There’s a house on 734 Royal St. in New Orleans with a very peculiar ghost. She appears as a beautiful golden woman, sitting or walking in the building’s roof top, and apart from a pair of hoop earrings, she’s completely naked.
According to legend, the woman is named Julie, and she was madly in love with the building’s owner, a wealthy businessman by the name of Zachary. Depending on the telling, Julie is either a slave or a well-to-do lady, and is usually described as being of mixed-race, contributing to her golden hue.
The tale goes back to the 1850’s. Julie was in love with Zachary and wanted to be his wife, but to Zachary she was just a plaything, an object for a few moments of fun and nothing more. Their trysts would occur on the building’s third floor, and Julie was forbidden from visiting the lower levels. Zachary would often meet with her secretly on her floor, then return to the lower floor where he’d be having grand parties and or sometimes long chess games with his friends.
Eventually, one December night, Julie lays down an ultimatum, demanding that Zachary marries her. Hoping he can finally get her to drop the subject, he says he’ll only marry her if she strips naked, climbs out of the roof, and stays there all night to prove her love.
Zachary figured the notion was settled, and left downstairs to see to his other guests, but Julie was too determined to back out now. She stripped buck naked, climbed out onto the slanted roof, and spent the night out there, where she sadly died of exposure before the sun came up.
The next winter was the first time her ghost appeared. People reported a slender, naked, golden skinned woman wearing only hoop earrings, huddled up and pacing the roof trying to build up some body heat. Often times people even reported seeing her collapse up there.
Other apparitions associated with Julie include an ethereal chessboard in the third story windows seen on stormy nights, sometimes being played by a man or two. There have also been reports of Zachary being seen through the windows of the building or wandering in the garden below.
Witnesses to Julie’s appearances continue to this day, and local lore says if you write her a note on yellow paper with blue ink about your love problems and leave it next to the house, she may solve it for you.
Featured photoby KEN COOPER from Pexels. 734 Royal St. is a privately owned building today, so please don’t harass the residents about ghost hunting.
The Red Ghost terrorized Arizona during the 1880’s. The first reported appearance is in 1883, when it trampled a woman to death and left traces of red hair stuck to nearby tall grass at the scene. Later, a cowboy tried to rope the beast, but it turned and charged him, killing the man and his mount. A group of miners pursued it along the Verde River. It evaded capture, but shook something loose off of its back, a rotted human skull with dried skin and patches of hair stuck to it.
As sightings continued, the legend grew. Most described it as a great red demon with the devil himself riding on its back. Some witnesses claimed it was 30 feet tall. Other stories said that it had fought and devoured a grizzly, and that it could vanish before your eyes.
The Red Ghost’s reign of terror finally ended when a rancher in Eagle Creek caught it feasting on vegetables in his garden and shot at it, killing it dead. It was then that the Ghost’s true nature was revealed. It was a large camel, with gruesome straps of rawhide criss-crossing and digging into its body. The rawhide straps were apparently used to lash a human body, now in extreme decay, to the camel’s back. But how did such a creature in up in late 19th century Arizona?
For that answer, we have to go back decades, to a pre-Civil War America. In 1853, Secretary of War and future Confederate president, Jefferson Davis got approval from Congress, after much lobbying, to spend $30,000 on the importation of camels and dromedaries for military purposes. This was still decades before the transcontinental railroad, and Davis saw the camels as the key to westward expansion, especially through the arid southwest deserts. By 1857, 75 camels had been imported to America under the plan. Unfortunately, within a decade the initiative would be scrapped and all camels auctioned off.
Despite its epitaph, the program was largely successful. The camels were stationed with a U.S. Army at Camp Verde in Texas. The camels’ primary use was to strengthen current travel routes and poke and prod out new ones west to the Pacific and south to Mexico.
Two dozen of these camels made the famous trek to Fort Tejon outside Los Angeles under the usage of hero of the west Edward Beale. Beale’s troupe made the 1500 mile trek in just three months, a feat considered impossible at the time. The route discovered by Beale’s camel caravan was used to create the Beale Wagon Road, guiding thousands of settlers out west, and parts were adopted to make the Santa Fe Railroad’s contribution to the transcontinental railroad, and eventually Route 66 and Interstate 40.
The camels did have downsides, though. They were renowned for scaring the hell out of the horses, and given half-a-chance would just wander off overnight. Of course, this is all to say nothing of a pack animal that can spit with pinpoint accuracy at any handler it doesn’t agree with.
