Joel Reads You “All the Same Old Haunts”

Oh, you guys. you guys, you guys. Joel from Goat Farmer Records has recorded an audio version of “All the Same Old Haunts” and, as a Halloween treat, he’s graciously sharing it with us. Put it on repeat over your outdoor speakers to spook all your trick-or-treaters!

Listen to it in the dark. Or with one lone candle.

Enjoy!


Thanks, Joel. This is amazing.

Excited Work

So, I finished up work early and came home to work on book stuff. I emailed the folks at WordPress.com to make sure I could hype my own book on my own blog without violating the TOS and they said, “Go ahead!” so I spent all afternoon (after work) putting up my press release and my Q&A and videos to musicians and songwriters mentioned in the book. I even included my author photo, since y’all made me feel like it wasn’t completely ridiculous.

And I found a video so delightful I am going to share it with you now, even though I’m not posting my page until I have a book jacket.

You all remember at the beginning of “All the Same Old Haunts,” there was mention of the guitar battle between Johnny Jones and Jimi Hendrix at the Club Baron, which was, apparently really called the Baron Club. Like as in “Bare-on”. In my head, I had been saying it “The Club Bare-oan” which I think has a nice ring to it. Oh well, it’s fiction. Some things are not like they were in real life.

Ha, no matter how much you think you’ve got something down, you just never do, you know?

Anyway, here’s Johnny Jones talking about that very battle.

A Bit of Happy, Weird News

I’ve been getting the map ready for the second collection of ghost stories, so I had to click over to the map of the first one to refresh my memory on what I’d done.  And, people, according to Google, that map has had 37,414 views.

Dang!

It’s a private map, so you have to have the URL of the map to get to it.

I wonder how they count a view. Were you counted as a viewer of the map when you saw it on a post? Or did you actually have to click through to the map? I don’t know. But it still delights me. That’s a lot of views. If everyone gave me a dollar for every time they looked at that map, I’d be a thousandaire.

All The Same Old Haunts, recap

Well, I am completely bummed that that’s over. I don’t say this mildly, but that was the most fun I’ve had blogging in a long, long time. And I have some good times blogging. I thought they were fun, when I wrote them, but y’all really enjoyed them, which is such a rush, I can’t even tell you.

W. asked for a little background on each story, but I’m not sure what there is to give.  “The Infamous Witch” is, of course, the Bell Witch, the most famous Tennessee haunting. The more you read into it, the clearer it is that, whatever kernel of truth there is to the legend, it’s almost certainly completely fake now. Anyone writing fake ghost stories about Tennessee has got to give it up to the original. “The Man in My Back Yard” is a slightly fictionalized story about my back yard, in which people have seen a man who doesn’t exist.

“Rachel Jackson” is completely made up. There are supposedly ghosts at the Hermitage, but I’ve never heard of her being one of them. “The Three Babies” is based on a true incident. They really did find bodies at that intersection. But the ghosts are made up.  “Dodge City” is based on a story I heard in college, a girl told me about not being able to get an ambulance to come to her neighborhood in Chicago, and on a TV show I saw where a psychic was being given a tour of a prison by a man who had served time there; she picked out his cell because she said he still haunted it.

There were Native American remains on the site where the Brentwood library is. They were, as far as I know, all moved. The WSM story was told to me as true, but I have never been down there to see if I could hear it for myself. “Dead and Gone” is based, in part, on a ghost story some folks in Nashville actually tell, but, as in the story, the couple in the grave were happily married and now are dead in Mt. Olivet, moved when it became fashionable to be buried there. “The Widow Ledbetter” is completely made up, except for the basic facts about Frank James being in town and he and his wife staying with that family.

“Pressed into Service” I made up after seeing an x on the back of that particular grave and wondering about it. “Pebbles” is totally made up. “The Sylvan Heights Soldier” is in honor of the Ghosts of the Civil War, a long standing trope on Tiny Cat Pants. I blamed the Union soldiers who camped along the tracks that ended up being in my last back yard for stealing my awesome can opener. “Bacon Frying in the Pan” is based on a story I heard that actually supposedly happened here.  “Granddad” I completely made up because I was so bummed to discover that a building as awesome as the Downtown Presbyterian Church doesn’t have a ghost.

“El Protector” is made up, but we have famous ghost lights just south of town. “Laura” is made up, but I had heard a story about houses that don’t exist calling 911 due to some glitch in the system and freaking out the 911 operators. “Opryland” is made up, but the parts of the old theme park are still there, some of them.  Um, “The Devil Lives on Lewis Street, I Swear” is based on my love of Elizabeth Bennett and the fact that the Devil lives on Lewis Street, as Steve Earle will tell you.

