WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — It’s no secret that the Port City is home to many ghost stories. Most of the ghoulish tales are just legend, but according to historians a man thought to be dead, was in fact buried alive behind a Wilmington church.
In 1739 St. James Episcopal Church was built in Wilmington. Five years later, the first grave was dug in the cemetery out back, now believed to be one of the most haunted graveyards in the state.
The tombstones no longer show the names of those who lie beneath them, but this story is about a man who never should have been buried here in the first place.
“Samuel Joselyn was without a doubt buried alive in 1810 in St. James Episcopal Church Cemetery,” said John Scott, a tour guide on Wilmington Ghost Walk.
Historians assume a tombstone was not erected because of superstitions of the time and the strange circumstances surrounding Joselyn’s death.
“This young man got into an argument with his wife at a hunting lodge out at the Honey Island Swamp eight miles north of here, rode away on horseback, which wasn’t smart; middle of the night, middle of the swamp, middle of the winter. Horses don’t have headlights, very scary stuff. His body was found the next day by a search party. Cold, frozen, and in four inches of water, and he was buried here in this cemetery behind me,” Scott said as he stood near the cemetery.
“For three days Joselyn appeared in the dreams of two of his friends, every time begging them to dig up his body,” Scott said. “They finally gave in to his wishes.”
“Police on the beat heard the boys yelling when they discovered that he was lying in a large, dried puddle of blood with all fingers ripped right to the bone,” Scott said.
Joselyn had tried desperately to claw his way out from six feet underground, slowly suffocating.
“That conclusion was supported by findings of the coroner and is a matter of record of Wilmington,” Scott said.
Two centuries later visitors claim they have seen a shadowy figure leaning on a tombstone near Joselyn’s grave. Some believe it is his ghost still haunting the grounds of St. James Cemetery, a place for the dead where he was left to die.