'Haunted Watauga County'

Article Published: Jul. 28, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Haunted Watauga County'


On a wintry night in February 1972, Boone was rocked by a crime unheard of in the small mountain town.

A triple homicide claimed the lives of Bryce and Virginia Durham and their son, Bobby Joe.

Nearly 40 years later, the murders remain unsolved. Writer Tim Bullard has hopes of reversing the cold case status. He brings the Durham incident back to public light in his new book, "Haunted Watauga County."

The collection of stories on ghosts and the Watauga County locations they stalk will be released in September.

Bullard was a high school freshman in Laurinburg, when he heard about the Durham murders. He moved to Boone in 1974 to attend Appalachian State University, but did not hear about the case again until he started working for the Watauga Democrat newspaper in 1981.

Several times during his tenure with the newspaper in the early 1980s, Bullard wrote about the Durhams on the anniversary of their killings. For Bullard, the assignments created a personal interest he couldn't shake. His curiosity snowballed in the years following and led to him to investigate the story in depth.

His findings can be found in the "Ghosts of the Durham Family" chapter of "Haunted Watauga County." In addition to the grisly details of the event and its aftermath, Bullard interviews the current resident of the house where the murders took place. Karen Coffey Woods believes her house is frequented by the spirits of the Durham family.

"I don't feel like it's a scary presence," Woods told Bullard. "I do feel something. I believe thereare spirits that are lost. I do believe in them."

Of the 21 stories in "Haunted Watauga County," Bullard said he is most absorbed in the Durham family murders. He hopes the section of his book will contribute to a resolution for the decades-long mystery.

"I take this pretty seriously," he said. "These are dead people - murder victims. I'll be so happy if they are ever able to solve this crime."

Bullard may get his wish. The Watauga County Sheriff's Office reopened the case in 2011. Bullard said he is assisting in the investigation.

The Durham family and its former home are one of many stories that make up "Haunted Watauga County." People such as Daniel Boone, Merle Watson and former cast members of the outdoor drama, "Horn in the West," make appearances in the book. It also recounts spooky events at well-known places like Green Park Inn, Howard's Knob and Cone Manor.

"Most of what you're going to read in the book is true," Bullard said. "It's a historical account of events that really happened in Watauga County."

"Haunted Watauga County" will be released Sept. 1 by The History Press of Charleston, S.C. The book will be available locally at the Appalachian State University Bookstore and Black Bear Books. It will also be sold through online retailers Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

More information about "Haunted Watauga County" and author Tim Bullard can be found online at http://www.TimBullard.com.

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