Folktales, Legends, and Mysteries from North Carolina: The Maco Light

Jul 11, 2023 | Uncategorized

North Carolina has a rich tradition of folklore, and it encompasses a variety of magical legends and unexplained natural phenomena. Let’s explore The Maco Light, a true North Carolina legend.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Joe Baldwin was a conductor who is said to have been decapitated in a collision between a runaway passenger car and a locomotive one night in 1867. Joe was alone in the last car when he realized his car had come uncoupled from the rest of the train. Knowing there was another train due, he ran to the back platform and franticly waved his lantern to warn the oncoming train. The engineer did not see the signal from the stranded car and Baldwin was decapitated in the accident. His head was never found, so Joe is doomed to swing his lantern forever, and search the tracks for his lost head.

It was said that after the collision railroad workers reported a pair of Maco lights that would appear together. Over the years, the Maco Light has been bright enough to fool many railroad workers into stopping their trains. To remedy the ghost’s schedule-thwarting attempts, signalmen at Maco used two lights, one red, and one green.

This tale has been passed from generation to generation and the apparition has been witnessed by scores of locals and even once by President Grover Cleveland, whose train was wooding and watering up at Maco in 1889. The president saw the two signal lights, asked about them, and got the full story of Joe Baldwin.

If you are feeling adventurous, the location of the accident is more difficult to find since the tracks have been removed, but the gravel rail bed and pilings remain at the spot of the old trestle. Say this ballad, and see if any light appears,
“They found Joe’s body,
They found Joe’s head!
They buried ’em both,
But he’s not dead!
On a dismal night in a dismal swamp,
You can see his lantern shine!”

If you are ready to come discover our beautiful area and experience this exciting phenomenon for yourself, we invite you to enjoy special pricing and book your visit today! And click here to view current listings in Albemarle Plantation, where you can enjoy distinct coastal living, award-winning golf, resort amenities, elegant homes, and a private marina.

Inquire About This Property