In the heart of northeast North Carolina lies the Tar River. Eventually becoming the larger Pamlico River, the name was given to Tar River as a result of the tar laden barges that traveled out to sea down its long expanses of water. Tarboro City is a popular city on the banks of the Tar River, one with a rich history of plundering and patriots. Similarly, nearby, the village of Old Sparta supported the area as an important river port. Visitors travel from all over the country to enjoy camping, hiking and fishing at the river. Many enjoy learning about the dark past of the river and imagining the dreary fate of the soldiers who suffered as a result of Tar River’s greatest treasure.
United States history is rich with stories from the Civil War era. North Carolina is home to some large historical sites of the times. Men on both sides fought bravely for their state pride, each side fighting to defend their home and way of life. One of the biggest issues of the Civil War revolved around soldiers fighting over issues of slavery and placement of black people on even footing with the white. During the Civil War, confederates traveled up and down the expanses of the Tar River to destroy cotton and naval stores to prevent them from falling into the hands of union soldiers.
Some of the unexplained occurrences that still happen in the area are credited to the treatment of union soldiers captured by confederate men. Stories unfold that union soldiers were forced to take baths in the depths of the Tar River. On its face that treatment may not sound so bad. Unfortunately, when the confederate soldiers raided supplies to keep them from the union, they commonly burned them. The tar supply was too immense and dangerous to burn, so it was dumped in the Tar River. When the soldiers entered the waters, their feet dredged up the tar resting on the bottom. When they emerged, they were covered in thick black tar. Many met their end as a result of the tar baths.
Others claim the events stem from the Revolutionary War when Dave Warner settled in the area, opening a mill in August of 1871. He and his family lived there successfully until the time of the war. His home and mill were raided by British soldiers. Warner was attacked as a result of his patriotism and brought to the end of the river. Before the soldiers drowned him, Warner warned that he would avenge his death. Thinking nothing of it, the soldiers did take his life that day. Stories circulate in the area that at the very time Warner took his last breath, a misty cloud emerged from the depths of the water and the shape of a woman with a veil quickly took shape.
The woman is known as the Tar River Banshee and is said to have been sent to avenge the death of Dave Warner. Not heeding his threats, the soldiers quickly backed away from the shores of the Tar River, but not before the banshee fully appeared and violently killed the British soldiers. Some say she remains at the river as a messenger of death. She is known for her earth shattering wailing and shrieking.
A more recent death is cited for some of the troubles as a prank gone wrong ended in a man being thrown off a bridge over Tar River. Some have seen him walking before taking a ghostly tumble. Despite the cause of the complaints, one thing is for certain- something dreadful resides at Tar River. Campers and hikers commonly report images similar to those described in stories of the banshee. Others claim that their car doors have opened and closed on their own, along with unexplained activity with electronics and headlights.
Other common complaints are chills, feeling hair rising on end in certain areas, and feelings of dread or terror that are unexplained. Many deaths occur in Tar River, causing many residents to warn visitors to stay away from the waters, or at the very least to exercise caution in the area. Whether its ghostly or just bad luck, many have fallen victim to Tar River as they are tangled in logs or brush and pulled under the current.