Swannanoa Valley Museum tour offers a spooky trip back in time

Anne Chesky Smith
Special to Black Mountain News
Swannanoa Valley historian, Bill Alexander, right, tells tour participants about the history of Town Hardware's building on the museum's 2018 Historic Haunted House Tour, including the time Elvis visited the dentist office that once occupied the building's second floor."

Walking through Black Mountain’s downtown historic district can feel like a trip back in time. Most of the brick facades, which came in vogue after a major fire destroyed many of the town’s wooden structures in 1912, are the same as they were 100 years ago. Though the people that inhabit the structures have changed, their stories--and sometimes their spirits--remain.

Many of these spirits will reveal themselves on Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26, when the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center hosts its annual Historic Haunted House Tour in downtown Black Mountain.

The two-hour tours begin at Black Mountain’s historic fire house at 223 West State Street, which is now home to the museum. Led by costumed guides, the tours leave every half hour from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on both nights.

After departing from the museum, the tour will venture across the railroad tracks to Black Mountain Avenue, home to some of the oldest structures in town. Participants will wind through what at one time was a morgue operated by James W. McKoy, but now is Design Driven Studio.

The one-story structure was originally built around 1880 using blasted rock pulled from the Swannanoa Tunnel, rock that was ultimately responsible for the deaths of many convicts forced to construct the steep railroad grade up the mountain from Old Fort into Black Mountain.

Next on the tour, just across the street, is the McKoy Building, now known as The Junction. Built around 1890, also by McKoy, the two-story brick building has hosted tourists as a boarding house, catered to locals as a grocery and dry goods store, housed Black Mountain’s first town hall and sheltered patients infected with influenza during the 1918 epidemic. Bodies of those who passed away from influenza were moved across the street into McKoy’s undertaking business.

In 1907, the building made the front page of newspapers across North Carolina when its second-floor balcony collapsed and crashed to the sidewalk below, shattering the “loafer’s bench” beneath it and badly injuring the four local young people who fell with it. McKoy’s father, seated on the sidewalk in a wheelchair, narrowly missed being crushed.

The tour continues from Black Mountain Avenue to make stops at Sassafrass on Sutton, Town Hardware and General Store, Tyson Furniture, Krista Anne’s Boutique, and Veranda Cafe—all of which are generously opening their doors for this major SVM fundraiser.

Myra Vergani, who owns the Inn Around the Corner with her husband, shares tales of ghostly visitors in the Church Street bed & breakfast during the 2018 Historic Haunted Tour.

Guests will hear stories of the men and women who died building the railroad into Black Mountain; the summer people who descended upon the town in droves to escape the heat and insects further south; the fire of 1912 that ravaged Sutton Avenue; the local dentist who pulled Elvis’ tooth; the juke joint that provided entertainment for African-American residents and visitors during segregation and the goat man and his wife that came to town with dozens of goats and a message of repentance.

The tour’s cast includes historical presenters at each stop as well as performers dressed in period costumes. At the final stop on the tour, guests will be treated to live music and a light meal to include chicken posole, vegetarian chili, and gingerbread.

Tickets are $25 for SVM members and $35 for nonmembers. All proceeds support the nonprofit museum. Tickets can be purchased through the Museum’s website at, in person at the Museum, or by calling 669-9566.