Find Your Next Spooky Adventure this Halloween in McDowell County
Looking for a unique, thrilling or spooky Halloween experience? McDowell County sits nestled in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, mountains full of magic and and mystery. As a small community in the heart of Southern Appalachia, folklore and spooky happenings are just a part of our living history.
The Brown Mountain Lights of Brown Mountain and the Linville Gorge fascinate visitors year-round. These lights are referred to as “ghost lights” -A unique paranormal or para-natural phenomena displayed as visible balls of light dancing along wind stream patterns or above the tree line. The origins of the Brown Mountain Lights are said to come from early Indigenous folklore, as well as anecdotal experiences of early pioneers traversing the region. Contrasting this, Geologists like Ed Speer and other skeptics have much simpler, para-natural or environmental explanations for the famous lights. Regardless of your understanding or belief in the phenomena, the Brown Mountain Lights make for a great overnight adventure in our region. While locals have very strong and varying opinions about the “best time” to see the lights, the overall theme to their advice is to visit after recent precipitation, and during drastic temperature changes, making Fall a great time to witness the Brown Mountain Lights.
Want to learn more about the Brown Mountain Lights? Check out the documentary by Small Town Monsters, tune into various regional podcasts, Researcher Joshua P. Warren's Page on the Subject, or check out our page on The Blue Ridge Mystery: Brown Mountain Lights.
Locals have legends of “The Witch of Nebo” -however, these relatively new tales stem from the long tradition of Appalachian Granny Witchcraft found along the Blue Ridge states. Nikki Chester of Nebo bears the torch of traditional Appalachian beliefs and spirituality in our foothills community. Recently featured in Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage, Chester provides spiritual guidance and perspectives on whole body wellness while connecting spiritually with a region full of nature and magic. You can find “Nikki’s Nourished by Nature” teas and wellness products in various stores around Marion and Old Fort, NC as well as the local Marion Tailgate Market on the weekends.
Additionally, you can explore a history of high strangeness and unusual endings in “Ghosts of McDowell County” by Rena M. Harp & Patti Smith Holda. Holda, recently retired from McDowell County Library, helped acquire a rich collection of ghost stories and folklore for our area. Feel free to stop by the library and explore the “Local History Room” with Local History Room Manager, librarian Amanda Biddix for recommendations on spooky places to read about or explore! For the month of October, McDowell County Historical Society is hosting multiple paranormal and ghost-hunting events in our county. Along with an Investigation at the Haunted Depot Cafe, you can buy tickets to learn how to investigate the paranormal with P2 (Pisgah Paranormal). More information on those events can be found through this link.
For fans of true-crime and unsolved mysteries, Marion serves up multiple historic instances of “whodunit” and egregious mystery. Our area is brushed upon briefly in Cathy Pickens “True Crime Stories of Western North Carolina” -and the city is known for it’s appearance on an episode of “Cold Case Files.” The disappearances and eventual discoveries of Jeremiah Pittman, Wally Wise, and Zilphia Lowery were featured on a 2017 episode of A&E’s hit series.
While folks may be familiar with the recent rise in cryptozoological (unknown biological creatures like Bigfoot) sightings in McDowell County, what they may not know is that Marion, NC is home of the largest Bigfoot Festival in North Carolina! With tens of thousands of attendees, the WNC Bigfoot Festival celebrates the quest for knowledge and curious fascination about the large, bipedal animal possibly lurking in our woods.
For the adventurous at heart, we've learned that multiple Bigfoot sightings have been made near the forests of Lake James State Park, so booking a stay at the Comfort Inn or nearby accommodations will help you wake up ready for your next Sasquatch adventure. There have also been reports of large bipedal creatures in the woods outside Little Switzerland, and nearby Spruce Pine (which has it's own unique UFO History)! Local Bigfoot researchers Bigfoot 911 are a good resource for local Sasquatch info, and Flavors on Main can help you outfit your team during an overnight Bigfoot expedition.
The Scottish and Irish settler history of our foothills sets a firm foundation for the mythology of “The Green Man” hidden within our beautiful but mysterious forests. In modern pagan beliefs, the Green Man has often been used as a representation of the Horned God, a syncretic deity that incorporates aspects of the Celtic Cernunnos and the Greek Pan. Modern skeptics attribute these legends and folklore to emotional and spiritual impact of being immersed in nature, as well as a phenomena known as "pareidolia" (a psychological phenomenon that causes people to see patterns in a random stimulus, often leading to people assigning human characteristics to objects, like seeing a face in a pattern of leaves or animals in clouds). The dense, overgrowth and invasive Kudzu throughout our region may be the explanation of "The Green Man" in McDowell County, NC.
As seen in Planet Weird’s “Hellier” series, the traditions of The Green Man are kept alive in our foothills through art, culture and written works (you can explore some of these at McDowell Arts Council Association). Legends of The Green Man luring unsuspecting travelers to remote wilderness areas, experiencing fae encounters, witnessing UFO type events, or becoming lost in our mountains still ring true through local paintings, wood carvings, and sculpture. While we certainly don’t expect you to wander unawares in our woods, we pride ourselves on the growing collection of beautiful hiking, mountain biking, and waterfall trails. We recommend Curtis Creek and the new Gateway Trail System to really immerse yourself in the eerie but wondrous calm of the woods.