Site of the Siam Steel Bridge Steel Bridge Road over the Watauga River Elizabethton, Tennessee
An ugly, modern concrete bridge now crosses the Watauga River in the Siam Valley outside of Elizabethton, Tennessee. This crossing was formerly occupied by an impressive steel bridge that was constructed in 1941. Stories, with many historical inaccuracies, have circulated for decades.
The most common story speaks of a time just after the construction of the bridge, when the area was a popular “Lovers’ Lane” of sorts. A young couple was spending time underneath the bridge one night when they were attacked by a vagrant. The couple was stabbed with the young lady dying on the spot, while the young man was able to hail a passing car and climb into the back seat. He was rushed to the hospital where he passed away. According to the story, the police spent more than a year looking for the assailant, but to no avail.
The imminent Tennessee folklorist Charles Edwin Price published an account of this story in his 1992 book, Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee, though some of his details are inaccurate. He dates the murder to the 1920s or 1930s, before the actual construction of the bridge and he provides names for the young couple, Tom Jackson and Wanda Smithson.
In his short, but excellently researched eBook, Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee, researcher and investigator Justin H. Guess delved into local records on this murder only to discover that there were none. He did, however come across the marvelous account of an incident at the bridge experienced by a sheriff’s deputy. This account was published in a HubPages article published in 2008. Bracketed comments are mine.
On July 18th, 1977, the first report of paranormal activity was documented. Beecher Davis, a Gate City, Virginia [in Scott County, about 40 miles north of Elizabethton] sheriff’s deputy, arrived at the Carter County Sheriff’s department around 1:42am in a panic. He stated that he was driving over the steel bridge when the passenger’s side door flew open and then slammed shut. He slammed on the brakes and noticed an indention in the passenger’s seat, as if someone were sitting there. He then caught a glimpse in his mirror of a dark figure that appeared to be wearing a dark cloak and hood. He said that it appeared to be inching closer to the car, but it didn’t look like it was walking. He stated at that point, he got out of the car and nothing was there. He became even more startled at that point and drove off to the Sheriff’s station.
Joey Parsons, the author of the HubPages article, states that this was the first documented experience of some 185 that have been documented over the years. Sadly, he doesn’t include who is doing the documenting.
In recent years, the one lane bridge was deemed structurally deficient and in 2010 was demolished and replaced with a less charming and attractive sibling bridge. It is unknown if paranormal activity has continued at the site.
Guess, Justin H. Weird Tri-Cities: Haunted Carter County, Tennessee. com. 2012.
The Baker-Peters Jazz Club is a study in incongruity. This large, brick antebellum home is boxed in by urban sprawl, even surrendering its front yard on Kingston Pike to an oil change center. In the yard of the house a large neon sign depicts a martini complete with an olive and advertises the jazz club that was once housed in the Greek revival splendor behind it. Sadly, the club has now closed but it has not yet given up its ghosts.
During the Civil War, East Tennessee was a rather dicey place to be no matter with whom your sympathies lay. While the area firmly lies in the bosom of the Confederacy, geography did not change the opinions of the local citizenry. While Knoxville was firmly secessionist, the hearts of the citizens in much of the rest of East Tennessee remained with the Federal Government. When Confederate troops swarmed the area, they were harassed by locals who sabotaged rail lines into the city forcing Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer to build a series of forts around the city. Knoxville fell to Union forces in late 1863.
West of the city of Knoxville, the farm of Dr. James H. Baker was a haven for Confederates looking for solace among company of like-minded individuals. Dr. Baker, a prominent physician, took in wounded Confederates turning his manse into a field hospital. After Union forces captured the city, Baker’s home remained a safe house for Confederates and the local postmaster, William Hall, is supposed to have reported Baker to the Union authorities. Soldiers soon appeared at Baker’s door demanding that he give up any Confederate soldiers in his care. Refusing to do so, Baker ascended the staircase and barricaded himself in a room at the top of the stairs. The soldiers followed, shooting Dr. Baker through the door, killing him.
But that’s not the end of the killing. Dr. Baker’s son, Abner, returned from service in the Confederate Army to find his father dead. After hearing the tragic tale of his father’s demise, Abner hunted down Postmaster William Hall and avenged his father. Soon after, an angry mob killed Abner for the postmaster’s death.
In the 20th century, the house has served as a series of restaurants where employees and patrons have often felt spirits present. One guest told a reporter for the UT Daily Beacon that she gets “a creepy feeling, almost like you can tell that you’re invading someone else’s home.” After hours, passersby have reported lights in the darkened club, sometimes having the appearance of a lantern. Managers have reported having items moved and having glassware falling on a regular basis. The identities of the spirits are unknown, however, I hope Dr. Baker and his son enjoy the smooth jazz.
Burleson, Simpson. “Local jazz club haunted by Civil War era doctor.” UT Daily Beacon. 1 November 2005.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
Flory, Josh. “Oil change business planned outside of Baker Peters House.” Property Scope. 22 August 2014.
Price, Charles Edwin. Mysterious Knoxville. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1999.
Wheeler, W. Bruce. “Knoxville.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
The great Alabama storyteller, Kathryn Tucker Windham, provides the account of three people who witnessed an odd event while sitting on the porch of the Cherry Mansion one evening in 1976. Around 11 PM, the trio watched as a man in a white suit and wide-brimmed hat approached the historical marker in front of the house. The man read the marker and then, in full view of the spectators on the porch, vanished.
The house is magnificently sited on an ancient bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. This home was constructed around 1830 by David Robinson, possibly as a gift to his daughter who was the wife of businessman William Cherry. An ardent Unionist during the Civil War, Cherry offered the use of his home to several Union generals in 1862 who used it in the days leading up to the Battle of Shiloh, which took place about 9 miles south of Savannah. General Charles Ferguson Smith, suffering from a recent leg injury passed away in the house during that time.
On the morning of April 6th, legend holds that General Ulysses Grant’s breakfast was interrupted by an overture of cannon-fire announcing the Confederates’ surprise attack on Union forces camped at Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. Furious fighting over a sunken road where Union Generals Benjamin Prentiss and W. H. L. Wallace defended their position against heavy artillery fire from Confederate batteries gave a head wound to Wallace and the area to be nicknamed, “The Hornet’s Nest.” Wallace was taken to Cherry Mansion to receive medical attention.
