That case is certainly an infamous set of occurrences from the early 19th century. As Beth also mentions, President Jackson had encounters with the entity before he became president, and the Bell Witch even stopped the curious Jackson's carriage from moving towards the afflicted house despite the most strenuous efforts of his team to get the carriage and horses going forward after fixing a strangely broken axle , and this was some miles from the house at that! Whatever the entity was it definitely didn't want that visit to check out the eerie goings-on.
Dear readers of the Carolinian's Archives, it is my pleasure to introduce you to author, Beth Perry, with her debut on Mists and Moonlight.
I've known Beth as a friend and fellow writer for over two years now and continue to be amazed at her skills and talent in this area. This lady is genuinely a fantastic writer as you will soon see.
Past what she's sharing here, you can read more of her work via various articles on the sites below. The anyahoward one is mature-themed fiction.
bethperry @ HubPages
When it comes to the supernatural, Tennessee has its fair share of hauntings and focal points of paranormal activity. Some of our renowned haints include: Elvis’s ghost in and around Memphis, several taverns and inns that boast the returning spirits of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. There is the city of Erwin, where they hung an elephant (Mary) in 1916, and which is said to have been cursed for the unjust treatment given to the maltreated animal. But without doubt our most famous paranormal entity is the Bell Witch of Adams, TN. This poltergeist tormented the family of John Bell in the 1800’s, and its aggressive nature was said to haunt the area for some years. Andrew Jackson is credited to have encountered the Bell Witch during his years before becoming president. Numerous books about the known real-life events, and films adapted from the legend, have made the Bell Witch world famous.
Our state boasts many lesser-renowned, but just as interesting, paranormal focal points. Several are found right here in upper east Tennessee, home of our beautiful Smoky Mountains. As urban-legendish as the tales surrounding them may sound today, these paranormal personalities and places have contributed to the region’s rich heritage. And I thought I'd share a few of these here today.
Location: Arney Hill Cemetery, Elizabethton, TN
I didn’t know about Granny February until I married and moved to Carter County, and my husband and his friends and neighbors told me the story about her. Today, her story is today more widely known, as she has been mentioned in paranormal sites across the internet. The typical online anecdote relates the popular belief that if you leave food at Granny February’s mausoleum she is likely to converse with you, and if the offering is particularly yummy she will grant you a wish.
The history: Granny February’s real name was Nannie Crow Brister, and she was a homemaker with a great fondness for music. According to old-timers, Nannie was also reputed to be a white witch, with a particular penchant for healing children. Mrs. Brister’s elevation into local legend, however, had to wait until her golden years.
When Mrs. Brister (Granny) was an elderly woman she suffered a seizure-type episode. This episode left her in a state which doctors at the time believed was death. Granny February was given a funeral, and buried beside her husband’s remains in a mausoleum at Arney Hill cemetery. A few days later the caretaker was horrified to hear Granny call for help from inside the mausoleum. Discovering that Granny was very much alive, the caretaker unchained the mausoleum doors and contacted her family. Granny returned to her home and she was said to be, by all who knew her, unaffected by the non-death.
In time Granny fell lifeless –or seemingly lifeless- again. She was declared dead and buried for a second time in the family mausoleum. But this time a table was put near her coffin inside the mausoleum, and food and drink were left out. This was a wise decision, for indeed Granny February returned from “the dead” a second time.
She lived a few more years before once more falling dead. She was returned to the coffin inside the mausoleum, and once again the table was set out with food and drink.
But Granny February did not rise from her coffin again. Her remains stayed among the dead, the mausoleum stood silent, the food on the table grew moldy, the drink eventually evaporated from the goblet.
Legend: After Granny February’s final entombment people replaced the old food and drink with fresh offerings for many years. Some of these individuals have claimed that when they put the offerings down they could hear Granny February say “Thank you.” as clearly as the sun rises in the east. Some have said they even enjoyed lengthy conversations with Granny February. Others went on to say they've encountered another spirit inside the mausoleum, one that claimed to be an even more ancient spirit than Granny February. And yet others maintain that on visiting the mausoleum, they have had their destiny revealed by one or more of these spirits.
Personal anecdote: In time there were so many incidents of people breaking into the Brister mausoleum that Granny February’s table was finally removed and the door chained shut.
I saw Granny February’s mausoleum for the first time in 1994, when my husband took me to the cemetery. At that time the table was standing just inside the mausoleum doors and there was a wooden bowl sitting on top of it. Today the chain remains across the door, but it has obviously one or more persons have tried to free them. When standing right in front of these doors, you can see offerings of flowers lying just inside.
Of related interest: in Elizabethton, it is common practice on Halloween night to attempt to conjure up the spirit of Granny February. This is done by standing in front of a mirror, with only a burning candle for light, and speaking the name Granny February five times in succession. It is reported that she is more willing to appear if you also put out a donation of food during this little rite.
