Caldwell News Journal
Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1953
High School Construction Stalled, Workers Missing
Construction of the Foothills Haven High School, the unified regional high school for northwestern Caldwell County, has once again been stalled as many workers have come up missing during their graveyard shift work hours. The small community of Stokely is unnerved by these odd disappearances and hope for their safe return.
Local residents have noted that much of the wooded area surrounding the construction site has a tendency to look the same to those not familiar to the area due to the fact that the trees, shrubbery, and grasses grow in fairly repetitive patterns within a section of a mile.
“To anyone not from around these parts, them woods can look the same a goin’ as they do a comin’,” stated local farmer and hunter, Jonathan Taylor. The Patterson native went on to say, “I reckon it could be, that they got themselves lost while takin' a catnap in the woods or answerin’ a call o’ nature.”
The Foothills Haven High School is scheduled for completion by July of 1956 so that students can begin their new year in the homerooms of a new unified school. It is the first in a plan to separate the advanced grades 9 - 12 from the initial and elementary grades as well as put most of Caldwell’s best teachers inside of the same school house. Members of the Caldwell County Board of Education hope that there are no future setbacks once construction resumes next week.
Caldwell News Journal
Monday Jan 11, 1954
Local Teen Disappears
Stokely. Andrea Grace Smith, age 15, has been reported missing after she didn’t return home from a friend’s house the night before. Andrea’s friend Elizabeth Anne Church told authorities that they had went to visit the construction site of the Foothills Haven High School when they were approached by a strange man with a heavy British accent.
“There’s a look about I just didn’t trust,” Elizabeth commented. Then she went on to say, “We didn’t like the way that he kept on a starin’ at us, so we left.” When asked if he could have followed them, Elizabeth replied, “I don’t know if he followed or not, he gave Andrea and me the creeps and we just wanted to get far away from him.”
According to Elizabeth and her family, Andrea left their home somewhere around 10 P.M. to go home. They also noted that she normally left their home around this time and that there was nothing unusual about her leaving at that particular time of night.
When authorities asked about the strange man mentioned by Elizabeth Church, neighbors and construction workers couldn’t recall seeing anyone of that description in the area. Harold Minton, neighbor to Elizabeth Church, commented with, “Strange men with foreign accents? Bah! T’sounds more like they ran into an old drunk like ol’ Coy Hamby or worse. These schools are a teachin’ ‘em to read an’ tell them wild stories. Gettin’ them kind o’ wild ideas is not a good thing, I tell ya. The next thing they’ll be a sayin’ that the Devil has come to Stokely.”
The family of Andrea Smith continues to pray for their daughter’s safe return. No matter whether she has run away or has been kidnapped, they just want their beloved daughter back alive and safe with them. Anyone who has information on the whereabouts of Andrea Grace Smith, please contact the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department as soon as possible.
Caldwell News Journal
Friday July 17, 1954
The Devil Has Come to Stokely
The construction of the Foothills Haven High School faces another setback in its near completion. A rash of unexplained disappearances has plagued the small town since its beginning in the early quarter of “1953”. Those vanished range in variation from local teens and children to workers from Hickory. The only connection in these estranged events is that they only happen during the nighttime hours. Local Police and the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department remain baffled as their sources continue to only draw blanks.
Wednesday night, Benjamin Moore, age 32 and Jacob Carpenter, age 36, disappeared while curing the second and third floors during their late night shift hours. Coy Hamby, age 44, a local farmhand, claimed to be a witness to the events of that dreadful night.
“I barely got away with me life!” The half-intoxicated farmhand expressed in a frantic display of terror. When questioned by the authorities he spat out in a heavily slurred voice, “I’s out by there by the school drinkin' my whiskey th’ other night when I heard somebody a comin’ through the woods. I’s a thinking it was some o’ the workers from the swing shift a comin’ to work, but no. Instead I see some o’ them kids that’s come up a missin’ entering th’ school. At first I thought that they hadn’t seen me until they began a sniffin’ the air, like some sort o’ dog or something. Before I know what was a happenin’ I heard muffled screams come from inside o’ the school. Naturally, I got skeered and took a deep breath. The others saw me and tried to get me. Their eyes were bloodshot, an’ they sounded more like animals than people. I lost me coat I did! Th’ danged brats ripped it right off o’ me! Tackled me like a bear, they did! I thought I was a goner but they kept a sniffin me an’ then let me go! Guess me whiskey saved me life. Heh! Heh!” Coy broke into heaving sobs as he shared the horrifying memory of the events of his evening according to the investigators from the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department.
