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Haunted Tennessee

This is a guest post by William Collins (who also writes as William Uchtman). If you like this story and are on Twitter, let him know by sending a Tweet via @Thor_2000.

Has anyone noticed that in the whole history of “Ghost Hunters,” “Ghost Adventures” or even in the sadly short-lived “Ghost Lab,” that certain states tend to get sadly overlooked in respect to their haunted locations? What is it going to take to get a paranormal team to pull together a team to visit your favorite local haunted locations?

I know there are numerous states with famous and intense ghost stories, but do we really want the umpteenth visit to Eastern State Penitentiary or Alcatraz? What about the other ghosts who just don’t seem to get any respect?

I know every state has their haunted location that deserve their due (Ohio’s Buxton Inn, California’s Hollywood Roosevelt, Pennsylvania’s General Wayne Inn…), but to cover them all would involve a book in itself, and quite frankly, who has that kind of time?

I’m playing favorites. I’m trying to get TAPS or Zak Bagan to truly appreciate what Tennessee has to offer besides Hales Bar in Guild, Tennessee. When you think about it, Tennessee is the whole country in miniature. Our Amityville is the Bell Witch, our Eastern State is the old Nashville Penitentiary, our Whaley House is the Woodruff-Fontaine House, our Gettysburg is Shiloh and while Nashville may not have the number of hauntings as say New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans or Chicago, what it lacks in volume it more than makes up for in intensity.

Now, the most famous haunting in Tennessee may be the Bell Witch, but I’m sure even Jason and Grant would hesitate to examine a location where nothing significant has happened in over two hundred years. However, Jason and Zak, before you put the peddle to the metal and start speeding over Interstate 65 for elsewhere, please stop a moment to consider what else we have to offer. Submitted for your approval:

Nashville – Old Tennessee State Penitentiary: Former warden Jim Rose claims that the ghosts of former convicts and juvenile delinquents haunt this prison where the movie “The Green Mile” was filmed. Strange sounds, inexplicable feelings of dread and cold spots have been felt in the deserted structure. The location was also featured in a local WKRN News report as part of a TV promotion when ABC-Television ran the three-part remake of Stephen King’s “The Shining.” In later years, the old prison was featured as a location for “Celebrity Paranormal Project,” but for that episode, much of the history and hauntings were exaggerated and even fabricated for entertainment value.

Nashville – Ryman Auditorium: Staff and tourists have heard the voices of their favorite departed country stars here where they delighted in entertaining millions. A construction worker who got locked in while exploring the building has seen Hank Williams’s ghost in the structure. Another singer was practicing one of Hank’s songs when all the lights went out in the middle of the song. Employees have also heard footsteps and doors opening and closing under their own power. Doors often slam by themselves and employees have reported odd noises from the stage when the building is empty. Captain Thomas Ryman originally built the place as a church, but it became known locally as the Grand Old Opry. The late Hank Williams has been heard singing backstage and a figure of a man in a Confederate uniform dubbed “The Gray Man” has been seen in the same seat during modern-day rehearsals.

Bristol – Tennessee High School: A number of ghosts haunt this school. One legend about the ghosts surrounds a girl named Agnes who was killed in a car accident with a train; her story was later moved to drowning in the school swimming pool. Another ghost is an athlete who was hit by a car while walking home after a game and now haunts the field house. The last seems to be a phantom locomotive that roars over the gym and down the hall. Part of the school was reportedly built over forgotten railroad tracks.

Franklin – Carnton Mansion: This unique house has seven square columns in the front and in the back. It’s also reported as one of the most haunted locations in Tennessee. Rebel yells and the shadows of long dead Civil War Soldiers have been reported here. It was used as a confederate hospital during the Battle of Franklin in the Civil War, and it’s believed the hauntings and manifestations are the result of a hastily dug graveyard dug not far from the house where numerous bodies and the parts thereof were buried en masse. Legend has it that there were so many bodies that they were buried standing erect next to each other in morbid columns. The grounds are reputed to hold as many as 1,700 confederate soldiers who died in action on November 30, 1864. One of them still walks across the back porch in spirit form. The white specter of a woman has also been seen on the back porch. The floating head of a former cook has appeared in the hall near the kitchen and a ghostly soldier stands guard in one bedroom. Yet another ghost is of a young girl brutally murdered here in the 1840s. Gunshots, rhythmic drumbeats, voices, and running footsteps can be heard there any night. There have been recordings of sounds and pictures taken there by local investigators. The popular landmark and museum is open for tours, and special ghost tours are given around Halloween.

Franklin – Carter House: The ghost of Anna Vick Carter, the daughter of the mansion’s builder, has been seen running through the upstairs hall of the mansion, but she is not alone here. Several other ghosts haunt the place. The ghost of Todd Carter has been seen in the bedroom where he died. He had been mortally wounded right on the front lawn while fighting for the Confederacy during the Battle of Franklin. Over 8,500 men died in a single day on the land around the house with 1,700 of them buried at nearby Carnton Mansion. Carter House is now a national historical landmark at 1140 Columbia Avenue open as a museum to the public.