But the real straw that broke the camel program’s back came as Congress became afraid to pursue further importation of the animals due to pressure placed on them from lobbyists in the mule industry. Though this was plenty, further complications came from the secession of Texas and the South, causing Camp Verde to fall into the hands of the Confederacy. Left to Confederate care, the camels’ security was more lax, and many if them simply wandered off when let loose to graze.
The camel unit quickly scattered throughout the region. Union forces re-captured three of the beasts in Arkansas, but quickly auctioned then off. Some camels made it to Mexico, reportedly. A few found employment in the Confederate Postal Service. One, nicknamed Old Douglas, became the property of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry and was killed during the siege of Vicksburg, an act which so enraged Confederste Colonel Bevier that he tasked six of his best snipers with identifying and killing the Union sharpshooter that gunned Douglas down.
Some escaped camels turned feral and survived in the wilderness, but they never had enough numbers to provide a thriving and lasting sustainable herd. People would have chance encounters with these wild camels from time-to-time, the last report of such coming from the mid-20th century.
The origin of The Red Ghost himself is still something of a mystery. One rumor is that the rider was an Army soldier who was deathly afraid of the camels, so his fellow soldiers tied him to the back so he wouldn’t have to worry about falling off. Unfortunately, the beast took off and the soldiers were unable to keep up pursuit.
This seems a pretty poor explanation under scrutiny, though, because it relies on a soldier being tied on top in such a way that he couldn’t get himself off. It’s hard to image an arrangement under friendly intentions where the rider would not be given means to remove himself from the beast’s back.
Another tale tells of a rider that was too tired to hold onto the beast and decide to tie himself on instead, but again that would leave us a rider that should be able to get himself loose before death set in. A more likely incident might be a screwball episode of frontier justice, or maybe a death sentence created by a particularly creative and sadistic outlaw, either one a situation where an individual would be attached to an animal without means of removing themselves, then the animal set loose with no destination in mind. Whatever the story, the rider’s fate and identity were never discovered. And despite The Red Ghost’s capture and killing, reports of a red camel being ridden by a skeleton persisted for years afterwards.
Today, a bright red scrap metal sculpture of The Red Ghost sits in Quartzside, AZ, where it has been lovingly named Georgette. Old Douglas has a grave in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi, somehow fittingly as it’s Jefferson Davis’s hometown.
Interestingly enough, though, another ghost story has sprung forth from the history of these imported camels. Three camels were purportedly purchased from an Army auction by a prospector by the name of Jake. The soldiers warned Jake that the camels were quite ornery, but Jake took good care of them and never had anything but praise for them and their behavior.
Eventually, Jake hit pay dirt and led his camels into town, laden in gold for the exchange. This caught the attention of a would-be claim jumper named Paul Adams. He heard of Jake’s success and decided to follow him and his camels out of town.
Jake was smart enough to not head directly to his claim, and instead took a long, circular route, so long that he ended up having to camp for the night. Mistaking the temporary camp site for the actual gold claim, Adams snuck in and murdered Jake. Trying to protect his owner, one of the camels attacked Adams, biting him, but eventually getting gunned down as well.
It wasn’t long before Adams realized his mistake, that this wasn’t the claim, and spent the next few days searching the nearby area, vainly trying to locate the real spot. It was on one night of searching that Paul Adams was awoken and saw the ghost of Jake on the back of his camel looking over the murderer. He quickly mounted his horse and fled, but the galloping camel continued the chase, unrelenting until Adams rode into town. Adams was so frightened he confessed all his deeds in exchange for the protection of a sheriff’s jail cell.
In the 1700’s a slight woman and her baby, whom she was never seen without, arrived in the community of Frisco on Hatteras Island, North Carolina. The woman, known as Cora, built a crude hut outside of town in the woods and mostly kept to herself. Her distance, both physically and socially, from the other villagers served as a catalyst for rumors to quickly form and circulate about her possibly bastard child. The Salem Witch Trials still on the mind of the American settlers, it didn’t take long for gossip about Cora to turn towards sorcery and witchcraft.
Stories persisted that a cow she touched dried up and quit producing milk days later. A child that taunted and made faces at her suddenly became ill and died. And Cora always seemed to have an abundance of fish, even as the local fishermen were unable to catch any themselves.
