I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
October 15, 2018
Just a few minutes from Nashville, Rutherford County is filled with crumbling antebellum mansions, interesting historic buildings, and the site of one of the Civil War’s most important battles — So it’s not surprising that it is also home to a number of really amazing ghost stories and haunted places. I’m sharing some of my favorites below. Check them out, then make a day of it and visit these supernatural sites for yourself!
This historic antebellum courthouse on Murfreesboro’s downtown square is the site of one of my favorite spooky stories — The Human Fly. Back in 1923, a young man calling himself a ‘Human Fly’ came to town and asked permission to climb to the top of the Murfreesboro Courthouse. This kind of thing was a fad back then and daring young men traveled the country, scaling tall buildings and courthouse clocks to the delight, horror, and cash donations of the crowds that formed below.
The climb was scheduled for a Friday night at 8pm– A firetruck provided a spotlight so that crowds could see the Human Fly’s climb. About 200 people showed up for the stunt. The Fly climbed up the side of the building to the rooftop, then began climbing up the clock itself. He made it to the top of the tower and even stood on top of the weather vane and waved his arms. He then climbed back down to the ledge just beneath the clock’s face.
Instead of returning to the ground, the Human Fly decided for some unknown reason to climb the clock tower again. He made it to the top once more, but as he came back down, a misting rain began to fall. The Human Fly lost his grip and fell 40 feet to the roof of the courthouse, breaking his neck and crushing his skull. He was killed instantly. But the story doesn’t end there.
The Human Fly had called himself Ray Royce, but that was only a stage name. Legend has it that his body was taken to the Crafton-Sweeney funeral parlor across the square and displayed for several days in the parlor window in a glass coffin with a sign that read Do you know me? in the hopes that someone could identify him and claim his body. When that didn’t happen, he was buried in a pauper’s grave in Evergreen Cemetery. The story made newspapers across the South. Locals believe the Human Fly still hangs around outside the building in ghostly form, hoping someone will come and claim him.
While you’re on the square, stop by Sugaree’s on 122 S. Maple Street, a super charming, vintage-y women’s boutique with its own resident ghost named Jackson.
Soon after moving her boutique to Murfreesboro’s historic downtown square, owner Stacy Higdon began noticing some pretty strange occurrences. Shoes would switch places on the shelf, clothing racks would shake, and the smell of cigar smoke would fill the back of the store for no apparent reason. She invited in a psychic, who reported that Sugaree’s resident ghost keeps mostly to the store’s back supply room.
Since then, Higdon has welcomed other paranormal investigators who’ve wanted to see her shop for themselves. Through their supernatural tracking equipment, she learned Sugaree’s resident ghost is apparently a gambler named Mr. Jackson. Another investigation revealed that a ghostly game of cards was going on in the back room, with eight spirits participating. Since the building was constructed some time between 1897 and 1900, an old-fashioned game of cards seems entirely possible!
An employee tells us that lately, a sweet little girl with a well-developed sixth sense has been visiting the store with her father. When she arrives, she heads straight to the back to ‘say hello to Jack’ and a lady she calls Mary.
I don’t know about you, but I’m scurred.
Unfortunately, downtown Murfreesboro restaurant The Gavel has closed its doors — But I’m sure the ghosts inside will be happy to welcome the building’s next tenants when they arrive! Former restaurant employees noticed all kinds of paranormal activity here, including shadows, pats on the backs, and heavy footsteps. One chef even thought he heard someone breathing heavily behind him — but when he turned around, no one was there. Paranormal investigators spent an evening at the restaurant and used a ‘spirit box’ to pick up a voice that said ‘Good morning, Nicholas.’ According to the restaurant owner, a man used to greet their employee, Nick, like that every morning. The man died prior to the paranormal investigation.
It’s no wonder this building is a hotbed of ghostly antics — Researchers say the building used to contain a gallows used at the courthouse across the street! Fortunately the spirits who now inhabit the space seem to be friendly. The former restaurant is located at 109 N. Maple Street.