“The Broken Mirror” is made up. But the Butcher’s friend works at Hooters, so I wanted to write a story she would get a kick out of.  “The Home Depot Parking Lot” is based on the Jim Reeves’ Home being torn down and the frustration that a lot of preservationists felt at not being able to save the oldest house in Davidson County. “The Strange Case of Scenic Drive” is made up, but I liked the idea of two stories that fed into each other, without the people who had heard either story realizing it. “Adelicia Acklen” is based on a true story. I took some middle schoolers to the grave and had forgotten about the angel in there. Whew, that made them scream.

And then I guess we’ve just recently covered the rest of them.

Anyway, good times.

31. The Wait

In a little house on Venus Drive, she waited for him to come home from the war.  She passed the time making airplanes and when he got home, he told all his friends that she was a better mechanic than anyone in town. His car ran because of her expertise.

Telling you that much, if you’re old enough, you can probably guess who they were.

They had the kind of love everyone hopes for.  Two young people devoted to each other, growing older together.

He said to her, often, “I will never leave you. Never.”

And she would say, “You can’t promise that. What if you die?”

“Even if I die, if there’s a way, I will be here.”

“Me, too, Mister,” she would say, “me, too.”

She died. Got hit by a car while she was out riding her bike.  He was at home, sensed nothing amiss.  Even when the police finally came to his door, he smiled much longer than was appropriate, because he simply could not believe she would leave him.

He waited all evening for her to come back in the door, to tell him it was all a mistake.

She never came.

Every holiday, he waited for some sign.

“Dad,” his daughter would say, “open the present.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought I heard something,” he would lie. He never heard anything.

When his grandson was born, he thought, “This is it, if she comes, it will be now.”  And he waited for anything he could consider her, a noise, an out of place shadow, the smell of her perfume.  But nothing.

He met a woman at church and eventually it seemed to make sense that they would get married.  Still, he didn’t want to offend his dead wife.  “If you mind,” he would whisper, “just tell me.”

But nothing.

His son-in-law was kind of a jerk and he would say things like, “Maybe she’s too busy. Maybe she’s got better things to do. Maybe she’s forgotten all about you.”

But he felt sure, if she could come back, she would have. She never did.

Finally, after years, with his second wife by his side, he died.

It went like this. He had been semi-conscious for hours, not quite able to do much more than mumble.  And then, he sat up, looked ahead of him, said plain as day, “Oh, so that’s why.” and started to sob.

And then, after a minute, he laid back down, and fell asleep. He never regained consciousness.

30. The Demoss Hollow House

There is a house in Demoss Hollow, just off River Road, west of town that is tucked so far back away that you can’t see it from the road. It has the twin chimneys and the low slung porch that say that it was built a while ago.  It has, at least, been there as long as anyone can remember.

It also has, for the most part, been empty.

“It wasn’t the kind of place that seemed bad right away,” one of the neighbors told me.  “It was on my uncle’s neighbor’s land and we used to go there all the time, stay there when we were hunting, hang out there when we should have been at school.  It was up the hill a little way, so you could see out over everything.  Beautiful view.

“So, we’re sitting on the porch one day and we hear this voice, a gal’s voice, and she says, plain as day, ‘John, I will kill you.’”

“Were any of you named John?” I asked.

“Now, don’t take this wrong, but I wished there was.  Then at least we would have known it was one of our girlfriends or something.  But no, none of us was John.”

They looked around to see if they could find anyone, but they never did.

“Do you know Bub Dozier?” the neighbor man asked me.

“No,” I admitted.

“His family goes way back here.  Anyway, he married a gal from White Bluff and brought her back there until he could get them a house built up by his folks. And she hated that place.  Said you’d be just about to sleep in the bedroom and you could hear someone in the kitchen, sounded like they were doing dishes.

“And one night, she was woke up by all the noise in the kitchen and she gets up and sets off down the hall and she swears there’s no one in the kitchen, but the water glass that was in the sink is on a towel upside down, drying.”

“Well, it’d be nice to have a ghost to do your dishes, I think,” I said.

“You’re kind of an idiot, aren’t you? You think it’s fun not knowing in your own house that you can put something down and come back to find it in the same place?  That ain’t fun. It’s horrible.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.  We sat in silence for a while.

“Aw, hell, it’s just that if you haven’t seen it, you don’t know.  And if you have seen it, you can’t get no comfort because everyone thinks you’re nuts.”

“You’ve seen it?”

“Bub got real sick one Fall,” he said.  “He wasn’t going to go to the doctor, of course, but his wife called me up and begged me to make him.” He drummed his finger into the table to punctuate his point.  “She begged me.”  He took a long drink of coffee. “Doctor said that he’d been poisoned.  Called the police over it, too.  Well, of course, they thought his wife had done it.  Hell, I thought his wife had done it.

“So they set bail, but no one would get her out.  I said I’d stay with Bub.

