BY: JENNIFER MCEACHERN
Tennessee is known for its whiskey, bustling music scene and beautiful scenery, but did you know it’s also known for being one of the most haunted states in the country? In the spirit of Halloween, take a look at seven of the scariest places in Tennessee.
After systemic flooding of the Tennessee River in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it is believed that roughly 40 blocks of downtown Chattanooga’s streets were raised in an effort to stop the flooding of homes and businesses. However, when the city was rebuilt at its new elevation, some residents didn’t want to leave. They preferred to stay underground. And by some, we mean spirits. Many downtown business owners that have explored the basements and tunnels underneath their businesses have reported ghost sightings, shadowy figures and other unexplained, spine-tingling activities.
A former correctional facility located near downtown Nashville, the Tennessee State Prison is well-known for being featured in The Green Mile and two Eric Church music videos. Built in 1898, the castle-like prison was operational for almost 100 years and closed in 1992 due to overcrowding. During its use in the 19th and 20th centuries, it housed some of Tennessee’s most dangerous criminals and was known for riots and jailbreaks. People who have entered in the past have reported what they believe to be the sounds of cell bars clunking, blood-curdling screams and footsteps that seem to echo throughout the halls, solidifying the old Tennessee State Prison as one of the scariest places in Tennessee.
Despite the prison’s popularity among fans of haunted places, the Tennessee State Prison is not open to the public due to unsafe conditions, and access is prohibited.
Rumored to have been started by a land dispute, Kate Batts of Robertson County promised on her deathbed to haunt neighbor John Bell. Shortly thereafter, members of the Bell family started seeing strange animals on their farm. Kate began to torment the family, and years later John Bell died of a mysterious illness, accomplishing Kate’s main mission and leading to her retreat to Bell Witch Cave. Strange things continue to occur in and around the town of Adams, and many visitors to the cave claim to have seen or felt the presence of the witch.
Those wishing to experience the haunted cave for themselves will have to wait, as Bell Witch Cave is currently closed due to COVID-19. Check bellwitchcave.com for additional updates.
Photo: Orpheum Theatre
A setting for a heartwarming ghost story. And so it goes, Mary was nine years old when she died in a car accident in front of the theatre, but her spirit never left. It is said guests may get the chance to meet young Mary, who enjoys the theatre from her balcony seat in C5. Today, Mary loves interacting with staff and guests. Some claim to have spotted her, dressed in white, either dancing in the hallways or playing pranks on the housekeepers. She’s also known for slamming doors shut and flickering the lights.
Tours are available at 10 am and noon on select Mondays throughout the year. Visit orpheum-memphis.com for more info and to view a schedule of available tour dates.
HURRICANE MILLS, TN
Photo: Loretta Lynn Ranch
Located just west of Nashville, the home of country music icon Loretta Lynn has a spooky backstory. The property is rumored to be the final resting place of Civil War soldiers who were buried on the property. Loretta herself acknowledges bizarre things have happened during her time living in the home. A woman dressed in white and two Civil War soldiers have been seen on many occasions. As interest peaked, Loretta even allowed some to have their own experience with the soldiers at Hurricane Mills.
Loretta Lynn’s Ranch does offer guided tours, but due to flood cleanup efforts, tours are currently closed. However, guests can still visit the museum, campgrounds and two gift shops on the site. Visit lorettalynnranch.net for updates.
SHILOH NATIONAL MILITARY PARK
Photo: National Park Service
The battle of Shiloh was among the worst of the entire Civil War. In fact, at the time, the 23,000 casualties made it the bloodiest battle in American history. The park is over 5,000 acres, but Shiloh National Cemetery is claimed to be the most haunted spot. The cemetery holds over 3,500 Civil War soldiers, with almost 2,400 remaining unknown and unnamed. If you listen really closely, you may still be able to hear the faint muskets, drums and voices of soldiers in the distance.
Guided tours are offered Wednesday through Saturday from April 1 to October 31 through Shiloh Tours and Museum. Private and bus tours are available year round. You can also follow the National Park Services Auto Tour Route.
BRUSHY MOUNTAIN STATE PENITENTIARY
Opened in 1896 and operational for over 100 years, Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary was Tennessee’s first maximum security prison. The haunted Tennessee prison closed in 2009 and is most famous for an escape attempt in 1977 by James Earl Ray. Ray and six other escaped prisoners were captured less than three days later within the eight miles that surround the grounds. Today, the prison remains an eerie destination for paranormal thrill seekers. There have been accounts of visitors being touched, shoved, scratched and even growled at. If you pay close attention, you might be able to hear the prisoners clanging against the bars.
Self-guided and private, guide-led group tours are offered at Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary for those seeking to experience the haunted penitentiary for themselves. The hours are Thursday – Sunday, 10 am – 7 pm. Learn more at tourbrushy.com.