Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Favorite N.C. ghost stories

I loved "library day" as a kid in elementary school. I would immediately rush for the section on ghosts -- particularly North Carolina ghosts. I was always amazed at the number of ghoulish stories in our fair state. (And I must say thank you to author Nancy Roberts for compiling all of these for little minds like mine to read.)

So, on this Halloween 2007, I've been reminiscing on some of these fantastic stories that fascinated me as a child. Here are some of my favorites (with links, if possible). Please feel free to share your own.

-Devil's Tramping Ground, Chatham County. Old Beelzebub himself apparently does his nightly planning here by walking in a circle. (A circle that never disappears!!!) I've never had the nerve to try to camp out there. (Good friend Chris Daniel has a vlog about it here.)
-The Bath footprints, Bath. A horse race between a brash young man and the Devil ended up deadly when the horse got spooked and threw the young rider. The horse hoof prints never disappear!!!
-Maco Light, near Wilmington. My mother swears she saw this as a child. I've heard of late that because of the re-routing of trains or somesuch that the light no longer exists.
-The Little Red Man, Salem. An old cobbler was killed a couple hundred years ago at Old Salem. He was known for wearing a red jacket, I believe, and he was seen over the years being mischievious.
-The ferry crosses, throughout Western North Carolina. I've seen these tiny, stone crosses as the county museum in Murphy has a nice display of them.
-Lydia trying to get back home, near Greensboro. A young girl hitches a ride home from the prom. Unfortunately, she's been dead for a long time, killed in a car wreck -- on PROM NIGHT!!!!
-The bloody rock of Peter Dromgoole (sp?), Chapel Hill. At Ghimghoul Castle is the rock upon which Peter died after dueling for his love. The blood will never wash away!!!!

And perhaps my favorite of all, the Brown Mountain Lights.

In the western hills of North Carolina stands a mountain that is not particularly striking, or even high, but it plays host to perhaps the strangest mystery in the state. The mountain is called Brown Mountain and it lies in the foothills of the Blue Ridge and for many years, it has attracted the attention of people all over the nation and even the attention of the United States government as two separate investigations have been conducted by the US Geological survey into the strange anomalies of this mountain.

The strange events that are occur here have been called the Brown Mountain Lights for more years than most can remember. They appear along the ridges of this mountain on a regular basis and are faithful enough that in clear weather, you can see them just about any night that you care to.

Friday, October 26, 2007

More basketball 'Tobaccolades': What is this, the 1980s?

A panel of 31 Division I college basketball coaches have dished out their votes on the preseason Top 25, and the North Carolina Tar Heels lead the way.

Carolina edged out UCLA and Memphis for the top spot in the country despite, writes, "the fact that the Bruins had two more first-place votes (12) than the Tar Heels (10). North Carolina had 739 points in the poll, followed by No. 2 UCLA with 734 and No. 3 Memphis with 731 points and 8 first-place votes."

Kansas and Georgetown round out the top five. The next five are Louisville, Tennessee, Michigan State, Indiana and Washington State.

The Duke Blue Devils come in at No. 11, followed by Marquette, Oregon, and then Gonzaga and Texas A&M, which both tied at No. 14.

Rick Barnes' Texas Longhorns claim No. 16, followed by Arizona, USC, Arkansas and Pittsburgh.

Stanford, Kentucky, Southern Illinois, N.C. State and Villanova complete the Top 25.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quick hits: Bluegrass pioneer honored, as is Biltmore's Inn

Bluegrass great low-key about N.C. Heritage Award
"George Shuffler is the first to admit he doesn't move as fast as he used to. But he still gets around his farm pretty well, even though he has to lean on a cane," writes our good friend David Menconi of the News & Observer.

" 'My hips are just about wore out,' Shuffler says, showing a visitor around the farm. He has lived on this Burke County spread 180 miles west of Raleigh for all of his 82 years -- except for the decades he spent on the road playing guitar behind the Stanley Brothers, Don Reno and other legends of bluegrass. ...

"Standing in the bright autumn sunshine, lamenting a farmer's hardships, Shuffler could be any other old-timer. For long stretches of his life, that's who he has been. A visitor would likely never guess that Shuffler is one of the most influential bluegrass guitarists to ever hoist a pick.

"That will be discussed at some length today in Raleigh, where Shuffler will be feted with an N.C. Heritage Award.

"He'll attend the ceremony, and he'll probably enjoy it. But like another famous Tar Heel guitarist, Doc Watson, Shuffler isn't entirely comfortable with people making a fuss. ..."

