Sister ghosts may still haunt the White Oak Road house
The yearning former residents of White Oak Road have for the idyllic village life on this street – the first in Biltmore Forest – is so intense that, for some, it has lasted beyond death. Ghost tour.
At Edith Vanderbilt’s behest, a group of men including Thomas Wadley Raoul – builder of The Manor on Charlotte Street – established Biltmore Forest around her famous country club in 1923, selling land to lovers of English country charm.
A generation later, life on White Oak has settled into a society: a daily gathering of two widows and three young ladies for cards and cocktails at everyone’s house. One of the women, Bessie Reeves, was a favorite personality. Wealthy families called on her to accompany them to England, where she received her guests. She lived with her sister, Ethel, at 11 White Oak.
Reeves’ great-niece, Ruth Bailey, once recalled how Aunt Bessie liked to park on her porch.
“Why are you sitting on that porch?” Bailey asked.
“I get it,” Reeves replied.
At 93, Bailey helped Reeves move to the retirement community of Deerfield. Until her death eight years later, the old woman confided to her great-niece: “Ruth, I want to come home”.
According to witnesses, Bessie Reeves granted her wish, once released from her body. When a resident of 11 White Oak (who prefers to remain anonymous) walked into his newly remodeled kitchen one evening, he felt movement behind him. He put a lit candle on the grout between the floor tiles and walked over to the sink when he suddenly turned his head to notice the candle slowly sinking back to the floor from where it had apparently been lifted.
Home renovations disturb ghosts. Bessie’s sister Ethel, who had predeceased Bessie, was heard wandering at night looking from her bedroom door to the bathroom, shared by her sister’s bedroom. A renovation had walled off Ethel’s entrance.
The strength of the Reeves ghosts in their home has deeper roots. White Oak Road was itself an evocation of a Charleston, SC, way of life.
Memories of prewar life in Charleston—the Reeves are connected to the Rutledges of Charleston—were reinforced by the Charleston background of other White Oak families. When Bessie and Ethel visited friends and relations in Montford, they happily blew their Model T Ford’s horn the whole way.
“Oh, Ruthie,” sighed Mable Reeves, Bailey’s grandmother one day, “I wish you could have as much fun as I had as a bride in Asheville, but you never will. “
Rob Neufeld wrote the local history feature, “Visiting Our Past,” for the Citizen Times until his death in 2019. This column was originally published on February 18, 2009.