Hometown Hauntings in Tennessee
The South is a land big on tall tales. Growing up, I often heard stories about “haints” (ghosts) and “boogers” (mischievous spirits), who generally hang around at the “witching hour” (the hour just before sunset). So in the spirit of today’s spooky holiday, here are a few favorite haunted places from my hometown of Cookeville, Tennessee.
Crazy George’s Bridge – Legend has it that this isolated bridge in a wooded hollow marks the place where a railroad worker named George met his untimely end. An incorrigible drinker, George was wandering the tracks one night near the bridge when he was struck by a train and beheaded. Locals will tell you that if you come out to this lonely place after midnight and turn off your car, it won’t start again. And if you call for Crazy George three times, he’s certain to reappear, carrying a light as he searches for his lost head.
A phone call with Jim Schultz of the Middle Tennessee Paranormal Society debunked this story for me, although it’s worth noting that self-proclaimed local occult groups often perform rituals here – visitors have seen mysterious symbols, strange figures standing in circles, and even dead animals. (I came here in high school, and as a matter of fact, the car did not start immediately when we turned it on again – although that may have been more an effect of the driver’s shaky hands than any real haunting).
The Witch’s Cemetery – This mysterious cemetery, located only half a mile from Crazy George’s Bridge, is one of the spookiest places in the area. An isolated graveyard appears suddenly in a forest clearing along a dark road. Instead of classic tombstones, the graves
– which date from the 1790s – are covered with bizarre tent-like stone slabs, a number of which bear no mark other than a pentagram.
Schultz also unveiled the mystery of this site for me, as “tent graves”
were commonly used in the 1800s. The pentagram was the trademark symbol of a local engraver, used as a calling card at a time in which much of the area’s population was illiterate.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
American Legion Meeting House, Sparta – Located a few miles down the road from Cookeville, this building has been designated officially haunted by Schultz and his team. Built in the 1930s, the meeting house is said to contain the spirit of an especially patriotic former janitor, who can be provoked by shouting “anti-American” epithets. Visitors have heard heavy footsteps and doors opening and closing, seen doorknobs shaking, and watched chairs moving about by themselves.
The Park Theater, McMinnville – The owner of this 1950s movie theater was known to be quite the prankster in real life – he even constructed a secret passageway from his apartment to a theater balcony so that he could play tricks on unsuspecting patrons. One night, in a fit of rage, he supposedly killed his girlfriend near a staircase. Now, visitors report following a scent of either old-fashioned perfume or Aqua Velva that moves around the theater before stopping at the scene of the murder. Other times, visitors have had their hair pulled, or been pushed or pelted by pebbles. Schultz has even captured recorded voices saying, “Do you still love me?” And the response: “Yes, I do.”
IT wants to know: What are some of your favorite local haunts?
Photo: The Old Union meeting house in Livingston is home to voices, music, and lights late at night, even though it has been locked for years and has no electricity. Courtesy of Middle Tennessee Paranormal Society.