The rumors might have stayed just that were it not for the arrival of the ship Susan G. and her captain, Eli Blood. Hailing from Salem, Massachusetts, Blood considered himself a student of New England tradition, a defender of the people, and, of course, a witch hunter. He immediately set himself to ingratiating himself to the townspeople and working his way in with the local hobnobbers and gossip hounds.
Of course, after hearing of the town’s troubles and of the suspicious Cora outside of town, Blood determined that she had to be the witch responsible for it all. The deal became particularly sealed when the body of a local man was found washed up on shore. His face was frozen in an expression of terror, his hands were clasped together as if he were praying, and the number 666 was carved into his forehead. Most damning of all was a collection of small footprints around the body that headed off into the woods towards Cora’s hut.
This development emboldened Captain Blood. He became sure that Cora was a witch and set out to prove it. He gathered an angry mob and marched to Cora’s hut, smashing their way inside and taking Cora and her baby prisoner. Out to prove her guilt, Blood pulled out his knife and performed the first test. As he suspected, her hair would not cut, announcing, “her hair was stronger than wire rope”. Next, Cora’s hands and feet were bound, but she floated in water regardless. In his final test, Blood filled a ceremonial witch hunter bowl with water, and placed a drop of blood each from himself and three other men into the water. He then, “stirred the water and blood vigorously, mixing it into a froth” and had the other men confirm what he saw in the bowl: the faces of Cora and the devil.
Blood and his men tied Cora and her baby to an old oak tree and began gathering firewood to place around the base. It was about this time that some of the townspeople, led by local captain Thomas Smith began to protest that Cora should be taken to the mainland and tried in a proper court of law.
An argument ensued. Blood tried to light the fire himself, but Smith grabbed his arm, keeping his torch from the pyre. Blood shook loose from Smith’s grasp, determined to burn his witch, when suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree.
As the smoke cleared and the ringing of ears subsided, the people found that Cora and her baby had vanished. The ropes still hung wrapped around the tree and the kindling sat at the base completely untouched. The trunk of the tree had been ripped open by the lightning, leaving a large, smoldering, heart-shaped hole. And where Cora and her baby had been tied to the tree were left letters burnt into the wood: C-O-R-A.
The Cora Tree still exists even to this day, and the word CORA is still visible on the trunk of the great tree. The tree stands on Hatteras Island in the middle of Snug Harbor Drive in Frisco, quite literally as the road splits in two to go around it on either side.
Regarding the tree itself, it has been attributed as being both a Southern Live Oak and a Water Oak. Southern Live Oaks generally reach maturity around 70 years old, and so long as a carving on the tree is done after maturity the carving will remain for the tree’s lifespan. There are examples of Southern Live Oaks in America over 900 years old,. Water Oaks, on the other hand generally only live 100-150 years, and usually start to decay before the century mark. No known core sample has ever been taken of the tree, but in 2009 LG Research reportedly estimated the Cora Tree at around 500 years old based on its circumference.
Interestingly, the CORA carving has a lot of similarities to the CRO carving on Roanoke Island and the CROATOAN carving from Fort Raleigh. All three carvings sit about 5 feet off the ground, all are about 4 inches tall, and all share a similar lettering design. Also, artifacts discovered near Frisco matched artifacts in the other locations, suggesting the items were even cast from the same die.
Neither the captains nor the Susan G. show up in any historical record, and the name Cora wasn’t common in America until the mid-1800’s, after the publishing of The Last of The Mohicans. Kora-with-a-K was a common name in 1700’s Germany, so the prospect of Cora being an immigrant, unfamiliar with the common language if the nearby village would easily explain much of her behavior.
In fact, the details of the event change wildly depending on the attitude of the storyteller. Those looking to condemn Cora tend to embellish the witchy aspects of the story. It’s not uncommon for the story to mention the baby transforming into a black, green-eyed car and running away into the woods before the lightning strike.
Retellings by more sympathetic orators tend to make note of Blood having a boastful and egotistical personality, and the suspiciousness of his crew as they stayed away from town and placed themselves in positions to help sell the more sordid details of Blood’s story. It’s also of note that this North Carolinian tale has the hot-headed Massachusetts man be the one thirsty for blood while the cooler-headed, hospitality focused Southerners were trying to push for civility and proper legal procedure.
Whatever the case, the tree still exists, and the CORA carving is visible to this day, even in photographs, a living reminder that mystery and wonder still exist in our world.
The Phantom Trapper is a ghost seen in the Labrador area of Canada, whose presence is often said to herald the arrival of a large storm.
