Knoxville may not have a haunted reputation like Savannah or New Orleans, but it has its fair share of the macabre. We’ve got quite a few spooky spots for you to check out on your next visit to Knoxville!
Haunted Ghost Tours
Knoxville Walking Tours
Knoxville Walking Tours: Shadow Side
For some truly paranormal experiences, look no further than Knoxville Haunted Ghost Tours. J. Adam Smith welcomes you to join the Investigation Tour that put Knoxville on the Paranormal Map. This tour visits ground zero locations including: where a famous 3-way homicide took place, where the dead were prepared, where the children’s spirits are at play, and where a notorious fire occurred which claimed many. J. Adam says if you’re daring, bring a child’s toy from the early 1800s; their job is not to convert skeptics but moreover give attendees the opportunity to make up their own mind. Welcome to the investigation!
Laura Still is the face and passion behind Knoxville Walking Tours. She hosts several historic tours in partnership with The Knoxville History Project from discussions about the early days of Knoxville, the Civil War, and Misbehaving Women: the struggle for women’s right to vote. Other themed tours include Knoxville’s Musical History, Literary Heritage, and even a guided tour of the Knoxville Botanical Garden. Available throughout the year but especially popular fall tours include: Old Gray Cemetery Tour. Shadow Side Ghost Tour (Ghosts on Gay Street, Lost Souls on Central, Jailhouse Haunts and Corpses at the Courthouse), Shadow Side Ghost Tour II (an excursion through the Old City highlighting Revenants of Red Summer – a violent race riot in 1919, Deadly Dives, and Blood on the Tracks), and Shadow Side Ghost Tour III (even more ghastly tales of who haunts the Farragut Hotel, gunfights on Cumberland, and additional spirits). The number of ghost tours should give you an idea of how many stories and tales are here in Knoxville about this subject. Laura is also author to A Haunted History of Knoxville, so she knows her stuff!
James White's Fort
James White’s Fort is the birthplace of Knoxville and Knoxville’s first home founded in 1786. When James White sold the property in the late 1700s, the Kennedys bought the property and stayed there while they were having a Georgian style home being built. While occupying what is now known as James White’s Fort, the Kennedys took down the stockade walls and guest cabins, leaving only the two-story cabin with the adjacent kitchen. Sadly, Mrs. Kennedy died on the property, and several guests claim to see a woman making the trundle bed on the second floor in the corner, saying she is “staying here while the house is being built”, and have even seen her turn and go down the stairs. During a Williams family reunion (James’ youngest daughter Melinda married Col. John Williams; the playwright Tennessee Williams is James’ 4th great grandson), a six-year-old claimed Mrs. Kennedy told her to “quit being rambunctious and go downstairs”. There are more stories…you’ll have to visit in person and ask about them!
Blount Mansion is the birthplace of Tennessee and 1792 home to US Constitution signer William Blount. While Blount Mansion itself has no rumor of haunts, the same cannot be said of the adjacent Craighead-Jackson House. This 1818 Federalist-style home was built for John Craighead, one of the city’s pioneering families, and later owned by Dr. George Jackson and his family from the late 1850s until 1885. Ghost stories often involve tragedy, and the ghost said to occupy the Craighead-Jackson House must have died in pain. A female servant died just after the Civil War after her skirt caught fire in the house basement's large fireplace. Through the years, people have told of hearing steps on the front stairs and of locked doors being opened. The legend is that the servant's spirit is still in the house.
Ramsey House was built in 1797 by Knoxville’s first Builder, Thomas Hope, for Francis Alexander Ramsey. This quiet estate isn’t always so quiet with visitors claiming to seeing a shadow walk by, hearing footsteps or even cursing. Staff have identified several spirits who seem to roam: Billy (who passed at age 8 and said to tap staff and visitors on the arm), Ann (a tall, thin woman with her hair in a bun and the second wife of Mr. Ramsey who passed in 1816), Reynolds, and Seth (the one who does the cursing). Passersby have often thought the house was broken into after hours, describing seeing the same figure – a tall, thin woman with her hair in a bun…
During the Halloween season, Ramsey House hosts The Spirits Within, a special tour to learn all about these spirits that still roam the rooms and grounds. Enjoy the candlelit exploration with a bonfire and s’mores!