Legend holds that Wallace’s devoted wife, Martha Ann, had received a premonition of her husband’s death and traveled to Tennessee in hopes that he was unharmed. Arriving in the midst of the battle, she was stunned to find that her husband had been wounded and took up residence at his side in Cherry Mansion. When her husband died a few days later, she was still at his side. People passing the mansion have reported seeing the form of a gentleman in a uniform looking out one of the upstairs windows. This form is widely believed to be that of General Wallace.
This home is a private residence.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Cherry Mansion. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 December 2017.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
Hammerquist, Gail. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Cherry Mansion. February 1976.
West, Mike. “Tennessee home to tragic Civil War ghost story.” Murfreesboro Post. 26 October 2008.
Windham, Kathryn Tucker. 13 Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey. Tuscaloosa, AL: U. of AL Press, 1977.
Cocke County Memorial Building 103 North Cosby Highway Newport
This unassuming building in the small town of Newport in Eastern Tennessee bears the weight of a tragedy. The sadness of this tragic moment in the mid 1960s still echoes now, more than fifty years later.
Opened in 1931 as an American Legion post, the Cocke County Memorial Building was constructed to memorialize locals who had given their lives in the First World War. The building includes a gym with a stage, as well as office and meeting space for the post and the community at large.
On July 9, 1964, near the Cocke County community of Parrottville, a witness observed a plane with a “violet red light burning on the fuselage.” A short time later other witnesses saw the plane flying low with smoke trailing from it. The plane veered off course and crashed on a wooded mountain slope. Moments before the impact, witnesses observed something falling from the aircraft. A search revealed that one of the plane’s emergency exits had been opened and a passenger had fallen. That passenger, as well as the plane’s remaining passengers and crew, a total of 39 souls, perished in the accident.
As Newport had no large facilities to accommodate the remains of the 39 who had died in the accident, investigators and rescue personnel commandeered the Cocke County Memorial Building for use during the operation. Since most of the bodies were in pieces, remains were spread out on the gym floor to aid in identification. After studying the wreckage of the plane and the remains, authorities ascertained that a fire had broken out in the passenger compartment in mid-air. After two weeks, the investigators and the human remains left the Memorial Building, but spirits have lingered.
Author John Norris Brown, who once maintained the excellent blog, Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee (the website is no longer extant, though it can still be found on the Web Archive), was one of the first people to document this haunting in Newport. Though some of his facts about the plane crash were incorrect, he described some of the experiences visitors to the building have experienced: “[they have] felt presences, heard voices, as well as the screams of a woman, and the cries of babies. Feelings of being watched are said to be almost unbearable in the building.”
In an article in Supernatural Magazine, paranormal investigator Anthony Justus describes the experiences of him and his paranormal team during a 2008 investigation. While investigating the building’s sub-basement, Justus encountered an entity that he described as “an intelligence without form.” He eloquently continued: “I saw nothing, heard little but I felt it. A deep resonant cold that chilled me to the bone. I felt threatened and oppressed. As I left the area, I felt its heavy presence behind me, following up those rickety stairs, so close I could feel it on my neck. It was death, it was sadness and it was hate, a predatory thing that lurked in the darkness.”
Later, the team members found balls from a Bingo game being thrown from the bleachers in the gym, bouncing and rolling across the wooden floor. During this time, Justus caught a glimpse of a young boy standing in the corner of the room who disappeared as he approached. The most spectacular event of the evening was noted as being a moment when a set of doors that were locked violently threw themselves open gouging the plaster walls and cracking one of the wooden doors. It seems that the spirits from the plane crash are unhappy at being stuck in this plane of existence.
Murphy, Kimberly. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Cocke County Memorial Building. December 1996.
Cragfont 300 Cragfont Road Castalian Springs
Cragfont was built to impress. Constructed of stone on a bluff over a spring that feeds into nearby Bledsoe’s Creek, this was the first stone house constructed on the Tennessee frontier. With craftsmen and artisans brought from Maryland, James Winchester began work on his home in 1798, finishing around 1802. Besides providing a fine home for his family, Cragfont served as a gathering spot for locals and as a stop for travelers.
James Winchester was already an accomplished individual when he built his home, having served as a Patriot officer during the American Revolution. In the latter years of the 18th century, Winchester had served in the North Carolina Constitutional Convention and worked towards the establishment of the state of Tennessee, after which he served in the newly created legislature. During the War of 1812, Winchester left Cragfont to serve his country. He died here in 1826.
A home that has witnessed the whirlwind of history that Cragfont has witnessed must surely be haunted. Caretakers of the home have noted that furniture and objects apparently move during the night when the house is locked up, while beds will appear to have been slept in. Both visitors and staff have reported seeing apparitions and hearing disembodied footsteps and voices within the house.
Brown, John Norris. “Cragfont Mansion Hauntings.” Ghosts & Spiritsof Tennessee. Accessed 31 January 2011.
Coop, May Dean. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Cragfont. 16 June 1969.
Legend holds that at the height of a yellow fever epidemic in 1873, the Hunt family fled their Memphis home after entrusting a chest of gold to a manservant, Nathan Wilson. Upon their return, Wilson was found dead in his room and the chest missing. The only clue to the whereabouts of the chest being mud on the servant’s boots indicating that he may have buried the chest. Stories have emerged that Wilson’s specter is sometimes seen around the house and will guide fortunate witnesses to the buried fortune.