Located at 3501 Old Nasvhille Highway in Murfreesboro, the Stones River National Battlefield was the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War — More than 3,000 soldiers were killed here. Consequently, many ghostly encounters are said to have taken place on this battlefield as well. One of the most famous ghosts is known as the Headless Horseman. According to historical reports, Union Lieutenant Col. Julius Garesche had numerous premonitions in the months before the battle that he would soon die. He was right. As he rode across the field with another soldier, Garesche was decapitated by a cannon ball. His horse went on for 20 yards before his body hit the ground. Today, numerous park visitors and Civil War re-enactors have reported seeing his ghostly, headless figure on one last ride.
The bloodiest fighting of the battle took place at what’s become known as Slaughter Pen, and many strange occurrences have been reported at this site. Named for the way eyewitnesses say it resembled a slaughtering pen for animals after the battle was over, it is tour stop number 2 at the battlefield. Strange lights have been seen bobbing across the field at night, apparitions have been sighted, unexplained groans and screams have been heard, an eerie stillness is often reported, people have sworn they’ve been followed by an unseen presence, and many report the area is often 10 or 20 degrees cooler than the rest of the battlefield.
At tour stop number 3, a park employee once saw what he thought was a man in a Civil War-era soldier’s costume — The employee called out to him and the man raised both hands as if in surrender. When the employee began walking toward him, the man fell to the ground and disappeared. No signs of him were ever found. *shiver*
The Rutherford Health Department opened to the public back in 1931, offering public health care to area residents for the first time in local history. Today, it’s home to Rutherford County’s drug court and other government offices, but for years, thousands of children must have come through its doors in need of medical treatment. According to the Murfreesboro Post, some employees believe that at least a few of those children haunt the site to this day.
Workers have reported hearing the sounds of children laughing and playing in the hallways and noticed that items have mysteriously moved on their desks with no explanation. One employee said she and several others have noticed the arm of a co-worker’s rag doll lifted up and pointing toward a wall on more than one occasion. Another employee with small toys around her computer said she comes in some mornings and finds that the toys have been knocked over or rearranged. Members of the construction crew in charge of renovating the building several years ago said they heard children’s voices, saw shadowy figures walking in the halls and heard heavy footsteps on the stairs. One said that the renovation had more than its share of unexplained problems, and he began to wonder if the building’s ‘ghosts’ were responsible.
Stories of supernatural encounters abound at this Civil War-era plantation home in Smyrna, which is located at 1399 Sam Davis Road. 21-year-old Sam Davis was a Confederate soldier who chose to be hanged rather than give information to Union troops. He’s famous for saying, “I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend.” His body was brought back to his childhood home for his family to mourn, and he’s buried now in the family cemetery on the property.
Many stories center around Davis’s mother, Jane Simmons Davis, who watched from an upstairs window for a wagon to bring her son’s body home and then fainted when it came into sight. Visitors have reported seeing her walking to the house from the cemetery and crying can supposedly be heard coming from the parlor on the anniversary of Davis’s wake — Apparently, his mother and grandmother cried over his body there for many hours.
Paranormal activity also centers around Grandmother Elizabeth Collier Simmons’ upstairs bedroom. Several employees have reported seeing her watching them, arms crossed, before disappearing. They believe she’s just checking to make sure they’re properly doing their jobs.
The house is so haunted, in fact, that some employees refuse to enter it alone. You can hear more of these stories during the Sam Davis Home’s Ghost Tours on October 19th, 20th, 26th, and 27th. From 7pm until 11pm each night, enjoy a haunted hayride before hearing some of the employees’ favorite ghostly tales inside the home.
I love this crazy tale, and we recently had fun telling our kids about it and then taking them over Smyrna’s Monkey Woman Bridge late at night.
The original Monkey Woman Bridge crossed Stewart’s Creek. A strange creature, half woman, half monkey was said to live beneath the bridge and those foolhardy enough to stop there late at night sometimes encountered the dreaded Monkey Woman. According to one Smyrna resident, Monkey Woman Bridge in Smyrna was one of the spookiest places I’ve ever been to. [Monkey Woman Bridge] was the place to go if you wanted to scare anyone. The Monkey Woman would howl at you and either throw things at the car or swing over the car and hit it or scratch it. Sometimes she would have a baby doll hanging from her hand. I hope it was a doll.
