Rising for the Occasion

Ghosts walk in haunted Waxhaw; tour of downtown full of tales from beyond the grave

by Virgina Franco

Stallings residents decorate their house for Halloween. (Lorayn Deluca/UCW photo)

Along the shadowed streets of Waxhaw lurk tales of a haunted past: the Depression-era account of a man whose boiled body once hung from the rafters of a downtown building; the frightening tale of a convict from the 1970s who kidnapped and murdered a student while out on work release; and the sad story of a former Waxhaw police officer who went crazy in the 1950s and killed three men in cold blood.

Despite being wheelchair-bound by multiple sclerosis, and the logistics required in transporting her from her home at Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilitation in Monroe, Cecilia Neal is determined and very excited to share her often blood-curdling stories from Waxhaw’s past with others just in time for Halloween.

Assisted this year by Union County Area Paranormal Society founder Barbara Jones, Ms. Neal will be on hand for anyone willing to listen to her tales from the crypt.

“I’m gonna tell true ghost stories and true crimes using real names and real events,” she said. “It will be great.”

Neal describes the ghost walk as “very exciting, very scary, and very spooky.” Her life has been chock-full of several strange and hard-to-explain personal experiences beginning at her grandmother’s house, which was so haunted that she recalls people running out of there as fast as they ran in. Built around the turn of the last century by her great-grandfather, the house was “so haunted it just kind of got me interested and I started researching,” she explains. “It kind of snowballed from there.”

Her investigative work includes conversations with business owners about the strange happenings they have experienced. A former police chief told her about a ghostly railroad worker seen roaming the tracks on stormy nights. A quilt shop owner shared the story of a little girl who haunts the building.

Neal tells of unexplained footsteps in the downtown buildings, dancing spirits in the windows and even the smell of freshly popped popcorn in the old movie theater.

A young female ghost haunts a store on Main Street, Neal said. “When she’s there, an open book will be on the floor, turned to page 10.”

Waxhaw and beyond

While Neal’s Halloween tour will focus on downtown Waxhaw, her knowledge of the area’s morbid history spans centuries and goes beyond the town’s borders.

Many may be surprised to learn, according to Neal, that one of our nation’s last witch-hunts occurred in Waxhaw. In the 1700s, the townspeople accused Nancy Craighead of witchcraft after her preacher husband died. To arrive at a verdict, those in charge dug up his body and forced his wife to touch his skull. A finger bleed would be proof of her true witch identity. Lucky for Craighead, her finger never bled, and town leaders dropped the charges.

Passed down by other Waxhaw residents and even her grandmother, whose father built a Waxhaw-area home around 1900, Neal has been gathering these stories for more than seven years.

A theater major and lifelong Waxhaw resident, she owned Waxhaw Florist for 18 years. Her great-grandparents and grandparents handed down many stories, Neal said, and the stories keep rolling in.

This year’s Waxhaw Ghost Walk will begin at 9 p.m. on Saturday, October 29 – beginning at the downtown Waxhaw United Methodist Church. A caretaker of sorts where Waxhaw’s history is concerned, Neal collected stories passed down over past generations by other Waxhaw residents.

“I’ve lived in Waxhaw my whole life,” Neal says. “There’s not too many of us left.”

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  1. The tour was great! Despite having a cold and slight fever, I didn’t want to miss hearing the ghost stories of Waxhaw. There were a lot of people there and Cecilia Neal did a great job.

    I attached a link to my facebook page with some night vision shots if you’d like to see the tour – if you dare, look at the Ghost Tour 2011 album.