Scattered across Tennessee are some of the most haunted locations in all of America. From infamous prisons to alluring caves, the state has a wide variety of paranormally active places just waiting to be uncovered and explored. Some Tennessee Tourism team members put the ghost stories to the test. Read on to discover their first-person experiences with Tennessee's ghosts.
Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary opened in 1896 as a result of protests surrounding the convict labor system and the Coal Creek War (an 1891 lockout of coal miners after protesting the use of unpaid convict leasing in the mines). Originally a wooden structure built by the prisoners themselves, the prison’s edifice was replaced in the 1920s with the ominous stone castle-like structure still standing today. Brushy’s reputation as the last stop for the worst criminals became legend, housing such notorious inmates as Martin Luther King Jr.’s alleged assassin James Earl Ray, who tried (and failed) to escape in 1977. Brushy saw some structural additions during its operation, including the construction of the D-Block building to house (and isolate) inmates. D-Block replaced “The Hole,” the sequestered location where prisoners were locked in pitch dark cells for as long as 30 days, many experiencing vision loss as a result. Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary closed June 11, 2009, after 113 years of operation and remains Tennessee’s oldest and most infamous prison. Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary has now earned the reputation of being one of Tennessee’s most haunted and paranormally active places. Footsteps, apparitions, disembodied voices, and EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) have all been reported and captured here. Some of the most reportedly active locations within the prison walls include: The Hole, cell blocks, the Mess Hall, Auditorium, Cell 28 (James Earl Ray’s cell), and the Hospital. Today, the prison is open for tours (self-guided, private & public guided, as well as private & public paranormal investigations) and even features a distillery (Brushy Mountain Distillery), restaurant (Warden’s Table), and concert venue on the property. Our experience was a private overnight tour, where you have the prison all to yourself for a whole night of exploring. There’s also day tours and public night tours available as well.
Personal Paranormal Experience at Brushy Mountain
With severe weather forecasted for later that night, our team embarked just before sunset to Petros, Tennessee to investigate the legendary Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary on a cold winter evening. Trying to contain our excitement, we listened to various podcasts on the way that delved into the history and reported paranormal activity that has occurred at Brushy. We had booked our investigation several weeks prior and had been eagerly looking forward to the night.
Our first glimpse of Brushy was something I’ll never forget. Driving through the front gates, you cannot miss the foreboding, medieval castle-like structure straight ahead, which was once Tennessee’s most infamous prison, the “End of the Line” as many called it. As we pulled up, the building was shrouded in fog, its exterior lights cutting through the mist and piercing the darkness, just adding to the ominous atmosphere radiating from it.
Upon entering the building, we were greeted by the kind Brushy staff and given a full tour of the property, where our guide narrated numerous stories and advised us as to the most paranormally active spots we’d want to check out on our investigation. Once our tour concluded, our guide left, we set up our gear room, and were left alone with an entire 600-cell, multi-building property to explore, all to ourselves. Brushy staff kindly provided us dousing rods (a way to communicate with spirits, where a person holds the rods and they can swing on their own to answer questions; the rods swinging back and forth indicate "no" and the rods crossing indicate "yes") and also EMF detectors (detect electromagnetic fields) that we could use throughout the night to document any activity.
Just as we started to head out, the heavens erupted with torrential rain pouring down and a lightning storm illuminating the eerie halls of Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary with every flash.
Walking through the halls of Brushy was an experience all on its own. Seeing the rows of prison cells along long dark corridors was quite astonishing. The sheer size of the building was something to behold, and as part of the investigation, we had access to not only the main prison building, but also the other buildings scattered across the property including the gymnasium and laundry room.
At one point, we stopped at “The Hole,” the secluded solitary confinement area where it was so dark that many prisoners sent there lost or severely impaired their vision after only a week or two. Our whole group stood in the center of the narrow hall facing these cells and stayed for only a few minutes, as we all experienced a sort of discomfort and uneasiness from the area. We also stopped in the wing where the pedophiles were kept, and as we later discovered while reviewing our EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders, we received numerous creepy and audible responses to our questions we asked there.
