Rivers Ghost Tales Reviewed by The Sylva Herald


Rivers ghost talesby Maggie Tobias | July 29, 2010
An excerpt:

A review of Micheal Rivers ghost tales book, Ghosts of the North Carolina Shores. At first you can’t sleep. You hear strange noises at night. Invisible hands move boxes and books. It makes you wonder if you’ve lost your mind. One day the face of a long-dead friend looms over your shoulder in a mirror, but when you turn around – no one’s there. This is the stuff of classic ghost stories, and also the subject of local author Micheal Rivers’ new book, “Ghosts of the North Carolina Shores.”

Rivers will read from his new book and sign copies at City Lights Bookstore on Saturday, July 31, at 7 p.m.

Ghosts” is less of an anthology of “ghost stories” than it is a history of North Carolina ghosts, Rivers said.“ I can back up everything that’s in all of the stories,” Rivers said. “I have witnesses and everything.”Rivers ghost tales

He wrote the collection of stories using research from 30 years spent investigating paranormal events, a journey that took him all over the world.

The hauntings he writes about come in the form of Confederate soldiers, weeping grey women and invisible forms that tug at clothing and chill the blood; and they take place in cemeteries, light houses, dance halls, steel mills and other locations throughout coastal North Carolina.

It’s seems fitting that Rivers’ first ghost story anthology takes place in eastern North Carolina where he grew up. Rivers was raised in Ahoskie in a restless house that seemed to have a mind of its own. Doors would unlock themselves and swing wide open; invisible footsteps echoed on the stairs; and the inhabitants of the house never turned off the lights in a room until they were almost out of it. In the dark, you could tell you weren’t alone. “You knew there was someone up there besides you,” Rivers said. “It was like wearing two coats; it was an ominous feeling.” A ghostly cat; his dead grandmother appearing “almost as solid as you or I are”; and a bed that rocked him to sleep on several occasions were other unexplained mysteries in Rivers’ childhood home.

Since then, Rivers has been intrigued by the real ghost stories. “A ‘ghost story,’ I don’t care anything about,” Rivers said. “But when you have actual evidence of the paranormal – that’s very intriguing.” Take, for example, an especially chilling story Rivers recounts of an abusive husband in Gates County. Folks in the county could only take so much of the man’s drinking, violence and theft before they revolted, and the sheriffs and Ku Klux Klan attacked his house and wounded him in a bloody shootout. As he fled the angry mob, the man left bloody spatters on the windows and a red streak across the floor and up the chimney where the town folk finally caught him and finished him off. Rivers writes that even to this day, the blood spatters can’t be cleaned. Replace the window – the blood will come back. “Shortly afterwards, my mother’s mother was hired to clean the house,” Rivers said. “And they never did get rid of the blood.”

“Money in a Jar,” a story that takes place in Bertie County, is one of Rivers’ favorites. The Depression-era story, involving a farmer and his wife, began fittingly on a dark and stormy night. The farmer’s wife, Bess Wynn, looked through the rain-stroked window pane to see a strange figure by a tree outside their farmhouse. Despite the torrential rain, the figure dug diligently in the ground with a large shovel. Charley Wynn laughed at his wife’s story at first, but he was the next one to see the apparition, which disappeared so suddenly that it couldn’t possibly be human. His farmer friends told him to dig beneath the tree; you never know what you might find if you dig after a ghost, they said. Charley did as they said and found a canning jar stuffed full of money, enough to pull him out of debt so he and his wife could live comfortably to the end of their days. When he visited Bertie County, Rivers said he saw the actual jar that had held the money. “I had a lot of people tell me that it was not just a story,” Rivers said.

There are no monsters, gory attacks or “oceans of blood” in his stories, Rivers said. “I try to stay as close to what could actually happen as possible,” Rivers said.

Before he started writing, Rivers studied at schools in Chicago and North Carolina. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam. After joining a writing group in Chicago in the mid-1990s, Rivers met an “extremely famous” author whom he won’t name, although he said it’s not Dan Brown or Dr. Seuss. The author read Rivers’ first novel, “Voyage of the Black Ship.” “He asked why I’d never tried to get it published before. I said, ‘Well, I didn’t think I was any good,’ ” Rivers said. “He said, ‘Well, you’re wrong.’ ” From there, Rivers’ writing career took off

He now has a contract with Schiffer Publishing Limited. He said he’s influenced by the “old masters” of horror and suspense, like Edgar Allen Poe. “They had a style and uniqueness of their own that has a way of holding you. They had a way of touching you psychologically,” Rivers said. “They knew things that would make people tick.”

Now he lives in Whittier with his wife. “Here in the mountains is where I feel at home,” Rivers said. “This feels more like home to me than the coast does.” He said it’s hard combining a full-time day job with a night shift of writing when he comes home. Sometimes he’s up until two in the morning working on his stories, he said. In addition to the time spent writing, putting together a book takes other kinds of work, like going to the haunting sites and making sure they’re legitimate. “You’ve got to make sure all your research is right,” Rivers said. “It’s a lot more work than the average person thinks.”

After writing the coastal N.C. anthology, Rivers is working on a “mind-bender” of a novel called “Scratch” and another book of real-life ghost stories; this batch of stories is from Jackson County. “They’re hauntings that have been kept extremely quiet,” Rivers said. “There will be some stuff from the Cherokee reservation; it’ll be pretty wild.” There’s one Jackson County haunt he said he’s particularly fond of – a house near Wal-Mart on N.C. 107 where the air in the house is infused with a mysterious scent of cigarette smoke, even though none of the inhabitants are tobacco-users. “One of the children has seen an apparition a number of times,” Rivers said. “He’s too young to lie about it.”

Besides being a published author, Rivers is also chief investigator of the Smokey Mountain Ghost Trackers, a team he founded in 2009 with the help of his wife and several friends. Rivers said he gets excited in the presence of ghosts. After being a U.S. Marine, there’s not much that scares him. If you suspect a haunting, Rivers said his team will be more than happy to investigate. “We don’t charge anything, and your privacy is guaranteed,” Rivers said. “We’ll go just about anywhere.”

Next month the Trackers are hunting in Chicago, and they’ve scheduled a second visit to the Trans-Alleghany Asylum in West Virginia on Aug. 7. You can see pictures from the first visit to the asylum at the ghost trackers’ Facebook page.

For more information, if you’d like to tag along on a hunt or if you suspect a haunting in your own home, contact the ghost trackers. The Asylum trip is booked, but the Trackers hunt frequently, and Rivers said Jackson County is full of ghosts. You may have one in your own home. But how do you tell if your house has been touched by the paranormal and you need the Trackers’ services? It might be best to use Rivers’ words from the foreword of “Ghosts.”

Deep within the dark of night, when the moon shines dully upon your window and you stare into infinity, you may find a shadow next to you. As you begin to shiver beneath your blankets from the cold and watch the shadow draw ever closer to your bedside, close your eyes tightly and try to convince yourself it is not real ... then comes the icy touch and the whispers of the voice from beyond the grave.

Stop by Micheal's store to check out his supernatural thrillers.

“Be the host to your ghost"

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