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George Washington Vanderbilt II found that he loved the Asheville area after repeated visits to his Mother. He decided to built his summer house in the area.
After buying up 700 parcels of land including farms and at least 5 cemeteries he began construction of the house in 1889. The project was so huge it required the construction of both a woodworking factory and a brick kiln on site. A 3 mile railway spur was also constructed to bring materials to the construction site.
The luxurious house and estate was opened on Christmas Eve of 1895.
Fairly quickly the financial burden of such a huge estate began to weigh on Vanderbilt. In 1914 he sold 84,000 acres to Federal Government to help with estate costs and pay the Income Tax. Vanderbilt would die in the same year leaving the property to his widow who lived in a set of apartments in the Bachelor’s Wing until her daughter got married.
In the 1930’s – to pay bills and at the request of the City of Asheville – the home was opened to tourism. The Estate was closed in World War II and some of the art work moved for protection against a possible east coast attack by Nazi Germany.
After the war the Estate was reopened as a tourist attraction again and ceased completely to be a family residence by the mid-1950’s.
The Estate is now owned by the Biltmore Company with Vanderbilt family members running it as the CEO. It now functions as a historical house museum and has about 1.4 million visitors every year.
The apparition of George Washington Vanderbilt himself has been seen wandering his house but most often in the library. Edith, his wife, is also seen walking the halls and rooms of the mansion. It is surmised she is looking for her husband as the disembodied whisper of, “George”, is often heard
At night the phantom sounds of a party are often heard in the house from the grounds outside. In reality the house is completely empty.
The apparition of a headless orange cat is frequently seen although its unknown if any of the Vanderbilt’s had pets or where the cat came from.
The many staircases in the house are a paranormal hotspot. Many apparitions have been seen walking up and down them, phantom footsteps are heard walking on them, frequent cold spots have passed people on the stairs and people also report strange smells and distinct feelings of unease while on the stairs.
The phantom sounds of splashing and laughter is heard from the empty pool.
In 1909 the pharmaceutical giant Edwin Grove bought 408 acres (165 hectares) north of Asheville as a way of positioning himself as an investor in the future of Asheville. This area included where the hotel would be built but Grove focused on residential properties first.
He had already built residential neighborhoods in Atlanta, Georgia and Asheville was growing fast with the Vanderbilt Estate of Biltmore – also covered on our North Carolina page (see above) – and the expansion of the railroad to the town.
In 1911 Grove’s friend and son-in-law Fred Seely got involved in the hotel project by drawing up plans for the hotel that Grove preferred over the ones done by architects. Seely was given the responsibility of building the hotel.
He promised to get it done within one year.
400 men working 10 hours shifts 6 days a week moved the materials from Sunset Mountain to the hotel site and built the hotel. The hotel opened 3 days short of a year.
The Grove Park Inn opened on July 12, 1913.
In 1955 the hotel was bought by Charles Sammons – owner of huge real estate conglomerate Sammons Enterprises – and turned the hotel into an international resort known worldwide.
In the late 1980’s they built and opened the subterranean multi-million dollar spa. In 2012 they sold the resort to KSL Resorts who, in turn, sold it to Omni Hotels and Resorts; the current owners.
Omni did a $25 million dollar renovation of the property. The new Omni Grove Park Inn is one of the most exclusive and unique places to go on vacation in America.
The Pink Lady is one of the most beloved ghosts in America.
She is said to be the ghost of a woman who fell from her 5th floor balcony in the 1920’s to her death. The romantic version of her story says she was there to meet her married lover and threw herself off the balcony when he didn’t appear. The more accepted version is that she was a debutante that accidentally slipped and fell off her balcony.
She is said to be particularly fond of Room 545 and its believed this is the room she fell from.
Either way the Pink Lady either appears either as a ball of pink mist or a full body apparition of a young woman in a pink ballroom gown.
The Pink Lady has walked the halls of the hotel for over 100 years now. She is considered a traditional part of the hotel and it’s legends and is fully accepted by the staff.
Apparently, she is fonder of children then adults and has often been seen at the bed sides of kids who come down with an illness while staying at the resort. One doctor left a note telling staff that his children truly enjoyed playing with the pretty lady in the pink dress.
The Pink Lady does interact with adults but she’s more apt to play pranks than sit by their bed sides. She’s said to be responsible for the flickering lights as well turning tv’s, air conditioners and other electronics off and on.
If she really likes you when you stay, she might just tickle your feet while you sleep.
Abandoned Bridge near current bridge on East Main St
Status: Famous Haunted Tunnel
On a rainy night in 1923 a car speeds along High Point Road in the driver’s desperate effort to get his date home before her curfew. As he tries to negotiate a particularly tight curve the driver loses control of the car and hits the Southern Railroad underpass killing himself instantly. His date, a teenage girl named Lydia, is seriously hurt but lives through the crash. She crawls back to the road in an effort to get help but no one picks her up. Lydia succumbs to her injuries and dies by the side of the road having never reached home.
Or so the story went. . . That is until the real story behind the so-called Lydia’s Bridge was uncovered by Michael Renegar and Amy Greer. There was a terrible car accident at the same site on a rainy night June 20, 1920. Three people survived but Annie L Jackson, a 30-year-old woman, was ejected from the car, hit her head and probably died instantly. So the truth behind the Lydia legend has been discovered.
