The history community of Transylvania County has experienced a great loss with the passing of Charles A. Burden recently. Charley was an avid historian for the Dunn’s Rock/Cedar Mountain area, and some of his favorite types of stories to collect were ghost stories. Shortly before he passed, he and fellow historian Patty Stahl co-authored a collection of ghost stories from Transylvania County and especially Cedar Mountain entitled, “Ghost Stories: Tales from US Hwy. 276”. One such story is shared below as a tribute to Charley. Those who wish to read the book in its entirety can find it in many Cedar Mountain businesses as well as at Highland Books in downtown Brevard.
“The Ragged Men”
The location was a secondary road near the Dunn’s Rock Community. The “interview” was just a few years ago. A lady was standing in her yard with a medium-sized dog. The dog gently nudged each stranger as they approached. The conversation unfolded as the three “interviewers” began asking about nearby geographical features: outcropping of rocks and hills and streams and old roads. In the middle of the geographical discussion the lady suddenly said, “I have a story.”
She began: It was 2 am. At the back door, her usually sedate dog was barking fiercely, relentlessly. Hurriedly, she leapt out of bed, flung on a heavy robe and proceeded directly through a dark house to the door. Quickly the agitated dog was harnessed and leashed. She did not bother to fetch a flashlight, as a near-full moon cast a pale light with shadows outside. Medium-sized dog in tow, she opened the back door. With her free hand, she secured a stout wooden walking stick. What might she find? A wandering wobbly smiley opossum? An inquisitive rambling racoon? A fox?
Outside, the dog stopped barking as abruptly as it had begun minutes before. It froze in an alert position, hackles raised. The woman’s eyes quickly adjusted to the moonlight. What she saw, there on the back side of her home, was not some creature, but several uniformly dressed men. The pale moon refused to reveal the precise color of their uniforms. Their clothes were torn and muddy; their tired faces reflected a similar ragged, aged look. They carried long guns.
They spoke not a word. They appeared exhausted and seemed resigned to a steep climb that lay just ahead. They trudged across the moonlit opening towards the deep shadows of the thick woods, and further towards the vast incline of a mountain rising from the woods. The woman watched as they disappeared into the shadows. Hurriedly, she re-entered her home and double-bolted her back door. Curiosity then slowly overtook fear; nevertheless, she was right much awake for the remainder of the night. Her dog, however, taking two turns, settled down quite at ease, and fell asleep.
Several years then passed, with no additional curious happenings, she noted matter-of-factly. Her story was finished.
“Yet there is meaning there I don’t understand,” she said. She turned to face her “interviewers” and earnestly asked, “Do you believe in apparitions?”
None of the three answered her. A Carolina Wren kindly overlaid a short silence with a song. The topic then returned to nearby geographical features.
Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Special thanks to Patty Stahl for providing permission to reprint this story. This article was written by Local History Librarian Laura Sperry. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or 828-884-1820