“And I start to notice weird things.  Like I’d go into the bathroom and the closet door would be open, even though I’d know neither of us had been in there.  Hell, I wasn’t doing their god damn laundry and Bub wasn’t on his feet.  Or you’d find coffee cups right by the coffee maker in the morning, all by themselves.

“And that…” he looked over his shoulder, like he was trying to decide whether to say something.  “… I think that’s how she did it.  A couple of times, there was something in the bottom of the cup, some white stuff, looked like a fine dusting of sugar.  You might not have even noticed it, if you hadn’t realized already that the cups were strange. But I pick one up and I’m looking in it and I see that powdery stuff on the bottom.

“Now, I knew it wasn’t me.  It couldn’t have been Bub, and his wife was sitting in jail.  So, finally, I yell, ‘who the hell are you?’ and…”

“Holy shit.”

“I don’t hear nothing.  So, I shout, ‘Are you the one looking to kill John?’ and I swear, right as I said ‘John,’ that coffee cup just tore up out of my hands and slammed against the ceiling and broke into pieces.

“‘Bub,’ I said, ‘There’s something wrong with this place.  We got to get you out of here and burn it to the ground.’ So, I get under him and I’m lifting him up and I hear this low voice, like a whisper, but a little louder, a man’s voice, ‘Wait.’ ‘What’d you say, Bub?’ but he didn’t say nothing. I stand real still, with Bub kind of draped over my shoulder, and I whisper back, ‘What?’ and I swear, I hear, ‘Don’t burn it. Don’t let her loose.’”

“What did you think that meant?”

“Hell if I know. You’re supposed to be the one who can make sense of this stuff.” Again, it was quiet for a long time.

“That house is still there,” he finally said. “But we don’t let nobody live in it.”

29. Let Me Call You Sweetheart

“Lookaway” is the name of the old house on Manila Street. It was a wedding gift from Mr. Whitson to his new bride, Beth Slater Whitson. You have probably never heard of her.  When the house was for sale a couple of years ago, the listing made no mention of her ever having lived there.  The last thing anyone who wants to sell that house wants to do is to draw attention to Mrs.Whitson.

Of course, after a while, you can’t help but notice her.  You’ll come home to find your clean pots out of the cupboard an arranged on the kitchen stove. You’ll be sitting in the living room, reading a book, and the television will come on and start to flip through channels. Lights will be on in rooms you know you left dark.

And sometimes the air will hang heavy with the smell of magnolia blossoms, even with the windows shut, even when the magnolias aren’t in bloom.

Even the neighborhood children who use the huge front yard like a neighborhood park will come home singing “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you. Let me hear you whisper that you love me, too.” And when their mothers ask, “Did you make that up?” the children say, “No, that woman in the funny dress sings it when she’s on the porch.”

And, by this point, the mothers don’t even bother to look out their windows in suspicion.

“It’s like this,” one says to me, “I don’t want to live there and I would scream if I ever saw her, but she’s kind of our neighbor, so what can you do? I heard they called in a pastor to bless the place, but he said he didn’t think she was evil or trapped there. She’s just where she wants to be. There’s nothing he can do. Just wait for her to move on.”

“Or be forgotten?”

“How are you going to forget someone who’s teaching your kids those old-fashioned songs? Did you listen to what I told you?”

28. Hickory Hollow Mall

Everyone says that the reason why no one goes to Hickory Hollow Mall is because it’s not safe, that it’s over-run with teenagers and gang members or teenagers who are gang members.

There’s another reason, though, in addition to that.

How many times can a woman be walking through the mall only to feel a small hand slide into hers and feel those small fingers squeeze and in the second she looks down to say, “Oh, no, honey, I’m not your mom,” find no one there and still want to shop there?

I know there are a few women who go deliberately, at least once a week, hoping that the child will reach out to one of them, hoping that they will not look down, will keep a hold of that small hand and…

And what?

That part they haven’t worked out.

27. 18th Avenue North

No one is sure if the thing on 18th Avenue North actually constitutes a ghost. But no one is sure what else to call it. Some say that you can almost see it on rainy or foggy days, a shape, like a person, but not quite, around which the moisture bends as the shape moves down the street.

Kids say dirt will do the same, hit it and deflect, and it’s not unusual to see kids walking from the corner where 18th and Clarksville Pike split north towards Potter’s Field kicking up dust in front of them, trying to get a glimpse of the thing before they step into it.

Because stepping into it is like stepping into old grief. It’s the step you took, hands tight on your grandmother’s casket, as you helped to slide her into the back of the hearse, the first step you take after you hang up the phone from hearing, “I’m sorry but your son is dead,” the moments you pray to forget and can’t.

No one knows if it’s a person or just a bad feeling that lingers between the Jewish cemetery and Potter’s field. But it sticks with you, once you’ve felt it.

So people do what they can to avoid it.

Edited to add: Okay, let’s see if we can’t fix this.

