Explore the Spine-Chilling Haunted Houses of Tennessee

  • By: Gareth Popovic
  • Date: 21 December 2023
  • Time to read: 11 min.


“Where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases my blues away…” In the land where country music lyrics capture the soul of America, Tennessee offers more than just melodies and mountains. Explore the spine-chilling haunted houses of Tennessee, where each creaky floorboard and shadowed corner tells a tale as haunting as any country ballad.

This journey takes you through the Volunteer State’s most ghostly dwellings, from the misty Appalachian foothills to the bustling streets of Nashville and Memphis. These houses, steeped in history and legend, are not for the faint of heart. They whisper stories of lost loves, forgotten battles, and spirits that refuse to rest in peace. Join us as we unveil the eerie and the unexplained, where the thrill of a ghost story meets the charm of Southern hospitality. In Tennessee, the hauntings are as rich in history as they are in horror, offering a unique glimpse into the state’s past and the ghostly figures that still roam its halls.

Bell Witch cave

John Bell, a prosperous farmer in Adams, Tennessee, purchased a piece of land in the early 19th century. As the Bell family settled, their lives turned nightmarish. Mysterious animals were spotted, and strange sounds echoed around the property. It’s believed that the disturbances began after John encountered a strange creature resembling a dog and a rabbit.

Bell Witch cave
Bell Witch Cave – Credit Wayne Hsieh

Whispers turned to screams, and the Bell’s youngest daughter, Betsy, became a frequent target. She experienced physical torment at the hands of an unseen force. It wasn’t long before the entity identified itself as the Bell Witch, supposedly the spirit of a displeased neighbor, Kate Batts. The witch made audacious claims, one being her intention to murder John Bell. Astonishingly, he died in 1820, and many believe it was the witch’s doing, with a mysterious vial of liquid found nearby.

Decades passed, but the stories didn’t. The Bell Witch Cave, part of the Bell’s property, became a focal point for those seeking paranormal experiences. Visitors today report a range of chilling encounters, from eerie laughs to ghostly apparitions. Even today, the legend persists, warning the brave and the curious of the witch’s undying malice.

The Orpheum Theatre

In the heart of Memphis, Tennessee, stands the grand Orpheum Theatre. Built in 1928, it replaced the original theater that was consumed by fire. Since its establishment, it has showcased countless vaudeville acts, films, and Broadway plays. Yet, behind the stage curtains and the glitz, the theater holds a shadowy past.

Many claim the theater’s most famed ghost is Mary / Mattie, a little girl who tragically met her end in a street accident near the theater in the early 1900s. Staff and performers alike report sightings of a little girl in a white dress, playing mischievously around the premises or watching performances from a specific seat. Her laughter and playful antics, though harmless, send shivers down the spine of those who witness her.

Despite the eerie tales, the Orpheum Theatre remains a beloved Memphis landmark. While some performers request their dressing room to be “Mary-free”, others embrace the theater’s spectral resident. Tourists and ghost hunters often visit, hoping for a glimpse of Mary or the other phantoms said to wander the opulent halls. The theater’s rich history, both seen and unseen, only adds to its allure.

The Ryman Auditorium

Nestled in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, the Ryman Auditorium is a gem from the past, known by many as the “Mother Church of Country Music”. Constructed in the 1890s as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, it played host to countless revivals. With the shift of eras, the once sacred space transformed into a hub for entertainment, bringing in legends of country music and broadcasting the world-renowned Grand Ole Opry.

Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium – Credit arianravan

But with a building as storied as the Ryman, whispers of the paranormal are bound to emerge. The most notable spirit is said to be that of Thomas Ryman himself, the riverboat captain for whom the auditorium is named. Some performers recount feeling an otherworldly presence while on stage, attributing it to Ryman’s spirit watching over his namesake establishment. There are also tales of Hank Williams Sr.‘s ghost, heard singing his classic tunes backstage, even though he never played the Ryman when he was alive.

Today, the Ryman Auditorium stands as both a beacon for artists and a magnet for ghost enthusiasts. While the acoustics draw in musicians from all genres, the rumored spirits give a tantalizing reason for ghost hunters to visit. It’s a place where the chords of history and the echoes of legends, both living and ethereal, continue to resonate.

At the Ryman Auditorium, ghostly encounters and unexplained phenomena create an eerie allure, captivating music enthusiasts and those seeking the unknown. The venue’s enigmatic charm weaves chilling tales with its musical legacy, leaving visitors enthralled by its mysteries.