The Inn on Biltmore Estate one of the Top 10 resorts for parents & kids
The readers of Travel + Leisure have voted for the Top Resorts for Parents & Kids. Making the list - which includes properties from the U.S., excluding the states Hawaii and Florida -- is Asheville's Inn on Biltmore Estate.

Writes the publication: "Some grounds! 8,000 acres of field and stream surround George Vanderbilt's 1895 Biltmore mansion. Kid magnet: the on-site River Bend Farm, which re-creates rural life in the 1890's."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quick hits: Food accolades and fall goings-on

N.C. eateries honored
"... For the second year, the N.C. Department of Agriculture sponsored the 'Best Dish in NC' contest for restaurants that serve products from North Carolina farms, markets and companies," writes the News & Observer. "Last week, before the Paula Deen show at the N.C. State Fair, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and Deen handed out the awards to the winners. ..."

Welcome to fall in North Carolina
"Fall is the perfect time to visit North Carolina," says "Come for our brilliant fall foliage. Enjoy the refreshing outdoor climate and linger at a scenic overlook with breathtaking views along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Experience the abundant fall fishing at the coast or camp at one of our magnificent state parks.

"Enjoy our unique fall events, from woolly worm races to NASCAR . To help you plan your visit, catch the weekly reports from our leaf watchers across the state bringing you the latest updates on when our leaves are at their most spectacular. Discover unique ways to see the fall color, from a balloon adventure to a rafting trip on the Nantahala.

"The governor has proclaimed October as 'North Carolina Wine and Grape Appreciation Month' so relax and enjoy autumn with a plate of signature NC food and a glass of our delicious NC wine. ..."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fall color on the way

From the Charlotte Observer ...

"The warm, arid weather sweeping the state has delayed the start of most vibrant leaf colors in the mountains and the Piedmont.

"The peak in the western part of the state is now expected to be around Nov. 1 and some areas may be brighter than others. The higher you go, the better it will be.

"The brightest reds, yellows and oranges are starting to be found at elevations above 4,000 feet, like parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway and along back country roads in Ashe and Watauga counties, said Gary Walker, a biology professor at Appalachian State University. ..."

Tobacco Road rules ACC (preseason) hoops

It's been a long time since N.C. State has been mentioned in the same breath as its Tobacco Road neighbors Duke and North Carolina when one is talking preseason Atlantic Coast Conference basketball. Sure, anything can happen with the first ball is tossed up, but it's still fun to see the Wolfpack is such company -- even in mid-October.

"The three schools located within 30 miles of each other have combined to win nine NCAA championships and make 32 trips to the Final Four, but nearly two decades have passed since they've been this good at the same time," writes the Associated Press.

"Picked 1-2-3 in the league's preseason poll, the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Wolfpack are bracing to spend much of the season bunched near the top of the ACC race.

" 'It speaks volumes for the three schools,' Duke captain DeMarcus Nelson said Sunday during the league's annual media day.

"The schools in the Research Triangle area seem positioned to take advantage of a conference that returns only five of the 15 players named to the league's first, second and third teams after last season. The key returnees include preseason league player of the year Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and fellow all-ACC picks Sean Singletary of Virginia, Brandon Costner of N.C. State and Tyrese Rice of Boston College.

"Still, it's been nearly 20 years since the last time Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State claimed the top three spots - in any order - in the final conference standings. In 1988, the Tar Heels won and were followed by the Wolfpack and Blue Devils. ..."

"I think State winning last year will kind of add to the rivalry," UNC's Tyler Hansbrough told the AP. "Duke and Carolina, they've always been big. Especially when (all three) are at the top, it's going to be really, really big."

But on the eve of a season in which supremacy in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area could lead to the top spot in the conference race and a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament, Nelson is approaching those goals in a different order.

"When we think about what we want to do, we say we want to be the best team in the country. We say we want to be ACC champions, national champions," Nelson
said. "Those are the type of goals that we set. If we are those things, then we'll be the best team in the Triangle."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Pack vs. Pirates: Good rivalry or an excuse to hate on each other?

Let me come right out and say that as a lifelong N.C. State fan and graduate, I don't believe the Wolfpack gains a whole lot from playing East Carolina in football.

Having said that, I acknowledge that the game is great for football in the state of North Carolina. We may act like we don't care about the Pirates (which is different than not caring for them), but us Wolfpackers want nothing more than to beat ECU on Saturday in Greenville. And it's not just because we don't want to hear their bragging for the next couple of years. Come Saturday, we will really hate ECU.

Without going much into details, suffice it to say that this rivalry game has had its share of less-than-pretty moments. It's been two decades since the great "riot" at Carter-Finley following a Pirate win. Things got WAY out of hand when Pirate fans stormed the field (something they would do again years later at C-F), but those close to both programs state that that game fueled the rivarly. (By the way, the Greenville Daily Reflector has posted State and ECU jokes. Be warned: They're all very lame.)

