Everyone always complains about how Charlotte gets rid of its history, but there’s some history that you just can’t shake. For this year’s Halloween issue, we tapped Jason Tapp of SpookyCLT to tell us about 10 of the most haunted spots in Uptown. You may think Uptown is dead due to the pandemic, but based on rumored paranormal activity, maybe the dead have never left Uptown.
Many people have reported hearing jazz music late at night in Uptown’s Second Ward. The source is said to be “The Spirit of Brooklyn,” the neighborhood lost to so-called urban renewal projects carried out by the city and developers in the 1970s. Over 1,400 structures from this predominantly Black community were destroyed including schools, churches, nightclubs and office buildings. Stories of phantom music near the corner of East 3rd and South Brevard streets were common long before Middle C Jazz opened up at that intersection. Some people heard an entire jazz ensemble, others heard a solo saxophonist, and though it’s now difficult to know what’s real, it’s always hard to walk in Second Ward without feeling like something is missing.
The Dunhill Hotel, 237 N. Tryon St.
The Dunhill Hotel is perfect if you’re looking for a spooky staycation. The nearly 100-year-old building is registered as a Historic Hotel of America and is known around town for its Sunday brunch. Rumors of hauntings typically stem from the story that a human skull was found at the bottom of an elevator shaft during renovations in 1988. That true story aside, even current staff have their own experiences of paranormal activity, some of which include a woman’s laughter coming from the downstairs lobby when no one is there, or a woman in white disappearing and reappearing in the banquet halls at night. Local paranormal investigators and hosts of The Hex Files podcast recently investigated and caught a voice saying “Hello” in a Facebook Live video. It’s definitely worth the visit, even if you just grab a drink at the lobby bar. You never know who might join you.
Rí Rá Irish Pub, 208 N. Tryon St.
Rí Rá Irish Pub is located in Uptown’s second oldest building. Staff claims there are six unique in-house ghosts. The two most active apparitions include a man with a handlebar mustache who frequents the upstairs bar and will disappear if you ask him too many questions, with the other being a girl in Victorian clothing who is said to be responsible for writing the alphabet on the walls on the brick in the entry way. All of the ghosts are considered peaceful and typically only reveal themselves to staff, but if you are a patron you are likely to experience a “cold spot,” which could mean another type of spirit than the one you’re drinking is passing through you.
Old Settlers’ Cemetery, 200 W. Trade St.
Old Settlers’ Cemetery is proof that Charlotte has history. The graveyard is the resting place of the first colonial settlers, and you’ll recognize many a street or even town name as you peruse the headstones. You’ll find the gravestones of famous Charlotteans like Nathaniel Alexander, Thomas Polk and William Davidson. The oldest known grave is that of Joel Baldwin, who died in 1776, and the most recent burial is from 1878. It is said that bodies were often robbed from the cemetery and used for educational purposes at the hospital that was once located next door. Now it is not uncommon to find mysterious altars left behind in the cemetery or orbs found in pictures after the sun has set.
Carolina Theatre, 230 N. Tryon St.
Carolina Theatre in Uptown is currently being renovated, which has some folks wondering if we’ll see the same paranormal activity we once did when it was originally open. Will the renovations clear out the old spirits or serve to stir them up more? Staff have shifted blame of any paranormal hijinx on a ghost they’ve named Fred, who reportedly pulls pranks like turning the lights off, responding to the sound of snaps, and appearing as a mysterious light on the balconies after hours. Suspiciously, The Carolina Theatres in Durham and Greensboro also have a ghost named Fred. The personal paranormal experiences of staff and former guests are hard to deny, but why does ol’ Fred always have to get brought into it?
Bootlegger House, 400 N. Poplar St.
The notorious BootLegger House has been a spooky staple of Fourth Ward for nearly 50 years. It was originally located in Second Ward, where the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center is today, but was moved across Uptown after it was bought for $50 during the aforementioned “urban renewal” of Brooklyn that just so happened to coincide with the “restoration” of Fourth Ward. People call it the Bootlegger House because of the numerous hidden rooms and compartments that were once used to hide black-market alcohol during Prohibition. The current owner has personally experienced a wide range of paranormal activity including phantom footsteps, chairs found unexplainably tilting on two legs, a blow torch ignited by itself, and other more typical paranormal mischief. The movement of the house brings up the question: Is the ground they moved to haunted, or the bones of the house itself?
Alexander Michael’s, 401 W. 9th St.
Not far from the Bootlegger House, Alexander Michael’s has been a Fourth Ward bar and eatery for more than 30 years. The house itself has been around much longer than that, originally opened as the Crowell-Berryhill Store in 1897. It is no surprise with its historic status that it has a resident ghost. Servers and patrons have reported paranormal activity, hearing their names called softly by disembodied voices or feeling as if they had been grabbed when no one was there. Activity usually centers around the old apartment upstairs or the back corner booth that fits just one person. Additionally, if you are looking for a post-dinner walk, you can take a stroll down Pine Street to find Settler’s Lane, where the Haunted Hanging Tree can be found. Historically it is known for the hangings of criminals, but now locals know it to be the center of dark energy where screams and the sound of tightening rope can be heard.
The McNinch House, 511 N. Church St.
Staying in Fourth Ward, The McNinch House is an 1892 Queen Anne-style home located on North Church Street and is now a restaurant. Walking inside is like entering a time machine set to a century back. The home is the center of numerous ghost stories, but depending on which tour you go on, whom you talk to, or which book you read, you may hear different versions. Local legend states that if you wait outside long enough and keep your eye on the upstairs bay windows, you may catch a glimpse of the long-gone lady of the house.
Tryon House, 508 N. Tryon St.
The Tryon House apartment building is one of Uptown’s oldest continuously operating apartment buildings. Paranormal activity in the building is believed to stem from a fire that occurred back in the 1940s, engulfing the building to the point that residents had to jump out windows to escape. The tragedy took the lives of nine people, injuring many more. Common reports include sightings of apparitions believed to be former residents, dreams of bleeding walls, and noises of knocking on walls or doors when no one is known to be around. That being said, it’s still one of the last moderately priced places to live in Uptown, so it may be worth the risk.
Old Firehouse No. 4, 420 W. 5th St.
On April 1, 1934, firefighter Pruitt L. Black was reportedly heading out on a call when he fell headfirst down the firepole, dying on impact. The legend today states that, despite the firehouse being abandoned, you can still smell the smoke from Black’s cigars, as he’s decided to stay on call in the afterlife. Black’s grave can be found at the nearby Elmwood Cemetery and Fire Station 4, located next to The Vue uptown, has been added to the national Registry of Historic Places. The question remains: Does it smell like smoke because of Black’s cigars, because it’s an old firehouse, or because the address is 420?