While most people will never confess to actually believing in spectral visitors from beyond, they probably have a ghost story of their own or know someone who does. We surveyed a random collection of normal (to the best of our knowledge), everyday (if such a thing exists) Knoxvillians and asked them to share their spookiest experiences with the seemingly supernatural.
Kelly Vogel: Motel Hell
We heard there was an old asylum over in the Northshore area—not Lakeshore, but another one. So a few friends of mine and I decided to go on a ghost hunt there one night because we heard it was a super creepy haunted place. So we headed down Northshore and we took a right up this big creepy driveway and come upon this big 1970s-style motel-like building with two levels. We pull the car up about 20 yards away and we all get out and start making ghost noises and trying to scare each other, acting stupid.
All of a sudden, all of the blinds in all 10 windows of the building shot up at the same time. This was like three in the morning. We all screamed, jumped back in the car, and got out of there.
Meagan Lane: Eerie Antebellum
One of the homes I grew up in was antebellum; it was used as an emergency infirmary during the Civil War. My mom is a seer, and she did a lot of research when we moved in when I was a kid.
When we were first looking at the house, my brother and I were going to choose our rooms. We came into what became my room. It had one of those string-pulled lightswitches. We were arguing over the room, when the string and the light fixture started to rattle and shake back and forth, really violently. It was quite a shock.
My sister and I were sharing a room later on. One night I heard this bang, and it seemed to come from underneath my bed. It was so hard, it seemed to lift me up in my bed. My sister asked, “What was that?” We got out and stayed downstairs. The next day my mom looked at the blueprints to the home and saw that was where the trapdoor had been located in wartime.
My mom said there were all kinds of spirits around. She woke up once with someone she couldn’t see choking her; it stopped when my stepfather woke up. I heard the carpet being ripped apart one night while I was alone. My mom did say there was one ghost named Adelaine who was a friendly spirit to have around.
Jim Justin: A Feline Friend Returns
My wife Lena and I had this cat, Nikita. It was mostly my cat. For a while we had a roommate with a badly trained dog. One night the cat got out and the dog killed it. It was in an oxygen tent overnight, then died. It used to go to sleep purring on my head. Well, the day after it died, I went to sleep and I still heard the cat purring. I thought it was just my imagination, so I wrote it off. I went to sleep with it for three or four years, so I didn’t assign it to any paranormal activity. Lena and I moved the day after. We were in a new place a day later. Lena would usually go to sleep before I did. I would turn on the light, turn on the stereo, and read a book. Well, I thought I could feel the weight of the cat jumping on the bed and then I could hear it purring on my head. And it went on every single night. And then one night Lena and I were sitting in bed talking about something or other, when suddenly, we both felt the weight of the cat jumping on the bed. We both looked down at the same time. Now here’s the kicker: We looked where we felt the weight come on the bed, and we saw pawprints appear in the comforter, one by one all the way to the top of the bed. From then on, it happened every night for the next three years, until I had to move out and crash on a buddy’s couch.
Margo Miller: A Loving Visit From Beyond
Margo Miller’s great grandmother helped look after her in her youngest years while her mother worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority, up until the young girl moved to Knoxville in the first grade. “She was something else—spitfire is a good word,” remembers Margo. “I had a hard time mourning her death. I didn’t cry, even after standing at her bedside before they took her from the Nursing Home where she had lived for several years.
“I was sad. Very sad, but still had not cried. Then came the night before her funeral. I turned off the lights and laid down to sleep. Before I could settle in well, the lights came back on. I got up to flip the switch off, but it was off. I flipped it a couple of times and the lights went off. I laid down again. The lights came on again and again the light switch was already off. This time I loosened the bulb so it wasn’t connected and went out. I laid there very confused at what the heck was going on with my lights. I closed my eyes and was about to fall asleep. The unscrewed light came on.
“At that moment, I said out loud, as tears started running down my face, ‘Okay, Granny, I’ll cry for you now.’ I sobbed uncontrollably for several minutes. Then the lights went out.”
Jackie Kittrell: Rocker in the Guest Room
Our East Knoxville home, not far from Ramsey House, was originally built in 1802, and some descendants of the original owners returned and built the new part in the 1920s. Where we see the ghost is in the upstairs of what was once the two-story log home. I’ve seen her twice, though my husband never has, and guests stay in that room, so we have a good sampling of people who have seen her. The room is pitch dark and we keep it very old, with old furniture and wood paneling. She is sort of glowing, and with a long gown and a long braid wound around her head, rocking next to the fireplace, although you can’t see the chair. She seems to be holding something and I’ve always thought it was a baby. One time I was sleeping in that room because we had people sleeping in other rooms of the house, and I saw her. She keeps her head turned about a quarter turn, and I remember thinking, “Oh God, what if she turns around and is a monster!” So I hid under the covers. When I looked out again, she was gone. We’ve lived in the house about 30 years, and that was 20 years ago. We let people sleep in that room when they come here, and two or three say they’ve seen her, rocking by the fireplace. It’s always quite an event. Nobody feels scared. A Dr. Perry built the house, got the land in a Revolutionary War land grant. We’ve always thought some of his patients were treated at the log house, maybe that’s why she’s here.
