Smoky Mountain Ghost Stories. The Smoky Mountain region is steeped in strange and unexplainable occurrences that some say are supernatural. We have heard these tales in our exploration of the region and there is no better time than All Hallow’s Ever to share a few of them.
The Specter of Old Greenbrier Restaurant
It is only a short drive from the heart of Gatlinburg to one of the most haunted spots in the Smokies. The old Greenbrier Restaurant at 370 Newman Road hosts one of the most famous ghosts in the Smokies. The facility opened it doors as a lodge in 1939. Not long afterward, a young resident named Lydia was jilted by her fiancé- a heartless betrayal done literally at the altar of a local church. The young bride-to-be was humiliated and despondent. Still clad in her wedding finery, she returned to the Greenbrier, tossed a rope over one of the rafters and hung herself.
Only a few days later, in an ironic twist of fate, her heartless fiancé’s body was discovered. The young man had been horribly mauled by what some say might have been a large mountain cat, but locals contended that such a cat was long since extinct in the mountains. The mystery remains but through the years many have surmised that it was Lydia’s vengeful spirit that exacted a dreadful revenge on her faithless lover.
Although the restaurant has recently remodeled the actual beam where the unfortunate young woman hung herself is visible in the restaurant’s bar. For decades diners have reported seeing a bereft looking young woman on the staircase below where Lydia hung herself; while others report a brief chilling presence wafting through the site. The restaurant is noted for its good food and that is reason enough to visit-but keep an eye over your shoulder for Lydia’s pale misty figure lingering on the stairs.
The Devil’s Courthouse
The Devil’s Courthouse is a sinister name for a barren rock face cliff that shelters a small cave. Legend has it (or at least tales handed down from early settlers that were inspired by the rock’s foreboding visage) that the Devil himself once held court in that cave. The story is perhaps enhanced by early Cherokee tales of the god, Judaculla, who was said to live in the cave. According to Cherokee legend the slant-eyed giant Judaculla shook the surrounding hills with a voice of thunder and pelted low valleys with arrows of lightning. The Devil’s Courthouse is found on a short drive down our sister national park, Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Haint of Roaring Fork
Waterfalls are not the only attraction of Roaring Fork Motor Trail, whose entrance is located in downtown Gatlinburg, A picturesque drive, the trail offers spectacular views, waterfalls, great hikes and perhaps an eerie chance encounter. According to local legends, a lovely young woman named Lucy died in a cabin fire near the trail sometime around 1909. A short time later a man named Foster encountered a beautiful woman in the woods, fell in love with her, and sought out Lucy’s parents to gain approval for his courtship. Imagine his horror when they informed him that Lucy had died the year before. If you are very brave take a twilight drive around this scenic loop, but, be warned, if you encounter a beautiful pale woman on the side of the road near the remains of a burned cabin- DO NOT offer her a ride.
The Noland Creek area has numerous abandoned homesteads and cemeteries that bear the name of many pioneers that settled land that now lies under the deep waters of Lake Fontana. You can imagine sad stories of lost land, homes and gravesites associated with this place. One such features an early farmer who died while searching for his lost daughter. This story gave rise to the legend of an eerie lantern that is said to appear and guide lost hikers to safety at the trailhead. Most decidedly a scary, but welcome sight, on a dark cold night in the vast forest!
Trail maps of the Smokies offer up many strange place names, some of which conjure images of Dante’s Inferno. Huggins Hell, located on the steep slope of Mt. LeConte in East Tennessee, occupies a sinister, foreboding landscape. The site was named by early settlers, who perhaps decided that only the Devil himself would choose such a forsaken landscape. Inaccessible by maintained trails, the site draws rugged backcountry enthusiast with a taste for a challenging hike, and those who make the 4-hour vertical climb do it at their own peril. A misstep on one of the steep cliffs could be disastrous and since the area is not listed on authorized trail guides the odds of someone finding you or help arriving quickly is questionable.
Many adventurers entering the wild back country of the Southern Appalachians have disappeared from time to time. Some are found and some are legend. Take our advice, stay on marked trails and avoid encounters of the supernatural, or more importantly the caprices of Mother Nature.
One of the oldest tales in the Smoky Mountains is the Cherokee legend of Spearfinger famous along the eastern side of Tennessee and western North Carolina. Her Cherokee name, U’tlun’ta translates to “she had it sharp” referring to a sharp finger on her right hand which was said to resemble a spear or obsidian knife. Spearfinger was a horrifying sight – her mouth stained with the blood from the livers of her victims and a stone-clad body. According to legend, when Spearfinger walked her stone body sounded like rolling thunder. The stone clothing came from a time when Spearfinger upset the “higher beings” by building a soaring “tree rock” bridge in a brash attempt to reach their domain. The “higher beings” struck down the bridge with a gigantic lightning bolt and cloaked Spearfinger in the rock and rubble. Today, it is said, the remains of Spearfinger’s “tree rock” is located in the area Nantahala. The Cherokee name for this place U’Tluntun’yi which means “the Spearfinger Place.” The next time you hear a loud clap of thunder on a clear mountain day you might want to pick up your pace and move far away from Spearfinger’s “hood.”
Wheatland’s Plantation in Sevierville has perhaps the bloodiest history in the Smokies. The Battle of Boyd’s Creek is the spot where Cherokee, supported by Redcoats, fought against John Sevier and the East Tennessee Revolutionists. Bodies of 28 Cherokee and two Revolutionary heroes, who died in the battle, are said to be buried in a mass grave on the property. A nearby cemetery is the final resting place for some 69 African slaves. According to legend, 70 murders and deaths are attributed to the property. It is said that the blood, still visible, on the living room floor marks the spot where a father was murdered by his son centuries ago. Such tragic events left a legacy of unquiet spirits that may still roam the halls of the historical site.
A Smoky Mountain poet was inspired by the season of haunted hikes and submitted this chilling poem.
Once upon a midnight dreary, as I hiked alone and weary,
searching for a lost blazed path.
While I stumbled, nearly falling, a scream rang out that was quite apalling.
A foreboding castle perched on a nearby hill, shrieks rent the night and parted the clouds – then only silence as bats took flight.
I hurried past, with no glance back; crossed a stream and dropped my pack.
It was drenched and cold but I shrugged it on, setting off again to try and find home.
A strange house appeared in the next small cove, a wondrous place with gingerbread walls, a refuge I thought then neared for a look. The kitchen glowed with fire in the oversize oven. The cook inside was straight from a coven. Inside were cages suspended from hooks.
I backed away slowly and continued my trek.
A cloak of darkness slowed my pace; just as hollow footsteps joined mine in this awful place. A lumbering giant shuffled near, his outstretched arms brushed me aside and I fell to the ground as he slowly went by.
“What horrors remain,” I sobbed to myself, as the full moon pierced the darkness from behind dense clouds bringing a dreadful howl from an unearthly wolf.
I ran through the brambles and slogged through the mud, then,
“What wondrous sight do I see ahead?” It’s my home nothing further to dread.
I fell through the door and shut out the night, threw the deadbolt and locked it quite tight.
My shaking fingers untied mud-encrusted boots – I laid my slimy, dripping pack on the floor, and thought myself safe.
From a darkened hall came a voice straight from hell, it chilled my blood and turned me quite pale, The most horrifying sound I had heard on this night.
I thought it familiar and soon came to know she had heard me arrive when I fell at the door. With a voice, quite satanic, Mom bellowed out loud “Wipe your feet I just mopped that floor!”