The cafeteria was another spot we sat down, asked questions, and (unknowing at the time) received a number of spirit voices intelligently answering us. The James Earl Ray (alleged assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.) cell was yet another location in the prison where we received multiple startling EVP responses.
The dousing rods and EMF detectors during our investigation were consistent and active. As we asked questions, the dousing rods would swing either back and forth (no) or they’d cross (yes) to answer. And our EMP detectors would flash often indicating the presence of an unexplainable electromagnetic field, which was curious, as the power was completely shut off in all parts of the prison minus our gear room.
In total, we recorded 14 unexplainable EVPs during our investigation, including a staggering amount of intelligible and chillingly clear voices captured by the recorder. We did not hear any of these responses while they happened but only discovered them weeks later while listening back to the recordings. As a group, we were simply astonished at the evidence we got, knowing first-hand the voices we caught were not us and simply unexplained.
All-in-all, our time at Brushy was one we’ll not soon forget. Besides the incredible paranormal activity we experienced, the building itself is just teeming with rich history. Walking through the same halls, sitting in the same cells as some of Tennessee’s most notorious criminals is a truly one-of-a-kind and genuinely humbling experience. The End of the Line really did live up to the hype, and we will certainly be going back again soon.
Dating back to 1959 when four medical professionals founded the “South Pittsburg Municipal Hospital,” Old South Pittsburg Hospital as it is referred to today was a functional hospital located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. A 68,000-square foot facility, the hospital was designed to meet the medical care needs of the growing area. It served residents for nearly 40 years but officially ceased operations in 1998. During that time, the hospital saw its fair share of tragic events and is even said to be on the land once used as a base by Union soldiers who participated in the Battle of Chickamauga during the Civil War. A hotbed for paranormal activity, the hospital is also believed to be sitting atop an underground spring which runs into the Tennessee River. Old South Pittsburg Hospital’s hauntings did not wait until its doors closed to the public in 1998. Many employees who worked at the hospital during its operation say many unusual events occurred during their shifts, from inanimate objects like medicine carts and wheelchairs moving on their own, dark shadowy figures moving about in corridors, disembodied voices echoing throughout the halls, and more. Since having reopened its doors to paranormal investigators and curious visitors, Old South Pittsburg Hospital has only seen an increase in paranormal activity. From various reports of a dark figure of a man approximately seven feet tall being seen on the third floor to doors slamming, the large building is full of activity ready for you to discover. Some of the most active places at Old South Pittsburg Hospital include: the Nursery, the 3rd Floor, Nelly’s Room (304), Jim’s Room, and the 2nd Floor Nursing Station.
Personal Paranormal Experience at Old South Pittsburg Hospital
Located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, Old South Pittsburg Hospital is situated right in the middle of town. Driving up to the building situated within a small residential area, our adrenaline was high and we were ready for a night of fun and exploring.
Our introductory tour was given by one of the current owners of the old hospital building, who had a plethora of stories to tell us about all the unexplained things that occurred there during and after the hospital’s time serving the area. Unlike our trip to Brushy, the sky was clear that cool November night in South Pittsburg. Earlier that day, we enjoyed visiting the Lodge Museum of Cast Iron, located in downtown South Pittsburg, which is connected to Lodge’s cast iron foundries and a factory store. Now, we were walking through a haunted abandoned hospital and ready to begin our night investigation.
