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Old State Capitol

North Carolina State Capitol Building

Looking at the Old State Capitol building in Raleigh, NC, most people would describe it as standing with a sense of noble grandeur. Those who know better might use the words “lurking ominously.” The historic government building is an epicenter for many ghosts, who are said to continue their work in life within its stone halls.


Quick Facts

  • The Old State Capitol was erected in the biggest of five such public spaces in the original 1792 city blueprints. 
  • The granite came from local quarries and required the construction of a mule-powered train-track system.
  • Its $540,000 final cost would translate today into nearly $192 billion.


Ithiel Town and Alexander Jackson were the principal architects, but its gorgeous interior, with its airy rotunda, was the work of a Scotsman, David Paton. The cruciform, or cross-shaped building, is a classic example of the Greek Revival style that was so popular in early Colonial America. 

Amazingly, the area around the building was dirt roads and farmland. For a time, the building contained the entirety of the North Carolina State government, as all three branches were housed there. It is even said to be where the American Civil War started, as the Secession Convention of May 1861 was held there, and it was the center of Confederate military and governmental functions during the bloody conflict. 

The building was spared from destruction and has remained much the same. Both the Senate and House chambers have been restored. According to people today, some of the original politicians remain as well.


The Business of Government Never Sleeps


Considering all the deaths in the Civil War, it is not surprising the whole area is haunted. And with this building being a Confederate nerve center for four years, it’s easy to see things echo through the Old State Capitol, as well. Witnesses have described being nearly overcome with “weird vibes,” hearing sounds with no source and seeing actual manifestations of the former employees. 

A well-known story involves a receptionist, Dutchie Sexsmith, who said she had been working late, but that noise from the building’s rotunda made it too hard for her to concentrate on her project. It wasn’t a raucous party, but there were the sounds of a large crowd, maybe a hundred people, talking, walking around, and opening and closing doors. 

Frustrated, she locked up her office and started down the stairs. Halfway down, all the noises stopped. The rotunda was eerily empty as she hurried towards the door. In 1981, another late-night worker described hearing voices that seemed to come from a room adjacent to the Senate Chambers. When he went to investigate, he reported seeing a ghost standing there, which disappeared immediately, right in front of his eyes.


The Third Floor


The third-floor library is also a center of haunting activity. One worker described being suddenly overcome with what she described as a “weird feeling” accompanied by her neck hairs rising, a clammy feeling all over, and breaking out in a cold sweat- all for absolutely no reason. Nothing that should have triggered such a fight-or-flight response. Nothing visible, anyway. 

Paranormal investigators have used their investigative tools and have recorded whispers and even sobbing. They also caught orbs on film. Infrared scopes have detected cold spots as well. One group of ghost hunters reported a marked increase in orb activity when they played music from the period. 

Eerily, the CD they were playing kept skipping over the track “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a tune that was a rallying song for the Union Army! Even Rebecca Lindstrom, a reporter from UNCTV, reported hearing wheezing sounds coming from an empty hallway. She, however, opted to walk away rather than investigate herself. Immediately following her unnerving encounter, the investigators were able to photograph several large orbs in that area.

In another investigation, EVP recorders picked up an answer to a question one of the investigators posed, “Any Yankees here?” The audible reply on the tape replies, “We around here…” Amongst the referenced “we” could be the spirits of two men who worked here in life and perhaps stayed around because of the relative comfort of one of the least changed government buildings from that period. 

The smell of the cigars favored by former Governor Zebulon Vance is still detected now and then. He was elected in 1862 and again in 1877. He also served in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. There is also said to be a ghost who still roams the Senate Chamber, perhaps a congressman unwilling to let his proposed bill die, as he did long ago. The business of government, it appears, never does take a rest.


Who, Or What, is Watching the Night Watchman?


The first-hand accounts come from Newall Jackson, who served as the State Capitol’s night watchman for fifteen years, starting in the 1920s. Over his tenure, he reported several stories of unusual activity. He said it was common to hear activity in the empty library, with the sounds of books hitting the floor and doors slamming.

He once responded to the sound of breaking glass on the second floor, but no windows were broken when he arrived to clean the mess. Once, he described a fierce wind that roared throughout the building. Fearing a storm outside, he went to see if any trees were in danger of uprooting. 

But outside the door, all was calm, and all was quiet. According to his story, what he described as a “strange calm” had seemed to envelop the capital building’s interior. Another time, after locking the building up, he looked up to see the spectral figure of a Confederate soldier pacing in the second-floor gallery window. “We around here,” indeed.

Equally unsettling was the night Mr. Jackson heard and then witnessed the elevator going up and down the floors of the building by itself. Old elevators of that sort were manually operated, and the controls were all on the inside of the elevator car. However, since Jackson knew he was the only living person in the building at the time, he declined to investigate further.

Haunted Raleigh


Want to experience the eerieness of the Old State Capitol for yourself? Book a ghost tour with Raleigh Ghosts and visit the site that’s attributed to Raleigh’s spooky past. 

To unravel more chilling destinations and ghostly encounters in Raleigh and beyond, visit our blog, and follow U.S. Ghost Adventures on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.



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