Today, the Asheville Village Witch tells us her personal ghost stories, and gives us some DIY field magic hacks. Asheville is an Appalachian city in the blue ridge mountains of North Carolina. It’s also a hotbed for paranormal activity, like much of Appalachia is revealing itself to be. Our very first story shared on this podcast took place in a haunted bed and breakfast in Hendersonville, right next door to Asheville.

Listen now:

About the Guest: H. Byron Ballard

Byron has studied and practiced Appalachian folk magic for half a century. (She tells us that the term Appalachian Granny Magic was a manufactured term, never used by the original practitioners.) She’s a senior priestess at and a founder of Mother Grove Goddess Temple, and also a pastor. She also knows a lot of stories about Asheville hauntings, as she’s guided ghost tours there.

H. Byron Ballard, MFA. Teacher, folklorist and writer. Western NC native, renowned as the Asheville Village Witch

Her books on traditional Appalachian craft are published by Llewellyn Press. Order her books from Byron’s local indie bookstore at, and she’ll sign it for you before it is shipped. Also visit her website or follow her on Facebook as H. Byron Ballard, author, Witch About Town, for events and more info.

Cover of Small Magics by H. Byron Ballard, published by Llewellyn

Show notes

The Lost Sea of Appalachia

The Lost Sea, within Craighead Caverns near Sweetwater, Tennessee, is the world’s second-largest non-sub-glacial underground lake. Craighead Caverns themselves have been in use for centuries, originally by Cherokee under the ownership of Chief Craighead, then for mining saltpeter to make gunpowder during the Civil War, then for bootlegging moonshine during the Prohibition Era.

In the nineteen-noughties, a little boy named Ben was spelunking deep in the network of caves under Appalachia. He came upon a small opening, and squirmed his way inside. When he held up his lantern, he found himself within an enormous underground room. The cavern was so large, the boy couldn’t see the walls of the cave.

Intrepid Ben started tossing mud at the walls, thinking he would use this rudimentary echolocation to determine how deep the cave was…but all he heard was splashing. Indeed, the cavern was full of water, stretching farther than the light could travel. When he finally convinced his father to come check out the cave, the tiny subterranean entrance to the lake was blocked by rising water.

Where does the Lost Sea’s water come from?

The Lost Sea of Appalachia is pitch black, the dark water seemingly bottomless. The only creatures known to live in the lake are the tagged rainbowless rainbow trout that were released there by researchers in the 1970s in an attempt to trace the source of the water. Becky says that, although the water in the lake rises and falls, no human has ever been able to figure out the source. The fish were no help, as they stayed put, slowly starving to death in the isolated and previously lifeless dark water.

How big is the Lost Sea of Appalachia?

Looking at it from the surface, the massive underground lake is about 800′ x 220′. But divers have found underground rooms adjacent to the part of the lake that is visible from the surface that seem to have no end. Apparently, the divers have always had to turn back before ever finding the boundary. So the Lost Sea could be much larger down deep.

Visiting the Lost Sea of Appalachia

A modern tourist attraction exists there today: The Lost Sea Adventure. Nowadays you can visit the Lost Sea in Craighead Caverns without spelunking your way through dangerous cave cracks. Becky thinks it’s one of the creepiest places on Earth. And she’s going to force Diana to paddle out on the Lost Sea in a canoe, and witness the Feeding Frenzy of Darkness.

We plan to broadcast live from the Lost Sea some time in the first weekend of May, 2024! This will be the same trip where we visit Asheville, to see if the ghost stories are true in person. Follow our socials below for updates and live events.

What are Haints and Boogers?

In Appalachian slang, the word “haints” sometimes is just synonymous with “ghosts.” “Boogers” are what we call “cryptids” nowadays. They are usually referred to concurrently. Becky points out that in some Afro-Carribean traditions, haints are specifically the type of ghosts you absolutely do not want in your house, as opposed to a benign relative lingering in that rocking chair in the corner. That’s why so many southern houses are protected by haint blue porch ceilings.

