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The Ghost of Nell Cropsey

The Ghost of Nell Cropsey

Nell Cropsey disappeared off of her front porch in November of 1901. Her body was found a little over a month later,  floating in a lake. Residents say that Nell is still so unhappy about her death that her spirit cannot rest and haunts her family’s property to this day.


Ella Maud Cropsey (Nell for short) was born in Brooklyn, NY, and moved as a child to a beautiful property in North Carolina that they called Seven Pines. Nell and her sister were pretty young women, and the men flocked to them.  Nell started dating Jim Wilcox (the sheriff’s son) and her sister Olive met a man named Roy Crawford. All seemed well in the world. 


The Wilcox family was having financial trouble and money was tight. After three years, Jim still hadn’t proposed. Nell was getting frustrated with the wait. She started flirting with other men and Wilcox was furious. There were rumors of his temper and the couple argued constantly. 

On November 20, 1901, Jim went to Seven Pines. A cousin of Nell’s was visiting from Brooklyn. The group chatted for a while and then Wilcox asked to speak with Nell out on the front porch. When Nell’s sister and cousin went to bed Nell wasn’t in the room. The family woke up during the night because the dogs started barking and someone yelled that someone was after the Cropsey’s pigs. No one was found on the farm, but when Mr. Cropsey went to check on the girls Nell still wasn’t there.


Mr. Cropsey went to Jim’s house to find out if Nell was there.  Jim was there but wouldn’t speak to him. The police dragged him back to Cropsey Farm and interrogated him. He claimed to have no idea where she was. He said that he and Nell spoke for about ten minutes and when he left, she sat there in tears (a break up maybe?). 


Search parties went out through the area. The police were joined by townspeople who looked for Nell. Bloodhounds were brought in but they could only pick up her scent as far as the porch. There was talk of either kidnap or suicide.  They even dredged the swamps but had no luck. Rumors started to spread that Nell had been afraid of Jim while Mrs. Wilcox claimed that Nell didn’t love Jim and was planning to break up with him.


On December 27, 1901, Nell’s body was found floating in the river by a fisherman. A river that had been part of the original search.  It was obvious that whoever killed Nell dumped her body in the lake after it was searched. An autopsy showed that Nell had been struck hard enough in her right temple to kill her. Jim Wilcox did not have an alibi for the time he left Cropsey Farm that night. Between his lack of an alibi and the rumors of his temper, Wilcox was arrested and put in jail. There were threats of a lynch mob and additional guards had to be hired to protect Wilcox.

In March of 1902, Wilcox waived his right to have a hearing. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death by hanging. In 1903, the state Supreme Court declared a mistrial claiming that he didn’t get a fair trial due to public sentiment toward him. He was retried, found guilty of second-degree murder, and sentenced to thirty years in prison.


Over the years other theories about who killed Nell started. Some people said her murder was just a random act. Others said that her father mistook her for an intruder and killed her.  Or that her sister’s boyfriend did it. Eventually, a petition for Wilcox’s release was started. In 1918, he was pardoned by the governor of North Carolina and released.  


Sometime in the 1930s, Wilcox contacted the Editor of the Elizabeth City Independent, W. O. Saunders. He wanted to tell Saunders what really happened. But shortly afterward, Wilcox committed suicide. Soon after that, Saunders was killed in a car accident. Coincidence?…


But it seems that Nell wasn’t happy with the events. Rumor has it that her spirit can’t rest and is haunting Cropsey Farm to this day…

Hauntings have been reported by everyone that has lived in the house since then. They have said that doors slam for no reason, faucets turn on by themselves, and the lights go on and off. Cold blasts of air have been felt in different places all over the house. A woman’s ghost has been seen walking along the river and wandering in the hallways. There was a report of a resident who woke up and found Nell standing at the foot of their bed. People walking past the house have seen a very pale woman looking out the windows. 

The death of Nell Cropsey is a tragic mystery. Her ghost, however – that’s up to you to believe, my friends.




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