Our first stop was Jim’s Room. Jim, who was the long-time caretaker and janitor of the hospital, tragically passed away in his room back when the hospital was still in operation. As we walked into his space where he once lived and worked, we were hit by the poignant atmosphere and story surrounding Jim. As it turned out, by using a paranormal word selector tool, we believe we did talk with Jim, as we received numerous responses to our questions. Turns out Jim likes to be called Jack and contrary what we were told on our intro tour, he doesn’t like to go to bed early. We continued our night with visits to the ER, chapel, the nursery/NICCU, and the various nurse stations. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the aging building is how all the equipment and furniture was left behind when the hospital closed. Computers and supplies still at nurse stations, beds and wheelchairs in rooms, and even x-rays left behind in the exam rooms, the hospital is a huge time capsule that was truly a blast to explore.
The most active location in the hospital we explored that night was Nelly’s Room. Nelly was a former patient who stayed long-term in a room on the third floor. As the story goes, a bit lonely, she loved having visitors and would always leave her door open so she never missed anyone. As we walked into her room, we closed the door hoping that something would happen and indeed it did. A few minutes after we had been sitting in the room and asking questions, the door began to open on its own and slammed the opposite wall with a very heavy bang. We tested the door after to make sure it wasn’t a draft or just loose hinges, but after closing it again, the door remained shut the rest of the time we were in Nelly’s Room. It was a very heavy door and would have taken a good amount of force to move it, let alone have it swing enough to slam into the wall. The remainder of the night, we continued to poke around the rest of the building, which was much bigger than it appears from the outside.
One of the other more active areas was the nursery and NICCU unit. There, our group had split up and only three of us stood in the very small NICCU room. While asking questions, we were using our voice recorder and caught the below unexplained voice and laugh EVP. We couldn’t decipher what it says, but maybe you can: Paranormal audio from Old South Pittsburg
All-in-all, Old South Pittsburg Hospital is a must visit for those interested in the paranormal. You can visit the Old South Pittsburg Hospital to experience this infamous hospital for yourself! They offer overnight investigations (what we experienced), daytime investigations and public investigations. You can check out Old South Pittsburg Hospital Paranormal Research Center’s website for more information on dates for public events or you can email or call to make a reservation for a private investigation.
As one of the oldest buildings in Scott County, Tennessee, the Scott County Jail in Huntsville was built in 1904 using sandstone mined from the local area. With a jailer’s quarters on the first floor, the second floor was where inmates were housed, and a third floor was added in 1922 which made room for even more cells to hold maximum security prisoners. Though it was closed in 2008, it’s now back open as a true crime and paranormal museum operated by Miranda Young and Dr. Kristy Sumner of History, Highways, and Haunts, LLC, whose main goal is to preserve the history of the jail and offer tours to the public. Since opening the historic building, Kristy, Miranda, and those who have had the chance to visit have experienced a ton of paranormal activity ranging from hearing disembodied voices and whispers, footsteps on the stairs, feeling hands touch their shoulders, witnessing pictures flying off the wall (they have this caught on video and can show you when you’re there!), and even sharp objects like a pair of scissors going missing. Historic Scott County Jail is open for both museum tours and paranormal tours. The museum is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time), but please note they are closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Private paranormal investigations are available Thursday through Sunday nights from 8:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. with a maximum of 10 people.
Personal Paranormal Experience at Historic Scott County Jail
Our drive to the Historic Scott County Jail was a scenic one. Passing through the beautiful Tennessee countryside, we eventually found ourselves driving up to the imposing Historic Scott County Jail, a castle-like building which lies a stark contrast to the rural beauty which surrounds it. Built fully from local sandstone, the structure has an ominous presence like nothing for miles. As we walked up to the entrance, we were greeted by Celly (as in a cellmate), the friendly and adorable cat who calls the jail home. We also met with Kristy, one of the operators of the jail museum and paranormal center. A seasoned investigator herself, she also leads her very own paranormal team. Once we had settled in, she took the time to show us a number of videos showcasing the unexplained activity they had caught on camera, and then gave us a tour of the whole building, stopping intermittently to point out the most active areas and explain stories that connect to the activity that’s been captured.