Marking the Lauderdale Street end of the “infamous section” of Beale Street where Blues music first developed, the Hunt-Phelan House has just as infamous a history. Built in 1832 by George Wyatt, during the Civil War the house was used a headquarters for Confederate General Leonidas Polk while planning the Siege of Corinth, Mississippi and a few months later after the fall of Memphis, the house was headquarters for Union General Ulysses S. Grant while he planned the Vicksburg Campaign. The house then served as a Freedmen’s Bureau and was finally returned to the family by President Andrew Johnson in 1865. More recently, the house was operated as The Inn at Hunt-Phelan featuring four-star accommodations and restaurants.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomenaof the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
Lester, Dee Gee. “Hunt-Phelan House.” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
Lovett, Bobby L. “Beale Street.” Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
Orpheum Theatre 203 South Main Street Memphis
At the other end of the “infamous section” of Beale Street from the Hunt-Phelan House is the dazzling Orpheum Theatre. Opened in 1928, the “New” Orpheum replaced the opera house that originally occupied this site from 1890 until its destruction by a fire in 1923. The Orpheum is among the ranks of hundreds of theatres throughout the country designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Rapp and Rapp, which designed hundreds of theatres throughout the country some of which, like the Paramount in Ashland, Kentucky; and the Tivoli in Chattanooga, are known to be haunted.
The Grand Opera House was added to the Orpheum circuit in 1907. Made up of the finest theatres from coast to coast, the Orpheum circuit featured the top vaudeville headliners, bringing them to Memphis audiences for almost two decades. Following a performance by singer Blossom Seeley on October 17, 1923, the theatre was gutted by a fire causing approximately $250,000 (about $3.5 million in today’s dollars) in damage. A new, state-of-the-art theatre was constructed on the site opening on November 19, 1928. This new theatre continued to bring cream of the crop stars to Memphis as well as films, which were accompanied by a huge Wurlitzer organ.
As any good theatre has a ghost, it’s no surprise that the Orpheum features some very well-known ghost stories. Around the time that the theatre was sold to the Memphis Development Foundation in 1976, Vincent Astor, a local historian, took some friends to the theatre to show them the Wurlitzer organ. While the group was watching him play, someone asked about the little girl they observed playing in the lobby. Wearing a white dress, black stockings, and with long braids, but no shoes, this girl was repeatedly seen in the theatre sometimes sitting in a specific seat in the balcony.
During an investigation by a class from the University of Memphis, a Ouija board was used to contact the playful spirit. At that time, the spirit was identified as “Mary,” a little girl who died in 1921. In a video posted by the theatre, Astor relates that, including Mary, there may be as many as seven spirits within the theatre.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2010.
‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the blog, little was stirring…
This move from Blogger to this new site has been tedious and time-consuming. I’ve tossed out a great deal of junky posts and put many posts aside that need to be updated and refreshed leaving me with many bits and pieces that should be republished in a different context. This is a selection of recycled pieces for Halloween.
East Coast/West Coast 138 St. George Street St. Augustine, Florida
This modest commercial building once housed Kixie’s Men’s Store and some odd activity. The shop employed a young tailor, Kenneth Beeson who would later serve as mayor for the city. While working late one evening he noticed a door opening by itself followed by the sweet scent of funereal flowers. After experiencing odd activity for a while, Beeson put out a tape recorder and set it to record just before he left. When he returned the following morning, he was shocked to discover a plethora of sounds including marching feet and guttural growls. Disturbed by these incidents, Beeson had a priest exorcise the building. The activity ceased.
Cain, Suzy & Dianne Jacoby. A Ghostly Experience: Tales of St. Augustine, Florida. City Gate Productions, 1997.
Lapham, Dave. Ghosts of St. Augustine. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997.
Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel Chetoogeta Mountain Tunnel Hill, Georgia
As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.
The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.
It is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.
DeFeo, Todd. “Antebellum railroad tunnel still a marvel after all These years.” com. 22 June 2009.
Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Accessed 28 November 2010.
Old Talbott Tavern 107 West Stephen Foster Avenue Bardstown, Kentucky
Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.
Old Louisiana State Capitol 100 North Boulevard Baton Rouge, Louisiana
When the state capitol was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, the city donated land atop a bluff over the Mississippi for the capitol building. Architect James Dakin designed a Neo-Gothic building very much unlike the other state capitols which were often modeled on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The magnificent crenellated and be-towered structure was used as a prison and garrison for soldiers under the city’s Union occupation and during this time it caught fire twice leaving it a soot-stained shell by the war’s end. The building was reconstructed in 1882 but abandoned in 1932 for Governor Huey Long’s new state capitol.
Even before the capitol burned during the war, there was a ghost gliding through its halls. Pierre Couvillon, a legislator representing Avoyelles Parish, enraged by his colleagues’ corruption, suffered a heart attack and died. Though he was buried in his home parish, his spirit was said to reside in the capitol; perhaps checking up on his colleagues. When the capitol building underwent restoration in the 1990s, the spirit or spirits in the building were stirred up and activity has increased. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.
Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.
Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.
Jericho Covered Bridge Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls Harford County Near Jerusalem, Maryland
Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.
Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.
Corinth Battlefield Corinth, Mississippi
Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.
The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
North Carolina Zoological Park 4401 Zoo Parkway Asheboro, North Carolina
North Carolina lawyer and folklorist Daniel Barefoot has done much to preserve North Carolina and Southern legends and ghost stories in his books. His series, North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred provides a single ghost story or legend from each of the state’s one hundred counties. From Randolph County, smack dab in the middle of the state, comes the legend of the aptly named, Purgatory Mountain, now home to the NC Zoo. The state-owned zoo is the largest walk-through habitat zoos in the world and a major attraction in the region.
During the Civil War, much of rural North Carolina was resistant to seceding from the Union and, as a result, the state was the final state to secede. Still, many citizens, including the peaceable Quakers of Randolph County resisted joining the butternut ranks. Recruiters were sent to these areas to nudge and sometimes force the inhabitants to join. One particular recruiter in this area earned the nickname, “The Hunter,” for his harsh methods. He rounded up a group of Quaker boys, tied them roughly and marched them to Wilmington to join the army, but a few escaped and returned, bedraggled to their rural homes. When the recruiter returned, this group of escaped boys shot him outside of his cabin at Purgatory Mountain. His malevolent spirit is still supposedly stalking the crags of his mountain home.
Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
Carter House 1140 Columbia Avenue Franklin, Tennessee
By some accounts, the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some historians have even deemed it the “Gettysburg of the South.” Fought right on the edge of the town of Franklin, the battle hit very close to the home front and absolutely hammered the farm of the Carter family which was located at the center of the main defensive line. During the furious fighting, the Carters, neighbors and slaves cowered in the basement of the house, emerging after the battle to witness the carnage spread through their yard and around their house. The house and outbuildings still bear bullet holes, attesting to their experience.
