GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Not every ghost story searches for an audience.
While ghost stories become widespread local legends, like the story of Lydia’s Bridge or the Lawson family murders, others live only in the whispers of families or coworkers. It’s the dark recesses behind the basement stairs or that first anxious glance you steal across the attic floor as you climb the ladder. In this case, it’s an old storage building that refuses to let go of its past.
Tucked away between the intersections of Burlington Road, Huffine Mill Road and East Bessemer Avenue, this little building in East Greensboro is marked with a crooked number. The peeling paint of the front door serves as the unsettling frame to a small square window that looks inside.
“It looks abandoned,” said Stephen Carlson, community engagement manager with Guilford County Animal Services. “All of the windows are boarded up, and so that’s your first impression when you pull up. ‘Yeah, this is a little sketchy looking.'”
Despite appearances, the building is not abandoned. But perhaps it should be.
Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital
Long before Guilford County Animal Services began using it to store food, kennels and other pet-related odds and ends, it was part of the Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital.
“In 1948, North Carolina had the largest outbreak of polio in the country,” Carlson said.
It’s true. 205 Guilford County residents and 2,516 North Carolinians would get polio that summer, the Greensboro News & Record reports, adding that “no state or county was harder hit than North Carolina and Guilford County.”
The county was desperate, and so the people of Guilford County rallied to try to save the community. After three months of fundraising and construction, the Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital opened its doors.
“It was huge,” Carlson said. “This is just one little remnant. This one wing is the only thing that’s left from that hospital.”
When the polio epidemic came to an end, one dark chapter closed for the building and another opened.
In the 1960s, the building was used as a jail for civil rights protestors
“So a lot of the students from the area colleges and universities were held here at the hospital,” Carlson said. “After that, we don’t know.”
‘I couldn’t explain it.’
Carlson’s story begins as many do.
“I was a skeptic at the beginning until you start hearing peoples’ experiences,” Carlson said. “People that you’re working with, who are rational, calm people, and then they start telling you their stories.
He recounted a story from his boss at the animal shelter.
“My boss had come in here and walked into a room, and the light switch wasn’t on the inside of the door, and she goes, ‘Where are the lights?'” Carlson said. “Boom. Lights popped on.”
He said that, over time, he too began “experiencing stuff.”
“I was in another room up here working, and the door just closes and latches,” Carlson said. “And I did, I checked the vents to see if the AC had come on and maybe moved that door. It wasn’t on, and so that was my first experience going, ‘OK, this is inexplicable.'”
There were other moments when, while he may not have seen the alleged anomaly himself, he was there to see the reaction from his co-workers.
“As she’s looking at me, she glances for a fraction of a second down the end of the hallway and looks back and me and goes, ‘Something just walked across the hallway,'” he said.
And other moments he may be glad he wasn’t there for.
“She’s at the door at the end of the hallway, which has a little square glass window, and at the end of this hallway is another window,” Carlson said. “It’s opaque, so you can just see light coming in, and there was a man at the end of the hallway, and at first she’s just thinking someone’s here, whether it’s another colleague, she didn’t know – and did three knocks to get that person’s attention, and got three knocks back on the other side of the door, and at that point she freaked out.”
While the circumstances weren’t adding up, the stories themselves were.
“We was in the back, and he heard the tapping the footsteps on a tile floor, and so finally he records it on his telephone, and he goes to the assistant director, and he goes, ‘Lisa, listen to what I’m hearing,'” Carlson said. “And they play it and she’s like, ‘Wow, that’s really creepy,’ and then they hear something else, she goes, ‘Wait, turn the volume up.’
“He turns the volume all the way up, and it’s a man’s voice going, ‘Is this reassuring?'”
Tap. Tap. Tap.
In all of these stories, you may find it easy to discount a strange sight as maybe a trick of the lights or a strange sound as the groans of an aging building.
And if that was all it was, you could perhaps file this with all the other basements and attics that may give you a harmless case of the creeps.
It’s harder to discount a physical touch.
“We had a volunteer working in this last room at the end of this hallway, organizing some supplies, and she had three taps on her shoulder, turned around expecting to see one of us and there was no one there, and she made a B-line out of there and said, ‘I’m not coming back,'” Carlson said.
Stranger still, that’s not the only time those three taps have been felt. It’s something Carlson says he had the displeasure of enduring about six months into his tenure.
“I was actually in this area and had a pile of stuff that I was working on and sorting, and right on the back of my neck, I got the three touches,” he said. “As clear as can be. And I knew I was the only person in here, and I did not turn around. I kept on working, and I was calm on the outside, and on the inside I had flashbacks to the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz, going, ‘I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks.’ That’s what I felt internally.”
The last chapter?
Whatever mysteries may be lurking in the shadows of the former Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital, soon they will be lurking alone.
Guilford County Animal Services has a new building, and while Carlson says it’s been a good facility to work from, he doesn’t expect anyone to miss it.
As they pack up their things, they leave behind a few questions they never unearthed the answers to.
“This wing was off by itself, so it’s all the conjecture,” Carlson said. “What was this wing? Why wasn’t it a part of the main hospital where the therapeutics are, where the treatments are? This was off by itself, so we don’t know. Was this a hospice wing?”
And why, after most of the campus was returned to nature, sparing a pillar, a stairwell and walkways to nowhere, this portal into the past was left to last?
No one knows what may come as the next chapter in this building’s history.
“One of my colleagues speculated, he goes, ‘Maybe it doesn’t want to be torn down,'” Carlson said.
All we know is that, for now anyway, the story isn’t over yet.