The person most commonly accredited to being The Phantom Trapper was a man named Esau Gillingham. He was a Newfoundlander who would regularly cross the Straits of Belle Isle into Labrador to trap. Depending on who tells the tale, there’s two slants on the story that are usually told.
The first is that trapping never made Esau the kind of money he wanted, so he ended up setting an illegal still up in the tall spruces. This swill was a foul but effective alcohol made from pine cones, sugar, and yeast, and he called it ‘smoke’, earning him the nickname ‘Smoker’.
The other version of the tale is that he actually brought back very fine, valuable furs whenever he returned, which was kind of fortunate since in this version he was a horrible, raging, hot-headed, woman-attacking asshole. The money he and his skins brought into town were the only thing that would convince the townspeople to put up with him for a short time. But eventually his drunken and ornery side would become too much, and he would wear out his welcome and get kicked out of town until the next time he had a load of furs. He still makes and sells smoke in this version, but it ends up more a feather in his ne’er-do-well hat rather than being a key part of his origin story. In some tellings, he continued selling smoke even though he was well aware that it was poisonous.
Whichever the version we prefer, eventually the Mounties found Smoker’s still, smashed his kegs, and hauled him off to jail in St. John’s for a year. But that time in the cooler just gave Smoker the time he needed to plan the next stage of his evolution.
After being released, he went around begging or stealing every white husky he could in the area, building a new team of dogs–some say a team of 8 while others say as many as 14. He then made himself a suit exclusively of white animal skins, and after restarting his distilling business, painted his komatik and kegs white as well.
Now decked all in white, Smoker began selling his contraband booze again. RCMP tried several times to shut him down again, but his new white camouflaged outfit made it impossible to track him for long in the snow.
There’s several tales about how Smoker met his end. Some say he harassed the wrong innkeeper’s wife and got gunned down by her husband. Some say he got lost while out in the wilderness or maybe got caught in a vicious storm.
My version is that it was his own smoke did him in at the end. While soused on his own drink, Smoke fell off of a fish flake and broke his back. He lay, on the frozen ground, suffering and unable to move for three days. Sensing his time was drawing to a close, and having a pretty good idea what was waiting for him in the great hereafter, he shouted out, “Lord God, don’t send me to Hell! Let me drive my dogs till the end of time, and I’ll make up for all the bad I’ve done!”
Eventually Smoker’s body was found and brought back tp Newfoundland to be buried, but he would not find peace in the grave. Legend tells that even today the howl of the Labrador wind is sometimes joined by the sound of a dog team running through the night.
Some hear them passing by in the snow, while others have heard their traces slapping against the outside of their cabin. Occasionally a person might catch a glimpse of an all white dog team being driven by a figure in white furs on a white komatik, but they never leave tracks in the snow or stop on their eternal run.
Stories tell of a Labrador man who got lost in a blizzard while driving his dog team, and became desperate to find shelter. As he drove on, he was passed by a team of all white dogs piloted by a man in white furs. Sensing this was his best opportunity, he followed the team.
A half-hour later, the lost man and the white driver came upon a fishing village, and hearing the dogs a fisherman stood in the doorway of his hut to see who was approaching. The white driver continued on past with his team, but the lost driver slowed to a stop, thrilled to find shelter, and called out, “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome!” called out the fisherman. “Come in a get warm!” The lost man thanked the fisherman, but corrected him that he was calling out to the other driver. The fisherman just looked at him strangely, and said that he never saw or heard another driver.
Another story involved a man on foot who got caught in a blizzard and had nearly froze to death by the time the Phantom Trapper found him. The trapper easily picked the man up and set him on his sled, covering him with warm skins, and drove towards the nearest inn. Upon arrival, the trapper again easily picked up and carried the man inside, sitting him on a chair next to the fire. The trapper turned to the innkeeper, told him to take care of the half-dead man, and promptly disappeared into thin air.
Hero, villain, or antihero, the Phantom Trapper, or sometimes Damned Trapper, is a proud piece of local folklore. He was fictionalized in the 1972 novel White Eskimo: a Novel of Labrador, and is a respected entity in the local folklore.
We thought it might be a fun idea to write out some of the stories that we tell on the podcast. After all, it can be hard to retell a story solely from listening to it, especially after it’s been buffeted on all sides by profanity and inside jokes.
So, starting this week, we’ll be sharing written versions of our tales here on the website, about once or twice a week. Hope you all enjoy it!