Bethany McCarthy: Flying Flashlight
It started with my mom noticing the hairbrush starting to move when she would get ready in the morning. It would fly into the hallway. I guess you could say we knew something was off.
Then my aunt was babysitting us one night, and the power went out. The fuse box was in the basement. There was nothing else in the basement other than the fuse box; it was unfinished.
She went down there with a candle, because there was no flashlight in the house. She was taking a long time. By then, my mom had gotten home. So she went down to check on her. We found her lying there on the basement floor with a bump on her head, and a flashlight lying beside her with her blood on it. She didn’t remember anything. The basement was closed off, so no one could have entered down there, and the house was super small. If anyone had come in, we’d have known about it.
Travis Gray: The Blandest Ghost
I know houses settle, but isn’t it weird that mine settles at exactly the same time every day in exactly one spot?
A few years ago, I was home from work and lying on the couch, sick as a dog. Around 11:30 a.m. I heard faint footsteps and creaking coming from the front door and stopping at the dining room entryway. Obviously no one was there, so I dismissed it. But a few seconds later it happened again. And again. I walked over to where the footsteps ended and stood there listening, but it had stopped.
The next day, still sick at home at the same time, I heard the sound again, repeatedly. This time, imagining it was a ghost, I said, “Hey, ghost. What are you looking for?” and it ceased.
A few months later, sitting in the living room at 11:30 reading on the couch, I heard it again. Over and over, the footsteps leading to the dining room entryway. I let it continue to see how long it lasted without me butting in: about 15 minutes. The next day I waited for it and it started up again. I called out, “Hey, ghost! What’s up?” and it stopped immediately.
If it’s a settling house, fine. If it’s a ghost then also fine, because it’s not doing anything crazy. But I can only imagine what kind of lame-ass ghost just walks invisibly from the front door to the dining room.
Carole Ann Borges: Glow of Love
There’s a spare room in Carole Ann Borges’ house that she rarely enters, so the door’s usually shut up tight. One night about 3 a.m., halfway through her ordinary sleeping hours, some intuitive feeling summoned her to wake up. She noticed the spare room door open, and entered to see an incandescent blue light in the corner. “At first I thought I’d left something on—my cell phone? But there was nothing on in the whole house, everything else was completely dark. I stood there for a long time and it didn’t go away, it just kept pulsating, ‘bump bump bump,’ like a heart. I went out and came back and it was still there, kind of a police blue. It was the weirdest thing, but I wasn’t scared. It felt good, but unworldly—I did think, ‘Ghosts.’ I felt it was related to Angela, probably. My daughter Angie died two years ago, and this was last spring. It finally faded off, and it has never come back.”
Shawn Kimbro: Haunted Artifacts
Shawn Kimbro is a collector of Civil War artifacts, and his favored hunting grounds when he lived in East Tennessee were sites from General Longstreet’s winter campaign in Knoxville in 1882. “At one of the camps near Strawberry Plains, I found a CSA—Confederate States of America—belt buckle, they’re pretty rare,” he says. “Near that I found a pocket watch and a key. I kept them in an artifact case at my house in Morristown. Me and the kids used to watch television and sit on the couch in the room next to the artifact case. We’d have the door closed, and from the couch we could see that things were moving around in there, shadows under the door and all. It was creepy. My first wife decided we would test it, and she put the key inside the case really close to the pocket watch. The next day, it had moved and was outside the case. I was the big skeptic. There were a couple of our friends at the house and she said, ‘Fine, this time I’m going to put it on top of the watch.’ As soon as she did, as soon as it touched, we heard this loud bang in the back of the house. We went running back there and a handle had broken off a faucet in the bathroom, and there was water coming out and it had spurted so high it exploded the light fixture. I didn’t even know we had that kind of water pressure. It was too creepy. I told her, ‘That’s it. No more testing the ghosts.’”
Bonus Online Tale:
Shawn Kimbro: Fiddlin’ In The Dark
Shawn Kimbro moved to Annapolis, Md. four years ago, but when he bought his haunted fiddle he was living in Knoxville and singing and playing with his sons as part of Mountain Soul. He’d read a story of a local guy who was killed by a train near what’s now Knoxville’s Old City, and his fiddle flung into the weeds and later owned by a succession of Knoxville fiddlers. He’s not saying the one he bought in the Old City antique store across from Barley’s is the same, but: “It sometimes played itself. My wife Dianne Miller and I were living in a condo off 5th Avenue, real near the train accident, and, I don’t know. The fiddle would be in another room, and we’d hear it playing. It couldn’t play songs, but it played notes, and sometimes it hummed.” Kimbro played that fiddle at the Mellow Mushroom on campus. “It was a great old fiddle; I found it way in back of the store underneath a lot of stuff.” He’s still got it in Maryland. “But I keep it in the closet, so it doesn’t play itself anymore.”