This weird patch is not the most disturbing ghost on 18th Avenue North. That honor goes to a young boy, who is often seen playing just inside the gates of the Jewish cemetery.

“I finally told them,” the cop told me, “that if you see a white kid in the Jewish cemetery, do not even bother to call us about it. There haven’t been white kids in that neighborhood in decades, I mean, like 70 years, and the gate is locked. No one is letting their seven year old climb the fence and play in the cemetery. That kid’s not real. Do not call me.”

I waited for him to settle down. He looked down at his plate of food and continued. “I mean, I sure as hell do not want to ever, ever see that kid.”

“Who is he?”

“The Judge.”

Soon enough, I was walking into the barber shop that sits kitty corner from the Jewish cemetery and the three men in the place looked at the officer I was with like he had just violated all rules of social decorum.

“She’s asking about the Judge.”

“No,” said one guy.

“No way,” sad the second.

“I know,” said the third.

“Will you tell me?” I asked.

“Hell no,” said the first man.

The third settled into the barber’s chair and rested his head against the back.

“My dad used to run this place and he would tell me about how, when he was a kid, there used to be kids who worked in the mills over in Germantown. Small kids.  Or how you’d go downtown and there’d be these kids on the corners selling newspapers or stealing apples out of the barrels that sat on the sidewalks. Some folks wanted those kids in school, thought they were a menace and needed to be off the streets. Other folks said that they couldn’t run their businesses without those kids.

“Bad shit… Sorry, miss, bad stuff would happen to those kids, sometimes. The Judge, my dad said, was beat to death by a man right downtown, in broad daylight.  Worst part was that they just left that kid, like trash, on the sidewalk.  When his mother got off work, she came to look for him and found him in a heap, people just walking around him.

“He’s buried right there.” The third barber motioned across the street. “My father saw him once. He was sitting in this window and a white man pulled up in his car and got out and started coming towards the door. A few seconds later, a little boy, just a few years younger than my father was then, appeared and seemed to be hurrying to catch up with the man.

“He had some business with my grandfather, that man. I don’t know what it was. Times were different then, and you sometimes had to make some unsavory deals to keep your family safe. ‘Sir, your son doesn’t have to stand outside,’ my grandfather said. And my father said that they all looked out the window and there was the small boy, just standing on the sidewalk, staring in.

“The white man went pale and started to shake. They tried to offer him a seat, but he rushed out, got in his car, and drove off. My father says that he looked right into the face of that boy. They weren’t maybe three or four feet apart. You can see how close that sidewalk is. Just separated by glass. And my father says he didn’t think anything strange of him.  He just waved at the kid and the kid, for the first time, smiled and waved back, and then… And I am not even joking… he just faded from view.

“Now, I heard from some white folks, and you might try to find them, if you can, that that kid followed the man who killed him everywhere, for the rest of his life.  Everyone saw him, all over town.

“And when that man finally died? No cemetery would take him. When that kid died, he was just trash. But by the time that man died, that kid was the victim of a monster. You know what I’m saying? People couldn’t ignore what he did or just pretend like that’s just what happened to kids.  And they didn’t want a child killer in their cemetery.

“So they put him in the field there. My wife will tell you he doesn’t rest easy, that he’s the bad spot. I worry about that kid, but she says the kid seems all right, not scared or sad, but where he wants to be.”

“That’s not what Granny Rose says,” the cop said, and I realized I was in the middle of a long-standing family discussion. “She says that kid is just waiting there for bad men, that even now, he can tell if you hurt little kids and he will torment you until you die. He just needs those bad guys to come close enough.”

“Then why are you afraid of him?” the third barber asked.

“Dad, that stuff is scary. I don’t care. It’s weird and it creeps me out,” the cop said. I thought for a second he might storm out and leave.  But when he got to the door, he turned back around and he said, “And I don’t want to stop him. If he does what Granny Rose says? Good. Most of the time, it’s more than we can do.”

26. The Cat that Said “Ma Ma”

The women who worked Dickerson heard the cat days before they saw it.  The noise sounded enough like a human voice, words in the distance, not quite made out. But the working girls had, if they had been on the street any length of time, learned to ignore voices not directed at them.

It was just safer that way.

But my god, can you imagine when the one of the noises the cat started to make was “ma ma”? Women who had children they hadn’t seen in weeks would gasp and shake. Girls who had come to miss their mothers so desperately would cry.

When the cat finally showed up and started to follow the women, for some it was a relief, when you could see the cat and see its open mouth and know the noise was coming from it, they thought it seemed cute and they called it “baby.”

For others, seeing it only made it worse, made it seem more unnatural, and they called it “demon.”

The police did not know about the cat, of course. So it’s hard to know if the disappearances really started after the cat appeared. Women along Dickerson Pike have a habit of disappearing.  Some go home. Some move on. And some just vanish.

