw of an entire Confederate troop in phantom form, marching towards battle.
It's said that other ghosts haunt this cemetery, restless spirits of some of the residents who are interred there. Some reports claim that on dim, misty mornings, the laughter of two small children can be heard. Another sighting is that of the figure of an old man who slowly wanders among the gravestones, his apparition being seen even in the middle of the day.
Local tour groups draw upon Riverside's past and mystique while telling tales of the residents there. However, many of these tales are not historically accurate. Visitors and locals alike come to here the ghost stories, which these companies provide along with some of the actual history of the property.
With room for about 25,000 plots, many of Riverside's remaining spaces have already been purchased. The cemetery has 100 spaces for sale now and about 500 remaining. The gates of this historic graveyard close at dusk each day.
It is reported that sometime in the early 20th century, a group of young boys went swimming in the French Broad River. Heavy storms had occurred upriver a few days before, and the usually calm French Broad was flowing more swiftly than normal. As the boys were playing, they had not noticed that they were floating much further down the river than usual. When they had drifted down to close to the pilings of the bridge where Craven Street crossed the French Broad, they realized they needed to head home. And they also realized that one of their party was missing.
The boys began a frantic search for their missing friend. They called out his name, dove underwater, and sent someone out for help. As the neighbors came down a frantic search was organized, with boats being set out on the water, and lanterns lit up the river as the sun was beginning to set. As the night grew deeper, they made the choice to call off the search. Boats would be sent out in the daylight to dredge the river the next day, but the poor child's body was never found.
Soon after the boy’s disappearance, some of those traveling across the Craven Street bridge at the time when night fell began to speak of something strange. They said that they saw a naked boy running across the bridge, but that when they called out to him he kept running as if he couldn't hear. And if they ran to catch up with him, he vanished into thin air. Over the years, the boy has also been spotted on extremely misty mornings and dark foggy evenings. Some even claim to have seen him on sweltering hot summer days when there is no cloud in the sky, running along side the cars and disappearing before ever crossing the bridge.
The Spectral Dog of Pond Road
On Pond Road, near the NC Farmer's Market, at the site of the old quarry, it has been reported that a spectral dog roams. On certain nights, at or shortly after midnight, you can hear a dog howling. The howling gets closer and closer until the shadowy form of a large black dog appears. The dog runs through the site of the old quarry, until it reaches a certain spot. It then jumps into the air and disappears.
Lewis Memorial Park
The cemetery workers tell stories that Mr. Lewis, who donated the land for the cemetery, has been seen riding through the park on a ghostly horse. There has also been an encounter with a ghostly dog that chased a woman out of the cemetery. See Investigations page bout our investigation of this cemetery. Cemetery is located on Beaverdam Rd.
Thomas Wolfe Memorial
Old Kentucky Home, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, was the home of the renowned writer and was featured in his autobiographical novel “Look Homeward, Angel.” The place has a couple of spirits in residence: those of a woman and a man. The woman’s apparition has been spotted in the dining room. Witnesses tend to see the man upstairs sitting in a rocking chair. Many have seen his face peering out of the upstairs window and have heard the sounds of a typewriter, leaving many to believe it is actually the ghost of Wolfe himself.
Shiloh Abandoned Forestry Compound
Dozens of different stories are told about this compound from the presence of the ghost of a prostitute that remains in one of the buildings, to strange pools of blood found in the basement of another building. The temperatures inside this building also tend to stay at roughly 40 degrees no matter how warm it may be outside and lights have been seen through the windows at night. Some believe that the spirit of one of the former school officials who was fired from Shiloh for his abusive nature, is exacting revenge he once promised. One person entered the compound and was chased back out by a large dark shadowy figure that pursued him to the edge of the property and disappeared. The property will soon be the brand-new headquarters of Burial’s new beer bar.
Battle Mansion was said to be haunted by a servant girl named Alice, who fell or was pushed down the stairs in the home, and by the former owner Dr. Samuel Battle. Dr. Battle has been seen wearing a top hat and formal attire. When the Battle Mansion was the location of 13 WLOS TV, Alice was frequently seen by employees. She is described as wearing a long, old fashioned dress. Employees would see loose wires hanging from the ceiling that would swing back and forth on their own. They would also report feelings of being touched or even pushed, when they were all alone.
The Basilica of St. Lawrence
The Basilica was completed in 1909, but sadly, architect Rafael Guastavino did not live to see its completion. His last wish was that he be buried within the walls of St. Lawrence with room enough for his wife and daughter to be buried upon their passing. Guastavino was placed in the tomb, but some years later the City of Asheville passed a law stating that no one can be buried on public or private property causing his wife and child to be buried a half a mile down the road. To this day, many believe that the spirits of Guastavino’s wife and daughter have moved to the church to be with their beloved family member. A priest who died in the building is also thought to reside here in spirit. Staff members report unusual cold patches, flickering lights, unknown apparitions, and doors opening and shutting on their own.
The Smith-McDowell House
Built in 1840, the Smith-McDowell House is said to be haunted by two little girls who died in the building, named Carrie and Sarah, as well as a specter called the Dark One, who is believed to be the spirit of a slave owner. Witnesses have captured photos of a dark misty entity and have heard their names called, felt a cold presence, and been touched by something unseen in the basement.