Mysteries and legends of ghostly tales tend to come to us from days past, and in Cary several of our haunted legends surround two old properties, one that still stands.
Mysteries and hauntings of the High House
The oldest property, which is no longer standing, was the High House that stood on what is now, not surprisingly, High House Road. The house was built in the 1700s and named for its tall physical presence and its location atop a hill just across from the present day Maynard Crossing shopping center. You can read all about the history of the High House in this blog.
Back view of the High House.
The intrigue surrounding the High House involves a mystery about a buried treasure. In Around and About Cary, Tom Byrd recounts that Margaret Williams told of a treasure hunt by her father Leander Williams, who was born in the High House in 1883. After the family moved away, Williams had a dream about valuables buried in the hearth. When he learned the next morning that his mother had had the same dream, the two of them rushed to the house, only to discover that someone had already torn the hearth apart, brick by brick. Perhaps the source of these dreams was this account in Tom Byrd's book of an encounter at the High House by General Sherman's troops near the end of the Civil War:
When the soldiers arrived at High House, they found an old black man apparently crippled by gout and with a heavily bandaged foot resting on the hearth. What the soldiers never knew was that the foot concealed a removable stone under which valuables were hidden.
As for being haunted, there are stories of the ghost of a woman who has appeared both on the grounds and in the house when it was still standing. Robert Hoke Williams in his account The Ghost of High House tells of a legend that two men were in love with the same girl and one day while attending a horse race, one of the men in a fit of anger, during a quarrel with the girl, grabbed her and strangled her to death before he could be stopped.
One other tale of a sad and tragic death of a woman involves a possible first wife of Fanning Jones. Fanning was the first owner of the High House. This passage is from High House Mystery:
Some of the old fireplace brick remains, and a cemetery is located nearby. Only a few tombstones remain, so it is not known if Mrs. Fanning Jones is buried there. She died a tragic death only a few years after her marriage in 1799. The Raleigh Register September 8, 1806, reported that Mrs. Jones "... was found in a grove far from the house, depraved of all reason, where it is supposed she had been praying (having been very religious for some time past). She remained in the deplorable condition till her death... (on July 27, 1806)." (p.3)
The phantom horse of the Page-Walker Hotel
Another spooky legend involves an iconic Cary historic building, the old Page-Walker Hotel, built in 1868-1871 by Cary founder Frank Page. The hotel is still standing and now serves as the Cary Arts and History Center. Frank Page and his family lived just to the west of the not-yet-built hotel on the site of the current Cary Town Hall in 1865. During the last days of the Civil War in the spring of 1865, union troops camped at the Page homestead for about 3 weeks and kept their horses in the barn with an armed guard. On the last night of their occupation, the youngest of their wounded died. The next morning as they lined up their horses to depart, they discovered that the dead soldier’s horse had disappeared. It was never seen again.
Years later one springtime night not long after the hotel was built, all the horses in the stable started kicking and whinnying. Legend has it the stable boy heard the sound of a lone horse galloping full force down the dirt road in front of the hotel, but when he looked at the road there was no horse or rider in sight. Other “hearings” of the phantom horse have occurred through the years, but no “sightings.” Listen for the sound of the phantom horse's galloping hooves the next time you are at the Page-Walker on a quiet evening . . .