Earnestine & Hazel’s 531 South Main Street Memphis, Tennessee
N.B. Revised and edited 21 February 2019.
On Christmas Day 2006, Karen Brownlee, bartender and manager of Earnestine & Hazel’s in Memphis, was discussing the death of “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown, earlier that morning. As the discussion continued the voice of the recently silenced singer erupted from the jukebox proclaiming, “I feel good!” The shocked employees stared at each other as Brown joyfully crooned, “I got you!” Was the soul singer speaking through the jukebox or was it just a coincidence?
At Earnestine & Hazel’s, the jukebox is known to have a mind of its own. It is known to play according to discussion or sometimes the thoughts of patrons and employees at the bar. Another time a group of friends celebrating a woman’s divorce were greeted by the jukebox blaring Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” Some time later a paranormal investigator was discussing exorcisms and the jukebox cheekily piped up from the corner with the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil.” Interestingly, many of the performers of these songs passed across the floors of this most historic dive bar, and some even slept here when Earnestine and Hazel were renting the rooms upstairs.
Sisters Earnestine Mitchell and Hazel Jones owned this bar for many years. The unassuming commercial building standing in the shadow of Memphis Central Station was initially a pharmacy. When the pharmacist, Abe Plough, became famous from his line of hair products and Coppertone brand suntan lotion, he gave this modest building to the sisters. They ran the business as a café and rented rooms upstairs by the hour. While not outright supporting the trade of the many prostitutes who plied their trade here, Earnestine and Hazel chose to turn a blind eye. Earnestine’s husband owned a nightclub nearby and would often bring the performers to the café after their shows. Many of the best names in music ranging from B.B. King to Wilson Pickett to Tina Turner passed through the doors of Earnestine and Hazel’s establishment.
In turn, Earnestine and Hazel became confidants to many patrons and, as Karen Brownlee writes, continue to do so even after their deaths in the 1990s. Tragedy struck Brownlee in 2007 when her son was shot and killed. Sobbing over the death of her son, she sat at the end of the bar and began to talk to God and the late Mrs. Earnestine in earnest. After asking for a sign that her son was alright she noticed a baby bird emerge from one of the booths, walk towards the door and fly off. Moments later and older woman entered the bar and asked if she was ok. Brownlee told her what had happened and the woman comforted her. The woman left but soon returned with a sterling silver necklace with a bird. Brownlee had not seen the woman before nor since, but she’s adamant that it was Mrs. Earnestine.
Not only are the stalwart former owners still around, but many of the former patrons are still living it up at Earnestine and Hazel’s. Former owner George Russell would regularly hear voices and clinking glasses when the bar was empty. The sounds of partying would carry on long after the living patrons had departed. But its not only sounds that are experienced, apparitions are sometimes seen here as well. The apparition of a man carrying a white pillar candle has been observed walking in the bar and paranormal investigators captured the apparition walking on the street in front of the bar about 3 AM.
Stories circulate of prostitutes either committing suicide or being murdered upstairs as well. Perhaps that explains the patrons who feel someone grab their hands at the top of the staircase. This feeling is sometimes accompanied by an overwhelming sense of sadness. When in Memphis if you wish to spend some time among the past, stop into Earnestine & Hazel’s, enjoy a Soul Burger, say hello to the sisters, perhaps take the hand of a long-dead prostitute at the top of the stairs, and maybe the jukebox will cheekily pipe up with an appropriate song to accompany your visit.
Brownlee, Karen. “This is what it’s like to work at the Most Haunted Bar in America.” 31 May 2015.
Coleman, Christopher K. Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2011.
History. Earnestine and Hazel’s. Accessed 29 February 2016.
Holmes, Kevin. “Is Memphis a hotbed for paranormal activity?” ABC 24. 29 October 2010.
I’ve embarked on a project to comprehensively document haunted college and university sites throughout the South. When I first conceived of this project, I imagined I would only have about 200 or 300 locations, but after scouring my personal indices of locations, I ended up with over 500, so I’m breaking this up by state.