With our equipment in hand, we shut out all the lights and set out for the night, starting with the first-floor drunk tank and bathroom area. As Kristy told us, back in the day a women took her own life in the bathroom and since, it’s been one of the most paranormally active places in the whole jail. We began our investigation there, with one of our team members sitting in the dark bathroom alone. While in there, she set up some of our gear, including some REM-Pods (produce their own electromagnetic fields which, if interrupted by any other energy/presence, will light up and make a noise).
After sitting in the bathroom for 10 minutes, our team member asked if anyone wanted to hear some music (Kristy let us know many of the spirits become active when visitors play music) and the devices which had been quiet for the first 10 minutes began to light up and beep. We were amazed and stayed in the area for a while after to see if anything else might happen. Before leaving, we asked, “Do you want us to leave you alone,” and unbeknownst to us at the time, our digital recorded picked up a female EVP saying, “Yeah”.
Following all the activity we experienced in the bathroom area on the first floor, we moved to the second floor which is where the kitchen and a couple “trustee” cells (where trusted inmates could room together more freely) are located. We walked around, stopped in one of the trustee cells, and began reading out some of the newspaper articles framed on the walls which reference crimes and happenings surrounding the Scott County Jail and its inmates. As we read, our devices were constantly being set off and lighting up. Interestingly, when we read out one of the stories that mentioned a $1,000,000 bond, the devices went crazy, and any time after that when we mentioned “million-dollar bond”, the devices would go off on cue.
The trustee cells were certainly one of the most active places for our group the entire night, though even more activity was awaiting us as we trekked further into the jail. After a short walk up another flight of stairs, we were on the third floor, where it was mainly just cells and corridors. We sat in a few cells, walked along the tight guard hallways, and continued to see our equipment elicit responses. At one point, we were sitting on some benches right outside some of the cells, just listening and remaining quiet to try and hear any unexplained noises and we heard a clear male whistle coming from the stairwell down the hall. Since I was the only male at the jail that night, we immediately went to investigate but found no one. Luckily, I was running my audio recorder and did capture the whistle. Later that night when we met back up with Kristy, we discovered that inmates would often whistle to each other to communicate when it was lights out.
Our night continued on, with even more unexplained EVPs we captured in some cells and even back on the first floor, where we heard a cell door slam on the second or third level followed by some footsteps as well as an unexplained voice we caught saying “Over here,” in response to “Did I scare you off?” while in one of the cells were caught on audio. We also caught a creepy unexplained laugh which was in response to us asking if it was safe to walk around in the jail.
The experience we had at Historic Scott County Jail was an incredible one. Filled with over 100 years of history, the building exceeded our expectations and provided an action-packed, thrilling night. What made it even better were our welcoming hosts (Celly the cat included), who made sure we were prepared to have a great time.
Dating all the way back the early 1800s, the Bell Witch Cave, one of the most haunted places in the country, in Adams, Tennessee is located on property once owned by the Bells, a family haunted by an entity now referred to as the Bell Witch. As the legend goes, the family lived peacefully on their farm in Adams for 13 years but in the summer of 1817, they began seeing strange animals on the farm, catching eerie sounds, and eventually hearing a disembodied voice heard all throughout their cabin. The Bell Witch Cave, located near the site of the old family farm where John Bell mysteriously died and the terrifying encounters with the entity took place, is where many believe the Bell Witch fled and currently resides. Over the years, the cave and the property as a whole have earned the reputation as one of the most haunted places in America and was said to even have been experienced by Andrew Jackson, 7th U.S. President, who allegedly said he would “rather fight the British in New Orleans than spend another night in the company of the Bell Witch.” Given its reputation, the Bell Witch Cave has seen a bit of everything in terms of unexplained activity, from rocks being thrown to eerie noises and mysterious lights being seen and caught on camera. The cave itself is a limestone formation with a number of winding passages. While the legend of the Bell Witch has grown over time, many visitors continue to report strange happenings and unexplained activity occurring all around the property. The Bell Witch Cave is now partnered with Black Wolf Paranormal to host public paranormal investigations. There are specific dates when these investigations are taking place, and registration is done through the Black Wolf Paranormal’s Facebook page. Spots fill up fast and booking opens a month before the event. The night will start at 7 p.m. CST and end around 1 a.m. CST. If a night investigation isn’t your thing but you still want to check out the cave, they are open for day tours Wednesday through Saturday from June – August and Friday through Sunday in September. Please note: They close during and after heavy rain, so be sure to check their website homepage for updates.
