Beaufort, North Carolina From the coast it can be seen, a landmark against the sea, guiding ships safely to port. Apart from its obvious historic significance, the large white house is unassuming, beautiful against the landscape, and inviting. But inside the house there are scars of the past, things that a coat of paint or simple repair can never wipe away. Screams heard in the night are only part of the tragic history in this house that seems to devour its tenants, leaving bone-chilling tales behind and bloodstains on the floor.
Looking at an historic house, one assumes it has seen its fair share of tragedy. Some houses, however, have seen more than is easily explainable. Some places seem to attract certain types of people and with them pain and suffering. Such places often assume the characteristics of those who came before, giving the house a peculiar air, whether deserved or not. When history shows a pattern of death and agony within one specific place, legends are born. And when those who came before cannot rest, the house earns the curious mark of being haunted. While the cause of the haunting is well known, there are no lessons to be learned, no sense to be made.
The oldest house in the shipping town of Beaufort, Hammock House’s construction is placed at around 1700, before the town was even plotted. Its original purpose is unknown, but it is assumed to have been an "ordinary," or inn, for the sailors who came into port. Such rowdy types were well known for causing trouble, but none more so than possibly the most famous resident of the house, Edward Teach, who was better known by his "working" name of Blackbeard the Pirate. (Blackbeard’s pirate flag pictured above right)
During one of his stays at Hammock House, Blackbeard was with one of his many wives, an 18 year-old girl who, according to many accounts, didn’t particularly like her husband. Her willful ways raised the pirate’s legendary anger, and when he finally set out to sea again, he had her hung from a large live oak tree in the back yard. He then buried her beneath its roots before setting sail.
A few years later in 1747, tragedy again struck the house. Richard Russell, Jr., who owned the house briefly, returned from one of his many sea voyages with anger in his heart at a slave who had displeased him. He took the slave to the attic room of the house, intent on punishing him, but the slave broke loose and gave his owner a shove. Russell fell down the steps, breaking his neck.
The next owner did her part to uphold the reputation of the house. She was engaged to be married to a British Navy Captain who was coming to take her back to his home. However, when he arrived in port, he began to hear rumors that his bride-to-be was seen carrying on with another man. Enraged, he went to the home, where he found her with a gentleman caller. It should be noted that the situation was purely innocent, as the gentleman turned out to be her brother, but the Captain could not see through his anger. He killed her alleged lover in a manner most gruesome.
By 1862 Hammock House already had a bad reputation. Having been the site of the more famous murders, as well as a few duels that resulted in the death of at least one participant, mutterings that the house was haunted had already started. However, on March 23rd of that year, that reputation would be cemented. The citizens of Beaufort discovered that, during the night, Union forces had claimed control of their town. Three Union officers came upon the now-abandoned mansion and thought it would make a good outpost. They were sent to inspect the house and promptly disappeared without a trace. It wasn’t until 1915, nearly forty years later, that workmen digging near the back porch discovered their remains.
During the Civil War the building was used to house Union troops, including the famed “Buffalo Soldiers,” Southerners who had joined the Union forces. Still, anyone who spent time in the house was uneasy, especially due to the unknown fate of their comrades. The reputation of the house spread until after the war, when it was again abandoned. For a good many years the house was vandalized and neglected, all because of the reputation of being haunted.
Blame can rest squarely on the shoulders of Edward Teach for beginning the legacy of suffering within the walls of Hammock House as it is his wife, murdered by his hands, who can be heard screaming into the night. Though she’s not seen, her cries are evident on nights similar to the one on which the pirate hung her. People report feeling threatened and frightened within the courtyard.
Another who apparently never left the house is Richard Russell, Jr. Several have reported feeling shoved or pulled at the top of the stairs. The thumping sounds of his body hitting the steps are also reported.
Inside the house on the second floor, there have been reports of a man screaming. It is thought to be the man killed by the Captain in a fit of rage. Several have reported feeling threatened and afraid on the spot, even before they notice the large stain on the floor. No matter how many times it has been sanded, scrubbed, and painted over, the blood spilled on that spot remains.
The final three ghosts that haunt Hammock House are the three Union soldiers who inexplicably lost their lives in 1862. They’re credited with the sounds of heavy boots stomping through the bottom floor, near the door.
All told, Hammock House has had a total of thirty-one owners during its lifetime. Some stayed less than a year while others proved more hearty. Several years ago a gentleman named Maurice Davis saved the house from destruction while researching his book on the house’s history.
The current owners seem to have no problem with their resident ghosts and enjoy living in a house with such a colorful past. Rooms in the house are furnished to match the history of the house wherever possible, and one wall is even covered in commercially produced images of the house, including an old advertisement in which Sears used the house to sell their exterior paint.
Hammock House is now part of the “Historic Homes” tour of Beaufort, as well as several haunted-walk tours that run every weekend. However, when passing by the house, especially late at night, do not be surprised to hear the sound of the water coming off the bay, howling through the trees like a woman screaming.
See you in two weeks!