The Ramsey House

In Knoxville, Tennessee, the Historic Ramsey House stands as a testament to the past. Built in 1797, it was the home of Francis Alexander Ramsey, a prominent early settler and his family. Over two centuries old, this Georgian-style mansion is not just a significant architectural specimen but also a reservoir of stories, from historical events to whispers of the supernatural.

Ramsey House
Ramsey House – Credit DM

With age often comes tales of the unknown, and the Ramsey House is no exception. Visitors and staff have reported inexplicable occurrences, hinting at the possibility of paranormal activity. Gentle tapping on windows, footsteps echoing in empty hallways, and mysteriously shifting objects give the place an aura of intrigue. Some attribute these phenomena to the spirits of the Ramsey family, particularly Young Peggy Ramsey, who died tragically young and is said to wander the halls, leaving an aura of melancholy in her wake.

Present-day Ramsey House stands as a popular historic site, welcoming history buffs and ghost hunters alike. While the guided tours shed light on the rich tapestry of the Ramsey family’s impact on Tennessee’s development, the murmurs of ghostly encounters entice those with a penchant for the paranormal. The mansion offers a unique blend of documented history and the yet-to-be-explained, making every visit a journey through time and mystery.

Tennessee State Prison

Built in 1898, the Tennessee State Prison in Nashville stands as a formidable Gothic fortress, with its towering stone walls and castle-like turrets. Originally designed to follow the “Auburn system”, it enforced prisoner solitude to encourage reflection and repentance. But in practice, the prison quickly became overcrowded and conditions deteriorated. Riots, escapes, and fires marred its history, painting a grim picture of life behind its bars.

Tennessee State Prison - Credit Brent Moore
Tennessee State Prison – Credit Brent Moore

But as with any place with such a tumultuous past, tales of the supernatural began to surface. Former guards and inmates reported unexplained noises: chains rattling, doors slamming shut with no one in sight, and disembodied voices echoing through the cellblocks. The most notorious of its ghostly residents is said to be a former prison guard. Some claim to have seen his shadowy figure, lantern in hand, making rounds along the now-abandoned cellblocks. Another legend speaks of inmates who died in the 1938 prison fire; their agonized screams are supposedly heard on certain nights.

Since its closure in 1992, the eerie and decaying prison caught the eye of Hollywood. It became the backdrop for films, most notably ‘The Green Mile’ and ‘Walk the Line’. While it’s no longer open for public tours due to structural concerns, the Tennessee State Prison remains an iconic and chilling landmark. Those drawn to its history and alleged hauntings can only hope for a chance to explore its mysteries someday.

Hales Bar Dam

Set against the backdrop of the Tennessee River, Hales Bar Dam is a nexus of historical and supernatural intrigue. Constructed between 1905 and 1913, this dam was a groundbreaking feat of engineering in its time. But its legacy is more complex than its bricks and turbines might suggest.

From the get-go, the dam was embroiled in controversy. It was built on land once inhabited by the Cherokee Nation, and many believe the ground was cursed due to the displacement of these native people. The dam itself faced numerous structural issues throughout its operational years, leading to leaks and inefficiencies. Some attributed these technical mishaps to the curse, while skeptics looked to faulty engineering.

Hales Bar Dam - Credit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Hales Bar DamCredit U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

But it’s the ghostly tales surrounding Hales Bar Dam that truly capture the imagination. Workers reported strange phenomena even during its construction. Voices whispered in the wind, tools vanished, and some spoke of apparitions in the turbulent waters below the dam. As years passed, tales of drowned workers, restless Native American spirits, and eerie shadows became synonymous with the dam’s reputation. The Marina, which was later established on the site, has been the epicenter for many of these ghostly encounters.

Decommissioned in 1968 due to its persistent issues, the dam was eventually replaced by the Nickajack Dam further downstream. Today, the remnants of Hales Bar Dam beckon the brave and the curious. Many paranormal enthusiasts and investigators have walked its haunted halls, hoping to catch a glimpse of its storied past or make contact with the spirits said to linger there.

Carnton Planation

In the historic town of Franklin, Tennessee, the Carnton Plantation sprawls out with its deep roots buried in the Civil War era. This Greek revival mansion was built in the early 1820s for former Nashville mayor Randal McGavock. As serene as its grounds appear today, the plantation witnessed the bloodshed of the Battle of Franklin in 1864, one of the Civil War’s deadliest encounters. Post-battle, the mansion became a makeshift hospital, tending to the wounded and dying, forever marking its halls with stories of sacrifice and loss.