Please note that the references quoted at the end of each entry are only those sources that specifically note the hauntings. If you have experienced a haunting at any of these locations, know of other haunted college and university locations not included here, or have a correction, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear your story and include that information here.
Bethany College, Bethany
ALEXANDER CAMPBELL MANSION & GOD’S ACRE CEMETERY – This mansion and cemetery, the former home and burial site of religious leader and Bethany college founder Alexander Campbell, are now owned by Bethany College. Campbell’s spirit has supposedly been spotted within the small, hexagonal study building on this estate. The spirit of Campbell’s young son Wickliffe, who drowned nearby, may make appearances within the house. Legend holds that the low stone wall entirely surrounding the cemetery across the road may hold spirits within this historic family cemetery, thus the numerous stories involving encounters here between the living the dead. 6, 10, 16, 22
COCHRAN HALL – A spirit in this 1910 residence hall’s first floor guest apartment still makes its presence known, though it has yet to be identified. 25, 27
GRACE PHILLIPS JOHNSON MEMORIAL VISUAL ARTS CENTER – Originally constructed as Irvin Gymnasium in 1919, this structure is home to visual arts classes and possibly the spirit of the building’s namesake. Security guards have reported that they encountered the spirit of Ms. Johnson while others have reported that the eyes in her portrait follow people around the room. 25, 27
OLD MAIN CLOCK TOWER – A student’s suicide is reenacted at the iconic clock tower on Old Main. Lore states that a female may have committed suicide here by leaping from the clock tower to her death. 11
PHILLIPS HALL – This 1929 residence hall may be home to two ghosts: Sarah, a student who hung herself in the attic and a sailor who died as he was either visiting a student or sneaking out of the building when it served as navy housing during World War II. 8, 11, 27
Bluefield State College, Bluefield
MAHOOD HALL – One of the oldest buildings on the campus of this historically black college, Mahood Hall is believed to be the home of a little girl’s spirit. For years, students have awakened here to find themselves face to face with a little girl who quickly disappears. A 2010 investigation by Black Diamond Paranormal Society captured several EVPs and a brief video showing a figure passing by an open doorway in the supposedly empty building. 12
Concord University, Athens
SARVAY HALL – Comments on Theresa Racer’s blog post about Concord University note that this dormitory may be fairly active. 13
WILSON HALL – The third floor of this early-1960s era dormitory is supposed to be quite paranormally active. Blogger Theresa Racer’s post on Concord University notes that a student may have committed suicide in room 320, though comments on this post reveal that other rooms on the floor may also be active. 13
Davis & Elkins College, Elkins
GRACELAND INN AND CONFERENCE CENTER – One of two Victorian mansions (the other being Halliehurst, see below) constructed as summer homes for a pair of friends, businessmen and later senators, Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen Benton Elkins. Their families later donated the grand estates to create a campus for the small, Presbyterian-affiliated college established by Henry Davis. Built by Henry Davis, Graceland may be haunted by the spirit of Grace Davis, one of his daughters. During a 2008 walkthrough of the house with paranormal investigator Chris Fleming, students were treated to some EVPs and the gas burners in the kitchen turning themselves on. 5, 24
HALLIEHURST – Like its Victorian sister, Graceland, students, staff members, and visitors have experienced the unexplained in Stephen Elkin’s former summer home, Halliehurst for many years. Stories at Halliehurst date to the home’s use as a women’s dormitory in the 1950s. Gavenda and Shoemaker note in their A Guide to Haunted West Virginia that nearly all of the encounters with the paranormal here are positive and helpful with students being saved by phantom hands from injury or death. 24, 26
Glenville State College, Glenville
CLARK HALL– An October 2011 edition of The Barr Bulletin a college newsletter written by Betsy Barr, wife of GSC’s president Peter Barr, makes note of the college’s most famous ghost, “Sis Linn.” Sarah Louisa Linn, known familiarly as “Sis” Linn, was an 1877 graduate of the Glenville Normal School that preceded the state college. She later owned a boarding house where she was bludgeoned to death in 1919. The boarding house was later torn down to construct a women’s dormitory Verona Maple Hall. Sis Linn’s spirit was observed here in the years before the building was replaced with Clark Hall. Linn’s spirit may still be present here as well as in other places on campus. Here, Linn’s spirit seems to cause much noise. 1, 14