Personal Paranormal Experience at Bell Witch Cave
As part of a public paranormal investigation hosted by the Black Wolf Paranormal Team, our small team met at the Bell Witch Cave property around 7 p.m. and joined 20 others. We sat as rain started to fall and listened intently to a number of stories told by the eager participants about their past experiences with the paranormal. The owners of the cave also showed some of the more telling pieces of evidence they’d collected over the years there, including a number of pictures with puzzling anomalies.
The air was muggy that night and mixing with the cool rain, it created a creepily appropriate veil of dense fog throughout the property. After splitting into several small groups, our team headed out to the first location on the property where we’d investigate, the cave. Being careful not to slip on the wet trail leading down to the cave, we eventually made it to the main entrance, which is guarded by a large iron gate. Once unlocked, we all walked in and made our way to the first of the two large caverns that we’d be visiting.
I did not experience much in this first cavern, but several other members of our larger group did, some sensing a presence behind them and others feeling so uncomfortable that they actually left the cave for some fresh air. It was a very heavy atmosphere in this section of the cave. We soon made our way to the second cavern, which is often referred to as Eagle Rock (one of the rock formations looks like an eagle with its wings spread). The passage leading there was even tighter than the first one we went through. With a trickling freshwater stream running on one side of the path, though, looking beyond eerie stories, the cave itself is quite beautiful and was actually rather fun to explore. Before we knew it, we were in the second cavern. Throughout our time in this area, our lead investigator asked us to listen to the sound of the creek from within the cave and pay attention, as many who visit claim to hear voices emanating from the impassable depths where the water runs further into the cave. While we were listening, there were times where it sounded like someone was talking, though I think it could have simply been the way the water was echoing off the walls. Nonetheless, it was a cool experience to explore a world-famous cave at night.
Once we finished up our time in the cave, we walked back to base camp, grabbed a few snacks then headed to our second stop, the cabin. Not the original Bell cabin, this is a replica cabin built to resemble what the Bell’s home would have looked like back in their time. It’s furnished with period furniture and even some mannequins dressed in period attire, which gave us a bit of scare until we realized it was just dummies. Our time spent in the cabin proved to be the most active of the night. Using several different pieces of equipment, we appeared to make contact with various spirits there, including one that called out one of our group members by name. Out of curiosity, that person then held out her hand and asked if it could identify how many fingers she was holding up (four) and the device immediately came back with the correct answer.
Our final stop was a hilly area back within the Bell property, a short walk from the main building. The guides told us that the land and the cave were once inhabited by Native Americans, and that on the hill to which we were headed was a burial ground with over sixty unmarked Native American grave sites. With that in mind, it was certainly a somber mood up on the hill, but many of our group (using dousing rods) seemed to communicate with some of the spirits there.
Taking everything we experienced into account, our trip to the Bell Witch Cave was an interesting one. Though we didn’t come across as many obvious paranormal happenings as our other investigations, the odd feelings we got on the property were numerous. Whether or not the Bell Witch herself is still residing in the infamous cave in Adams, we can say that there’s certainly some paranormal encounters to be had at the Bell Witch Cave.
