N.B. This article was revised and expanded 7 March 2019.
In time for Halloween, two Tennessee locations–Ruby Falls and Bolivar’s Magnolia Manor (see my coverage in my article “13 More Southern Rooms with a Boo“–have announced that they’ve been declared certifiably haunted after being investigated by paranormal investigators.
1720 South Scenic Highway
If you’ve spent any time driving within 100 miles of Ruby Falls, you will recognize this name. Along with Rock City—located just up the mountain—Ruby Falls has engaged in an extensive advertising campaign along roadsides, on barn roofs, and in hotel lobby brochure racks throughout the Deep South. Their advertising campaigns have made Ruby Falls and Rock City synonymous with tourism throughout the region.
Ruby Falls—not to be confused with Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park in North Georgia—is a cave in Lookout Mountain that ends in a marvelous waterfall. The cave is accessible via elevator from a castle-like visitors’ center above. Earlier this month, paranormal investigators searched for evidence of the paranormal both in the visitors’ center and in the cave itself. After looking at the evidence, Stones River Paranormal determined that there are spirits in the location.
Ruby Falls Cave is actually part of a larger cave system: the Lookout Mountain Caverns. Lookout Mountain Cave was known for centuries by Native Americans in the area as well as early settlers and it was also heavily utilized during the Civil War. Sadly, the natural entrance to the cave was closed off when a railroad tunnel was constructed in the area. In the 1920s, a chemist and amateur spelunker, Leo Lambert, created the Lookout Mountain Cave Company to reopen the cave as a commercial venture. As workers were drilling an elevator shaft into Lookout Mountain Cave, a smaller cave was discovered above. Wriggling into the small cave, Lambert explored the passages and admired the cave’s intricate formations ultimately finding the falls at the end of the cave which he named for his wife, Ruby.
Both caves were opened as commercial, “show” caves but Ruby Falls Cave became much more popular. Tours were eventually ended to Lookout Mountain Cave and over time, lighting and music have been added to “enhance” the cave experience.
Stones River Paranormal discovered the presence of at least five spirits in the cave and its visitors’ center. Leo Lambert and his wife, Ruby, as well as the spirit of a security guard who died after falling down an elevator shaft were named as possible spirits within the facility. Oddly, the spirits of a few children may also be haunting the visitors’ center.
A couple years ago, I corresponded with Amy Petulla, co-author with Jessica Penot, of Haunted Chattanooga (which I reviewed here), and owner of the Chattanooga Ghost Tour. She provided me with a bit more information on the spirits at Ruby Falls:
The security guide that died there has a couple of ways of making his presence known. They say that his spirit is accompanied by the smell of sugar cookies, which his wife used to pack in his lunch every day. He is also a bit of a prankster and is fond of unscrewing the light bulb in a particular section of the cave.
I had a previous guide tell me that while he and his girlfriend were enjoying the fake haunted house that Ruby Falls puts on in October, something invisible grabbed his girlfriend’s glowstick necklace and yanked it up towards her head. There was no one close to them at the time. My guess is this was NOT the security guard, but another entity.
- Jenkins, Gary C. “Ruby Falls.” The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. 25 December 2009.
- Personal Correspondence with Amy Petulla. 15 May 2017.
- Phipps, Sean. “Ruby Falls deemed an official haunted location.” com. 29 September 2014.
- Ruby Falls. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 30 September 2014.