Crybaby Lane is a creepy little stretch of deserted grass off Western Boulevard in Raleigh with a sad, scary story tied to it. The story begins in the middle of the last century, when what's now called Crybaby Lane was the site of a Roman Catholic orphanage. The orphanage was the home to a few dozen young boys and girls, who were raised by the priests, as had been happening there since the orphanage had been founded in the early 1900s. We can assume these orphans lived as orphans did in those days, going to school to learn a useful trade, and once a week during the summers being taken down to swim in the pool at nearby Pullen Park. Since this was a Catholic home, some of the older boys would be studying for the priesthood. For those children without parents there weren't many options back then. It may not have been a completely happy life, but it was more than it could have been.
This all came to a tragic end one night in 1958 when a fire broke out in the orphanage dormitory. The fire spread quickly through the building, and by the time the sleeping children were aware of the smoke and the heat filling the hallways of their only home it was too late. When the fire department arrived, the building had already been gutted, reduced to burnt beams and flame-broken bricks. Many of the children burned to death in the flames.
The path leading up to the empty field called Crybaby Lane
Months after the fire, when after what remained of the burned orphanage had been torn down and hauled away, the city began receiving complaints from the neighbors that the smell of smoke was still strong in the air, as if the fire was still burning. The smell was so strong that some people would choke when they walked into the field, as if their own lungs were filling up with smoke. This happened even though the new grass had already covered up where the building once stood.
But the smell of smoke was only part of it — there were also the voices.
The voices came out of the air, quietly at first, then growing louder. They were the voices of children. Children crying, wailing in fear, sadness, and pain. The screams of the orphaned children who had died in the fire could still be heard.
Now, some of the neighbors thought it was just their minds playing tricks on then. They had been there the night of the fire, and seen and heard these horrible things. They thought that they just couldn't get the awful memories out of their heads. But time passed, and the people who had been there that night all died or moved away, but still the acrid smell of smoke lingered. And the cries of the children could still be heard.
The view down Crybaby Lane
If you go to find this place yourself, you'll see that most of the houses around the field where the orphanage once stood have been abandoned. The place where the orphanage stood is now an empty field. If you hunt through the grass you'll be able to find the cornerstone, all that's left of the old orphanage.
And after you've stood in the field for a few minutes, you'll start to notice that the place has a strange, distinct smell. It's the odor of smoke and burning wood.
And if you stay a few minutes more, you'll begin to hear something strange in the air — awful, unearthly sounds — the cries of children in fear and in pain. Children who are lost, but still never able to leave the only place on earth that they ever knew as a home.
And not many people will stay much longer than that in the empty field that's come to be called Crybaby Lane.
But there's more to this story than just the story. Learn the scary truth about Crybaby Lane.
Looking out from the center of Crybaby Lane
Crybaby Lane is off of Bilyeu Street in Raleigh.
When in Raleigh drive down Western Boulevard headed downtown. When you see the convenience store that stands on the edge of Pullen Park on your left, take the next right on to Bilyeu.
Pass the State House apartments where Bilyeu turns to gravel and ends, park there and walk up the hill on a short, well-worn path. This is Crybaby Lane.