More Haunted Places to Explore in Tennessee
Originally built in the late-1800s, Earnestine & Hazel’s was formerly a church. In the years that followed, it became a pharmacy and sundry store and even a jazz club before it was transformed into a bar in the 1950s. Still serving up drinks and hosting live music to this day, Earnestine & Hazel's has earned the title of one of the most haunted bars in America. From employees hearing the piano upstairs playing by itself while no one else is there, to hearing disembodied voices and phantom footsteps, the building is ripe with unexplainable activity. Though not a part of the bar, visitors can check out the creepy second floor while there, which is where much of the activity occurs. Considered one of the most haunted spots in the U.S., Earnestine & Hazel's has earned quite the reputation as not only one of the best dive bars around, but also one of the most paranormally active.
Known world-wide as a legendary live music venue, many don’t know that the Ryman Auditorium is one of the most paranormally active sites in Nashville. Said to be haunted by ghosts such as Thomas Ryman (who built the original structure and after whom the building is named), and late country stars Hank Williams and Patsy Cline, visitors and staff alike have reported hearing voices, even those of Williams and Cline themselves. Throughout the Ryman Auditorium’s over 130-year history, numerous sightings and unexplained occurrences have been reported. In addition to the wide variety of world-class shows and concerts offered daily, The Ryman offers a Haunted History Tour, which will give visitors the chance to hear from expert historians on the most infamous stories and to walk on and underneath one of Nashville’s favorite stages.
You can tour Andrew Jackson's The Hermitage, the 7th U.S. president's home in Nashville, and the grounds to learn more about his political career and personal life. The home is the third most visited presidential home in the nation and features more than 30 historic buildings, a wagon tour, walking trails, gardens and more. The Hermitage mansion is considered to be the most accurately preserved early presidential home in the country. After dark in the fall, you can book a ghost tour of the mansion, grounds and cemetery by lantern light. Guides in period clothing lead you to explore the tragedies that cloak the property, which includes unexplained incidents and eerie encounters. Ghost tours are held every Friday through Sunday Sept. 22-Oct. 29, 2023 and Monday and Tuesday Oct. 30-31, 2023.
A hidden (and haunted) gem of Knoxville, the Bijou Theatre is one of the oldest buildings in the city. Built in the early 1800s as a hotel called the Lamar House, the structure eventually became the home to the Bijou Theatre, still hosting sold-out events and concerts to this day. Before the theatre, the building was used as a hospital during the Civil War for both Union and Confederate soldiers. During this time many deaths as well as fights between both sides in the hospital were numerous and common. Many attribute the theatre’s rich history as the reason for the current hauntings at the Bijou, supported by various reports of apparitions of a Civil War-era solider wearing a uniform, tugging of clothes in the bathroom, and hearing footsteps walking along the rafters and catwalk above the stage. Be sure to visit the Bijou’s event calendar for the full offering of shows throughout the year and book your chance to see your favorite artist perform and check out this haunted Knoxville icon.
Known as one of the nation’s best small towns, Franklin is home to countless historical buildings, sites, and stories. The Battle of Franklin in 1864 marked one of the bloodiest battles of the American Civil War where nearly 10,000 combined casualties occurred between both sides, including nearly 2,000 Confederate soldiers killed in action. Carnton, a house built in 1826, was used as a field hospital during and after the battle. It sheltered over 300 soldiers, many of which died in the building. You can visit and tour this building today, hearing about the stories and seeing the history for yourself. You’ll still see blood-stained wooden floorboards from its days as the field hospital. Hundreds of visitors claim to have seen and heard spirits within the historic home, from the ghost of a woman floating across the back porch and Confederate soldier pacing the front patio to a young girl sweeping the floors at dusk.
The nearby Carter House is also a paranormally active site once used as a command post for the Union during the Battle of Franklin. After the battle, the home was turned into a makeshift hospital seeing to many surgeries and deaths. The house is allegedly haunted by two of the Carter family children, visitors claiming to see the kids running around the home and hearing unexplained voices. With so much history seeping through the hallowed walls of these historic buildings, the entire city of Franklin is a fantastic place for history buffs and those looking to experience the paranormal. And, as a bonus, there’s a plethora of quaint boutiques, shops, restaurants, and venues for you to enjoy after exploring.