By Kathy Chaffin, Salisbury Post
Five people live in Kim and Steve Etters' house on Kerr Street — and, they believe — at least that many ghosts.
Three have made their presence known enough times to earn names: Princess, Sweaty Boy and Mr. Atwell, the name of the man who built the house.
Princess is described by the Etters children — 20-year-old KatiEarl, 16-year-old Casiann and 14-year-old Chase — and a family friend as being a little girl with no eyes and long ringlets who is always wearing a long white Victorian gown and white satin slippers.
Sweaty Boy, according to several eyewitness accounts, has eyes, but his neck and head appear to be wet. He's usually seen wearing overalls and a red shirt.
Mr. Atwell, a man of small stature, has brown hair and is wearing dress pants, a shirt and a vest.
The first sighting happened in the fall of 2001, a year after the Etters moved into the 6,000-square-foot, three-story house. It happened in the downstairs formal sitting room after Kim had brought some tiles from an upstairs fireplace to use around a fireplace there.
"I saw a shadow walk by the room," she says. Thinking it was her daughter, KatiEarl, she asked her a question, getting no response.
"KatiEarl, if I'm going to talk to you," Kim says she said, "you better talk back when I ask you a question."
KatiEarl was in another part of the house.
One weekend in September 2002, Kim's sister brought her three sons — ages 3, 5 and 8 — to stay with them for a few days. Before her nephews left to return home, Kim says the 5-year-old asked her, "Are the cops going to come take that dead body out of Chase's closet?"
"It was sort of a random question," she says. "I didn't know where that came from."
The following Tuesday, Kim, an assistant principal at China Grove Elementary School, says she and the children heard a "thump, thump, thump, boom, boom, glass-breaking noise."
Casiann says she was on the third floor and ran downstairs, meeting KatiEarl running up from the first floor. They found what they believe was the cause of that noise in KatiEarl's second-floor bedroom: a picture of a ballerina, the glass broken, lying in the middle of the floor with ballet trophies sitting up around it in a circle.
KatiEarl's soccer trophies, however, were on the other side of the room, she says, most of them turned on their sides.
Sitting on KatiEarl's bed, Casiann recalls, was the little girl who they would name Princess.
"KatiEarl and I screamed bloody murder and ran down the stairs," she says.
By the time they found Kim downstairs, she says they were hysterical. When a family friend offered to accompany the girls to KatiEarl's bedroom 10 minutes later, she also saw Princess.
Kim says she said, "Girls, get out of this room now."
In the meantime, Steve, a music professor at Catawba College, was getting ready to lead his first Community Band rehearsal when his family came running into his office.
"The kids are crying," he recalls. "Kim's saying, 'I want to move. I'm not spending one more night in that house.'"