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Mystery to Me: Where's the North Carolina pond from a trippy Fleetwood Mac song?
Some old lyrics from a legendary band mention a strange place in this state. Tracking down the story behind it was easy. Tracking down the actual location is, uh, something you can help with?
Back in January, Rabbit Hole reader and legendary Charlotteansent me an email about a bit of classic rock lore I’d never heard before. “I listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac after Christine McVie died,” he said, “and one of the deep cuts I hadn't heard in a long time is a song called ‘Hypnotized.’ This time something caught my ear ... it's sort of a druggy song, about visions and UFOs and such.”
The second verse is what got Tommy’s attention:
I remember a talk about North Carolina
And a strange, strange pond
You see the sides were like glass
In the thick of a forest without a road
And if any man's hand ever made that land
Then I think it would've showed
Here’s the thing: I have this record in my collection. I’ve listened to it! And I completely missed this. And just so you know, this is early Fleetwood Mac from 1973, which doesn’t sound like the Stevie Nicks/Lindsey Buckingham/Rumours style of Fleetwood Mac that provided the TikTok soundtrack for a man skateboarding down a street while taking a big pull from a jug of Ocean Spray cranberry juice. Nope. This Fleetwood Mac is more trippy and more British. And this song, “Hypnotized,” is out there, man.
It was written and sung by Bob Welch, a movie producer’s son from Los Angeles who was with the band from 1971 until 1974. The song itself got quite a bit of airplay after its release, but in the greater pantheon of Fleetwood Mac hits, it’s been pushed pretty far down.
Still! There’s that whole pond thing! So, uh, is it real? And, if so, where is it?
Before we get deep into this, I’m just going to give you a big spoiler here: I didn’t find it. I know! Bummer! I do have some clues, and I’ve ruled some places out, but I can’t drop a pin onto Google Maps and say “ah, yes, here is this pond that was name checked in a song 50 years ago, I easily solved this mystery.” Typically I don’t like to do this, because it’s not nearly as fun to write a story only to have it not pay off in a tidy, satisfying way. Plus, due to the nature of the attention economy, you usually only get one shot to capture any sort of buzz. Hence, it’s much better to work it all out before you go to the trouble of writing. But! I’m just gonna go for it, because:
This is a song that refers to aliens. I’m not sure that the songwriter was in a lucid, clear, fact-based mood when he came up with it.
This happened a very long time ago! Anyone with firsthand knowledge of this pond is at least 60 years old, and likely older than that.
My probability of success is pretty low. But there’s a chance that someone who reads this newsletter might know something. You all are into some weird shit.
So, here we go:
The First Clue: It’s Somewhere Near Winston-Salem
There’s a lot to work out here, but let’s start with information from the original source, Bob Welch himself, who was asked about the pond back in 2003:
A guy that I used to work with from Winston-Salem told me the story of he and some friends riding dirt bikes 20 miles or so out in the woods when they came upon a strange "crater" in the ground with smooth sides like melted glass. It was a "pond" in the sense that there was some rainwater in it I guess.
There were no access roads or caterpillar tracks so it wasn't a construction site. I think the location must have been near Winston-Salem. They all immediately got the feeling they should get out of there. Maybe it was a meteor impact? I just liked the imagery for the song.
Welch basically told another website, songfacts.com, the same thing. But that’s as detailed as his story gets (Welch died in 2012). That didn’t stop a reporter from Durham from trying to figure it out. He didn’t get far. “I forgot where Bob said that pond was,” Mick Fleetwood told the Herald-Sun in 1995. “Bob was really into that sort of thing.” That thing being UFOs.
It’s gotta be that big hole in the ground that everyone already knows about, right?
If you know Winston-Salem well, you might be thinking: That sort of sounds like the big hole at Quarry Park! It’s exactly what it sounds like: a giant quarry that’s not been made into, yes, a park. It’s really great. Our family had nice pictures taken there once.