New State coach Tom O'Brien says he understands how important this game is; however, current ECU coach Skip Holtz acknowledges that a win over State -- ONE-AND-FIVE State -- would do wonders for his program.

This is probably ECU's biggest game on its schedule this year, while State still is looking ahead to its No. 1 rival, North Carolina. Nonetheless, one writer believes the Pack and the Pirates should duke it out for their own unique trophy.

Pinehurst voted best golf resort -- in the world

The readers of Travel + Leisure magazine have named Pinehurst the top golf resort in the world. The resort even finds itself on the magazine's cover.

"Maybe it’s something in the renowned tradition of the pristine golf courses. Maybe it’s something in the serenity of the Sandhills pines," writes the Fayetteville Observer.

"Whatever it is, Pinehurst has a knack for invigorating people ... in a way that keeps them coming back for more."

“This is about what (Pinehurst) provides and how Pinehurst inspires the people that come here,” John Atwood, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, told the Observer.

Atwood acknowledged that while the golf experience was the primary consideration, other features such as staff courtesy and spa quality factored in.

This marks the second time in three years that Pinehurst has received the magazine’s top honor, no small feat considering some of the renowned competition — Kiawah Island in South Carolina, Pebble Beach in California, Kapalua on the island of Maui in Hawaii, just to name a few.

Don Padgett II, the president of Pinehurst, said he believes there’s something to be said for the quality of his resort in besting so many other wonderful venues.

“When you think about it, we don’t have any mountains. We don’t have the ocean,” Padgett said. “But what we do have is a tremendous golf facility and a lot of great people who create a special atmosphere that a lot of people want to be part of.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Here come the Yankees!

Probably not exactly breaking news, but New Jerseyans really want to live elsewhere ... and a lot of them look to move to North Carolina.

About 1 out of every 2 N.J. residents want to live somewhere else, "with most citing high living costs as the reason, a newspaper poll found," according to UPI. "Just over half of those who said they want to move expect to follow through on it, Gannet News Service reported."

Frederick Huffenus, a retired police officer, said he plans to move to North Carolina as soon as he gets a heart transplant. He has one son already there and hopes his two children still in New Jersey will also make the move. ...

Fifteen percent of those polled picked Florida as their destination, while 14 percent would like to go to North Carolina. [Emphasis mine.] A total of 21 percent would like to make a short move to nearby Pennsylvania, Delaware or Maryland. ...

Mr. Teach's cannon?

Admittedly, it looks "more like a concrete ditch pipe than a cannon," but the 2,500-pound relic of the sea near Beaufort Inlet may be a cannon from Blackbeard's flagship, the Queen Anne's Revenge.

"This is really special to us because it has a lot of things attached to it," Mark Wilde-Ramsing, director of the state's Queen Anne's Revenge project, told the News & Observer.

He said researchers will carefully remove a pewter plate, wood and other items for further study. The cast-iron cannon, which was retrieved from the water Monday, will soon go into treatment process to halt corrosion. After three to five years, the cannon will be black and shiny and ready for display.

Researchers put the encrusted cannon on display Wednesday at the N.C. Maritime Museum expansion site on Gallants Channel. ...

The shipwreck site was located in November 1996 by Intersal, Inc., a private company. State archaeologists say research over 11 years supports the wreck's identity as the Queen Anne's Revenge. The ship ran aground in June 1718. About 2,000 relics have been recovered from the site just off Atlantic Beach.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Daughtry big at the AMAs

McLeansville native Chris Daughtry's eponymous band is up for three awards at the upcoming American Music Awards.

"That puts Daughtry in a four-way tie with Beyonce Knowles, Justin Timberlake and Linkin Park," writes the Associated Press.

Daughtry is slated to perform at the show.

Nominees were initially chosen based on record sales. Ballots were then sent to a national sampling of 15,000 people, and the top three vote-getters in each category became nominees. For the first time, members of the public will be able to vote for nominated artists online. Daughtry was nominated in three categories:

ALBUM: The self-named album "Daughtry" will compete with "Minutes To Midnight" by Linkin Park and "FutureSex/LoveSounds" by Justin Timberlake.

ADULT CONTEMPORARY: Daughtry faces Norah Jones and John Mayer.

NEW ARTIST: Daughtry is up against Plain White T's and Robin Thicke.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Get your eat on in MC

One of North Carolina's best-known festivals (and my personal favorite) takes place this weekend: the North Carolina Seafood Festival in Morehead City.

