Spirits and Smooth Jazz—Knoxville, Tennessee

Baker-Peters House
9000 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, Tennessee

N.B. First published as part of “13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” 22 December 2014.

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.

Baker-Peters House Knoxville Tennessee haunted jazz club Civil War ghosts
The Baker-Peters Jazz Club, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell IV, all rights reserved.

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.

Sources

  • 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.
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