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Published October 8, 2013

The Screams of Hollow Oaks: Haunted Woods in the Heart of Cary

Once upon a time, I thought my friend was playing a joke on me. After all, there’s no way his “ghost story” about a drunken night in some woods near Cary Towne Center was true.

It was already past midnight, and we were up late, swapping spooky tales and reminiscing about paranormal investigations we’d taken part in. After all, I loved exploring old graveyards, and chasing down restless spirits with EVP recorders and thermometers, seeking out ghostly voices and cold spots, was a hobby of mine. But I’ll admit that the truth is pretty dull, and usually our ghost hunts are nothing more than fun romps around dark cemeteries.

So when Lee told me about Hollow Oaks, I was skeptical.

Hollow Oaks, he explained, was a strange patch of undeveloped land right behind the sprawling urban growth near the Cary mall.

The woods push right up against I-40 on one side and run into the Wake Med Soccer Park on the other. He questioned why that land hadn’t been developed yet, with so much growth nearby. Then he told me a tale that verged on drunken stupidity, but still peaked my interest.

“Some friends and I were in those woods one night. We were all sitting in a little cove at the bottom of a pretty big ridge.” The ridge he called “Skull Rock,” because once you’ve climbed down it, you can see two gouges that look like eye sockets and a long, toothy grin carved out of the side. “It’s an eerie sight. So we settled near it, drinking and telling ghost stories, when suddenly one of our friends started to seize. He cried out, swearing demons were inside him. He shouted and flailed as we tried to calm him. And in the distance, we heard screams from the woods. Those screams seemed to chase us as we ran out of the woods.”

RELATED: Buried Treasure in Cary: The Ghostly Legend of High House

So the natural skeptic in me is thinking:

  • So you got drunk in some dark woods near a creepy ridge and told ghost stories. Your friend had one drink too many and started to act like a drama queen. Nothing paranormal about that.

But the explorer in me said, “Let’s go there right now!”

So at 2am, we got in the car and drove to Hollow Oaks. Lee led me down a main trail, where shadowy trees spread out on either side of us. I was feeling bold. I’d been in way stranger places than this. Graveyards with a cracked open sarcophagus. Remnants of haunted houses. This was nothing but a leisurely stroll in the woods with the moon up above.

Within two minutes of strolling, I heard the first scream.

It came from deep in the woods on my right side. It was legitimately haunting. You see, when Lee had described the screaming, I had imagined the cliche blood-curdling scream of a woman in a horror movie. Never did I imagine–nor could I have imagined without first hearing this sound–this kind of unearthly, inhuman, chilling scream. It’s not the kind of sound you can describe–only experience.

“Did you hear that?” I asked, non-chalant, so I would not needlessly include him in my eerie delusion if the scream was truly just in my mind.

But without my lending him the word, he knew. “Yes. It’s the screaming.”

Nervously, we kept walking. The scream had stopped, so I felt bold enough to continue.

“Skull Rock is down this path, then we take a right into the woods, walking along the ridgeline.”

The Screams of Hollow Oaks -- Haunted Woods in the Heart of Cary - 1
Orbs and Ectoplasm commonly show up in pictures taken in the woods.

Oh good. The direction of the sounds.

But before we could even get to the small path along the scalp of the skull, I heard a low growl from the woods to my left. It was a soft noise, rumbling angrily. Almost, I thought it was a wild dog of some kind, save the lack of rustling leaves to indicate a solid, corporeal being. Still, I moved away from it. The growl followed us for several meters, never wavering, never growing closer or farther away.

Finally we turned and ventured into the woods. Carefully, we crawled down the face of Skull Rock and into the moonlit clearing below.

“This is where it all happened,” whispered Lee.

I looked up, where the trees parted and the sky became visible. It was brighter here. Less frightening. It felt like a sacred place, not a place where a demon would possess a drunken moron. We stood there a bit, beneath the watch of the skull.

I felt the eeriness wash away, and as we climbed the ridge and began walking back towards the edge of the woods, I was sure I’d imagined all the creepiness.

But as we reached the mouth of the woods, just as I could see civilization right ahead, smiling and welcoming, assuring us that it’d all been our imaginations — the screaming returned. Not just one scream this time. Blast after blast of the unearthly, banshee wails from the same side of the woods. And I did something I’d never done in any paranormal investigation ever, something I’m still embarrassed about: I covered my ears, pulled my hood over my head, and ran right out of those screaming woods.

The tale of Hollow Oaks seems to have some resonance in the community. I ventured back there many times, showing friends the haunting stretch of woods. Among those woods, during one, daytime visit, I found a ghost-themed geocache, where someone had hidden a plastic sword in a tree-stump. Inside the plastic sword I found a small story about ghosts and pirates.

I never again heard the screaming.

But it sounded a lot like this….

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  • heather

    Heather

  • I sincerely believe that through the power of storytelling, I can make social issues become more than a set of statistics. My expertise is in community leadership, non-profit work, event coordinating, networking, and storytelling. All my articles.

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