Is the ghost of Elvis raiding the pantry at Graceland? No. Will the spirit of Minnie Pearl jump out from under the Grand Ole’ Opry footlights and yell “Boo!”if Taylor Swift ever performs there again? Possible, but unlikely. Does this mean that Tennessee is not haunted? Not even close.
Tennessee is the scene of some of the nation’s most persistent and downright creepy hauntings. This list contains 10 of the most notable paranormal sites in the state. For those who fancy themselves ghost hunters or just like to freak themselves the heck out, most of the places on this list are open to the public. Enjoy!
10. Orpheum Theater — Memphis
The Orpheum Theater is haunted by a plethora of ghosts but there are two spirits who get top billing — Mary, a 9-year-old girl who may have died in a car accident outside the theater, and a strange masked apparition. His origins are unknown.
Mary appears in white and can be seen occasionally watching performances. She expresses her feelings about an afterlife stuck in a Memphis playhouse by slamming doors and playing about with the lights. The masked figure hangs around in the air ducts and can be seen waving from them during performances.
9. Sheraton Read House Hotel — Chattanooga
If you’re planning a tryst at this hotel, avoid room 311. Legend says that in 1928, Annalisa Netherly was caught playing a raucous game of hide-the-eggplant with a man who wasn’t her husband. Her hubby caught the lovers in the middle of a romantic bath and went at her throat with a knife. Annalisa is said to still haunt this room, voyeuristically peeping in on any extramarital nookie.
8. Stones River National Battlefield — Murfreesboro
Active spirits haunt the area of the battlefield known as the “Slaughter Pen”. Union Gen. Phil Sheridan made a bloody stand there in the heavy woods that cost hundreds of lives. Today, park rangers claim that the Slaughter Pen is up to 20 degrees colder than the area around it. Visitors often hear phantom footsteps following them through the battlefield after dark. Civil War reenactors report sightings of a ghostly soldier hanging about their camp. He’s usually seen leaning against a tree or watching the reenactors from the shadows.
One even captured what he thought was someone playing a soldier from the other side. The spirit came from its hiding place in the bushes with its hands up. When the actor raised his rifle, the spectral soldier fell to the ground as if shot, and vanished.
Overall, there’s an oppressive feeling of despair that can’t be denied for someone visiting this park. The soundtrack to this gloom is the sounds of unseen cannon fire and the heavy ghostly boots of marching soldiers. The decapitated spirit of Lt. Col. Julius Garesche roams the battlefield at night on his horse as well.
7. Tennessee State Prison — Nashville
Tennessee State Prison opened in 1898 and closed in 1992. In that almost-century, this facility was the site of fires, riots and escape attempts where the price of freedom was sometimes paid in blood. Visitors to this penitentiary are often treated to a symphony of unexplained sounds. Disembodied voices and ghostly whispers can be heard from empty cells as well as heavy footsteps echoing through the deserted walkways.
A curse may also be attached to this prison. James Gandolfini, Michael Clarke Duncan and Jim Varney all filmed movies on location at Tennessee State Prison. Each one died prematurely. Of course, considering how many actors who have filmed there and are still alive and kicking, this may just be a coincidence.
6. Resthaven Memorial Gardens — Clarksville
Any house located behind a cemetery starts off in the “at-risk category” for a haunting. Add in the likes of slavery, rape and murder, and the welcome mat may as well have the Grim Reaper on it.
As the story goes, the owner of the home was a slave owner. One of his slaves supposedly forced himself upon his master’s daughter, impregnating her. The master (operating under the theory that two wrongs DO make a right) killed the slave. Today, the ghost of the slave haunts the house as well as the cemetery. He can be seen stalking grounds in a restless and futile search for his child.
5. Keith Mansion Bed and Breakfast — Athens
This 1858 inn was taken over by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. One soldier never made it off the grounds alive. According to the reports of both hotel staff and guests, he’s still there. The soldier reminds people of his presence by occasionally moving objects around. His haunted voice can even be heard in the dead of night at times.
4. Carnton Mansion — Franklin
Much of the Confederacy died in this plantation-house-turned-hospital during the Civil War. Today, the mansion is a museum, but many of its 19th-century patients have yet to check out. Soldiers of the Old South haunt the building as does a mysterious woman in white, who often appears on the back porch.
This is a three-dimensional haunting. Not only are there unexplained sounds and the occasional spectral manifestation, but in the plantation cemetery, the spirits seem to enjoy touching the guests. A walk along the far right row of the graveyard takes the visitor to the final resting place of two twin brothers. Many have reported the feeling of having their ankles grabbed or tickled as they walked by the graves.
3. Hales Bar Marina and Dam — Guild
This is an evil place. While it was constructed in 1905 to control the whirlpools along the Tennessee River and make the waterway less menacing, the spirits simply didn’t get the message.
According to legend, the trouble started when Native Americans cursed the dam. While most deny the power of spells, something in their magic may have lingered. On occasion, the sound of chanting echoes in the night air around the dam. Menacing figures in black haunt the building and stalk the marina grounds. Witnesses have watched ghostly forms of Native Americans drowning in the water near the structure. This place is the sort of haunted site from which horror movies are made.
2. Wheatland Plantation — Sevierville
The unhappy spirits of Timothy Chandler and his family haunt this infamous plantation house, while the angry ghosts of slaves, soldiers and Cherokee warriors patrol the outside.
Before the house was built in 1820, this land was already the site of severe bloodshed. Nearly 30 British-backed Cherokee were killed in the Revolutionary War during the Battle of Boyd’s Creek. They’re buried in a mass grave behind the place where the house now stands.
The house itself has been the scene of over 70 murders and deaths. The most famous of the killings was the murder of Timothy Chandler, whose son stabbed him to death with a fireplace poker. The blood stains of this 1819 murder are still visible on the wall and resist any efforts to clean or paint over them.
Along with the sacred Native American burial ground and the tainted structure that sits next to it, dozens of African slaves are buried on the grounds. A Civil War battle adds to the plantation’s body count and the bloodstains that resist time and Formula 409.
1. Bell Witch Cave — Adams
Beginning in 1817, the entity known as the “Bell Witch” began to mercilessly torment and torture the family of farmer and Baptist elder, John Bell.
This haunting was not a shadowy story passed down secondhand from one unrelated person to another. It happened openly, occasionally in public and in front of hundreds of witnesses that included future President Andrew Jackson.
While the persecution of the family largely stopped after the death of John Bell (the entity claimed to have killed him), the haunting of the grounds continues. Strange lights, eerie sounds and an innocent looking spectral girl in a green dress have manifested on the property. The cave itself seems be a hot spot of paranormal activity.