When residents of Patterson, Stokely, and Buffalo Cove were questioned about the possible credibility of his story, residents responded with mixed answers including; “It’s probably pranksters at play.”, and “Who’d believe the ghost stories of a drunk?” James Greene, of Patterson, who has had personal dealings with Coy Hamby replied to the “Caldwell News Journal” saying, “It’s just a bunch o’ kids tryin’ to scare the wits outta them workers that’s all. Pah! Crazy stories ‘bout monsters ‘n missin’ kids attackin’ construction workers. …Sounds more like he saw the spirits o’ Jim Beam a comin’ to get ‘em.”
When asked by reporters if he just didn’t believe Coy Hamby’s story or if he had reason to doubt Hamby’s credibility James returned with, “Believe ‘em? Why I just as soon believe a coon chased a dog up a tree before I’d believe any o’ his stories. That man stays drunker than a dad-burn day possum!”
Older residents say that the animals have begun acting strange after dark. “It’s the Devil, I say. He’s a treadin’ these parts,” Said Marie Culpepper. Marie Culpepper is considered the local spiritual and lore expert. She is often expressing her opinions based widely on her knowledge of superstition and gypsy lore. When approached by reporters about why she believed this to be so, Marie commented, by saying, “Ravens flock to that unfinished school at night heedin’ the call of their dark master.” She explained further, “Them kids and workers have been taken to feed ‘is bloodthirsty appetite, for you see, the ravens are ‘is eyes and they’re always a watchin’ searchin’ for the next who’ll satisfy ‘is hunger.”
James Greene and Jonathan Taylor both commented on Marie’s statement with skepticism saying, “Marie Culpepper, that crackpot old woman’s got a few bricks a missin’ upstairs as well as a head full o’ stories. Now some o the kids believe ’er wild tales and anyone who might say that a crossin’ yer fingers an’ spittin’ will ward away bad luck.”
“Shucks”, says Jonathan Taylor with a laugh, “I’m a spittin’ all the time and ain’t had no better luck fer it. If everyone was to listen to Marie, she’d have ’em hangin’ rabbits’ feet up in that school. No, it’s just kids I’m a telling ya. Just kids playin’ pranks and such, trust me ye’ll see fer yourselves.”
Has the Devil come to Stokely, or do vicious pranksters continue to plague the Patterson, Stokely countryside. As the disappearances become more common, the stories have become more intense from the townsfolk. In all due reality, only time will reveal the truth behind these dreadful events.
Caldwell News Journal
Wednesday May 26, 1955
Foothills Haven High School Expected to be Completed on Schedule
Lenoir. Despite the numerous disappearances and other various setbacks, the Foothills Haven High School is expecting to be finished by the July 1956 deadline as scheduled. Foremen of the construction crews have commented with high spirits saying:
“We’ve been workin’ ‘round the clock to make up for the time lost to setbacks. Volunteers have been workin’ double shifts with the help of craftsmen from the local community, so it won’t be long ‘till have everything back on track. As a whole it’s really going great.”
Members of the Caldwell County Board of Education express high hopes and thank the people who willingly sacrifice their personal time to aid in the construction of this landmark educational center. Members also stated that there will be no more interference with the school’s completion.
The construction of the Foothills Haven High School began in May, 1953 and has been stalled more than a dozen times due to the strange disappearances ranging in age from teenagers to construction workers. Foothills Haven High School hopes to be the first of a new group of high schools that will connect and unify the regional communities of Caldwell County. With the July, 1956 dead line just over a year away, the local residents and Board of Education hope that the remainder of the construction will go unhindered.
Caldwell News Journal
Saturday Aug 27, 1955
Local Boy Found Unconscious at School
Stokely. Local boy Jason Whitner, age 9, was found unconscious by the Foothills Haven High School after disappearing from his home the night before. When found Jason’s shoulders and neck showed signs of violent trauma. Authorities have arrested Coy Hamby for battery of a minor, and he has been placed in the Caldwell County Jail.
When asked about the attack Hamby replied, “Shucks, I didn’t do nothing. Dat boy was my friend back on the farm. He’d already been hurt like dat when I found ‘em.”
Garland and Sarah Whitner, the victim’s parents told reporters that Hamby was indeed a friend of their son and that the two did a lot together.
“Coy Hamby’s never been the kind to attack anybody,” says Sarah Whitner. “He’d sure kill a jug o’ whiskey though.”
Jason was able to comment to his situation once he’d regained consciousness. He told authorities and reporters his side of the story.