This is the 21st year of the seafood festival.

"The festival kicks off tonight with the start of musical performances and other entertainment and continues Saturday and Sunday with entertainment on several stages, children's activities, rides, arts and crafts vendors, Coastal Yesterday and Today exhibits and lots of seafood," says the Jacksonville Daily News.

"The main event is the shrimp, crab, fish and other seafood served up Saturday and Sunday by the school groups, churches, scout troops and civic clubs that line the waterfront streets. ...

"The Seafood Festival was started with a six-point mission that includes promotion of the seafood industry and boosting tourism in the non-summer months. Hotels, restaurants and shops benefit as visitors make their way to Carteret County for the event, said Carteret County Tourism Director Carol Lohr, who also helped start the event.

" 'It has grown to be the second largest festival in the state and it is definitely the largest economic factor in the fall in this area,' she said. ..."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More growth for Chimney Rock

"The Nature Conservancy announced Wednesday the acquisition of land on Rumbling Bald Mountain that will provide public access to a popular winter climbing area.

"The conservation group plans to sell the land to the state for inclusion in the new Chimney Rock State Park," said the Asheville Citizen-Times.

"The Nature Conservancy bought the current tract of land from John Haywood Moore for $1.3 million. Horak said the inclusion of the 46-acre tract will help to protect rare plant species and increase outdoor recreation.

"The land will create a public access point to the mountain’s Cereal Wall, which can be reached now only through private land, said Sean Cobourn, past president of the Carolina Climbers Coalition. ..."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quick hits: 'The Rock' and the 'Road to Nowhere'

North Carolina Speedway changes hands

"Eight bidders paced the grassy infield of the North Carolina Speedway on Tuesday, staring one another down.

"They cast their eyes about, trying to guess who were the bosses with the bucks behind the strangers holding auction paddles.

"Locals flanked the mysterious investors, swapping hugs and arm pats as if a loved one had died. Rocky, the stray cat who settled at the speedway after birthing a half-dozen litters, had vanished; the track's superintendent said the change afoot scared her," writes the News & Observer.

"A bluegrass band played ballads, and auction company officials tried to shepherd bidders toward a barbecue buffet. But not much can distract a man ready to take a multimillion-dollar chance on resurrecting an old-fashioned speedway that turned homegrown racers into NASCAR superstars.

"It took 10 minutes to seal the fate of the 'The Rock,' dormant since its owner shifted its remaining NASCAR race to a glitzier venue near Fort Worth, Texas. This summer, Bruton Smith, a Charlotte billionaire who owns a collection of speedways, decided to sell the property at auction. ..."

Feds favor Swain payout in 'Road to Nowhere' case
"The federal government has recommended a financial settlement to Swain County in lieu of building the North Shore Road, sometimes called 'the Road to Nowhere,' through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," writes the Asheville Citizen-Times.

"The National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration released their final environmental impact statement Tuesday, saying the settlement would ensure the resources of the park for future generations.

"Park spokesman Bob Miller said so far the government has spent $10 million on the issue.

"The environmental impact statement will become the government’s official decision 30 days after the Environmental Protection Agency publishes its notice of availability in the Federal Register, which is expected in a few days. ..."

(Sign photo courtesy of Western NC

Monday, October 01, 2007

Quick hits: Mayberry and maybe UNC medical in the mountains

Barney Fife's girlfriend moves to 'Mayberry'

"On the drive home from the Los Angeles airport, there was a particular billboard along La Cienega Boulevard that always gave Betty Lynn a chuckle. 'This Ain't Mayberry!' it declared.

"As if she needed a reminder of that fact, the West Hollywood home where Lynn had lived since 1950 was broken into twice last year," writes the Associated Press.

" 'That made it for me,' the 81-year-old actress says. 'I just was too frightened to stay. So I thought, I've got to find some place I feel SAFE.'

"When she reflected on what safe meant to her – and what 'home' meant, for that matter – one place stood out.

"And life imitated art.

"The woman who played Thelma Lou on 'The Andy Griffith Show' moved more than 2,100 miles to Mount Airy – Griffith's hometown and one of the inspirations for the fictional Mayberry. ..."

Western UNC med school proposed
"Officials say a proposal to create a branch campus of the UNC School of Medicine in Western North Carolina could bring more doctors, jobs and newcomers to the region," writes the AP.
"Mission Health and Hospitals, the Mountain Area Health Education Center and the Western North Carolina Health Network submitted a proposal for the medical branch campus.
"A similar branch campus proposal has also been submitted by Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. The medical school is considering the proposals along with increasing enrollment at Chapel Hill. ..."