Gov. Bob Scott probably expected some sleepless nights when he moved into the Governor’s Mansion in 1969, but the “eerie sounds” that haunted the residence might have taken him by surprise. From this 1970 story, N&O readers learned the governor’s theory about the source of those sounds.
The governor, who stresses that neither he nor Mrs. Scott believes in ghosts, has determined that the nightly sounds do not come from water pipes or the five Scott children or taxpayers at the front door.
His Excellency implies that the racket doesn’t even come from his adversaries in the Republican Party.
Scott associates the sounds with Gov. Daniel G. Fowle, the first Tar Heel governor to live in the Victorian mansion on Blount Street and the only governor to die there.
Fowle, a Democrat who was elected in 1888, died at the mansion on April 7, 1891.
In an article written for “North Carolina Folklore,” Scott notes:
“There’s a knock at the mansion and it isn’t at the front door. It’s not the water pipes, either. While I don’t believe in ghosts, someone speculated that it just might be Governor Fowle on the prowl.”
After sleeping uncomfortably for a year in a bed specially built for Gov. Fowle, Gov. Scott reported he and Mrs. Scott ordered a new and longer bed.
The Fowle bed was stored in the attic at the mansion.
Then the noises began.
“One evening, Mrs. Scott and I were in the bedroom reading,” Gov. Scott writes, “and we heard this strange knocking. It seemed to be coming from the wall near where the headboard of Gov. Fowle’s bed had stood. The knocking had a rather unusual cadence, like bouncing tennis balls from a high distance.
“After the first knock, there was a pause of several seconds. Then there was a second knock and a pause, then the third knock. Finally the pauses at the end were almost negligible.”
Scott reiterates, “We, of course, do not believe in ghosts. However the knocking does occur, and it is usually about the same time every night.”
Until some scientific explanation is offered the Scotts have dubbed the noises the “Governor Fowle Ghost.”
“We assume it is the ghost of Governor Fowle requesting that the bed in which he died be replaced in the room.” The N&O Sept. 25, 1970
Evidently, the governor and the ghost were determined to wait each other out, according to “Haunted North Carolina: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Tar Heel State” by Patty A. Wilson.
“Scott refused to bow to the ghost’s demands, taking the whole thing in stride. He seemed to find the noisy spirit amusing.
“The next governor requested that Fowle’s bed be placed back in the Executive Bedroom. ... It is said with the return of his beloved bed, Governor Fowle seemed satisfied and allowed the new governor to rest peacefully. No governor since Scott has been bold enough to move the bed again.”
Well, there was one time. The following item in Under the Dome in 1993 noted that then-Gov. Jim Hunt reported a similar experience, although there was some skepticism about the veracity of his story.
Hunt recounted his ghost story on a Durham radio show Thursday morning, which happened to be the traditional truth-stretching first day of April.
“We have a ghost in the governor’s mansion,” Hunt told the disc jockey. “It’s the ghost of a previous governor who died in his bed. And I sleep in that bed.”
Asked whether he had seen the ghost, Hunt replied: “No, but I’ve heard him. I’m trying to establish contact with this ghost. I haven’t done that yet.” The N&O Apr. 3, 1993
Read more stories from local and state history and send us your own stories on the blog Past Times, newsobserver.com/pasttimes.