As for the mix up in the names it may be Annie’s middle name was Lydia but it was probably caused by a melding of legends in which the name Lydia came through.
That road has since become US 70 and has since been altered (to make it safer) eliminating the hairpin curve that cost Annie her life. The Southern Railroad underpass is still there though although it is now completely overgrown and barely visible. The current underpass is just a few yards from the old one.
Much like Resurrection Mary this haunting is one of the possibilities as the origin of the Phantom Hitchhiker urban legend.
On dark rainy nights drivers, since the accident, have picked up a young woman on the side of the road who says her name is Lydia and desperately needs to get home. Lydia gives the address of a house nearby and has been driven home many times by many drivers (usually men). During the ride Lydia seems to be distracted and either unwilling or unable to talk much beyond her need to get home. Upon reaching the house Lydia will suddenly disappear into thin air.
Based on the year of the original accident Lydia’s mother has probably passed away but many story has been told of men coming to her door telling what happened. Lydia’s mother then explains what has actually happened; that Lydia is forever trying to get home to meet her curfew. It is said that this happened so often that the mother started showing the men Lydia’s photo which they identified as their passenger.
The apparition of Lydia is also reported to have been seen still in her blood-stained dress glowing luminescently in the tunnel.
Now obviously this part of the legend has been embellished a little as well. The ghost stating her name as Lydia is probably selective hearing; what the drivers expect to hear. It’s certainly possible at 30 years old Annie was still living with her mother but, again, this part could be pure embellishment.
As to whether the discovery of Annie’s true identity will finally give her the rest she deserves. That still remains to be seen.
Bilyeu Street and Centennial Parkway
Status: Former Orphanage; Mass Fatality Site; Parking Lot; Urban Legend
History and Legends
The historical details of this location have become entwined with legend leaving the truth difficult to uncover. There definitely was an orphanage in this area but the only fire resulted in one death not multiple deaths. However, as we’ve stated repeatedly in other articles, there is always some truth to every urban legend.
The story says a fire broke out in one of the dormitories in the middle of the night in 1958. It spread quickly and many sleeping children were either suffocated by the smoke and burned to death by the fire without even waking up. It is said by the time the fire department arrived on site the building was all but gutted.
A few months later the rubble was torn down and removed.
1905 has also been given as the date of the fatal fire as well as 1912.
Unfortunately, we were unable to interview someone who has investigated the site; as of yet anyway. Should we receive new information as to the exact location of this site this article will be updated.
Based on research the site is between 720 Bilyeu Street near the traffic circle and the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral.
Before the Bilyeu extension, all directions said to go to the end of Bilyeu Street and follow a trail to a field.
It is unclear if the famed cornerstone is still there or has been destroyed by all the construction.
Reports of paranormal activity date back to shortly after the burned ruins where removed.
They continue to this day.
While the ruins were still standing people reported seeing the phantom faces of nuns looking out of the windows as well as shadow figures and unexplained sudden streams of light.
The most frequently reported activity is the phantom smell of smoke and burning. For some it has been so overpowering they begin to choke and are unable to breathe until they leave the area.
In the decade following the fire the city received numerous complaints about the smell as well as calls to the fire department fearing the field was aflame.
The phantom voices of children are also heard most commonly crying out in terror and pleading for mercy. Phantom sounds of screams, crying and choking are also reported.
Other Reported Activity: electrical disturbances; empathic feelings of fear, unease and great sadness; physical sensations including trouble breathing, nausea and headaches; light phenomena; phantom smell of burned flesh and feelings of not being alone.
This ship was the lead ship of the North Carolina Class of fast battleships built by the US Navy. There was only one other North Carolina Class ship;w the USS Washington. Fast battleships emphasised speed without much compromise on armor and armaments.
The ship was built in the New York US Naval Shipyard. She was laid down in 1937 and completed in April of 1941 previous to Pearl Harbor and US involvement in World War II.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the North Carolina was initially sent into the Atlantic to counter a possible sortie by the Nazi battleship Tripitz – sister ship to the Bismark – but the Tripitz never came out to fight.
She was then transferred to the Pacific Fleet in the war against Japan. The North Carolina joined the battle and invasion of Guadalcanal running screen for the aircraft carriers and shooting down multiple Japanese aircraft.
In September of 1942 she was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine resulting in the deaths of 5 sailors but not significantly damaging the ship. She put in for repairs but joined the US fleet to take part in the Marshall and Mariana Islands campaigns.
The North Carolina was present during the latter part of the Philippines campaign as well as the battles for both Iwo Jima and Okinawa. She was also involved in many attacks on Japan.
When Japan surrendered the North Carolina brought US servicemen back to the States. She then patrolled the Atlantic coast before being decommissioned in 1947.
In 1960 she was removed from the Naval Vessel Register and only avoided the scrap yard by a campaign in her namesake State. In 1962 she was anchored in Wilmington and became a ship museum.
Apparitions of former sailors have been seen on the ship including one in a bathroom and a blonde-haired young man seen wandering the corridors. Apparitions and shadow figures are seen looking out of portholes and around corners in the ship.
Objects have moved on their own and been thrown at people, doors and hatches open and close on their own, phantom footsteps, disembodied voices and touches by unseen presences.
Lights flickering and turning on and off on their own as well as other electrical disturbances, feelings of being watched, not being alone and being followed, light anomalies, cold spots and unexplained mists.