At first, this sort of fits the bill. There’s a pond there surrounded by tall, sheer cliffs. But this one’s pretty easy to rule out. For one thing, it’s fairly close to downtown. For another, it was still a working quarry during the time when the song came out. According to the park’s description, it was in operation from the mid-1920s through the early 1970s. The big hole only started to fill up with water after the quarry shut down.
Now let’s rely on some guy who knows a guy who read something
The next clue comes from a post from 2012 on a site called “Above Top Secret.” There’s a lot of stuff here of the supernatural/spiritual variety, but basically it goes like this: A guy said his cousin saw a post on a message board. Here’s the gist of what that original poster said:
He said that one day in 1969, he and three friends were riding dirt-bike motorcycles in a large forested area near Winston-Salem. He described it as thick forest with bike trails worn through the woods. Deep in the middle of the forest was a large clearing. They had ridden their bikes there many times before, but on this day, when they reached the clearing, they were shocked to see a huge, perfectly round depression in the ground that was probably 80 - 100 feet in diameter . He said it was as if a giant iron ball had been pressed into the ground, buried halfway, and then lifted out. The dirt in the indentation was 'smooth as glass'. There was not a bump or a ripple anywhere. Of course they thought that it had somehow been man-made...dug out with bulldozers or something. But there was no machinery anywhere. There was no way to get any machinery there! There were no roads, just bike trails. They got really spooked and got the hell out of there. From what the guy said, all four of them were pretty spooked.
They went back to town, told some folks, and a few more people went and found the pond. But a few days later, the depression itself was gone. Supposedly someone took pictures, but never shared them with any news outlets, and the story itself became a local legend. I asked around about this online, but nobody could recall any urban legends about a weird dent in the ground.
One Decent Lead, and A Phone Call
If you keep scrolling through, you find a guy with a pretty interesting lead. Basically, he looked around for forested areas that were about 20 miles outside of Winston-Salem. Pilot Mountain is one. Then he looked more closely and found a pond that’s 100 feet wide.
According to that poster, this place meets all of the criteria:
Forested area 20miles outside Winston-Salem NC USA ... check!
Forested are has dirt roads and big clearing in the center ... check!
In that area is a 100ft diameter bowl like impression ... check!
Thats 3 for 3 and thats good enough for me!
So, was it that easy? Was this the pond?
I mean, it has the makins’. Pilot Mountain has been seen as a spiritually significant place ever since the Saura tribe lived on the land nearby and used it for navigation. More recently, some folks have pointed out that a bunch of things called ley lines converge on the mountain. You can read more about them here. (I’m not advocating this but, they probably makes perfect sense if you’re really high.) On a more factual basis: Pilot Mountain was a privately-run tourist attraction before local folks banded together to keep it from being developed, and it became a state park in 1968. It has plenty of hiking trails and roads, but no bike trails today, although who knows what it was like back then! I wasn’t there! But this particular pond is just outside of the park boundary. I figured out who owned the property and sent him a message via Facebook. A few days later, he called me back.
Turns out the pond is…. just a pond. It was built by the previous landowner, he said, and it probably didn’t look all that suspicious. The farmer built it to irrigate his tobacco fields, and it’s no more than a few feet deep. It’s also clearly fed by a spring higher up on the mountain. On top of that, there are a lot of ponds nearby, the owner told me. Farmers built a lot of them in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
The final insult: The man told me that he’d never even heard of “Hypnotized.”
So, just to recap here: There are only four people who know, for sure, where this “strange, strange pond” is. One of them ended up being friends with Bob Welch, who told him about it, and Welch ended up putting it into a song that got a lot of extended airplay. One of them also apparently wrote about it on a message board that nobody can seem to find, but someone saw that post and told his cousin, who posted about it on a different message board. There are also, maybe, pictures of this that have never gone public. Apparently this was a thing that people talked about in Winston-Salem a half-century ago. It goes on.
So now, I defer to you, Rabbit Hole readers. Maybe you know something. Maybe you know a guy who knows a guy. Either way, the truth is out there. Or, this might remain a mystery to me.