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The Executive Mansion

The Executive Mansion

Set just off historic Burke Square in downtown Raleigh, the North Carolina Executive Mansion (aka The Governor’s Mansion) is an elegant structure first inhabited shortly after the building’s completion in 1891. It has housed every governor since. 

A common complaint in many halls of government is that of politicians staying in office too long, and for one former governor of North Carolina, it seems even death wasn’t going to get him to leave.


Quick Facts

  • Built in the Queen Anne style, it was finished in 1891 and constructed of stone and timber, mainly sourced from the state.
  • At 35,000 square feet, it is still the 3rd largest such building in the U.S.
  • Known as “the People’s House,” it has also been used for town meetings and special events since it opened. 


In 1970, it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places, and in 1973, North Carolina established an Art Commission to preserve the building and its interior. Sadly, tragedy and sorrow moved into the mansion along with its very first inhabitant, who is said to still walk the halls at night.


Governor Fowle – A Family Man


The life of Governor Daniel Gould Fowle was beset by hardships of the heart. He moved the family into the yet-unfinished Governor’s Residence in January of 1981, two years into his term, to which he was elected shortly after the death of his second wife, Mary, in 1886. 

In her stead, his oldest daughter, Helen, served in the official functions of The First Lady for his term. Which, sadness upon sadness for the Fowle family, was no more than three months before he died in office in April of the same year. 

But it is one of his additions to the Governor’s second-floor bedroom that endures to this day and is the centerpiece of one of the most famous- and officially recognized hauntings by fellow politicians who have served in the years since Gov. Fowle passed away, the only Governor to die within its walls.

It’s said that on the night he died, Governor Fowle felt ill and took to his bed. Later on, feeling even worse and prescient, perhaps, of his imminent death, he summons his four children to his bedside using a call button that makes a series of three clicking sounds to alert whomever to the Governor’s needs. After saying his goodbyes, he passed away.


Legends of the Governor’s Bed


The bed remained in the second-floor bedroom of the mansion until 1970 when then-Governor Bob Scott found the bed too short and had the Fowle bed moved to another room. As he recounted to renowned Folklorist Richard Walser, that is when the weird occurrences began.

According to the Governor, every night, as he and his wife lay in bed reading, there would be a knocking sound around 10 pm. Assuming the sound to be from water pipes, the Governor had maintenance check it out, but there were no pipes behind the wall that could have produced the noise. No cause could be found at all.

Then Governor Fowle’s daughter visited them, quite elderly at the time but still interested in meeting each new Governor as they moved into the same house she once lived in. During her visit, she asked if her father’s bed was still in the same room. Now, while the Governor expressed that he was not a “believer,” he nonetheless named the sound “Governor Fowle’s Ghost” at an official press conference he convened.

There are two interesting details about this story, as recounted by Historian Raymond Beck. First, Governor Fowle called his children to his deathbed with a call button that clicked three times. Would you like to guess how many knocks were heard each time? That’s right- three knocks. Lastly, the bed was eventually returned to that bedroom, and no further such sounds were reported until 1993 when Governor Hunt claimed they were heard again. 


The Terrifying Tradition Continues


Ever since Governor Scott’s experience, the men who have held that office since have maintained a respect for this legend, and the bed has never been moved since. In a televised interview on WNCN TV, both Governors Pat McCrory and Jim Martin discussed their experiences with the phenomenon during their terms in office. 

The Governor at the time of the broadcast, Jim Martin, says that not only does he leave that bed alone, but that courtesy extends to paintings of former politicians and their wives from “the other party,” which are usually taken down and replaced as each administration redecorates at the beginning of the terms. But in the Governor’s Mansion, they are left right where they have been hanging, no matter the party affiliation. 

Martin said he doesn’t necessarily believe in ghosts and even pranked security guards by rolling grapefruit down the main stairs so the echoes sounded like ghostly footsteps. However, he acknowledges that strange things do happen in the building that can’t be explained away. Just for added security he added, he says goodnight to the ghosts every night when he leaves. After all, a little courtesy can go a long way.

In the years since, witnesses have claimed to see the Governor through the windows of the second floor, pacing the halls at night, and a state trooper once had a harrowing experience on the third floor. He was not a man easily frightened by the knocks and groans of an old building. But he was up there checking out one room when a phantom gust of wind slammed the door closed behind him. But then, the door opened up immediately after. Brave and armed or not, he decided to vacate the floor quickly. 


Haunted Raleigh


Come experience these tales and more on a tour with Raleigh Ghosts. You might even be able to meet a former State Governor if you’re lucky.

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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