HARRY B. HEFLIN ADMINISTRATION BUILDING – According to legend, a bell that hung in this building would often chime thirteen times until it was recently removed. Within this building lights flicker, keys left in doorknobs jingle on their own accord and disembodied whispering is heard. 28
LOUIS BENNETT HALL – When it served as a men’s dormitory students in Bennett Hall were sometimes awakened by a Lady in White. After the building’s conversion into offices, odd phenomena is still observed here. 28
OLD GLENVILLE CEMETERY – Sis Linn, the college’s resident spirit was buried here after she was bludgeoned to death in 1919. Her spirit is said to be observed walking through the cemetery. 14
PICKENS HALL – According to author Tom Ogden, students in this residence hall have reported hearing furniture being moved on the floor above them and the sound of marbles rolling across the floor. 28
Marshall University, Huntington
ALPHA CHI OMEGA HOUSE (Fifth Avenue) – Legend holds that a little boy killed here in a fire now haunts this sorority house. Sisters in the house have reportedly experienced flickering lights, unexpected cool breezes, and objects being moved. 2, 27
ERMA ORA BOYD CLINICAL CENTER– Built on the site of Fairfield Stadium, this 2007 building is reportedly filled with activity after hours. Elevators operate on their own accord, televisions turn on by themselves, and the sound of two men chanting has been heard in the commons area. 2, 27
MORROW LIBRARY – Library patrons are sometimes interrupted in this 1930 library by the sounds of arguing, though the source is never found. Originally the main university library building, this building now houses special collections. 2, 27
OLD MAIN – The oldest and most iconic building on campus, Old Main also harbors ghosts. One of the more recognizable spirits haunts the old auditorium within this building. Believed to be the spirit of a former theatre director, the spirit has been seen backstage and walking the catwalks. A 1996 article notes that in addition to the auditorium, the attic and Yeager Suite are also the domain of spirits. For further information see my blog post, “Phantoms of the Opera, Y’all.”2, 27
SIGMA PHI EPSILON HOUSE (1401 5th Avenue) – Like the Alpha Chi Omega House nearby, this fraternity house is purported to be haunted by the victims of a fire, though in this case the victims were a mother and her two children. The lore states that this fire took place in the late 1960s or early 1970s and residents still hear the sounds of sobbing. 2, 27
TWIN TOWERS EAST – The spirit of a student who committed suicide is said to remain in his room, 1218, of this 1969 residence hall. A student reported in a 1996 article in The Parthenon that he awakened to see the image of a young man sitting in his room. The apparition disappeared after the student pulled his covers over his head. 2, 27
Mountwest Community & Technical College, Huntington
ACADEMIC BUILDING – Mountwest Community & Technical College took up residence in its main academic building in 2012. Built in 1980 as an office building for the Ashland Coal Company, the building may be occupied by the spirit of an employee of one of the companies that occupied this modern office building previous to the college’s occupation. Theresa Racer notes in her blog that after the death of an employee here from a heart attack in 2002, people on the fourth floor began to experience doors opening and closing by themselves, a feeling of being watched and the smell of pipe tobacco. 17
Shepherd University, Shepherdstown
GARDINER HALL – The spirit of a former homecoming queen named Patty still stirs in this residence hall. She supposedly died here after falling in the shower and hitting her head sometime in the late 1980s. A portrait of Mabel Gardiner, the building’s namesake, is supposedly hung upside down to appease Patty’s restless spirit. 4, 27
KENNEMOND HALL – Residents of this residence hall regularly encounter the spirit of a young boy wearing knickers and a driving cap. His story says that he was killed in a fall at a local construction site. He is known to play with student’s electronic devices. Author Rosemary Ellen Guiley reports that there is also a spirit encountered in the building’s basement. 4, 27
McMURRAN HALL – Construction began on this building on the eve of the Civil War and it remained unfinished for a few years following the war. After the bloody Battle of Antietam was fought nearby in Maryland, this was among local buildings commandeered for use treating the wounded. The spirit of a soldier is often seen peering from the bell tower. For further information see my article on Shepherdstown, “None of the town is spared a ghost story—Shepherdstown, WV.”3, 9