The women contend that they are often preyed upon and that it’s ignored.  In the time the cat would follow them as they walked and waited for men in cars to stop, seventeen of them went missing in Nashville, six who worked Dickerson, meaning six who had heard the cat.

Every time a woman was arrested, she mentioned her missing friends.

If anything was being done about it, if they were even able to raise an alarm, they didn’t know.  A file was started, a detective was assigned. But he knew those women, he thought, and thought they’d probably just found something else to do with their time.

The women did what they could to keep each other safe, stood together, made sure every man who pulled over saw that someone else had seen his face.  And yet, one by one, over the course of the next three months, four more women disappeared.

With tensions running high, you can hardly blame the women who, when the cat showed up to follow her, grabbed it and tossed it into the street.  It was hit by a car, but managed to limp off.

Later that evening, she bent over to peer in a car window and saw the man in the car had a cast on his right wrist.  At first, she didn’t think anything of it.

“Wanna date?” she asked.

“Ma ma?” he grinned so wickedly at her.

“Excuse me?”

“Ma’am?” He smiled, like he was going to play it off like she misheard him.

“It was that damn cat,” she said later, “Or that damn cat was that dude. Either way, I didn’t get in that fucking car, believe me.”

Later, a different car, a different man, a different girl, still a right wrist in a cast.

“I’m looking for a place on Front Street.”

“There’s no Front Street, Mister.”

“I’ve visited a doctor on Front Street, before.”

“In Nashville?”

“It’s so easy to get lost when all the roads change names.”

“Shit, you’re creepy.  You go find Front Street on your own.”

What happened next is not the kind of thing any person wants to admit.  They killed the cat.  They killed the cat, put it in a garbage bag, and hid it in the basement of the Congress Inn, a motel they all were quite familiar with.

A week went by and no man with a cast in any car and no women went missing from Dickerson Pike.  Another week, another, and then another.

Then one night, they saw four police cars go by, lights flashing.  The cars stopped at the Congress Inn and a body was pulled out of the basement.  It was, of course, not the cat.  It was, of course, a man with his right wrist in a cast, badly decomposed.

Even still, weeks went by and no women disappeared.

Because weeks went by and no one claimed that body.  And finally, it was cremated.

The women didn’t know this, but they knew, soon enough, that almost-human voice, crying “Ma ma” in the dark.  And they knew, soon enough, that one of the would die.

One of them, a woman they called Krissy, said, “We should have hid that body better, put it some place where we could keep an eye on it, but no one else could find it.”

That was the problem, though, of course.  Where could they put a body that would remain unfound?  He knew.  He knew where to put them where no one could find them.  But they were not monsters.

“We have to put him someplace and then we have to keep folks away from there,” Krissy said.

“And how are we going to do that?  Who’s going to stay there and keep folks away?”

And Krissy said, “I will.”

The cat was captured again, eventually.  And killed, again.  And its body was brought, again, to the basement of the Congress Inn, along with bricks and mortar.

I have heard it both ways, that Krissy was dead by her own hand before they put her behind the wall, guaranteeing that she would not rest, because of her unholy death and I heard that she helped brick herself up from the inside. But that’s almost too much to think about.

I just know that, when you go into the basement of the Congress Inn, and you feel like the proportions are wrong, that the basement is smaller than it should be, that the voice you hear whispering in your ear, the tap on your shoulder that sends youscurrying back up stairs, they call that Krissy.

And I asked the woman who told this to me if she thought it was true. She looked away from me for a long time and then said, quietly, “I just hope that place never burns down.”

25. Adelicia Acklen

It works best if you have two young, suggestible pre-teen girls in your back seat.  You take them to Bobby’s Dairy Dip and then start filling their heads with ghost stories about Adelicia Acklen.  It doesn’t matter which stories you choose to tell.

Start with the ones about how greedy she was and so she never left her home because she couldn’t bear to be without her things.  Go on to the ones about how she sold her soul to the Devil in exchange for prosperity, even in the darkest days of war and reconstruction, and so is doomed to walk the land.

Or tell them about her grief for her dead children and how she cannot bear to leave them behind.

Just tell those stories as you drive across town towards Mount Olivet Cemetery.  As you’re pulling up the long drive, be sure to tell them how people have seen her figure around her mausoleum.  And yes, you’re going to have to explain what a mausoleum is.

But it will be worth it, when you pull up in front of the Acklen mausoleum and you dare them to go take a peek in and you make like you’re going with them, but you hang back.

They walk towards the door, the closer they get, the slower they go.  Slower and slower until finally, they are pushing each other and daring each other to look in.

And they do.

And they will see the figure and they will scream.

And you’re laughing, because you know it’s just a statue, a marble angel.

But when you hear the laughter of another woman, and you look around and see there’s no one there but you, then, maybe you’re the one who’s screaming next.