How to make an energy trap, or a HEPA filter for negative energy

Byron walked us through the steps on how to make a DIY energy trap for your home.

  • Cut out bottom of aluminum pie plan to create a metallic circle.
  • Put a dark rock from your own property and a tealight candle in the center of the disc.
  • Around the rock, make a circle of heavy salt (like ice cream rock salt).
  • Around that, make a circle of regular table salt.
  • Light the candle.

But what does a DIY energy trap do?

Byron theorizes that, the way our houses are laid out is ideal for bringing energy in. She says we need to occasionally clean the energy back out of the house so it does not build up. If you haven’t cleared the energy in your house for a while, it can start to take form, or appears to at least. Many of the calls she gets about ghosts are actually just stuck energy. She’s not sure how it works, but 75% of the time, this simple energy trap alone solves her prospective client’s “ghost” problem.

If this energy trap doesn’t quite cut it for you, Byron provides many other DIY field magic tips in Small Magics and her other books. And yes, the tips work even if you don’t live in Appalachia. If you’re not keen on DIY magic, Byron herself might be available to help clear your house.

Why is Appalachian Folk Magic traditionally practiced by women?

If it seems like only women practiced witchcraft in Appalachia, there is a historical reason for that. Traditional gender roles in old Appalachia would’ve delegated nearly all the paid work and political power to men. Basically, men didn’t have any time for practicing magic, because they were the only breadwinners of their families, working 12 hour days in mines and factories. Women, at the time unemployable, traditionally handled the busy work, like searching the woods for wild medicinal plants; dirty work, like dealing with a dead body; and one-off tasks, like emergency healthcare. Whereas now these are valued career fields and have distinct courses of study, remote early settlements wouldn’t have had the work nor resources to support a full-time mortician or doctor. The knowledge would’ve been passed down from and to the people who had the time to learn it: mainly women.

And besides, most Appalachian men had no use for magic, as they had practical power to influence their world. Byron says that the only Appalachian folk magic traditionally practiced by men was Water Witching. Nowadays, as we claw our way ever closer towards true gender equality, Appalachian folk magic is practiced by people of all genders.

But is there some inherent biological process tying field magic to womanhood?

Byron mostly feels and senses spirits, only rarely seeing ghosts visually. She is, however, sandwiched between 2 generations of women who naturally see spirits through clairvoyance. In fact, all the women in her family are told from an early age, that, upon menarche, they will receive an inherited psychic gift. Familial gifts include precognitive dreaming, hands on healing, second sight, clairvoyance, and clairsentience.

She thinks of menarche as having a biological reason to cause a shift in perception: protecting one’s young through intuition. She also advises middle-aged women about the supernatural nature of perimenopause. It is, perhaps, times of great hormonal shifts that awaken the senses to the supernatural world. Because many people who were born with ovaries experience more of these shifts throughout a lifetime than those without (like pregnancy and menopause, in addition to puberty), they may on average have more access to these supernatural perceptions. Interestingly, she also associates the supernatural nature of puberty and other hormonal changes as potential catalysts for poltergeist activity.

Are poltergeists really just bundled up feminine fury?

Byron tells us that many stories of poltergeist activity she’s called out for around Asheville are actually caused by oppressed anger, seeping out energetically, not actual ghosts. So why do people ascribe poltergeist activity to ghosts? Byron theorizes that it’s easier to accept the idea that the house is haunted than to come to terms with the idea that you or your teenager is so full of bottled up rage that it’s manifesting physically. We still don’t have a clear explanation for the nature of this type of manifestation, but this is far from the first time we’ve heard poltergeists explained this way.

Do you have any ghost stories from Asheville?

Have you visited the Lost Sea of Appalachia to feed the forsaken fishes? Or are the women in your Appalachian family vested with psychic abilities? Homespun Haints is looking for people from Asheville and Appalachia with personal ghost experiences to tell their stories on our future episodes—submit yours today to join us, and have a spooky day!