MILLER HALL– A young girl who died in a fall from a hayloft on this property prior to the construction of Miller Hall has been seen roaming the halls of this building. Local lore also notes the death of a nursing student by her own hand here, but her spirit has not been spotted. Lore also mentions that an exorcism was performed in room 201, though a residence life staff member told the student newspaper in 2014 that this was likely just a blessing of the room to put paranormal activity at rest. 4, 27
SHAW HALL – The apparition of a woman has been seen at some of the windows of this building. 27
THATCHER HALL – The spirits of those of those interred in the nearby cemetery haunt the B Wing of this residence hall. 4, 27
TURNER HALL – The Victorian girl who haunts Miller Hall has also been seen here while the spirit of a construction worker also roams the halls. During the construction of Turner Hall a construction worker fell to his death on the rocks that are now a part of the building’s basement. 4, 27
YELLOW HOUSE (ENTLER-WELTZHEIMER HOUSE) – One of the oldest houses in Shepherdstown and the oldest on campus, the Yellow House is purported to still be the residence of a cobbler who was killed here in 1910. The tapping of his cobbler’s tools are still heard. For further information see my article on Shepherdstown, “None of the town is spared a ghost story—Shepherdstown, WV.”3, 21
University of Charleston, Charleston
EAST APARTMENTS – Built on the former site of haunted Dickinson Hall, this dormitory may have inherited the paranormal activity from that building. 27
GEARY STUDENT UNION – This student union building is apparently haunted, though little information is available as to the exact nature of the paranormal activity. 18, 27
RIGGLEMAN HALL – Built in 1950, Riggleman Hall may have a few spectral residents including a female suicide victim and Leonard Riggleman, former president of Morris Harvey College, predecessor to the University of Charleston. The activity blamed on these spirits includes odd noises and shadows. 18, 27
West Virginia University, Morgantown
BETA THETA PI HOUSE – Two spirits may haunt this fraternity house: the spirit of a butler who served the brothers in the 1940s and the spirit of a homeless man who committed suicide in the basement in the 1980s. 24
BOREMAN HALL – Odd sounds and other paranormal activity has been encountered throughout the north section of this residence hall. 24
DOWNTOWN CAMPUS LIBRARY – Studious spirits inhabit this 1931 library. One staff member was studying here when he heard the elevator doors open and someone walk to the desk on the other side of the partition and pull the chair out. When he looked shortly after that, no one was there. Legend blames this activity on a staff member who died after falling down an open elevator shaft. 7, 19
ELIZABETH MOORE HALL – Built in the late 1920s, this historic building may be haunted by the spirit of its namesake, Elizabeth Moore. 19, 24
WV ROUTE 857 – While not on the campus of WVU, this haunting involves two students who were abducted from the campus January 18, 1970. A few months later, the headless bodies of the two females were discovered near Cheat Lake. The heads have never been recovered. An arrest and conviction was garnered in this case. Drivers at night near the site where the coeds’ bodies were discovered have spotted the apparitions of two females in the woods. 24, 27
THE MOUNTAINLAIR – A spectral girl dancing in a yellow party dress has been observed here. 27
WOODBURN HALL – Perhaps one of the more unique ghost stories in West Virginia involve the spectral bovine mooing that is heard here. Legend speaks of a student prank gone awry when students lead a cow up the stairs to the clock tower of this building. When the students could not get the cow back down the stairs the cow apparently had to be killed and butchered. 19
West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Montgomery
RATLIFF HALL – Besides very typical paranormal activity including footsteps and slamming doors, one female student claimed to have seen the specter of a firefighter in this dormitory building. 20
West Virginia Wesleyan University, Buckhannon
AGNES HOWARD HALL – Named for a student who was stricken with a sudden illness while at school here and passed away, Agnes Howard Hall may have paranormal activity including shaking beds and a student hearing her name whispered three times. 15, 23
Barr, Betsy. The Barr Bulletin. October 2011
Donohue, Kelly. Unnamed article. The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.