24. The Strange Case of Scenic Drive

There’s nothing unusual about the house on Scenic Drive.  Scenic Drive, itself, is quiet. On one side of the street is a wooded lot where people often walk their dogs.  On the other side are long, over-sized brick ranches.  And this one is no different.  It sits at the top of a hill and has, by all accounts, a cheerful disposition.

Still, most dogs still won’t go in the front yard.  There’s a way that the hillside is cut away that suggests something hidden and you’d think that the dogs would be curious, but they’re not.  Most will, if given the opportunity, cross the street to avoid going too close.

It is, strangely enough, the old bear cave. When the zoo was out here, this is where the bears were.

And the story goes that they will still follow you, the bears.

It’s a rite of passage for Lipscomb students to walk, alone, in the dark down that street, starting at Glendale Lane, and heading north.  If you are brave enough, your friends will wait for you where Scenic hooks to the right and becomes Tower Place, and cheer you on.

Most kids never get that far. They say they hear the noises coming from the cave and they either turn back towards Glendale or, if they are too far, they’ll scramble through the wooded lot, back towards campus.

This has lead to a companion ghost story, of a lone young college student, who, if female, had just gotten engaged and was walking to her parents’ home to tell the the news when she was hit by a car.  So violent was the impact that the ring went flying and was never recovered.  Or, if male, that he was walking to hisbeloved’s parent’s home to ask them for her hand in marriage when he was hit by a car. And so on.

In either case, it is said that, if you drive down Scenic at night, often you see him or her walking slowly down the street, searching for that ring.

23. The Home Depot Parking Lot

Weirdly enough, the ghosts in the Home Depot parking lot on Gallatin may be the most upsetting ghosts in town. They don’t do anything particularly scary. They tend to walk across the open grassy area between the parking lot and the road, looking around like something is missing, and then they stand in the parking lot, looking confused or shaking their heads or standing with one hand on their hips and the other wiping the sweat off their brows.

Sometimes, they will turn to each other and converse, pointing to the empty space and gesturing about the general size and shape of the missing landmark.

The singer is still recognizable to people and so his presence is the most upsetting.  When they tore down the house, people said, softly to each other, so no one could hear, “Well, at least Mr. Reeves isn’t alive to see this.”

And yet, there he is, with Rev. Craighead and the Bradfords, standing in the parking lot, looking, for all intents and purposes, like folks who wish, just one more time, they could see a ghost.

22. The Broken Mirror

Depending on when you visit the Hooters in Hermitage, sometimes there’s a mirror behind the bar. This is not the strange part. If you ask about it when it’s not there, they’ll tell you that the mirror broke and they’re debating about whether to get a new one.

What’s strange is what exactly they mean by “broke.”

See, because no matter what mirror they put up there, eventually there comes to be one too many waitresses in it.  Say it’s in the middle of the afternoon and you have two girls covering, one with brown hair and one with red.  If you’re just looking around the restaurant, you’ll see them running around, lifting trays over patrons’ heads, leaning over to pour more iced tea, checking narrow black folders to make sure they’ve got the right ticket for the table before setting it down.

But, if you look in the mirror, as often as not, you’ll also see a small blonde with a high ponytail and an enormous friendly smile, darting from table to table.

The staff is usually split 50/50 about how they feel about her.  Some of them are terrified, even though she only appears in the mirror and there aren’t weird noises or a feeling like anyone else is present if you’re alone in the dining room.  There’s nothing at all creepy about her.

Some of them secretly appreciate, on busy days, when they are so tired of the “clever” comments and the small tips, catching her eye in the mirror and getting a supportive nod or wink.

But eventually the patrons notice.  And then it becomes really weird.  Usually, one person will see her first and he’ll say something just to the folks at his table.  You’ll see them looking at the mirror and then kind of sitting tall in their seats to crane their necks around and check if they aren’t perhaps mistaken.

Their weird behavior will get the attention of other people who will see what they see in the mirror, and soon enough, the whole restaurant grinds to a silent halt.  No one eats. No one speaks.  They all are just watching the small blonde in the mirror.

They say that one time she seemed to notice that they had all stopped to stare at her and she looked out at them, her brow furrowed in confusion, and she smiled and shrugged, like “what are y’all looking at?” and went back about her business.

On that day, everyone ran out of the restaurant in terror.

This was, you can imagine, a nightmare. Tabs remained open. Credit cards were left unclaimed. Meals were never paid for.  The mirror was taken down, brought out into the parking lot, and busted into countless sparkling pieces.

They’ve tried new mirrors, but she’s always in them, working away, like it’s the most ordinary thing in the world.

20. The Devil Lives on Lewis Street, I Swear

We tell people that there are so many churches, so many denominational headquarters in town–from the Methodists to the Baptists–because we are literally the buckle of the Bible belt.  This may be true, but doesn’t is seem strange?

Why do we need a church every block and a half?