Location: Carter County, Tennessee
Legend: for many years people have reported a hooded figure lurking under the Watauga Bridge. Those who have encountered this apparition say its head is only a flaming skull. Others say that in laying eyes on the skull face, they have been besieged by bad luck.
History: Some locals of native heritage say the hooded figure is the spirit of a fanatical monk, who in bygone days took pleasure in physically hurting Native Americans.
Location: Elizabethton, TN
The history: this nursing home was originally St. Elizabeth’s hospital. Sometime after my husband’s birth there in 1956 it was bought by his grandmother, Phoebe Crosswhite Perry, who transformed it into Ivy Hall Nursing Home.
Legend: According to eye-witnesses accounts, children have been heard running and playing across the floors of Ivy Hall during the wee hours of morning. Others have claimed to have run into my husband’s grandmother in the wing she resided in before her death.
I have never witnessed any of these things at Ivy Hall, but for anyone who might be nervous about running into Mama Phoebe there, have no fear. In life, she was known for her generosity and for making folks feel at home.
Location: Blountville, TN
Blountville is a small town found near the south fork of the Holston River. My Nanny (grandmother) and my grandfather lived just outside of Blountville proper, as well as most of their extended family. Like most of their kin and neighbors they were farming folk. The community was a tight-knit one and enjoyed the peacefulness of country living. And in this otherwise bucolic area is a place that speaks of the seriousness the community took their commitment to neighborly decency.
Before commercial industry came to the area Shadowtown Road was just a small and remote cut of rural road. Hardly more than a carriage wheel-pressed path, there was nothing distinctive about it for a long time. This was, the story goes, until the crimes of outsiders got this little-known path named.
The Legend: Several decades ago KKK members from another county decided it was high-time to set things “right” in the community of Blountville. They arrived with their hate and with it, violence. These men began by making a nuisance of themselves with hateful speech, and when they saw their blowhard doctrines were falling on deaf ears, decided to stir up trouble. To do this they targeted one of the few black families in the area. In the middle of the night they visited the family home and set it on fire. If this wasn’t bad enough, the family infant was burned to death. The Klanners may have been quite proud of their accomplishment, but what they failed to realize is that the people of the area weren't white racists; they were Scot-Irish and German immigrants who had come in search of a place to escape the brutal conditions of the industrialized North. These people wanted no part of slavery. They had no use for racial division. They honored the Confederate flag because, in their eyes, it stood for liberation from amoral industrialists. And they welcomed everyone who came with decency and respect for others. Klanners, especially murderous Klanners, were anything but decent and respectful.
The arsonist/killers were soon arrested, in no small thanks to the fact they were boasting about the crime to anyone who would listen. It wasn’t the first time the peace-loving locals had had to deal with suspected crimes from the Klan. But the residents decided it would be the last time.
In the court room the Klanners admitted their guilt and showed no remorse for their crime. As it was, there was no case for the jury; all they had to do was decide the men’s fate. Two of them were sentenced to hard labor. The third, the one who had discovered the family’s residence and had drenched the foundation of their home with lantern fuel and brought the matches, was sentenced to death. This man was unfazed; he ordered his attorney to contest it the verdict, and further declared to the judge he had friends in the state capitol that would see he received a pardon.
On the night following the verdict a group of local men arrived at the jail house. The condemned boaster was handed over to them. He was taken to a narrow, thicket-flanked and carriage-trodden road just outside of Blountville proper. Here, a hanging rope was thrown over the limb of a tall oak. The killer was seated on the back of a horse; the noose was thrown over his neck. Moments later someone slapped the horse’s rear and the beast shot forward. The man’s neck snapped in that instant and those who had sentenced him watched as his twitching body swung in the moonlight. They did not celebrate, for they remembered the heinous crime that had led to the execution. But they did leave the killer’s body to hang as warning to others with hate and intolerance in their hearts.
In time his body was removed and his family retrieved it. Shadowtown Road was never again to be used as a place of execution. But over the years the bodies of three other men turned up in the ditch on Shadowtown Road. The causes of their individual deaths were never determined, though in truth no one showed much grief over their demise anyway. One of these men was out on bail at the time his body was recovered, as he had been charged with the rape of a Cherokee woman. The other two were similarly awaiting trial, having been accused of vandalizing and setting fire to the Mason’s Lodge.
Travelers to Shadowtown Road have reported that on moonlit nights the shadow of a hangman’s noose can be seen lying across the old rural road. And some who have walked the road by night have claimed to have not only seen this shadow, but also heard the ominous sound of a creaking rope.
I've never walked down Shadowtown Road at night, and can't attest to whether the shadow is real or not. But there an old sing-songy chant about the place that survived even to the days I was in grade school: The devil sells you vengeance, the devil trades you gold. And the devil comes to collect on Shadowtown Road.