If you're not up for first-hand ghost hunting but still want to learn more about Knoxville's supposed spectral history, then Laura Still is the guide for you.
Still, who owns and operates Knoxville Walking Tours, added a tour this fall called the "Shadow Side Ghost Tour." It covers famous stories in Knoxville's history of violent murders whose participants may or may not still linger. She takes tourists through what was once the Bowery and Red Light District of old Knoxville, where less-than-savory characters clashed, sometimes with deadly results.
Adding the tour to her repertoire (which includes a gunslingers tour, an early history tour, and a literary history tour) was a no-brainer.
"I always went to ghost tours with my kids. It was sort of a family thing," she says. But for Still, the tour is less about the paranormal and more about the creepy factor—her stories are about the unexplainable, like a light that continues to flicker on the Gay Street Bridge.
"I decided I would take it from the scientific aspect. And sometimes there are things you can't explain. Maybe because I'm not a good scientist," she says. But "If I'm going to come up with a supernatural explanation, let's come up with one that makes sense."
While writing her tour stories, Still also went to the history books to find historical events and legends connected to unexplained happenings (like the sound of running footsteps in an empty building). From there, she says, "Let's think about what could make this happen. If you tell it in the right way, it certainly sounds very possible."
But even after hearing and telling these stories herself, Still could use some more convincing.
"I'm still fairly skeptical. I think there are instances of echoes of emotional trauma and you can feel it if you're sensitive to it," she says. "I don't think these things aren't possible. I'm very open-minded about it."