Fanny Courtney Carter, who was 8 years old when the battle overtook her family’s farm, later recalled the day following the battle: “Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were clod and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writing in agony and calling ‘Water! Water!’ I can hear them even now.” Fanny’s brother, Tod, who had enlisted in the Confederate army was found some yards from the house, his body riddled with eight bullets, but still clinging to life. The family brought him into the parlor of his home where he died on December 2.
The pastoral fields that once surrounded the Carter House as well as the town of Franklin that saw so much blood that November day have mostly been lost to development though the spiritual imprint of the battle is still felt throughout the city. The spirit of Tod Carter may be one of the more active spirits at the Carter House. He has been seen sitting on the edge of the bed where he may have died and according to Alan Brown, he took a tour of the house, correcting the tour guide when she didn’t use the correct name or date and disappearing before he and the guide could descend to the basement.
Apparently he’s not the only lingering spirit. Poltergeist activity in the house has been attributed to Tod’s sister, Annie. Objects have moved from room to room and one visitor on a tour watched a figurine that jumped up and down.
Battle of Franklin (2009). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena Of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
Rockledge Mansion 440 Mill Street Occoquan, Virginia
The town website for Occoquan (pronounced OK-oh-qwahn), Virginia states that the city, “has an inordinate amount of spooks per capita” and then goes on to list a number of locations in the town with ghosts. Among this remarkable collection of haunted locations is the magnificent Georgian mansion, Rockledge, which commands a literal rock ledge above Mill Street. The town was founded in the mid-eighteenth century as a port on the Occoquan River and during the Civil War this northern Virginia town served as a post office between the North and the South.
Quite possibly the work of colonial architect, William Buckland, Rockledge was built in 1758 by local industrialist John Ballandine. In the yard of this house the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen and possibly heard. One witness saw the soldier then noticed peculiar wet footprints on the front steps that appeared to be from hobnail boots, the kind that would have been worn by soldiers during the war. Many people have heard loud footsteps in the house as well as someone knocking at the door. So far, no source has identified this soldier.
Streng, Aileen. “Benevolent ghost believed to haunt mansion.” com. 27 October 2010.
Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Rockledge Mansion. Listed 25 June 1973.
Berkeley Castle WV-9 Berkeley Springs
Berkeley Springs, also known as “Bath,” has attracted visitors who come to take the waters of the mineral springs located there. Overlooking this quaint town from a commanding position on Warm Spring Mountain sits Berkeley Castle, seemingly a piece of medieval Britain transplanted. Modeled and named after Britain’s own Berkeley Castle, the castle was built as a wedding gift from Colonel Samuel Suit for his bride, Rosa Pelham. The Colonel, who was quite a bit older than his bride, died before the castle was finished and his widow finished the building. She lived in the castle after his death and squandered the fortune she inherited and died penniless well away from the castle, but legends speak of her return.
The castle was purchased by paranormal investigators in 2000 but sold fairly shortly after that. Once open for tours, the castle is now primarily a private residence, though it may be rented for weddings, parties and other events.
Fischer, Karin. “Castle in Eastern Panhandle could be in need of a new lord this spring.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. 21 November 2000.
History Berkeley Castle. Berkeley Castle. Accessed 19 March 2011.
Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia. Winking Eye Books, 2008.
North from the hubbub of Chattanooga lies the community of Sale Creek. Just north of Sale Creek, Daugherty Ferry Road guides travelers into the Tennessee backwoods through to a place called Shipley Hollow. After Shipley Hollow Road forks from Daugherty Ferry, travelers enter the domain of something that the locals have nicknamed the “Pitty Pat.”
For roughly two centuries travelers through Shipley Hollow have had run-ins with an entity or creature. The horrors of the first encounter are still whispered about, though many of the details have been lost through this inter-generational telephone game. Some iterations of the legend place the first encounter in the 1770s, while the primary source for the written version provides the date as during the 1860s. The 18th century setting is not likely as the area was occupied almost exclusively by the Cherokee people and the legend states definitively that the characters were settlers.
The basic version of the legend tells us of a settler woman and several small children travelling in a wagon at night through Shipley Hollow. From out of the darkness, something startles the horse causing the wagon to overturn on top of the mother killing her. The children disappear into the night, possibly taken by the entity, never to be seen again. Residents and travelers soon began to hear a strange sound pursuing them after dark a strange pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat, led many to sprint towards their destination.
Over the next century, hapless travelers after dark, doctors on house-calls, and local residents were all frightened of the entity that sometimes climbed onto the backs of horses or buggies. In the 1950s, two residents driving down the road late one night had something crash into the side of their car. The impact caused the driver to step on the gas until the pair reached the safety of a nearby house. Expecting to find evidence of the terrible collision, the gentlemen found nothing. The side of the car was intact with nary a scratch or dent. The men returned to the road seeking the remains of what hit their car, but again, the search was fruitless.
These stories have filtered down to today, and the legend was documented in historian Curtis Coulter’s 1990 book, A Sentimental Journey Down Country Roads: Stories of Sale Creek, Tennessee. Coulter included the original legend and the 1950s collision described above. Georgiana Kotarski included information from Coulter’s book, but she also adds a story from November 2004. Early one morning a pair of deer hunters took up in two deer stands they had set up near Shipley Hollow. Using walkie-talkies to communicate, the pair arrived in the early morning darkness. One of the hunters noticed that the deer seemed to be moving about earlier than expected.
Communication between the hunters was interrupted by static over the walkie-talkies. Peering into the darkness of the woods, one of the hunters heard something moving in the forest. His eyes, having adjusted to the light, soon saw something blocking out the small slivers of light that filtered through the trees. The inky shadow surrounded him, and he felt it breathing on his neck. The feeling lifted after five fearful minutes. After this frightening incident, the hunter began asking around about ghost stories from the area and discovered Coulter’s book.
