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What Walks The Halls of Cone Manor?
--By Scott Nicholson, Photo by Marie Freeman
orb photos of the Manor!

On a ridge overlooking the town of Blowing Rock, NC, is the estate once called Flat Top Manor, now known as the Cone Manor.

The Colonial-revivalist structure was built in the late 1800’s, and has been uninhabited for about a half a century. However, there are those who say that the manor has never been completely devoid of human activity-- or perhaps, inhuman activity.

Moses Cone made a fortune as an industrialist in the North Carolina Piedmont, married Bertha, and later visited the mountain area and fell in love with it. He began buying up land around what is now the Blue Ridge Parkway outside Blowing Rock. Cone built the manor as a summer retreat, often employing the very people whose land he had bought.

Cone didn’t get to enjoy the manor for very long, as he died at a relatively young age. Bertha lived on for several decades, and willed the land to Moses Cone Hospital in Greensboro, NC, which then deeded it to the National Parks Service. The manor is now operated as a crafts center, but some say that the previous owners haven’t entirely given up their claim.

According to one story, Moses Cone’s body was disinterred by a would-be thief. Rumor had it that Cone was buried with some jewelry, and that may have been what the thief was after. One version of the story is that Bertha herself found the body at the gravesite on the hill beyond the manor. The body was said to be propped up against the large tombstone by thieves angered by not finding any jewelry.

There’s even a hinted legend that Cone was moved to a different gravesite. The official line is that Cone still sleeps in eternal slumber at the marked site, but others say he lies elsewhere.

For a long time, separate portraits of husband and wife hung face-to-face on opposite walls. One industrious decorator moved the portrait of Bertha to an adjoining wall. The next morning, the portraits were found to have fallen off the wall. The strange part was they had fallen so they were leaning against each other.
In 2000, the portraits were moved again. So far, no mystery movements have been recorded. All of the existing furniture was willed out to various relatives after Bertha’s death. In the early days of the craft center, craftmakers would stay overnight in the manor due to the poor condition of the roads. Some of the guests reported the sound of furniture moving around on the floor above them in the middle of night, even though the upstairs was empty.

One craftmaker supposedly stayed in the master bedroom that belonged to Moses and Bertha. He heard the door open, so he got out of bed, and closed it, assuming the house was out of level. The door opened again, and he repeated the process. The third time, he propped a chair against the door. He awoke in the morning to find the door open and the chair on the other side of the room.

One woman who didn’t believe in ghosts pooh-poohed the stories and dared to stay overnight by herself. When she got out of a hot shower, she saw a hand print in the steam on the mirror. That was her last day in the manor.

The Cones were fond of piano music, and the soft sounds of piano notes are sometimes heard wafting in the stillness of night.

The kitchen door was traditionally kept closed at Bertha’s insistence. Some crafters showed up early one morning and were moving some heavy items inside via the back way. They heard the heavy door slide closed behind them. They tried to discover who had played the trick on them, but the house was empty.

A park ranger was staying in a nearby house about a decade ago, and the newly-installed alarm system at Cone Manor went off. The ranger circled the house to investigate. He saw no signings of breaking and entering. When he turned around after unlocking the door, he saw a young girl standing on the stairs.

The girl turned around and looked at him, then ran up the stairs. The ranger chased her, and couldn’t figure out how she outran him. She went into the left room at the top of the stairs and slammed the door.

After a long struggle, the ranger finally got the door open. The room was empty.

Whether the Cones still walk the halls of the manor that bears their name, or whether the legends are due to overactive imaginations, the stories linger. And so, perhaps, do the spirits of the Cones.

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