Engle, Georgia Lee. “Restless spirit roams campus, haunts High Street Cottage.” Shepherd College Picket. 28 October 1954.
“Ghouls & Ghosts: Legends and hauntings of Shepherd University.” The Picket. 28 October 2014.
Higgins, Carra. “Paranormal says hauntings present at Graceland, Halliehurst.” The Inter-Mountain. 28 October 2008.
Jackson, Mary Robb. “Paranormal activity spooking up some fun at Bethany College.” 30 October 2013.
Kinney, Hilary. “Spooky stories surface throughout campus.” The Daily Athenaeum. 31 October 2013.
McQuillan, Kayla. “The haunts of Bethany College.” The Tower. No Date.
Molenda, Rachel. “Town serves as home to ghosts from past.” Shepherdstown Chronicle. 28 October 2011.
Blue Anchor Pub 804 East Atlantic Avenue Delray Beach, Florida
On the evening of September 29, 1888, two ladies departed from the Blue Anchor Pub into the foggy evening. Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, though they were only looking for a customer to pay for a few minutes of pleasure, had appointments with Fate on the dark streets that evening. Around 1 AM the next morning, Stride’s ravaged body was discovered. Eddowes’ mutilated and disfigured body, cut open with a ferocious surgical precision, was discovered nearby about 45 minutes later. Jack the Ripper—as the still unidentified murderer became known—had struck again.
The doors of the Blue Anchor Pub in Chancery Lane off Fleet Street in London would remain open for journalists, barristers, ladies of the evening, and perhaps Jack the Ripper himself, for many decades before they closed for good to London traffic in the mid-1980s. Within roughly a decade of their closing, the doors reopened to customers along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach, Florida. When the pub was torn down to allow for a widening project on Chancery Lane, an American developer purchased the exterior of the mid-19th century public house. With its authentic exterior, the Blue Anchor reopened in 1996 and quickly became a popular watering hole for journalists including many from American Media, Inc., publisher of the tabloid magazine, the National Enquirer.
Along with imported ales, beers, and spirits available at the bar, there is one spirit that was apparently imported with the original parts of the Blue Anchor and available only when she decides to appear. Seafaring tradition holds that sailors would gain luck from drinking at a pub called “Blue Anchor” before embarking on a journey over the sea. Perhaps this is the reason that Bertha Starkey was at the Blue Anchor with her seafarer husband the fateful night that she was stabbed by him in a fit of jealousy. Of course no one knew that Bertha’s spirit would eventually go seafaring as her spirit supposedly followed the pub’s exterior to Florida.
A sous-chef at the restaurant met Bertha one evening when a heavy 30-gallon pot hanging from a hook above the stove unhooked itself and fell upon him knocking him down. Not long after, the owner and the head chef later saw a veiled woman walk through the bar. Staff members heard footsteps that are seemingly coming from upstairs, though the bar is only one story. Legend associates this activity with Bertha Starkey, though the activity could also be connected to the various former patrons and staff who walked through the heavy oak doors of the Blue Anchor to escape the foggy streets of London and now exit to the palm tree-lined streets of Delray Beach.
Lomartire, Paul. “’Enquirer’ boss sent pub owner to Key Biscayne to test Nixon’s pool.” The Palm Beach Post. 22 October 2001.
Lomartire, Paul. “Hoist a pint, drink up the history.” The Palm Beach Post. 22 October 2001.
Meyer, Meghan. “A pub’s haunting tale.” The Palm Beach Post. 4 March 2004.