The lady in Black
The Lady in Black glides up and down the stairs of the Sandford House and could be the apparition of Mrs. Margaret Halliday Sandford who lived in the house in 1832. Mrs. Sandford's apparition was reported for the first time soon after 1900 and has appeared as recently as 2004 to a Woman's Club trustee and possibly more recently to a club member in the summer of 2008.
Upon our secretary's first visit to the Sandford House in 2008, she walked through the back door by the stairs and stepped into the foyer by the staircase. From the corner of her eye, she thought she saw someone motion to her from the stairs. When she looked upward, there was no one on the stairs.
She was so certain she had seen someone that she moved to the foot of the stairs to look onto the landing. No one was there, and there was a velvet rope crossing the stairwell to limit access to the upper floor.
She thought nothing else of it until later during a conversation about the history of The Sandford House. A club member mentioned the name "Slocumb" in passing, and it jarred her memory of a story she had recently read in "Tar Heel Ghosts" by John Harden. She ventured to ask about any "haunted history" and was rewarded with confirmation that The Sandford House was indeed the same home as "The Slocumb House" related in Harden's book.
Did she see The Lady in Black that day?
In another account, Nancy Roberts, author of "Ghosts from the Coast," relates the story told by Dr. John Allen McLean, a Presbyterian minister.
"Dr. McLean was standing alone in the center hall, or reception room as it was then called, debating a drastic career change. Should he continue his practice of law or enter the ministry? As he stood deep in thought, he glanced up and was surprised to see a beautiful young girl descending the stairs.
"Assuming that she was one of the guests he had not met, he watched her reach the last step and survey the room as if searching for someone. Then, with an expression of sadness on her face, she turned and went slowly back up to the landing. There she paused and once more looked out over the room below.
"Then, as he stared, the edges of the girl grew dim and within seconds she had vanished. For the first time he realized he had not been watching a live young woman but an apparition!"
A possibly different ghost touches the shoulders of people visiting the basement. This haunting lady could be a Civil War soldier's forlorn lover awaiting his return through the tunnel under the house. The tunnel has been covered for years (first by a vault and then a thick wall).
Legend has it that the tunnel once led to the banks of the Cape Fear River. When Sherman's Army overran the city, a Confederate soldier said a hasty farewell to his lover and escaped through the tunnel to join his comrades fiercely protecting the bridge crossing the Cape Fear River.
Unfortunately, the young soldier never returned and his lover's spirit remains in the basement, hopeful to find him there. Perhaps that is why she gently touches our shoulders - when we turn, she sadly realizes we are not whom she was hoping for.