Payne Road

The Story

Ooo, all kinds of stories regarding this one, and none too pleasant I might add. The first tale relates to the Payne Plantation, one of the largest homesites in the area. The plantation owner- Mr. Payne, of course- built the place on a valley with steep hills on all sides, and the mansion was situated on the northern-most hill so that he overlooked the entire plantation. Slave shacks scattered the hillsides, and a creek ran through the center of the valley, supplying water to the plantation, mansion, and the slave quarters. A small chapel was located 250 yds and 45 degrees to the right of the mansion, and the main field was located 300 yds directly in front of the mansion. The slave shacks were located about 100 degrees to the right of the mansion, and then 200 yds in front of the house lay a small bridge, just large enough for one carriage. This first story goes that Payne, the father of four girls, was an extremely racist man. The girls grew up isolated from the outside world due to Payne's over-protectiveness. They grew to despise their father as well as to despise his cruelty to his slaves. Payne eventually learned that his oldest daughter was pregnant by one of his own slaves, and Payne quite literally lost his mind. He cursed the Lord and turned to devil-worship, brutally sacrificing the slave to the evil now within him. Then just a few months later, he learned that his youngest daughter was also pregnant by one of his slaves, and he cracked once and for all. Payne brutally sacrificed that slave and began to storm through the shacks with anything he could lay his hands on, everything from sticks to muskets to farm tools. Then, in his maddening rage, he murdered his own family. Soon afterwards he burned just about his entire plantation, killing almost all of the remaining slaves. This is supposedly why the trees on Payne Road are so young and the grave stones are charred.
The second story is that of a 1936 (1933 in some stories, but who's counting) Ford, 3-window hot rod (with the rumble seat- nice car). The driver wrecked on Payne Road on the second to last curve, the sharpest, at almost 180 degrees. The curve is also located 45 degrees to the right of the old mansion site, in the same spot where the chapel- where Payne once worshipped Satan- stood. The driver is said to have died a slow death as bystanders stood by helplessly, watching the flames consume his car. Today, many folks driving down Payne Road now claim to see the rounded lights of the Ford following their car all the way to the old chapel site, and then disappear as they cross over the bridge.
But wait- there's more! Another story simply tells of a man who lived in an old farm house on the site with his wife and four children back in the early 1800s. Yes, yes, obviously this story conflicts somewhat with the aforementioned Payne plantation, but such is life. Now keep reading. One night, after once again arguing bitterly with his wife, the husband decided that the root of all his marital problems stemmed from his children. So he bound his wife to a chair in front of the fireplace and gagged her. He selected his biggest carving knife, then brought the oldest girl downstairs. "Kiss your mother goodnight" he told her, and as she did he went behind the girl with the knife. He then dispensed with his children one by one in this manner, until, finally, he went upstairs to get his last child, his infant daughter. But as he looked down at the little girl, he realized he couldn't bring himself to slit her throat like he had his other childrens'. So he decided instead to throw her down the well in back of the house. As he walked out the back door, the mother finally worked her way free of her restraints. She jumped up and ran out the front door, down the road, and grabbed her baby daughter from her husband's grasp. Unfortunately, however, her husband managed to catch up to her at the bridge and neatly lopped her head off with his knife. He did away with his daughter as he'd planned, and then, finally remorseful, he hung himself at the bridge. Supposedly, if you go to the bridge, stop your car and whistle "Dixie" (you've got to love these North Carolina ghost stories), you will soon make out the shape of the murdered woman's ghost approaching your car, holding her head in her hands. And your car will not start when you try to restart it. Plus, if you walk up to the back of the house, you can hear the cries of a baby coming from the old well.
Lastly, there's the story involving an old barn where kids used to go to "watch the sailboat races" (I mean this figuratively!! and if you still don't get it, come back when you're older, dang it!). One prom night two kids didn't come home after the party, and friends told their folks that they'd gone out to the old Payne Road barn. The parents drove down and saw the boy's car parked outside. When they went in, they found the teenagers hanging from the rafters, still in their formal attire.

