DEAR MR. MYERS: I am a big fan of the “American Horror Story” TV series on the FX network. This year the episodes are based on something called “The Lost Colony” in Roanoke, N.C. What’s the real story behind this supposed colony? Is it haunted?
ANSWER: The so-called Lost Colony remains one of the greatest mysteries in U.S. history. Halloween is here, so I’m devoting this entire column to answering questions about haunted places – or, at least, homes and other spots that some believe to be haunted.
The story of the Lost Colony, originally called Roanoke Colony, began in 1587. That’s when Englishman John White led a group of about 115 men, women and children to Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina in an attempt to establish the British Crown’s first permanent colony in the New World.
White left the settlers behind when he set sail back to England, promising to return soon with fresh supplies.
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His return to Roanoke, though, was delayed by fierce battles with Spain’s famed naval Armada and other problems. When he and his crew finally made it back to Roanoke in August 1590, they found the colony looted and abandoned – and there was no trace of the settlers. The only two clues to explain their disappearance were the word “Croatoan” carved on a post and the letters “CRO” scratched onto a tree trunk.
The Croatoans were a Native American tribe that lived on a neighboring island, and some say those two scant clues may suggest that the settlers were attacked and completely wiped out by the Indians. Others think the colonists may have been slaughtered by hostile Spaniards who may have come north from their own settlements in Florida.
Either way, though, White found only a single skeleton and no mass grave. That has led some historians to believe that the settlers may have split up and assimilated with surrounding Native American tribes, or perhaps even tried to sail back to England themselves when supplies ran out, but instead died at sea.
Oddly, the most fascinating paranormal story from Roanoke involves not human images, but rather a pure white deer. Legend has it that the ghostly deer is the spirit of John White’s granddaughter, Virginia Dare.
Virginia has been documented as the first child born to English parents in America. As she grew older, some say, she got into a nasty dispute with a Native American witch doctor. The witch supposedly cursed her to become a deer after her death and forever roam the woods of Roanoke Island.
The spectral deer has been spotted by residents and visitors over hundreds of years, but has never been captured.
REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: A Gallup Poll conducted a few years ago found that 37 percent of Americans believe that a home can be haunted, compared to the 36 percent who believe that global warming is real.
DEAR MR. MYERS: Is it true that the site where Bonnie and Clyde were shot by police is haunted?
ANSWER: Some swear that it is.
The site is basically a small, barren highway turnout near the location of the infamous gangsters’ former hideout in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. That’s where police ended the Barrows’ bloody two-year crime spree in 1934 by riddling the stolen car they were driving with more than 130 steel-jacketed bullets.
The site today has only a tall, weather-worn stone marker. Visitors have reported seeing odd mists swirling around the marker, or even lights that suddenly appear and then vanish just as quickly. Some have even caught these oddities on camera.
Some also claimed they’ve heard volleys of gunshots and even seen mysterious muzzle flashes at the site at midnight when there’s a full moon in the sky. That would be unusual indeed, in part because the pair was ambushed on a sunny day.
DEAR MR. MYERS: Is the house that was the setting for “The Amityville Horror” movie still standing?
ANSWER: Yes, the three-story Dutch Colonial is still standing in the village of Amityville in the southern part of New York’s Long Island.
The Amityville House, of course, is known as the home where 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. went on his renowned killing spree in 1974 after claiming he was urged to commit the murders of his six family members by disembodied voices.
The really strange stuff, though, supposedly happened when the next owners moved in. They fled the property just 28 days later, after reporting startling paranormal activities that included beatings by unseen hands, walls that inexplicitly oozed with green slime, and occasional visits from a demon-like pig that could grow as large as the house itself.
The resulting movie about their alleged ordeal was released in 1979, and still is considered one of the scariest motion pictures in history.
Subsequent owners have remodeled the property several times over the years, so it looks little like it did when the murders and alleged hauntings occurred in the 1970s. None of those owners have reported any major events that experts would consider paranormal in nature.
David W. Myers’ column is distributed by Cowles Syndicate Inc.