In 2010, curious teenagers were attracted to the area by tales of ghosts, but they found a gun-toting local who held them until the police arrived. Since the curious teens had not stepped out of their cars, nor had they entered the cemetery, the police arrested the man who held them for false imprisonment. While this incident is not terribly important, the articles do provide a picture of the things that people are still encountering in Shipley Hollow. One of the articles states that “those who visit the cemetery drive around a loop three times, then stop and listen.” One of the teens said, You are supposed to hear weird sounds and sometimes you can even see a light.” The loop is Shipley Cemetery Road, which branches off Shipley Hollow Road to the Shipley Cemetery and loops around to the main road.
Another article about the 2010 incident includes another brief story from the area. That story speaks of a woman being kidnapped, murdered, with her body tossed into a well near the cemetery.
If you head out to Shipley Hollow, you may want to run if you hear a pitty-pat, pitty-pat, pitty-pat sound, though also be on the lookout for gun-toting locals.
“Case bound to grand jury against teacher who held ‘ghostbusters’ with a rifle.” The Chattanoogan. 17 November 2010.
Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
Stone, Michael. “Popular haunt.” Chattanooga Times-Free Press. 11 September 2010.
Sometimes aimless searching online produces serendipitous results. Thus, this was the case when I stumbled upon a mention of a place called “Werewolf Springs.” Reporter Josh Arntz of the Dickson Herald wrote a fabulous article about the legend of Werewolf Springs in 2011. He has since done some excellent reporting on several haunted locations within Dickson County. What’s interesting about this legend, is the possible connection with the more well-known story of the White Bluff Screamer located roughly 5 miles away in the same county.
Dickson County retains its rural character despite being within (about 35 miles) listening distance of Nashville’s country music. Several sites within the county are the subject of ghost stories and legends including Montgomery Bell State Park (the location of Werewolf Springs), the small town of White Bluff (where the legend of the White Screamer may be found), and the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in Dickson (the childhood home of Governor Frank Clement whose parents owned the hotel).
The legend of Werewolf Springs begins with a circus train passing through Dickson County in the late 1860s. The train derailed near the community of Burns, southeast of Dickson, and some of the animals escaped. Among the escapees were a pair of half-human, half-wolf creatures who were exhibited under the moniker, “The Wolfmen of Borneo.” Circus employees caught all the other escaped animals, though the wolfmen were nowhere to be found.
A couple of years later, two locals traveling on a nearby road—where modern State Route 47 now runs from Burns to White Bluff—found themselves being stalked by a large creature. The two men, a local landowner and a hired hand, attempted to outrun the creature, but it caught up with them, and the duo split up and fled into the forest.
The creature pursued the hired hand, and the landowner was shocked to hear the man’s screams and cries as he was presumably torn apart. The hired hand’s body was never located. A mob of locals, I imagine classically armed with pitchforks and torches, formed from nearby farms and towns to bring justice to this dreadful creature. Near the springs where the duo had encountered the beast, the mob led a live goat to a clearing where it was tied to bait the monster. Extinguishing their torches and lanterns, the posse waited with bated breath for the hungry creature to make its appearance.
The prowling creature eventually appeared. The group opened fire then quickly lit their torches and lanterns to see if they had bagged their quarry. The clearing was empty. The creature, goat, and two members of the posse had vanished into the thick night air. With terror, the group dispersed fearing to pursue the mysterious creature any further.
Later, a big game hunter attempted to kill the creature of Wolfman Springs. Setting himself up in a nearby cabin, he slept soundly the first two nights, but on the third night, he heard howling in the distance. A short time later, the frightened hunter began to hear the creature outside his cabin. When it appeared to pass by one of the windows, he aimed and fired. The gunshots only served to rile the creature’s wrath, and it broke down the door. The hunter fired all but two rounds at hairy bipedal, but it only seems to anger more with every shot. With only two rounds left in the chamber, dawn arrived, and the light from the rising sun caused the creature to flee into the shadows of the forest.
Just as the sun rose to banish this creature of the night, Arntz sheds some light on the legend and the history of the area. Wolfman Springs is actually Hall Springs which is located in one of the areas of MONTGOMERY BELL STATE PARK (1020 Jackson Hill Road, Burns) that is only accessible by a hike. The springs are named for the Hall family who had a homestead near the springs. The family’s home is long gone, but a small family cemetery remains nearby. A few weeks after the appearance of the Wolfman Springs article, Arntz followed up with an article about a descendant of the Hall family who grew up near the infamous springs. She denied that she ever heard anyone speak of a mysterious creature in the area.
The land that the state park now occupies was purchased by a National Park Service in 1935 to develop the Montgomery Bell National Recreation Demonstration Area. The park’s namesake is local manufacturing entrepreneur, Montgomery Bell, who was instrumental in building the local iron-smelting industry. Interestingly, even he has been pulled into the Wolfman legend. Some tellers of the story feature Mr. Bell as the local landowner, though this wouldn’t be possible as he passed away before the Civil War.
The railroad tracks where the train derailed still run their original course along the southern edge of the park. Evidently, there were several train derailments on this stretch of line, though none that specifically involved a circus train.
What is the origin of this odd story? I can attest that in my research in Southern ghost and folklore, stories involving these type of creatures appear less frequently than ghost stories. Among these stories are the tales of the Pig Woman in Cecil County and a goat-man creature in southern Maryland; the “Bunny Man” who supposedly haunts a bridge in Virginia; the infamous Mothman of Point Pleasant, West Virginia; the Skunk Ape spotted in Florida; the Lizard-Man of South Carolina; Sasquatch activity that may be associated with the haunting of Spring Villa in Opelika, Alabama and throughout the nearby Tuskegee National Forest in Macon County; and the goat-man creature that has led, like a siren, a handful of young people to their deaths at Pope Lick Trestle in Kentucky. Among these stories, I only know of one other wolfman or werewolf-like creature, and that is a story from Talbot County, Georgia that Nancy Roberts documented in her 1997 opus, Georgia Ghosts.
Interestingly, just five miles from Montgomery Bell State Park and within the same county is the small town of White Bluff. For some time, stories have circulated regarding a creature or entity that is known to prowl the community emitting a terrifying scream. Known as the White Bluff Screamer, the explanations appear to fall into two camps: one believing that the screamer is a banshee while the other camp believes the screamer is a cryptid.
