Monday, 15 October 2018 16:16

Downtown Tour Highlights Rockingham's Historical Hauntings

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Scott Tomestic of Pee Dee Region Paranormal tells a group of tour takers about reported ghost sightings at the Leak-Wall House. Scott Tomestic of Pee Dee Region Paranormal tells a group of tour takers about reported ghost sightings at the Leak-Wall House. William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ROCKINGHAM — The chill in the Friday night air seemed fitting for ghost stories, which were offered by Pee Dee Region Paranormal.

Those stories were more informative than spooky as more than two dozen people were led around downtown listening to accounts of spirit sightings.

Their guide: Scott Tomestic, a member of the paranormal investigation team and descendant of Nicholas Noyes, official minister during the infamous Salem witchcraft trials.

Donning a cape, top hat and dark spectacles, Tomestic told tales of tragic death, murder and apparent apparitions.

The tour began outside of the Watson Building, current home of Hudson Brothers Deli, but original site of Watson-King Funeral Home.

“There is the spirit of a little girl that’s said to reside on the third floor … sounds of a child running and laughing have been heard coming from there,” Tomestic said. “And the little girl’s apparition has been seen at the top of the stairs going up to the third floor.”

Just who the spirit is supposed to be and why she’s there remains unknown, he added. 

The vacant building on the corner of Harrington Square is also said to be haunted, with reported sightings of shadowy figures and two women talking.

Tomestic next led the group to the square and told them about the “theater monkey” at Richmond Community Theatre, a poltergeist that “causes mischief, such as moving objects, and even caused a keyboard to play on its own.”

He said women at the theater have also been touched “by unseen forces” and have had the feeling of being watched by a male presence. One woman was even reportedly pushed in the balcony, he continued.

Tomestic went on to say that several EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) were captured during an investigation, with voices talking about fire and a carriage house. Other claims include the sound of chairs being move on stage and a burning smell in the basement.

He then turned the group’s attention to Harrington Square, the site of public executions until the early 1900s. Tomestic recounted the story of Robert Hildreth, who had to hang himself in 1849 after complaining the rope was too loose.

The tour continued up East Washington Street with stops at the old Bank of Pee Dee building and the Manufacturers Building, as Tomestic talked about the murder of William Ormond by textile tycoon W.B. Cole in 1925.

From there, the group stopped by: the Leak-Wall House, which allegedly has ghosts that don’t like northerners; two homes across from Bennett Deane’s insurance business, where paranormal activity includes the mysterious disappearance of skeleton keys — including one tied to the door — which were later found in a disused butler’s pantry; and the site of two former funeral homes where the owners were charged with misconduct.

Tomestic also said that EVPs featuring the phrase “wrongly done” were captured in the building at the fork of U.S. 1 and Rockingham Road.

The last stop on the tour was the water tower beside the Rockingham Police Department. It was there Tomestic told the story of Henry Harvey.

Harvey, who had come to town to work on the municipal water and sewer system, was convicted of killing one roommate and injuring another in a drunken rage in the summer of 1908.

Prior to his execution, Harvey reportedly said that he wanted to go to Hell for “a special purpose.”

According to the website, three people associated with Harvey’s case died within a few years of his hanging: his attorney, Settle Dockery; Rockingham Post Editor H.C. Dockery; and Sheriff M.L. Hinson.

At the time Rockingham was on a growth track comparable with Charlotte, with a projected population of 20,000 by 1920. The writer speculates that the progressive pause, along with the three deaths, could have been part of Harvey’s “special purpose.” 

Pee Dee Region Paranormal will also be leading the third annual Hamlet Depot Ghost Tour this weekend. For ticket and tour information, call the Depot at 910-582-0603.