Mabry-Hazen was built in 1858 and three generations of the same family resided in this Italianate home overlooking downtown Knoxville. Bethel Cemetery is down the road from Mabry Hazen and contains more than 1,600 Confederate dead. Surprisingly, there are no reported hauntings here…perhaps after three generations the Mabry-Hazen family was ready to move on to new pastures. Although, when Evelyn Hazen was living in the house, she did have a ghost visit for several weeks. This apparition was of an old friend from NYC, Jack McKnight, and he appeared for several weeks to Evelyn in her bedroom. After conversing with Jack during his visits, Evelyn became bored of their convos, moved to another room, and never saw Jack again. Despite the house not being haunted, being a Victorian mansion it an excellent example of being a default haunted house and this interesting article explains why.
During the Halloween season, Mabry-Hazen hosts a “Victorian Séance Experience”, Under the guidance of a Victorian medium, the séances will reenact a nineteenth century Spiritualist seance filled with “mysterious and startling wonders.” Joining an “investigator,” sitters will judge historic “demonstrations” of mediumship. Relying on primary sources from the nineteenth century, you will join a scientist to investigator the true nature of a Victorian séance and give “investigators” an immersing experience Whether true manifestations of spirits or clever parlor tricks, sitters at the séances will experience this eerie, yet ubiquitous aspect of 19th century American life.
Old Gray Cemetery
Red Ashe Cemetery
Cemeteries are an obvious option for haunted places, but apparently some are more “haunted” than others. Around Knoxville, these are the ones that seem to have the most rumors:
First Presbyterian is Knoxville’s first church and was founded in 1792 and erected on the site of a turnip patch donated by James White. Although 1800 is the earliest death date inscribed on a tombstone (belonging to William Blount) in the cemetery, the site may have been used by the pioneers as a community burying ground as early as 1786 when James White’s fort was built. Among those buried in the church graveyard are James White, the founder of Knoxville; Rev. Samuel Carrick, their first minister; Hugh Lawson White, a candidate for U.S. President in 1836; territorial governor William Blount; and Col. John Craighead who died in 1826. Although an 1857 city ordnance prohibited further burials, the last interment in the graveyard was for James Bell who died April 29, 1879. The graveyard is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Old Gray Cemetery was founded in 1850 in Old North Knoxville and is an excellent example of Victorian art and architecture. Visitors can drive or walk through winding avenues with unmarked graves to massive monuments and mausoleums. The cemetery is the final resting place of over 9000 people, from sufferers of the city's 1854 cholera outbreak to Union Civil War soldiers to victims of the 1904 New Market Train Wreck. Many have claimed to see “Black Aggie”, a hooded figure that roams, but the jury is out on whether the spirit is benevolent. Take an Old Gray Cemetery Tour with Knoxville Walking Tours to learn more.
Red Ash Cemetery is located outside of Knoxville in Caryville (North of Knoxville on I-75, Cove Lake State Park exit). Red Ash was a coal mining town, and many folks believe the spirits of miners and former locals wander the cemetery at night. Some have gone as far to say a half goat-half human demon can also be found wandering there. This Facebook page has some tall tales, read if you dare.
The Bijou Theatre has been everything from a hotel, a brothel, and a Civil War hospital where General Sanders died and was carried out by cover of night as to not disrupt the morale of his troops. Both sides of the War were treated here, and sadly many soldiers took their last breaths in this building. Footsteps have been heard walking along the rafters and catwalk above the stage, others have felt someone tugging on the hem of their clothes in the bathroom, and some have even caught glimpses of a soldier and the glimmer of buttons – perhaps the spirit of Sanders himself. Today the Bijou plays host to all kinds of performances, so consider coming to a show and see if you experience the supernatural. If you’re extra lucky, they might have a ghost tour on their calendar where you can experience all the spooky nooks and crannies of the Bijou, taking you through all the parts of the theatre that are normally off-limits to the public, from underneath the stage to the fourth floor of the Lamar House. You’ll learn all the tales that have haunted this building for the past 200 years.
Finn’s Tavern (perhaps better known as the Baker Peters House), was built in 1830 on Kingston Pike. It’s known for its role in the Civil War, where the home’s owner, Dr. James Harvey Baker, lived – and died after Union troops raided it. They say the doctor’s spirit along with several others still roam in this restaurant to this day. This elaborate antebellum home was the site of Dr. Baker’s death as he was shot and killed inside in 1863. On that last Thursday of every month, Finn’s teams up with Knoxville’s Local Mediums to provide an after-hours guided tour of the house along with a three-course meal. Dinner starts at 10pm, with tours starting around the fireplace around 11am and departing the haunted abode at 3am. An evening you won’t soon forget.