Alan Brown, one of the more venerable writers on Southern ghostlore, makes the argument for the banshee camp in his 2009 work, Haunted Tennessee. Relating the “standard version” of the story, he tells of a settler building a cabin in an isolated hollow near town. However, the man and his family were plagued by a high-pitched screaming that woke them every night. Determined to bring peace, the man took his rifle and hunting to pursue the source of the screams. As the man entered the forest, the screams began anew, and the dogs bounded towards them. Though a short time later the dogs returned frightened with their tails between their legs. The settler continued towards the wailing and climbed a hill to get a view of the surrounding landscape. Reaching the summit, the hunter’s ears were besieged with the screaming once again, though this time is seemed to come from the man’s cabin. He sprinted back to his home and discovered his family’s mangled remains.
The story is not really about a banshee as they are rarely known as malevolent spirits, mostly as heralds of death. A banshee would not typically use her wails to distract a man to kill his family. According to West Virginia writer Rosemary Ellen Guiley in her 2007 compendium, Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, a banshee (or Bean Shide in Gaelic, literally “woman of the fairies”) is “a female death omen spirit of Ireland and Scotland that attaches itself to families…and manifests to herald an approaching death in the family.” She continues, “the banshee most commonly is heard singing or crying, but is not seen.” Speaking with an Irish friend of mine, he noted that banshees are generally considered harbingers and occasionally provide protection to family members when traveling alone or at night. According to him, “the only legends of the banshee killing is if she is disturbed whilst combing her hair. She is reputed to throw her comb, piercing the heart and killing her victim.”
Guiley states that legends of banshees followed the Scots and Irish immigrants who settled throughout the South. One primary legend that appears in Southern folklore is the story of the Tarboro Banshee. Originating in the town of Tarboro, North Carolina on the banks of the Tar River, the story recalls the days during the American Revolution when a patriotic miller operated a grist mill on the banks of the river. Refusing to abandon his operation at the approach of the British, he was captured and drowned in the river, but not before warning his captors of a banshee that would avenge his death.
As the miller sank beneath the brackish water of the river, a wail arose from the watery grave. A feminine form began to take shape in the mist over the river while an agonizing cry was heard on the river banks. The beautiful maiden terrorized the British soldiers responsible for the miller’s death, eventually leading all to grisly deaths. Legend still speaks of the lovely creature appearing over the river waters still mourning the miller’s early departure from this world. I have covered the story of the Tarboro banshee here.
Returning to Middle Tennessee, I need to acknowledge the other camp of thought on the White Bluff Screamer, the camp that believes that the creature may be a cryptid and not a spirit. The authors of the 2011 Nashville Haunted Handbook remark that the creature is commonly heard and sometimes even seen. “Some who see the creature report that it is a white, misty apparition that flits through the woods quickly and ominously in the night…Others report that the source of the screams is an actual creature that resembles an alpaca [a domesticated relative of the llama]: a white furry beast that walks on all fours and stands about six feet tall with a face resembling a camel.” It should also be noted that alpacas can produce a high-pitched whine or scream when frightened.
Screaming is also a purported characteristic of the Sasquatch or Bigfoot. Some witnesses have been able to record the mysterious screaming that may be produced by a sasquatch. This leads me to believe that there may be a connection between this screaming creature and the Sasquatch, though the description that this creature is a quadruped rather than a biped puts that connection into jeopardy.
Returning to the creature that may haunt “Werewolf Springs,” in recent years screaming has been reported in the area. Josh Arntz in his Werewolf Springs article ends with a report from a local teacher who “heard ‘the most blood-curdling scream’ from a wild animal at 1 a.m.” near the park inn on Lake Acorn. The teacher also reported to have heard “plenty of eerie sounds while walking through the park’s woods at night.”
There are several creatures native to the area that can produce human-like screams in the night including fox and bobcat. Regardless of whether these stories contain any truth, they have left a marvelous mythological legacy on the landscape.
Arntz, Josh. “The half-wolf, half-man of Werewolf Springs.” Dickson Herald. 28 October 2011.
Traveling through the Old Country one may find it so deeply rooted in myth that storied places crowd the landscape; by contrast, the vast American landscape is not so studded with stories, mythic or otherwise, for a variety of reasons. Americans, by their nature, are a forward thinking people who may disregard the relics of the past. With every historic site fated for a date with a bulldozer or old building that succumbs to a wrecking ball, fantastic stories are hauled off to the dump within every heap of earth, brick, steel, or wood. In places where history is not so carelessly razed in the name of progress, the myths are able to take root.
The thought occurred to me as I was on the Chattanooga Ghost Tour the other night, that in many places ghost tours are the only real keepers of local mythology in the classic oral tradition. Certainly, the stories being told on these tours are not myths in the sense of being fictitious, they often come directly from history and often include experiences that have occurred to the guides or their associates. But that these ghost stories are a way of explaining local history makes them myth-like. Ghost stories themselves also preserve some of the more gruesome and salacious moments from history, moments that can help to add living and emotive flesh to the skeletons of those long dead.
When the Hamilton County Jail was demolished in 1976 to make way for the modern Hamilton County Justice Center, wrecking crews presumably hauled away the remains of the jail’s gallows that had once stood in the building’s basement. The final executions on this gallows were of two young African-American men who had been charged with the murder of a saloon keeper. News of the execution appeared in a number of national papers including the Evening Star in Washington, D.C. which included this note on page two of its January 11, 1895 edition:
TWO MURDERERS HANGED.
George Mapp and Buddy Wooten Punished for Their Crime.
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., January 11. – George Mapp and Buddy Wooten, two young negroes, were hanged in the execution room of the county jail a few minutes after 8 o’clock this morning. Wooten died a Catholic, and Rev. Father Walsh was with him on the scaffold.
Mapp, however, refused to have a minister with him. He requested that his body be thrown in the river, and said he would be back tonight to haunt the sheriffs and others who had anything to do with his conviction.
The two negroes murdered Marion L. Ross, an aged white saloon keeper, on Saturday night, December 17, 1892. Robbery was their intention in committing the crime. Wooten confessed, implicating Mapp.