“Me sister, Wendy, came a tappin’ at my bedroom window th’ other night. I got up to see why she’d been gone for so long when she said that she’’d show me if I followed her. So I got dressed and snuck out to meet her, but when I got there she’s already gone. I heard her voice a callin’ to me through the thick fog telling me to catch up. I followed her voice until I could see ‘er outline up ahead. Before I knew it, I had followed her to the new school building. Nobody was a workin’ at the time so the place was really dark. Wendy stood at the doorway waiting for me, looking as though she hadn’t eat in a week or two. I told ‘er that daddy’s been worried to death about her. Then I asked her where she’d been and, why she’d never came home. I must’ve said something wrong ‘cause she attacked me. She grabbed my shoulders an’ it hurt as shook me around like a rag-doll. My sister had turned into a monster an’ tried to kill me. The last thing I remember was her a grippin' my throat an’ opening her mouth like she’s gonna bite me- that an ol’ Coy Hamby a shoutin’ at somebody.” Jason finished his story just as he began to break down into heavy fits of crying.
With Jason’s statement, local law enforcement released Coy Hamby from custody. Some, however, view Jason’s story with harsh skepticism saying that the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Department believed the tale of an overly imaginative boy who snuck out of his house at night and got attacked by a skittish old drunk.
“He’s a tryin’ to protect that crazy drunk with his wild stories,” protested Tom Davis neighbor to the Whitners. “Puckey on all this talk about his missin’ sister; why, she never showed up again and I don’t reckon she ever will. Personally I’m a thinking that he’s a makin’ the whole danged thing up to save his ‘friend’. I’d have that drunk hung up by his heels ‘twas it my boy he’d attacked.”
Jason’s sister Wendy Whitner disappeared nearly a year ago while walking from a friend’s house in Stokely. Jason is now home with his family, though his parents claim that he just sits at night staring out of his bedroom window. If asked about why he does this by his parents or anyone else, he tells them that he’s watching for Wendy to come home again. Coy Hamby still works for the Whitner Family’s farm under constant supervision, though he shows no signs of hidden violence. With all hopes in the air, this family prays for a happy ending and Lord knows they need one.
Caldwell News Journal
Sunday March 10, 1956
Construction Workers Found Murdered
The community of Stokely awakened to a shock Saturday when the morning shift construction crew of Wittman’s Construction Company found their co-workers from the graveyard shift brutally slain inside of the Foothills Haven High School. According to witnesses of the disturbing discovery, the victims were found with their throats torn out. Authorities are stunned at the brutality in this case, but even more so by the lack of blood at the scene.
“Usually there’d be bucket loads of the stuff,” Says Sheriff Jack Parsons. “I’ve been to many a slaughter house in my day, and investigated any number of murders during my time on the force, I’ve even seen a few where a victims throat was cut or torn out by an animal, but this baffles me. I’m a telling ya, there should be blood allover the darned place. The signs of a general struggle show that they were murdered where they lay, but whoever did this cleaned the place up or something. It’s just not right.”
With authorities baffled the communities of Patterson, Stokely, and Buffalo Cove are uneasy about the coming of nightfall. Families have gathered in the local churches or in the sanctity of their own homes praying that the next victim isn’t one of them. Some folks believe that this was a fatal blow to the future high school, a feeling that has been echoed by the city and county officials.
Whatever the outcome, residents of the area can only wait and see. In the meantime all they can do is cling to one another and pray that this will all blow over like a bad storm.
Caldwell News Journal
Tuesday March 20, 1956
High School Construction Aborted
Lenoir. The Caldwell County Board of Education as well as the North Carolina State Board of Education have decided in an almost unanimous decision to abort the construction of the Foothills Haven High School, where just last week the graveyard shift construction crew was found, brutally murdered, by the first shift construction crew. When asked, select board members including School Board Chairman, Jim Thomason commented saying:
“Due to the growing number of disappearances and now the murders, local and state agencies have withdrawn the financial funding that was vital to the high school’s completion.”
According to residents of Stokely and the construction companies involved, there are more than just financial problems that have caused the school to be abandoned. Some have said that the school has been tainted with the blood of those that were murdered there and that the feeling of death now shrouds the school and its surrounding area. Lucas Wilkenson, foreman of Whittaker Construction Company and head over the day-shift told reporters:
“After them workers were found dead- all bloodless and such- from that other company, everybody’s a refusing to go any where near that school much less set work on it again. Now don’t get me wrong, I ain’t superstitious or nothing, but what happened to those boys out there was just wrong.”
As of yet there has been no leads found concerning the mysterious disappearances or the strange murder of an entire construction crew. Police continue to scour for clues to who may be behind these horrendous crimes.
The Foothills Haven High School was to be the areas first regional high school. Classes were scheduled to begin in the coming autumn of this year, however; a plague of disappearances brought a series of stalled work time and setbacks that would eventually lead to the schools construction being cancelled. It has been said that last week’s murders were the final nails in the coffin for the Foothills Haven High School Project. Jim Thomason and other School Board members express confidence that Caldwell County will make another attempt at constructing a series of regional schools sometime in the near future. As for residents of the community of Stokely, they hope that their lives will soon return to normal. Will the scars of the last three years heal? That’s a question that only time can answer.