Rule #22 – Question everything.
When you think of “history”, what comes to mind? Old, musty, dusty textbooks? A bunch of facts that might get you a gig on “Jeopardy”? Ben Stein as Ferris Buehler’s teacher? (“Anyone? Anyone?”) Stories of old folks long, long ago and stuff they did?
Both Edmund Burke and George Santayana have versions of the quote about those not learning from history being bound to repeat it. I have always enjoyed learning about the past, more for curiosity about life in the past than for the political ramifications. Those who went before us still have much to tell. They also have unusual ways of communicating their lives with us. Some souls witnessed great events. Some were tormented while alive. Some souls haven’t left us yet and still make their presence know in specific spots.
While visiting Nashville, Tennessee, recently, I decided to check out some of the local history in Downtown Nashville. No, not just the stories you hear about, I wanted some of the back stories, too. A ghost walk was in order.
I met the costumed guide across the street from the Hermitage Hotel. And what an impressive hotel it is! The hotel boasts five-star luxury for all of its guests. Walking into the lobby takes you back to the late 1800’s and early 1900’s in décor, complete with marble flooring, stained-glass skylights, and traditional furniture. The rooms at the Hermitage have a similar décor, but with all the modern conveniences.
|Entrance to the Hermitage Hotel|
But… if you stay in room 910 - which is a combined new room between 910 and 912 -you may wake to the sound of the crying infant who died in room 912. You may also hear his mother try to soothe the crying. If you stay in room 813, you may just encounter the “Lady in White”, who never left the room. When you venture anywhere on the first two floors - even in the OakBar - be mindful of your company manners. There is the spirit of a woman in Southern Belle attire who greets many an unsuspecting guest.
|Look up and you may see someone...|
Our next stop on the ghost walk was the Tennessee State House and grounds. Since we were walking after dark, the State House itself was closed up for the day. But… as we stood outside of the building, I learned about the building’s architect, William Strickland, and the running feud he had with the Capitol Commissioner, Samuel Morgan, as the building was under construction. Both men were intense rivals, and at times, they even came to blows over the decisions to be made. Both men did respect each other, and when they passed away, they were both buried at the Capitol. Since they regularly opposed each other, they were buried on opposite sides of the building. Rumor has it that they still argue, to this day. If you are really quiet, you can hear them still inside the building, bickering over a building issue.
|Tennessee State Capitol Building at night|
Outside on the grounds of the Capitol building, I walked past many statues of honored Tennesseans. Sergeant Alvin York is memorialized on the grounds, along with President James K. Polk. President Andrew Jackson’s statue is the same equestrian pose that is in Jackson Square in New Orleans. I did not feel like I was “alone” when viewing these works of art, either. Plus, it is said, that Rachel Jackson, the President’s Lady, keeps watch over Tennessee from the top tower of the Capitol. President Polk and his wife were buried at another location. But ever since their graves were moved to the Capitol grounds - it is said- they are not happy and make their presence known.
|Statue of Sgt. Alvin York and ? (check out the orbs)|
|Statue of General Andrew Jackson and ? (more orbs)|
|Is the President's Lady keeping watch over Nashville from the tower?|
Our party walked only a few blocks east to St. Mary’s Church. This was the site of a great deal of spirit activity up until 1969. That was the year when workers discovered the remains of Bishop Richard P. Miles in the basement of the building. He was buried properly and all spirit activity ceased.
|St. Mary's Church in downtown Nashville|
Next stop on the tour was the old Rainbow Room building at Printer’s Alley. The Rainbow Room started out as an exotic dance club. David “Skull” Schulman turned it into a country bar in the 1990’s. So many country singers jammed at the Rainbow Room, that Skull Schulman became known as the Mayor of Printer’s Alley. One night, as Skull was closing the place down, robbers got into the building. They shot and killed Skull in his own place. The perpetrators were caught and dealt with, but the Rainbow Room closed down. The club next door rented the closed out space for a while, to use as storage. But… none of the employees wanted to go into the storage area at night. There was still a big, blood stain on the carpet from where Skull bled out. Many locals don’t think he ever really left the building.
|Door to what was the Rainbow Room|
|Blues Club next door who rented storage space - then gave it back|
Last stop on the tour was Ryman Auditorium. This building has a long and storied history, and is steeped in musical folklore. Rumor has it that Captain Thomas Ryman, the builder, is still there. He will occasionally make himself known to maintenance workers. He still wants the Auditorium to sparkle. You might run into the Man in Grey, who many think is a person who attended the Confederate Soldier’s Reunion in 1897. There’s also a story about how, as Bill Anderson was performing a Hank Williams song, Hank’s spirit became a critic and “caused” a blackout just during that song. Many country music stars are reported to still grace the Mother Church of Country Music. If you are really quiet, you may even hear them.
The tour I took is part of the regular Ghosts of Nashville walking tour. This organization has many types of tours to offer a visitor. For you who may be planning a trip to Tennessee’s capital, make sure you stop by and visit “everyone” in town. You may catch a glimpse of folks you just didn’t expect to see. What else can they tell us about events in our history?
Maybe if we just believe… and listen….
|Who is in that mist in the tower... really?|
For reference information, check out:
Ghosts of the Prairie – Ryman Auditorium
Ghosts and Spirits of Tennessee – St. Mary’s Church
Hermitage Hotel ghosts
Hermitage Hotel ghosts
To visit the spirits yourself:
Nashville Ghost Tours main website
All photos by Marge McGugan and may not be reused or copied without permission.