Or have you ever considered why it is that a road might need to change names three times, from, say Franklin Pike to 8th Avenue to Rosa Parks Boulevard or from Harding to West End to Broadway, or from Murfreesboro to Lafayette to 8th?

Why roads jut into each other at weird angles? Why you can get on an Old Hickory Boulevard anywhere in town, but you can’t stay on the road to circle around the whole town?

Just who, exactly, is the town trying to keep lost?

You won’t ever hear anyone come out and say it, but the truth is that folks are afraid of the Devil. Yes, the literal Devil.

Where to even start?

If we start now, it’s like this–the Devil had the shoulders of a man who was used to working. And later, he would come out on his front porch wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and a light sheen of sweat, with a beer in one hand, and all of the women on Lewis street would make excuses to walk by, to watch how his muscles moved under his skin, to measure almost unconsciously the span of those shoulders with their hands.

A woman could rest a hand on each shoulder, and put her ear up against his chest, and still feel like there was room to spare. Maybe that’s how come it was so easy for things to get out of hand–one woman, two women, three, four. Even before you got his clothes off, he seemed large enough to take it.

But the story goes back. The Devil has lived here, on and off, for a long, long time.

And this goes back before there even was a Nashville.

Back then, the gates of Hell were marked by twin elms. And if you passed between those elms after saying the right words, you would end up in the Devil’s realm. And the rumor was that they were common words, nothing so tricky as “Open Sesame” or “Rumpelstiltskin.” Just ordinary words.  Two children might be running through the field and one would say to the other, “I’ll race you to the two elms” and they would take off and one would see something shiny in the grass between the trees and he would turn to his companion and say “Look here.”

And he would be gone.

For hundreds of years, people avoided the area. The trees were eventually chopped down. And cemeteries were put up where the trees had stood, as both an acknowledgment and an attempt to mitigate, to have the help of the godly dead to keep the gate sealed.

Almost no one believes it works.

They say the Devil’s front door is still just a couple of hundred feet off of Elm Hill Pike.

And that, they say, is how Elizabeth Bennett came to know him.

No one knows much about Bennett’s life before 1786. Not for sure who her people were. Not what she did to get by. Bennett is a Choctaw name, in that screwed up Southern way, but folks claimed she was from North Carolina, which would seem to suggest she was Cherokee.

My informant told me that she was taken from her family when she was quite young, twelve or thirteen, and married to a man named Bennett, that she had been a Hensley before that.

Mr. Bennett had not gotten even a mile from her parents’ home before he threw her on the ground and jammed his knee between her legs so hard she almost forgot to breathe. He pressed his hand against the side of her face and left, on one side, the red shadows of his fingers. On the other side, for an hour, you could make out the outline of the plants her face had been pressed into.

“So,” she thought as he went at her, “this is what it means to be a woman.”

He took her to live on the banks of the Cumberland among people he thought would leave them alone, not far from where she would enter Nashville history.  She was uniformly well-liked, but though everyone knew Bennett was mistreating her, no one confronted him, because they were not her people.

One day a woman squatted next to her creek-side and asked her if she had heard of the legend of the twin elms. Of course she had not.

“Just send him there, as often as you can, and he may vanish. People who go there vanish.”

And so Elizabeth went there.  She fished near there. She trapped near there.  She collected roots and herbs and leaves near there.  She walked around there for no reason.  And she never disappeared.

Most likely because she never had anyone with her to say “Oh, look here,” even if she had anything interesting to look at.

But one day, she found found the Devil. He was laying half in the creek, at the end of where Lewis Street is now, and he was badly injured. She recognized him immediately.  As much by the smell of sulphur as anything.

She rolled him out of the water, lifted his head onto her lap, and brushed his hair out of his face.

“What can I do for you?” she asked.

“What would you do for me?” he whispered hoarsely.

“I’m making no deals with you, my friend,” she grinned in spite of herself. “I’m asking you an honest question.  I don’t know how to help you, but if you tell me, I will do my best.”

“Will you make a fire?”

“I will make you a fire.”  And she did.

“Now, roll me in it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Of course,” she paused just a second. “May I say something?”

“Please.”

“You’re not nearly as unpleasant as I thought you’d be.”

“I’m actually rarely unpleasant,” he grinned, wickedly.

Some will tell you that it was later (when Mr. Bennett was visiting the sulphur springs by the salt lick and was bitten by a large, black dog and got what appeared to be an extremely painful case of rabies and died), that Elizabeth Bennett’s life changed.

But I believe it was that grin that did it.

She rolled him into the fire and there was a noise like bacon in a skillet and he vanished into thin air.

When he came to her, after she was officially a widow, he said, “I will repay your kindness.”

“How so?” she asked.

“You are free.”

“I don’t know what that means,” she told him.

“You can have whatever you want.”

Possibly, he assumed she would want to be Queen of America or to return to her parents or… who knows?