It’s interesting to see Mapp’s threat (some newspapers report that it was Wooten making the threat) included in the newspaper accounts of the execution. Near the gallows in the basement of the jail, there was a series of holding cells—a kind of death row, if you will. Even after Mapp and Wooten’s executions when the gallows sat unused, these holding cells were used. It is reported that when one of these cells was occupied by a particularly rowdy prisoner, a mist would appear and pass over the cell calming the prisoner within.
According to our tour guide, Kevin Bartolomucci, a current jail employee has also noted that when a rowdy prisoner is placed in the holding cell in the processing area, a few times an odd mist has appeared and calmed the prisoner. It seems that death and the transition from and old building to a modern one hasn’t banished the spirits of these two prisoners.
The Chattanooga Ghost Tour was established in 2007 by Amy Petulla, and it has grown in the ten years it has haunted the streets of Chattanooga. As she was establishing the tour, Amy also joined forces with Jessica Penot to write Haunted Chattanooga, which was published in 2011. Amy sent me a personal invitation to take part in the tour’s grand reopening and tenth-anniversary last weekend. The tour recently had to relocate its offices after the collapse of the 1876 building that housed the offices along with a restaurant. Fortunately, the collapse affected the front portion of the structure only affecting the restaurant, though the building was found to be structurally unsound and demolished.
The new office has a marvelous steampunk feel and visitors are greeted by a talking skull appropriately named Yorick. The new location has also afforded Petulla the ability to introduce a new tour that was debuted along with the festivities. The “Murder and Mayhem Tour” leads visitors on a pleasant walk through some of Chattanooga’s most harrowing murders and history, many of which have left spiritual residue. Along the way, patrons are introduced to murderers, their victims, prostitutes, and a kindly theatre patron, all inhabitants of the pantheon of Chattanooga myths. Besides the new tour, Petulla offers a handful of different tour experiences, some of which involve using various types of ghost hunting instruments. Of the many ghost tours I have taken, this tour ranks among the best for keeping the myths of Southern history alive.
On your next jaunt through Chattanooga, be sure to enjoy an introduction to the mythological side of this city!
Please visit the tour’s website for further information. https://chattanoogaghosttours.com/.
Chattanooga Ghost Tours. “Murder & Mayhem Tour.” Led by Kevin Bartolomucci. 10 June 2017.
“Two Murderers Hanged.” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) 11 January 1895.
East Hill Cemetery East State Street Bristol, Tennessee and Virginia
The city of Bristol straddles the border between Virginia and Tennessee with East State Street marking the state line west of East Hill Cemetery. The cemetery itself is divided into nearly equal portions as it passes through the cemetery. The primary entrance, however, is located on the Tennessee side.
The death of a child is always traumatic, though it was especially harrowing when five-year-old Nellie Gaines passed away in 1857 as her family was preparing to leave the area. Worried that the pitiful grave would be neglected and forgotten, the family sought a proper place for their daughter. One of Bristol’s founders, Samuel Goodson, owned a hill east of town and suggested it as a proper burial place.
A wagon bore the child’s casket up the hill prodded by a branch snapped off by the driver. After the service, the branch was stuck into the earth to mark the grave. The branch grew into a tree atop the grave until the early 1970s. Over the years the hill began to collect graves and eventually became an official cemetery.
This hill had been the scene of strange occurrences for many years prior to its use as a cemetery. During the latter days of the 18th century, this area was a favored hunting ground for General Evan Shelby who lived nearby. As the old general developed dementia in his old age, he took to wandering his old hunting grounds which included East Hill. After his death passersby still spotted the form of the old general still rambling about the hillside.
Even stranger was the image of a burning tree that was spotted on rainy nights. Brave souls who ventured into the cemetery in search of the torch-like tree never found any sign of fire. A local reverend built a home on a nearby hill with a good view of East Hill and he and his family regularly witnessed this phenomenon that they dubbed the “burning tree ghost.”
Sometime after the cemetery was formally established, a man taking a shortcut through the cemetery late on a snowy night heard the sounds of children playing. Thinking the sounds odd, he stopped momentarily to listen and was shocked to see three white figures moving towards him. He fled. Over the years, many others have reported similar sounds on cold, snowy evenings.
Local historian Bud Phillips tells a more recent story involving a woman searching for the grave of her great-grandmother. After tramping through the cemetery and have no luck finding her great-grandmother’s marker the woman decided to give up. As she walked back to her car she saw the strange figure of a woman standing not far away wearing a pink gown and pointing to a shrub. The figure vanished and the intrepid visitor decided to take a closer look at the shrub the woman had been pointing at. Lo and behold, the shrub was covering her great-grandmother’s marker. A short time later, the woman remembered that her great-grandmother had been buried wearing a pink gown.
With the activity here, it seems that East Hill Cemetery may also straddle the line between life and death.
Old Hardeman County Jail 305 East Market Street Bolivar, Tennessee
On a recent investigation of the old Hardeman County Jail in the small, but well-haunted town of Bolivar (pronounced BAH-lih-vur to rhyme with Oliver), paranormal investigators had a long conversation with a spirit that requested a chocolate milkshake. One wonders if milkshakes are unavailable in the afterlife. Certainly they’re unavailable in Bolivar after midnight.
Looking at the building from the all-seeing eye of Google Streetview, the old jail is a fairly unremarkable mid-century modern building as one heads out from downtown. According to a recent article from Mississippi News Now, this structure possesses several dark secrets. For one, the building is constructed atop a cemetery. Construction crews in the late 1950s did not relocate the graves on the site, choosing instead to simply build over them.
Of course, during the time that it served as a jail a great deal of sadness filled the building. Much of that sad energy continues to linger. A black figure has been reported walking through the booking area, the spirit of an inmate who took his life remains in his former cell, and the sounds of a woman’s sobbing emanates from the cells that once held females. The spirit of a former sheriff who also died in the building is sometimes felt. On this recent investigation he may the source of an EVP captured at the door to the former sheriff’s office.