At one point, the Monkey Woman was so feared that people would slap the outside of their cars as they drove over the bridge at night in an effort to keep the Monkey Woman from jumping on their car! The road has been rerouted in recent years and the original Monkey Woman Bridge has reportedly been moved to Cannonsburgh Village in Murfreesboro. A new concrete bridge now crosses Stewart Creek and rumor has it that the construction crew working on the new road found a woman’s remains when they were digging.
Could it have been the Monkey Woman? Some say she still hides beneath the new concrete bridge. You can find the new Monkey Woman Bridge on One Mile Lane between Quarter Mile Qt and Peebles Drive.
Or perhaps the Monkey Woman has moved to Cannonsburgh Village in the heart of Murfreesboro. Many claim this is the original Monkey Woman Bridge, relocated here after the road was moved. You might not want to linger on this bridge the next time you visit — just to be on the safe side!
The Tucker Theatre, located at 1301 E. Main Street, is a hotbed of paranormal activity, according to teachers and students. One spirit is believed to be a chain-smoking drama professor who died on a drive in to Nashville years ago. Theater students say they’ve seen a seat go down in the audience and smelled cigarette smoke there, as well as backstage and in the lobby. Another ghost is a young woman who walks through the theater and even pokes students in order to get their attention. She apparently has a crush on a young techie and has done everything she supernaturally could to get him to notice her.
I guess the dead aren’t so different from us after all.
Back in the 1950s, Oaklands Mansion was known as Murfreesboro’s ‘creepiest’ house. It stood empty and abandoned at the end of the road and was the kind of place that inspired late night visits and spooky tales.
Today, the mansion has been restored to its former glory and possibly exorcised as well, because Oaklands Mansion director James Manning is adamant this historic house is not haunted. ‘We are the anti-haunted house,’ he proclaims, going on to assert that the mansion’s Flashlight Nights in celebration of the Halloween season provide ‘a real life experience in an old mansion that isn’t frightening and draws an incredibly diverse audience from multiple states and regions.’
On October 27 and 28 from 7-10pm, you can bring your flashlight and tour Oaklands Mansion in the dark. Guides dressed in traditional black attire are stationed throughout the house to explain Victorian mourning customs, many of which are every bit as creepy as any ghost story. It’s definitely an evening your family will remember — and if you happen to encounter any unexplained paranormal activity, well, maybe just keep it to yourself.
Located on 3398 Weakley Lane, Smyrna’s Fate Sanders Recreation Area is a popular spot for fishermen, boaters, and family picnics by the beautiful Percy Priest Lake. It’s also home to a chilling local ghost story.
Two fishermen were headed to their truck in the parking lot one evening when a little boy approached them and said he’d lost his father. One of the fishermen went with the boy down a wooded trail to help find his dad, while the other fisherman waited at their truck. Hours passed, and it wasn’t until 2:30am that the fisherman suddenly heard the boy laughing right beside his truck. When he got out, the boy was standing at the entrance of the trail. He told the fisherman he’d found his dad and had something ‘really neat’ to show him. The fisherman told the boy to go get his friend. The boy kept laughing and insisted the fisherman come see what his dad had found. In fright, the fisherman drove away, still hearing the boy’s laughter in the distance.
I have so many questions about this story. What happened to the fisherman’s friend? What kind of person leaves a little boy alone in the woods at 2:30 in the morning, just because he was laughing? Where were the Smyrna police and why weren’t they called? WHERE IS THE PAPER TRAIL HERE?
I tend to overthink my ghost stories.
Questions aside, folks claim you can still hear a little boy’s laughter in the woods at night — but if you want to avoid him, I suggest you just go in the daytime. This recreation area really is a lovely spot.
So! Is your paranormal interest piqued? I’ve got great news — The Rutherford County Paranormal Investigators have regular ghost hunting events and YOU can participate! Check out their Facebook page to learn about upcoming activities.
And Haunted Murfreesboro has several evening Ghost Walks coming up this month — The walks start, appropriately, at Sugaree’s! Check out their Facebook page for the schedule.
Got more great Rutherford County ghost stories? Please share them in the comments!
This post was written in partnership with the Rutherford County CVB. All opinions in this post are my own.