Roan Mountain is awash in history. For many years, the little town was a whistle stop on the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. The narrow gauge railway carried passengers from Johnson City, Tennessee, to Boone, North Carolina, from 1882 to 1950. The Cloudland Hotel, which was constructed at Roan Mountain in the 1880s by General John Wilder, was, at one time, the highest elevated hotel east of the Mississippi River. Luminaries like Alexander Graham, Bell and Thomas Edison were among the hotel’s most famous guests. Today, Roan Mountain is known primarily for the Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival, which is held in early summer. Ghost Enthusiasts, however, are attracted to Roan Mountain by the legend of nearby Dark Hollow Cemetery.
Locals say that around the turn of the century, a woman named Delinda lived in Roan Mountain. Although Delinda was not an exceptionally attractive woman, her passionate nature made her a favorite with the men in town, especially the married men. Desperate to find a reason for their husbands’ infidelity, the wives of Roan Mountain attributed the hold Delinda had over their men to witchcraft. One day, the wives of Delinda’s lovers paid her a call at her house. In one version of the tale, the local minister encouraged the women to talk to Delinda because some of her boyfriends had contracted a social disease. The women knocked on Delinda’s door for several minutes before reaching the conclusion that she had let. That same day, one of Delinda’s lovers, a man named Jankins, died the same day. In one variant of the tale, Jankins’ wife returned from Delinda’s house and shot him with a rifle. In another version, Jankins was cleaning his rifle when he “accidentally shot himself.” The townsfolk found it odd that Delinda was not present at Jankins’ funeral because he had always been one of her favorites. Many people assumed that Delinda fled town to avoid the angry mob that was bound to form after the funeral. However, after the funeral, one of the mourners recalled seeing a shadowy figure hovering near the casket. As soon as the pallbearers picked up the casket, they could tell that it was heavier than it should have been.
Residents of Roan Mountain say that Delinda is a restless sprit. Rapped in a cemetery where she did not receive a Christian burial, Delinda’s ghost tries to hitch a ride with anyone who can take her someplace where she can find peace. Some people who have driven past Dark Hollow Cemetery claim to have felt a bump in the car, just as if someone has jumped in the back seat. A few drivers claim to have looked in the back seat and seen the ghostly figure of a woman sitting there. One young woman was driving past Dark Hollow Cemetery with her skeptical husband when suddenly, the car began bucking uncontrollably. She compared the behavior of the car to stepping on the accelerator and steeping on the brake at the same time. After the woman and her husband reached their destination and returned home the same way, the car began jerking when they neared the cemetery.
According to some folklorists, the legend of Delinda has possibly become interconnected with the story of a witch who was buried in a grave on nearby Teaberry Road. To keep the woman’s spirit down, her grave was filled with cement. People visiting the witch’s grave at night report being overcome with a sense of foreboding. Both legends deal with women who have been branded as outcasts because of the unnatural influence they have on members of the community. One can say that Delinda’s fate is the price some women pay for the bewitching effect they have on the opposite sex.