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‘Of course Mom puts the dead guy’s bed in my room.’ Is NC governor’s mansion haunted?

Then-Gov. Pat McCrory shows the "coffin" of Gov. Daniel Fowle during a Halloween event at the governor's mansion.
Then-Gov. Pat McCrory shows the "coffin" of Gov. Daniel Fowle during a Halloween event at the governor's mansion. N.C. Governor’s Office

The bed at the center of a decades-old ghost story has returned to the North Carolina governor’s mansion under Gov. Roy Cooper.

Gov. Daniel Fowle was the mansion’s first resident and had an extra-large bed specially made, but he died in office in 1891. The bed stayed in the mansion until Gov. Bob Scott, who was elected in 1968, had it moved to storage because he wanted a more comfortable bed. Shortly after the bed was moved, Scott woke up nightly to a strange knocking sound from inside the wall behind where the headboard had stood.

“We assume that it is the ghost of Gov. Fowle, requesting that the bed in which he died be replaced in the room,” Scott said in the 1980 book “North Carolina Legends.”

Cooper and First Lady Kristin Cooper picked the bed out from a state storage warehouse earlier this year after they moved into the mansion. When they moved in, the second-floor bedroom had twin beds, and First Daughter Hilary Cooper wanted a larger one for the room she occasionally stays in, her mom said.

The Executive Mansion’s Facebook page noted the significance with a post that said “we hope that the recent restoration of Governor Fowle’s bed to the Executive Mansion will bring his spirit peace.” That prompted Hilary Cooper to joke on Facebook that “of course Mom puts the dead guy’s bed in ‘my’ room.”

But so far, Kristin Cooper says, no one in the family has seen or heard anything unusual. “We’ve had guests sleep in it and not have encounters,” she said, but she noted that “our petsitter swears by having a couple of encounters.” He was staying in the mansion briefly to take care of the family’s aging dog, and he told the Coopers he heard strange sounds at night, including what sounded like a voice saying “hello” or “Helen.” Helen was the name of one of Fowle’s daughters who lived with him in the mansion.

Gov. Scott’s telling of the ghost story mentions a daughter of Gov. Fowle, who was living nearby during Scott’s time in office.

“When a new governor moves in to the mansion,” Scott said, “she soon thereafter pays a courtesy call on the new residents of the Executive Mansion. There are two questions she usually asks: ‘Is Father’s portrait still hanging?’ and ‘Is Father’s bed still in his room?’” By tradition, Fowle’s portrait remains today in the entrance hall of the mansion along with portraits of the most recent governors.

The legend of Fowle’s ghost has been popular among recent governors, but none claim to experienced the hauntings firsthand – although a number of state troopers guarding the house have.

“We used the bed and loved it,” said former Gov. Bev Perdue. “We would tell house guests and visitors the story, and in the middle of the night when a door slammed, you could hear their reaction. I don’t believe in ghosts but the folks who staff the mansion at night had some stories to tell.”

Former Gov. Pat McCrory said he believes Fowle is “a good ghost.”

“I said goodnight to him, every night,” McCrory says. “I never heard a reply, but I just assumed he was there. I wasn’t scared of him because he left a good legacy.”

McCrory’s wife, Ann, had what they believed to be Fowle’s bed removed from the mansion because they wanted to use larger beds for their guests. But Kristin Cooper said mansion staff later discovered the bed removed under McCrory wasn’t the real Fowle bed.

McCrory says the ghost story prompted pranks. “Some of the troopers would play tricks on my staff by rolling grapefruits down the stairs,” the former governor said.

And McCrory used to tell visitors to his annual Halloween event to look for Fowle’s spirit in an upstairs window. He’d then point out a coffin prop in the yard and tell them Fowle’s body was there – at which point someone would pop up from the coffin. “I’ve never heard people scream so much,” he said.

McCrory said Halloween was one of his favorite events, but it nearly got canceled last year because of threats from anarchist protesters. The governor called for extra security to keep the event safe, because “there was no way in hell I was going to cancel Halloween,” he said.

This year, the tradition of Halloween at the governor’s mansion will continue at 2 p.m. Tuesday when Kristin Cooper leads a parade from the N.C. Museum of History to the mansion.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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