The weight of the souls lost during that fateful battle seems to linger in the air. Visitors often speak of inexplicable cold spots, faint cries of distress, and ghostly apparitions in Confederate uniforms. One recurring spirit is a mysterious “Lady in White”, believed to be Carrie McGavock, the plantation mistress who played a pivotal role in caring for the wounded. Tales tell of her wandering the grounds, continuing her eternal vigil over the soldiers she once tended to.

Carnton Plantation
Carnton Plantation – Credit Jim Bowen

Today, Carnton Plantation remains an iconic reminder of a divided nation’s history and the specters that some believe still linger from its turbulent past. As a site of remembrance and education, it attracts history enthusiasts, while the echoes of its haunted past draw in those intrigued by the paranormal. The intertwining of documented events and whispered legends makes Carnton a place where history is palpably alive.

Read House Hotel

In the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee, stands the majestic The Read House Hotel. Its opulent architecture and luxurious interiors harken back to a bygone era, having opened its doors in 1872. Over the years, it has hosted a slew of notable guests, from presidents to celebrities. But beyond its grandeur, the hotel harbors secrets and whispers of a spectral nature.

Room 311 stands out as the epicenter of paranormal activity. Legend has it that during the 1920s, a woman named Annalisa Netherly took residence in this very room. Tales differ on how she met her untimely demise—some say she was murdered in a crime of passion, while others suggest she took her own life after a heartbreak. Regardless of the circumstances, many believe her restless spirit still haunts Room 311. Guests have reported seeing a woman’s apparition in the room, faucets turning on by themselves, and an unshakeable feeling of being watched. The room remains preserved in a 1920s style, amplifying its eerie ambiance.

Today, The Read House Hotel capitalizes on its haunted reputation, offering brave guests the chance to stay in the infamous Room 311. While the hotel is recognized for its historic significance and luxurious offerings, it’s the tales of Annalisa and other rumored spirits that lend an air of mystery. Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, a night at The Read House promises an experience steeped in history and intrigue.


Bid farewell to the haunted houses of Tennessee, leaving the lingering echoes of ghostly encounters and the mysteries that shroud these historic places. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, there’s no denying the allure of these haunted sites and the fascination they hold.

As you venture into the unknown, approach with respect and an open mind, for the spirits of the past may still roam among us, forever haunting the houses that bear their tales.

FAQs On Explore the Spine-Chilling Haunted Houses of Tennessee

1. Why is Tennessee considered a hotspot for haunted houses?
Tennessee has a rich history, from Native American heritage to Civil War battles. This tapestry of events has given rise to numerous tales of unsettled spirits and paranormal occurrences which form the basis of the haunted houses in Tennessee.

2. Are these haunted houses open to the public?
Many of the mentioned locations, such as The Read House Hotel and Carnton Plantation, are open to the public. However, some sites might require prior permission or only offer limited access.

3. Can I go on a guided ghost tour in Tennessee to see the haunted houses?
Absolutely! Several locations, especially in cities like Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee, offer guided ghost tours that take visitors through the most notoriously haunted houses and share chilling tales of their histories.

4. Are there any safety precautions I should take when visiting these places?
Always respect the property and its rules. If a location is off-limits or requires a guide, do not trespass. It’s also advisable to visit with a group, especially during nighttime explorations.

5. I’m a skeptic. Are these tales supported by evidence?
Many of the stories stem from personal experiences and local legends. While some paranormal enthusiasts claim to have evidence like photographs or audio recordings, scientific validation of these phenomena remains elusive.

6. Are overnight stays possible in any of these haunted houses in Tennessee?
Yes, locations like The Read House Hotel offer accommodations for guests. Staying overnight can be an immersive way to experience the haunted tales firsthand— if you’re brave enough!

7. Are these sites child-friendly?
While many historic sites offer educational value for children, parents should gauge their child’s comfort level with ghost stories and potentially unsettling experiences before planning a visit.

8. Apart from haunted tales, what else can I expect from these locations?
Many of these sites, like the Carnton Plantation, are significant historical landmarks. They offer insights into Tennessee’s history, architecture, and cultural heritage, beyond their ghostly tales.

9. How did these places earn their haunted reputation?
Most haunted reputations arise from tragic events, historical significance, or repeated reports of unexplained phenomena. Over time, these tales become intertwined with the location’s identity.

10. I want to explore more haunted places in the U.S. Where should I go next?
The U.S. is teeming with haunted locales. After Tennessee, you might consider exploring places like the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, Alcatraz Island in California, or the Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana.

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