Johnson City – Swingle Hospital: The former Swingle Hospital is located near Heritage Manor and Science Hill High School at 1509 John Exum Parkway. Established by Dr. Hugh F. Swindle, it was the first hospital in Johnson City, but it began with less auspicious and even more austere beginnings. Back in the Twenties, Dr. Swingle performed simple surgeries in this privately owned estate, but he proved to be a very unsuccessful doctor. Almost all of his patients would die on the operating table. Long after his death, doctors and nurses have heard the voice of the doctor talking to a phantom staff and employees. The screams of dead patients buried in backyard plots still echo from the halls. The old hospital and grounds are closed up; trespassing and unlawful entry is forbidden. The location belongs to the modern Swingle Family, and is closed off to the public; yet, the signs and fences fare poorly against vandals, amateur ghost-hunters and undesirables trying to see the ghosts.

Gallatin – Fairvue Mansion: Isaac Franklin built the antebellum house in 1832 on a picturesque bluff over Old Hickory Lake. Once the largest slave labor plantation in the Early Nineteenth Century, it served as a Union field hospital during the Civil War, and now stands as part of Fairvue Plantation and Golf Course, also known as Long Hollow Golf Course. Strange noises and the apparitions of long dead Confederate soldiers wandering the grounds have been reported. There is one ghost of a little girl riding a phantom tricycle up and down the halls.

Shiloh – Shiloh Battlefield National Battlefield: On the battlefield, there is a pond known as “The Bloody Pond” where many injured and dying soldiers went to cool their thirst during the heat of the day during the Battle of Shiloh. On certain days, when the sun hits just right, the water looks blood red just as it did during that battle. There is also the ghost of a woman in a white dress, possibly the wife of one of the soldiers or officers that helped nurse the men. She appears to women and children who become lost and become saddened or frightened by the battlefield. She is a helpful spirit who tries to calm and soothe those who are in need of comfort or help, but quickly disappears when someone else comes upon her and the person she is trying to help. Strange shadows have also been seen flitting through the trees here and a bony hand from out of the ground once terrified a grave robber digging for illegal Civil War relics.

Memphis – Woodruff-Fontaine House: The Rose Room has a ghost. She is believed to be Molly Woodruff who once claimed it as a bedroom while she was still alive. Molly’s picture is even on the wall. Her ghost wanders the house leaving cold spots and even once having left a depression in the bedclothes, as if she had slept there. Her most famous appearance was the day the house museum opened in the Sixties and a docent saw a woman in the bedroom that said, “My bed doesn’t go there.” That was the first of many such stories. Strange odors like cigar smoke have also been evident on the house’s third floor from an unnamed visitor.

Memphis – Orpheum Theatre: The ghost of a twelve-year-old little girl killed in a car accident on Beale Street in 1921 has been haunting this theatre ever since her death. She’s been called Mary, but it’s not known if that was her name. Her spirit wearing a white dress has been seen sitting in Seat C-5, her favorite seat during performances. Some people believe that she is actually the ghost of a girl who died when the original Orpheum burned down on the location. Actor Yul Brynner saw her here during a performance of The King And I. In 1971, the whole cast of Fiddler on the Roof saw her so many times that they had a séance in the balcony to contact her. Audience members saw her during an organ concert in 1979. Recent employees have gotten so used to Mary and all the strange phenomena that they now take everything in stride. A parapsychology class from the University of Memphis investigated the site in 1979 and found evidence of what they believe to be at least six other ghosts haunting the location.

Locations taken from the book Volunteer Ghosts by William Uchtman. Available through PublishAmerica and


William Collins
William C. Uchtman has spent much of life listing haunted locales from across the world. He is the author of “Volunteer Ghosts,” a book dedicated to listing obscure haunted houses in Tennessee. He is also the creator of the Collinsport Ghost Society website (The Collinsport Ghost Society, a fictional ghost society for fictional haunted locations from television and the movies. He also maintains or is affiliated with the following websites: * The Nitpicker Society for Dark Shadows * The Official Guide to the Mythological Universe * Unsolved Mysteries Wikia * The Our Gang Wikia * The Marvel Appendix

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6 thoughts on “Haunted Tennessee

  1. Great guest post, William. I know many others who share your frustrations with certain haunts getting more attention than others. I also think Stones River and Chickamauga are noteworthy haunted battlefields within the state. And Hurricane Mills I would’ve added to your list. But you covered the biggies. Nice job. Thanks again for sharing it.

  2. Good list, however, I’m a little sad you didn’t mention any Chattanooga haunts. Glad to see Haunt Jaunts back up and running after the terrible hack.

  3. Oh, something else I just thought of: perhaps some of the paranormal shows DO try to get in to these places but aren’t granted access. That happens a lot too. But another one that does seem pretty investigator/ghost enthusiast friendly is Rippavilla Plantation. But it doesn’t always get the national nod either.

  4. Great list william! They more or less go for the high visibility hunts. They want to visit places where they can drive business their way for the ghost tours that each place has. They should really change things up, because as far as activity goes the road less traveled often gives the best results.

  5. Great post. I think Ghost Hunters go to the bigger sites (with occasional smaller ones or regular homes) because SyFy pays or contacts these places. Though Virginia got some, not much. and Virginia has hordes of hauntings.

  6. I made this argument about the South when I started my blog. It seems it’s not just Tennessee, look at Mississippi or West Virginia. Not only are there very few shows filmed there (save Moundsville Penitentiary and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in WV) but there’s little written about them as well. At the moment, I can still only count 5 books on the ghosts of Mississippi.

    I think it makes out job or ferreting out and writing about those lesser known hauntings more important. Thank you for your list…I’m not familiar with the Nashville Penitentiary and will do some research.

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