From Music City ghosts to train-wrecked spirits that haunt the beautiful old Union Station, Nashville has the history of which legends are made.
The capital city of Nashville, Tennessee hosts many ghosts and legends. Although several live up to the city’s nickname of Music City, many have been around much longer. Nashville was a center of Civil War battles, as the town was a port city located on the Cumberland River. Founded in 1779, Nashville was a very prosperous antebellum city. The Civil War left the area demolished but the citizens quickly rebuilt the town with beautiful architecture and soon was thriving again. Here are a few tales of the lovely buildings the apparitions and spirits found impossible to leave.
Jackson’s Haunted Hermitage Heritage
President Andrew Jackson was one of America’s most famous presidents. He was also one of Tennessee’s most famous citizens and his beloved home, The Hermitage, is only one of a few of the older president’s homes that is perfectly preserved and open to the public. The Greek Revival style home is the very much the same as it was in the antebellum period of Nashville.
The place can be very eerie. As a young woman with a Polaroid camera, my photos of the family cemetery always turned out murky and ghostly. All other shots would turn out clear. I cannot fathom an evening stay.
Many have documented the tales of two women belonging to the Ladies’ Hermitage Association who camped there overnight while the house was being renovated in the 1880s. They said they were awakened by pots and pans being thrown around the kitchen, the sound of a chain being pulled across the front porch and the odd sound of a horse being ridden up and down the stairs. They refused to stay again and hired a guard to watch over the premises at night from then on.
In more modern times, there have been reports of ghosts of slaves, disembodied voices and at least one photograph has surfaced over the years of a full-bodied apparition. The southern mansion is so well restored that one can envision the habitants and the slaves that worked the plantation. The home has been open continuously as a museum since 1889 and is open daily for tours.
Official Ghosts at the State Capitol
The Tennessee State Capitol Building is one of the few state houses that have been in continual use since it was built. A host of ghosts wait to greet visitors to this historic building, especially in the evening. The most famous ghosts of the capital were two bitter rivals that actually oversaw the building in the first place. In 1845, the Tennessee legislature hired architect William Strickland from Philadelphia for the design. They then hired Samuel Morgan to oversee the building and make sure nothing went over budget. The result of these two employments turned into a nine-year feud between the two personalities.
Strickland died in 1854 just before the completion of the building. Tennessee officials honored him by burying him in a newly constructed vault. When Morgan died, they gave him the same honor and interred him there as well. Today, many reports have noted that voices can be heard arguing from the building. It turns out that perhaps their well-known bickering has transcended death. According to local legend, even police officers have rushed to the north end of the building to check out disturbances and have heard the voices only to find nothing. The vault is located in exactly that part of the building. Who else in the nation has been buried for eternity with life’s most despised rival?
Union Station Train Ghosts That Never Left
Today’s Union Station is a beautiful luxury hotel. In 1819, it was just miles from the deadliest train wreck in US history. That year, on July 9th, two passenger trains collided due to engineer failures at the train station. The wreck killed 101 people and injured another 171. According to newspaper reports of the day, the scene was horrific.
Later, the station was a central hub of both Confederate and Union soldiers and saw a flurry of this type of activity especially from 1862 – 1864, when the Union controlled Nashville and the Confederacy tried to overtake it again from south of the city.
Today, visitors to the beautifully restored station, which is a Romanesque Revival structure, have seen haunted activity. Guests staying in the hotel have been awakened by loud banging on the walls and doors, and with typical ghostly temporary outings of power supplies to televisions and to lights. If you are so inclined, the fifth and sixth floors are reportedly the most haunted.
Nashville’s Melancholy Musical Apparitions
Nashville is not named the Music City for no reason. The bedrock of both country and gospel music, the city was nicknamed Music City in 1950 by David Cobb of WSM-AM and the name has stuck, being used by even the Convention and Visitor’s Center.
The Grand Ole Opry opened in 1925, being broadcast from the historic Ryman Auditorium. For decades, the biggest names in country music aspired to be on that stage—it remains the pinnacle of country music success today to grace the Grand Ole Opry.
All sorts of apparitions have been seen within the historical building with the perfect acoustics. Some claim to have seen Hank Williams wandering the building. One particular sighting has been interesting to me—there is one resident ghost that wears a blue and white checked gingham dress and many believe it to be the ghost of Patsy Cline. Sadly, in all my trips to Nashville and tours of the Ryman, I have never once spotted her—or any other ghostly singer. As a writer, I have researched much about her. If it is indeed the spirit of Patsy Cline, she has declined to be interviewed by me.
In Nashville, there are so many personages—both famous and common—that have roamed the streets of Davidson County that the spirits seem to never want to leave. Enjoy the music, take a camera and photograph a few buildings—who knows who will show up in the photograph?