As charming as downtown Waxhaw is, visitors may not realize it is rich with ghost stories.
Waxhaw native Cecelia Neal loves to share the tales every year when she conducts a ghost walk on the Saturday night before Halloween. The stories are based on historical events, interviews she’s had with Waxhaw residents, and her own experiences.
“I tell all those stories on the walk,” she said. “I tell them all. I give names. I don’t pull any punches.”
Neal, 58, operated Main Street Florist in downtown Waxhaw for many years. She was a theater major in college and she uses that background to hook listeners as she recounts local stories.
She’s been conducting the hour-long walks in Waxhaw’s downtown for more than 10 years. The tours are free, but she encourages those attending to make a donation to fight multiple sclerosis, a disease which forced her into a nursing home almost three years ago.
She gives the tour from her motorized wheelchair, and says it is one of her favorite things to do.
“I am so committed to doing this. I have to pay to get transportation to Waxhaw,” she said. “I need my chair… so I get special transportation… But that’s how committed I am to doing this walk…
“I really enjoy it. I think everybody enjoys it. They’re shocked. They laugh. There’s a range of emotions they go through…And then we get to the most horrid place in town, a little corner that’s more haunted than anywhere…But I’ll only tell that during my walk. I’m not going to give my secrets out.”
She did share one story, though. It’s about a man who was boiled to his bones, she said.
He was a hobo who had apparently come to Waxhaw by train in the early 1900s, she said. Residents later discovered his dead body, but no one knew who he was.
Neal’s mother, Alice Neal, grew up in Waxhaw and served as a town commissioner. Neal’s father, Wylie Neal, also served as a town commissioner and was well-known for his storytelling.
Neal’s first exposure to ghost stories came at the Waxhaw home built by her great-grandfather, George S. Tyson. The house, at 604 Old Providence Road, is now home to a law firm and other offices. But she said, while she and her family lived there, it was active with ghosts.
“My grandparents lived there and I ended up living there,” she said.
There were inexplicable noises and voices, she said. “And things would move. We wouldn’t see it move. We would turn our heads and it would be somewhere else.”
She recommends that only adults go on the walk because some of the stories may be too violent or disturbing for children. Older teens may enjoy it, but they may also get bored by the Waxhaw history she inserts into her stories, she said.
She said that no one needs to be afraid of ghostly encounters on the walk.
Neal said she wants to write a book so these Waxhaw stories won’t be lost when she’s no longer able to share them. But her MS prevents her from doing it alone, so she needs help from a ghost writer. No pun intended.