Historic Stagville

 Historic Stagville Website

 

THE LOCATION:

Historic Stagville Plantation is located 7 miles north of Durham, NC on Old Oxford Highway, near the community of Treyburn. Certain areas are open to the public for tours at designated times.

 

THE HISTORY:

Historic Stagville Plantation comprises the remnants of one of the largest plantations of the ante-bellum South. Stagville Plantation belonged to the Bennehan-Cameron family, whose combined holdings totaled approximately 900 slaves and almost 30,000 acres by 1860.

For millennia, Native Americans inhabited the lands of what is now northern Durham County. By the 1750s European settlement encroached on these lands and the countryside was dotted with subsistence farms. The tiny community of Horton Grove was at the heart of what would become the enormous plantation. By the end of the 18th century, Richard Bennehan, a transplanted Virginia merchant owned much of the land (4,000 acres) and 40 slaves. He bought additional land from Judith Stagg and raised tobacco, grain, and livestock. Richard's daughter, Rebecca, married Judge Duncan Cameron, and their son, Paul Cameron took over operations of the plantation before going on to greater fame as a president of the North Carolina Railroad, state senator, and a trustee of the University of North Carolina. It was under Paul Cameron's direction that the Great Barn was constructed in 1860 for the purpose of raising mules.

As Stagville Plantation grew, so did the slave community, eventually filling Horton Grove with slave quarters constructed by the slaves themselves, most of whom had no formal education or training in carpentry.

In 1954, Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company bought the property, and in 1976 they conveyed the remaining 71 acres to the State of North Carolina.

 

 

THE LEGENDS:

Stories of ghosts and hauntings at Historic Stagville Plantation go back for decades. Neighbors of the plantation have reported strange lights in the windows of the former slave quarters and a nearby house that was rented to sharecroppers. The apparition of a young African-American girl has been seen several times at the slave quarters, prompting several grounds people to abandon their equipment and flee in fright. In recent years, the Sheriff's Department and Fire Department have responded to false alarms at the Great Barn, and have reported seeing the apparition of an adult African-American male in the loft.

The staff of the plantation has experienced several unexplained events in the main house (Bennehan House), including doors locking and unlocking as they watched, the sound of footsteps when no one else was there, and voices murmuring. One particular evening, a staff member was locking up the main house when she heard footsteps coming from the second floor. She went upstairs to check, and no one was there. She quickly set the alarm and left by the front door. She waited for some time, watching the house, but no one emerged. The next morning, her supervisor informed her that the motion detector in the main house had been triggered, but did not set off the alarm. She also found a skeleton key which rests in the keyhole of the front door several feet from its usual place, lying on an antique couch. Was it a straggler, trying to get out, or a mischievous ghost?

 

 

THE INVESTIGATION:

HNC investigators Jim Hall, David Gurney, and Waverly Hawthorne arrived at Historic Stagville Plantation at 9:30 AM on Saturday, May 29, 2004. They were met by a staff member . They interviewed the staff member in the main house, and were given a tour of the plantation. They started in the main house, and then drove to the part of the plantation that contains the slave quarters and the Great Barn (Horton Grove). After the tour, the team decided on a plan of action. Due to time constraints, they decided to setup in the areas that gave off the strongest impressions and where the most activity was reported, those being the Great Barn and the slave quarters.

They started in the Great Barn. David and Waverly had felt strong impressions in the stables, so they set up a video camera in that area. Jim took temperature readings and noted that one area about 3 feet across was approximately 5 degrees cooler than the surrounding area. This could very possibly be due to variations in shade and air currents.

Jim navigated the beams leading to the loft, and set up his laptop computer to record EVPs using Cool Edit Pro software. All three investigators were also using 35mm and digital cameras during this time, and 35mm photographs taken in the loft were all blurred. Waverly explored the opposite end of the barn to where David was working, and experienced sudden headaches in several spots, which he stated was unusual for him. He decided to allow time for his eyes to adjust to the darkened stalls. While standing still, he observed what appeared to be a shadow moving to his right in his peripheral vision. He alerted the other team members to this and continued his explorations.

After approximately 30 minutes, a tour group arrived at the Great Barn, so the team decided to pack up and move to the slave quarters. All three team members at felt strong impressions in the upper floor of the quarters, so David set up his video camera equipped with infrared night vision, and Jim set up his laptop to record EVPs. Waverly remained downstairs to sketch the building and look out for tourists. David commented to Jim that he was receiving an impression of a young African-American girl sitting in the corner of the upper room watching the team work. This was prior to learning of the numerous sightings of this apparition. Also during this time, David caught two anomalous orb-like images on video, one of which followed a "fluttering" path which typically indicates dust or an insect. The other orb did not display any of the characteristics of dust or insects.

After approximately 30 minutes, another tour group arrived at the slave quarters, so the team decided to pack up and return to the plantation offices to meet with the staff. While waiting in the parking lot, they decided to follow a trail through the woods that led to a family cemetery. Upon approach to the graveyard, all three members sensed what they described as a "heavy" atmosphere. The cemetery was about 30 feet x 30 feet, but only three graves were visible, lawn crypts. The team then returned to the offices and conferred with the staff member, who then related the story of several grounds keepers running from the apparition of a young African-American girl at the slave quarters. The team then ended the investigation, at 1:30 PM.