EPIC Haunted Tours is now conducting investigations in the old jail and in other historic buildings throughout Bolivar including The Pillars and the Little Courthouse Museum—located just a few doors down from the old jail. I have covered one other location in town, Magnolia Manor, which was “certified” as being haunted several years ago. If you visit Bolivar, you might consider dropping off a chocolate milkshake at the old jail.
In the mountains of southern Appalachia, Gatlinburg is one of the premier tourist towns. Growth of the tourist industry here has been exponential over the past few decades as Gatlinburg and nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville have fought to capture the most market share of tourists. With that growth has come countless tourist inns, motels and hotels; restaurants; candy stores; t-shirt shops; and even haunted house attractions. While most of these are inauthentic experiences created for the tourism industry, in Gatlinburg one has to only look as far as a few hotels and restaurants to find authentic ghosts.
Before it became a burgeoning mountain tourist town, Gatlinburg was a quiet hamlet with very little crime but with tourists comes crime and some of the crimes visited on Gatlinburg have been horrific. In his Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, Christopher K. Coleman writes about the Edgewater Hotel (402 River Road) where in 1972, a 7-year-old child plunged to her death from a hotel room balcony. When the police began to suspect the father’s involvement in his child’s death, the couple fled only to die when their car overturned on a winding mountain road pitching the vehicle and its occupants into the nearby Little Pigeon River. According to Coleman, the child is seen on the anniversary of her death standing in the branch below the hotel pointing towards the balcony she fell from. While this is a fascinating story, I can find nothing to corroborate the horrible details of this event.
Branching off from US-441, the main road through Gatlinburg, is Historic Nature Trail which was the scene of two horrible crimes in the 1980s. In July of 1980 two teenage girls in town from Kentucky were found dead at the Holiday Inn. One girl was found in a stairwell leading to the roof while her friend was found a few hours later in her room lying on the floor next to the bed. The girls, friends from Crestwood, Kentucky, were taking a short vacation to Gatlinburg before the start of their senior year of high school. After going out to a local lounge and steakhouse, The Rafters, the girls were seen leaving with a local drifter. He was arrested and charged with strangling the teens the following day.
Like many ghost stories, later retellings often embellish the circumstances of the murders, and this is no different. Coleman’s and internet versions of the events have one girl being drowned in a bathtub while her friend was strangled and her body dragged to the roof; articles on the murder from one of the state’s most prestigious papers, Nashville’s The Tennessean, dispute those details. One article does note that the girls were staying on the fourth floor in separate rooms: 401 and 413. The ghost stories do center on room 413, so these stories are correct in that aspect.
It seems that reports of paranormal activity in 413 mostly concern odd noises within the room, noises that often frighten staff working there. But this isn’t the only haunting within the hotel. A spirit named Alvin, supposedly the spirit of a longtime employee has been reported in the kitchen, though this story cannot be corroborated. Alvin seems to cause more poltergeist-type activity with kitchen utensils flying through the air. Another more spectacular ghost story has been told about the hotel’s seventh floor where a scout leader murdered members of his troop. This is a story that would have probably found its way to the front page of The Tennessean and many other newspapers. No information exists on this so it must be chalked up as just a story.
The Holiday Inn was later renamed the Garden Plaza Hotel (formerly 520 Historic Nature Trail) and operated until fairly recently when it was demolished. The current Google Streetview (dated August 2015) shows the site as a vacant lot. It’s unknown if any of the spirits have remained here.
If you follow Historic Nature Trail from the site of the old Holiday Inn back towards US-441, you’ll pass a very new Courtyard by Marriott that now occupies the site of one of Gatlinburg’s most notorious murders. On 13 September 1986, a desk clerk and security guard were brutally murdered by a pair of thieves intending to rob the inn. Two lives were snuffed out violently for $499 and the purse of the young desk clerk. Shortly after the murders a shadowy figure was frequently seen in the parking lot and a guest was awakened to see a young woman standing at the foot of his bed whose description matched that of the young clerk. Despite the demolition of the Rocky Top Village Inn(formerly 311 Historic Nature Trail) the stories of the horrific tragedy that occurred here and the spirits possibly remaining here continue to be told.
One of Gatlinburg’s oldest tragic spirits still resides at the Greenbrier Restaurant(370 Newman Road). Originally the Greenbrier Lodge, this quaint log lodge catered to wealthy hunters and tourists coming through the area. The lodge was renamed and reopened as the Greenbrier Restaurant in 1980. Legend holds that at some point in its early history a young lady named Lydia stayed here on the eve of her wedding. On her wedding day she dressed in white and headed into town to marry. When her fiancée failed to show at the church Lydia returned to the Lodge heart-stricken. Still clad in her wedding dress Lydia hung herself from the rafters over the second floor landing. A postscript added to one version of the story states that days later Lydia’s fiancée was found dead after being mauled by a mountain cat.
Still broken-hearted, Lydia roams the Greenbrier Restaurant generally frightening staff and guests and causing a bit of trouble when she knocks food off the shelves of the restaurant’s pantry. The sad revenant has possibly been observed by the owners who saw a figure pass a doorway after closing time as they were closing up. Some years ago the young son of the owners did see a woman who vanished when he called his father’s attention to it. In 2007 the Greenbrier’s owners allowed the members of the East Tennessee Paranormal Research Society investigate the restaurant. The investigation did capture some photographic anomalies, though the best evidence was an EVP. A female investigator addressed Lydia, “God bless you, Lydia, I’d be happy to hear from you if you’d like to speak to me.” A moment later a female voice cheekily responds, “Then I’m not dead.”
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghost and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
Kinney, Rachel. “’Rocky Top’ murderer killed in prison fight.” WBIR. 11 March 2015.
Madden, Tom. “2 women found slain at resort.” The Tennessean. 30 July 1980.
Nauman, Tesa. “Paranormal groups hunts for G’burg ghost.” Sevier County News. 23 February 2007.
“Strangled teen’s mother thought Gatlinburg was safe.” The Tennessean. 31 July 1980.
Whittle, Dan. “’Ghost Lydia’ legend adds to Smoky Mountains haunting haze & lore.” Mufreesboro Post. 19 October 2014.
Williams, Michael. “Walking among the dead.” Tennessee Star Journal. 15 October 2014.