(CIRCA Magazine – a travel column from the Wake Forest Historical Museum)
North Main Street on Halloween night is a ghostly, glittery strobe-lit extravaganza—and a local tradition. With cobwebs fluffed and jack-o-lanterns ablaze, the Historic District puts on a show worthy of Walt Disney. Maybe that’s why it attracts the happy sneakered feet of so many little superheroes, villains, and princesses, who (along with their parents) have made trick-or-treating this half mile stretch quite possibly the largest unofficial family-friendly Halloween celebration in the Triangle.
Thanks to the holiday’s exploding popularity, what past generations recall as a normal door-to-door has evolved into a veritable block party, with decorations and sugar consumption unapologetically attaining what can only be termed “you can’t be serious” proportions. This October, as the street prepares to welcome approximately 1,200 trick-or-treaters, the 30 or so participating homeowners will dig deep into their individual bank accounts to purchase an estimated 36,000 pieces of candy. That’s roughly 1,500 pounds—or more than half a ton. But who’s counting? The important thing to remember is it all happens on Halloween night—no postponements or rain delays—between the hours of 5-8pm.
But lest you think it’s all about the sweets, there’s another reason North Main Street gets so much Halloween love. As the town’s oldest residential district, it’s the perfect setting for ghoulish chills and thrills. You could say that Wake Forest’s equivalent of “the funk of 40,000 years” is all right here. With homes dating back to the 1830s, the street’s looming trees and cracked sidewalks bring their own brand of creepiness to All Hallow’s Eve. In fact, several houses come with their very own haunts.
On the east side of the 300 block, the Lanneau-Newhouse House reportedly served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War. Ghosts? It has many. A previous owner reported noticing a strong, perfumed smell that occasionally permeated the downstairs. Deciding one day to investigate, he followed the scent to the basement where he found two women. Upon seeing him, they instantly disappeared. A stone’s throw to the north, an apparition in a heavy winter cape, like those worn by Civil War soldiers, has twice appeared on the grounds of the historic Calvin Jones House. After heading for the railroad tracks at the property’s rear, he has walked into the trees and vanished without a trace. And along the edge of the Mill Village, in what’s currently the Powell-Autry House, past families have reported a friendly spirit who sits by children’s bedsides to offer comfort if they awake during the night.
These sightings and others will be the subject of a forum hosted by the Wake Forest Historical Association on Sunday, October 26th from 3-5pm in the lobby of the Wake Forest Historical Museum at 414 North Main Street. Local storyteller Ryan Keith will explore the town’s ghost stories, mysteries, and unexplained phenomena. Both the forum and trick-or-treat event are free and open to the public.
Because there’s no better way to get closely acquainted with town history and local spirits than a Historic District Halloween!