What I Found

Okay, as you might expect with the number of different stories, this gets kind of confusing. Sometime over the last fifty years or so, Payne Road underwent some major changes. Today, the end of Payne Road that once connected to Route 66 has been renamed, and it is now called "Edwards Road." Further down 66 a new portion of Payne Road has been opened up, but as far as I can tell, nothing happens on this new part, so don't waste too much time pondering its newness. Instead, hop on Edwards Road, aka old Payne Road, and start driving along the railroad tracks there on your right. First, after you leave the tracks, you will come to a graveyard on your right. Now, I had somebody tell me that this is where the 1936 Ford wrecked, and indeed, the cemetery is located on the outside of a very sharp turn. However, the oldest tombstone I found had a date of only 1905 or so, and thus could not very well have been the cemetery where either of the two families in the above-mentioned stories are buried. All but two of the old oaks that once lined the edge of the graveyard have been taken down, and I was told that the other trees had died as a result of the numerous times they'd been clocked by a wayward vehicle, but I certainly couldn't confirm that theory. Interestingly, there was a dirt road to the right of the cemetery that had a huge gate and a matching padlock on it that seemed to serve no terribly useful purpose except to raise the curiosity of passers-by (namely, me), but I haven't received any stories about the site, so I left it alone.

If you continue down the steep hill, you finally get to the bottom, and there you will see several ramshackle structures that have, yes, been overtaken by the local I'm-bored-tonight-so-let's-go-draw-a-pentagram teenagers. None of these structures look to be from the pre-1900's, so I'm not sure how they fit into the stories, but on your left you'll find a house that has certainly seen better days; in fact, there's not much left except two chimneys. Under no circumstances would this qualify as a plantation home, but I suppose it might be the remnants of some lunatic who offed his kids. Except, you go a little further and you cross the "bridge" from which the fellow supposedly hung himself, and you realize he had to be using a mighty short rope; by all accounts, the bridge has been redone fairly recently, so maybe its not as high as originally designed, but when the road was recently repaved, the State didn't even bother to keep it a bridge- they just put a few culverts under it and that was that. Hardly seems like enough water to supply an entire plantation. Not to mention, the woods are mighty thick, and do not much look like a place that was once all cleared of trees.

So let us continue our journey down Edwards Road, shall we? After the bridge, you will see up on a hill to your right some more structures that fell down long-ago but now look uninteresting and not like they had ever played a part in the Payne Road fiascos. Drive a little bit further, and viola, you are at the officially named Payne Road. Hang a right at the stop sign (to the left is the new part of Payne Road which will take you back to Route 66). After a short drive, the road suddenly opens up to wide-open horse pastures, very-old looking structures off to your left, and a path that goes up the hill but upon which somebody has planted a grove of pine trees, effectively concealing whatever it is that is on the other side of the trees. And a little further on you will cross a bridge that, indeed, crosses a real creek. Now, I've had people write to tell me that THIS was where the old plantation once stood. However, the signs at the pasture go beyond merely stating "No Hunting" and instead tell you to Keep Out altogether, and across the bridge, on the hill to your right, you'll see somebody's new home that has a great view of the surroundings; a REALLY good view, apparently, for not long after I stopped to look around, a sheriff's deputy drove by (he was the only other car I saw the entire time I was out there) and, though he slowed when he passed, he didn't say anything to me. And I left shortly thereafter so as not to give him a chance to change his mind. By the by, I did cut my vehicle off while I stopped on both bridges, did the prerequisite whistling-thing, and then waited a moment or two, but was able to start right back up again. Just a testimony to my volkswagen's reliability, I'm thinking...

If You Want to Go

You'll need to get to Rural Hall, a small town just north of Winston-Salem. In the middle of Rural Hall, Route 66 intersects with Route 65. From that intersection, begin traveling North on Route 66. You won't go 2/10ths of a mile before you cross the railroad tracks, and immediately after the tracks you'll see Edwards Road on the right (a little further up 66 you'll see the new section of Payne Road on the right as well, but, like I said, don't bother with it). Once you're on Edwards Road, just follow along with the story above, but drive carefully! The roads are steep and with plenty of curves.