The University of Tennessee has its share of haunts that surpass the “Volunteer Spirit”. More Civil War rumors – and a Cherokee legend – swirl around Perkins Hall, The Hill, Hoskins Library, Tyson Alumni House, and especially Strong Hall. Take a self-guided campus tour and see if you agree.
Modern day Lakeshore Park was once the site of the East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane (opened in 1886), then later the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute. Of all the buildings once there, only a few remain, including the administration building which is now occupied by the City of Knoxville Parks & Recreation Department. What was once one of the most modern facilities in the country to treat mental illness, fell into disrepair and eventually faced dwindling resources in the latter part of the 20th century. According to Knox Paranormal Researchers, “Rumors of mistreatment and abuse plagued the Asylum for years. Claims of paranormal activity most certainly stem from these rumors. Many visitors have claimed to have seen shadow figures and light anomalies, and even more have heard disembodied voices and screams.” Today, Lakeshore Park is one of Knoxville’s most beautiful parks in a stunning setting along the Tennessee River. Its 185 acres offers extensive greenways, playground, fields for sporting events, bird watching opportunities, and more. Maybe not so haunted after all!
Brushy Mountain was the last place you wanted to find yourself – right in the middle of Tennessee’s first maximum security prison holding the state’s most violent murderers, robbers, and rapists for over a century. With some sentences of 200 years or more, most of the men who walked through its gates would never be walking out. This former prison to the northwest of Knoxville (past Oak Ridge) has – in a similar fashion to Alcatraz – is now an attraction open to tourists since 2018. Tours are self-guided and former prison guards and former inmates are nearby to answer questions. If you’re looking for an even more terrifying experience, consider a Paranormal Tour, hosted by Jaime Brock, their Lead Paranormal Investigator. Jaime focuses her paranormal contact on obtaining firm evidence utilizing many techniques and specialized equipment. Option one is the Standard Paranormal Tour from 10pm-2am or do an Overnight Investigation from 9pm-4am. These are the souls that haunt this stone-cold fortress, whose spirits refuse to cross over...who remain here because they have unfinished business.
And speaking of spirits…the prison is home to their distillery, restaurant, gift shop, and concert venue. They’re a site on Tennessee’s Whiskey Trail (along with Knoxville’s Knox Whiskey Works and PostModern Spirits). Try their End of the Line Moonshine and Frozen Head Vodka.
Dead Man’s Farm Haunted House
FrightWorks Haunted House
Haunted Houses and Attractions
Dead Man’s Farm Haunted House is one of the largest haunted attractions in the Knoxville area (Philadelphia TN, just past Loudon). Visit the Bludgeon House with mysterious lore or be chased by clowns with chainsaw-wielding clowns in their corn maze. They have virtual options for you to face your fears with 4 different scenarios of killer clowns, heights, demonic children, or ghosts. Or opt to be “buried alive” in a 2-person coffin simulator! They also have three terrifying mini escape rooms filled with clues and puzzles to solve.
FrightWorks Haunted House is one giant haunted house in Powell with multiple terrifying fright zones. They have rooms dedicated to “nightmares”, “hauntings”, “dungeon”, “asylum”, and “slaughter”. They claim to be “one of the scariest, most original, and most theatrical haunted attractions in the Southeast. Thematic and interactive, it engulfs you in a tale of suspense, fun, and fright. Known for high quality acting, detailed sets, elaborate special effects, and engaging storytelling, FrightWorks Haunted House is a favorite Halloween season tradition for those looking for a frightful haunted adventure in East Tennessee.”
Screamville Haunted Attraction is described as “Knoxville’s scariest haunt that will tap into your worst fears.” This Corryton spot is well known for its cast of characters, said to be “the life blood of this haunt. They have actors ready and willing to do whatever it takes to perform with excellence…the overall talent was remarkable. They could move without a sound, make sounds with their voices that were absolutely inhuman, and were literally crawling on the ground and walls.”
Hope this helps you find (or avoid) some haunts in Knoxville!