Suburban Legends: Building Over Raleigh’s Ghost Stories
I‘m sure every neighborhood has its own ghost story. That’s just what kids do. I wonder how many unassuming neighborhoods around Raleigh have haunted legends I’ll never hear, because the only people who know the stories are the kids who make them up during all-night slumber parties, whispering to shivering friends in the dark, long after parents told them to sleep.
Decades ago, my neighborhood Fairfax Hills had a stretch of wooded property at the end of Ivy Lane known as the Dead End Creek. In summer we’d ride bicycles down to the creek with the rest of our middle-school crew. The large patch of woods spanned all the way to the violently busy Millbrook Road; while exploring, we’d often hear the roar of cars in the distance. The creek itself was deep, with large smooth rocks for climbing.
It was our very own version of the Upside Down, the farthest reaches of our childhood adventures.
There was even a creepy abandoned shack. With grizzly broken windows and a collapsing roof, it was dangerous to go inside. The door had twisted off its hinges, and through the opening we could see decrepit furniture, a carpet of trash, and graffiti-smeared walls waiting within.
Skulls and abandoned refrigerators
The oddest element was the old refrigerator laying down amidst a bedding of garbage and cracked beer bottles.
We often dared each other to open the fridge. Edward, the oldest of our scooby group, bragged he’d opened it once. What was inside? “A human skeleton,” he said with a hint of a grin. None of us believed him, but none of us were brave enough to prove him wrong.
Once, when we were at the creek hunting salamanders and crawdads on a sticky summer day, I discovered a small white skull on the ground. It was most likely a cat, but it still seemed to be evidence of Edward’s story about the skeleton. The skull was picked clean, pale white, and I took it home. Edward told me the Machete Man killed it.
The ghost in the cabin
The abandoned cabin, animal skulls, and tipped refrigerator all gave rise to children’s tales. Edward always made up stories to scare the younger ones in the group. He said that a ghost lived in the abandoned cabin at the Dead End Creek. He called the ghost “The Machete Man.” The skeleton in the fridge was one of his victims.
On cool summer evenings we’d catch fireflies until after dark. Sometimes the air would suddenly grow cold, and we swore we heard the rattling of metal and chains echoing down Ivy Lane — coming from the cabin in the creek. Edward whispered that the clanging was the rattling of his machete blade in its scabbard. Whenever we heard the clanging, it meant he had left the cabin wand was walking down Ivy Lane. We’d shriek and run to our porches to hide.
The Real Ghosts of Raleigh
I remember when they bulldozed the creek to connect Ivy Lane to Millbrook Road. I was excited for the convenient new exit, but so sad to see my childhood stomping grounds trampled beneath yellow bulldozers. Soon, beautiful new houses started to pop up.
I wonder if they realize their homes are built on top of a ghost story.
I wonder whether or not the kids today still talk about the Machete Man, and whether or not they hear him clanging around their backyards at night.
I still drive down Ivy Lane regularly, usually after visiting my Grandmother’s house. I drive right over where the Machete Man once gave my childhood a sense of adventure, and for a moment I wonder what really was inside that old refrigerator. I guess even ghosts have to die sometime, buried by developers and yellow machines. May they rest in peace.