“I want you to stay for dinner,” she said. And he did.

By candle light, she traced the line of his shoulders with her finger. She brushed his long hair out of his face. She looked into his black eyes. And she kissed him.  She did it.  She lead him.

He’s clever that way.

“What can I call you?” she asked.

“I’ve always been partial to Joseph,” he said.”I could be Joseph Durard for a while.”

When he left, she said, “I’ll wait for you.”

“Why?”

“Are you not coming back?” She asked. He cocked his head and looked at her.

“Of course.”

“Then I…”

“You are free to do what you want.”

And so she did.

When the Frenchman, Timothy Demonbreun arrived, she was like no one he’d ever met. She hunted, she trapped, she cussed, and drank, and sat with the men when it suited her, and sat with the women when it suited her.  She letDemonbreun cook her dinner and when it was done, she burped in appreciation.

It was, quite possibly, the least surprising thing to happen in the short history of Nashville when she was brought up on charges for having Timothy’s bastard child in 1787.  They took up together, in a cave near the two elms, some say so that she could watch for Durand.

There was a lot of anticipation in the community about Durand’s return.  Not that most folks knew he was the Devil, but even now, when a woman takes up with another man while hers is away, people are curious about what’s going to happen.

What happened was that, when Durand returned, Durand and Demonbreun went out and chopped down the largest tree they could find and fashioned a large bed for Elizabeth.  The three of them shared it.  And then Durand and Elizabeth got married.

And they continued to share it.

Eventually, word got around about Durand, about how you shouldn’t play cards against him if you wanted to keep your money, about how his just being in a room could lead men to fist fighting, about how babies whose fat cheeks he pinched would stop eating.

There were rumors that he could dry up a cow just by looking at it and that he was always followed by three black crows.  I don’t know how true those stories were, but I know folks were afraid of him.

But people were more terrified of Elizabeth. Elizabeth would chase a man from his home at the wrong end of his own rifle if she learned that he beat his wife. Elizabeth would sit in the back of the church and ask when a woman could be preacher. Elizabeth would vote in every election, just for the satisfaction of making them take her ballot, even knowing they would just tear it up once she left.

Durand would often smile and say to her, “You may, quite possibly, cause more trouble than I ever could.”

And she would laugh and say, “I doubt that.”

She lived almost a century, but as women often do, she eventually died, out on her farm half way to Ashland City.

The Devil was heartbroken. Inconsolable.

Elizabeth’s youngest son twice had to ride into Nashville and make his way through crowded inns and taverns until he discovered where the old man was slumped over a table. The young man would brush his hair out of his face, whisper, “Let’s get you home,” and bring him back out to the farm, where he could sober up and rest.

Years have gone by and still the Devil comes to Nashville. Some say that he comes with her and some say that he comes looking for her.

I don’t know which is true. But I know better than to play cards with a man who smells slightly of sulfur.

19. Opryland

There are two great mysteries when it comes to the Opryland complex just off Briley.  One is large and I cannot answer it–why did it seem like a good idea to close down Opryland and put up a mall?  Could a mall and an amusement park not have worked hand in hand?  I take comfort in knowing that everyone who works at Gaylord is haunted by this same question.

The other is smaller. Why would you ever pay to park at the hotel when you can park at the mall for free and walk over?

That I have an answer for.

Because some folks do.  You go to the movie theater side of the mall, park way out at the end of the parking lot, and then it’s just a short walk over to a back entrance to the hotel.

But it’s not exactly a nice walk.  You are literally walking over the corpse of Opryland.  There’s an old gate, old sidewalks, old light fixtures, and to your left, the old cave that featured prominently in the Grizzly River Rampage, a water ride in which you and eleven others were seated in a round barrel like contraption and set off down a fake river, to get wet.

And sure, if you’re filled with nostalgia for your Nashville childhood, it’s kind of heartbreaking.

But what keeps people out is that you’re walking along, in broad daylight, and you can see your car behind you if you turn and look and if you crane your neck, you can see the hotel in front of you.

And there, on the path, coming towards you, looking suitably tired and excited after a day’s outing, is a family of four.  At first, nothing at all about them seems that weird.  And then you realize that the parents are both smoking and you can’t remember the last time you saw people looking so at ease smoking in public.  Or those shorts that the men are wearing. Sure, fashions come back, but shorts that short on men?

It’s disconcerting.  To the point where maybe it’s just easier to pay the parking fee.

And I imagine that, as fashions continue to change, and it becomes less and less easy to convince yourself that those could be people from your time, paying for parking becomes easier and easier to justify.

18. Laura

There used to be a house on Old Glenrose, just across the train tracks from the big field behind Woodbine Baptist Church. If you have seen this field in the summer, it’s hard to forget it, since there seems to be often fifty sweaty men playing soccer in it at any given time.  Men who are stripping off shirts with pin-prick holes where their name tags go. Other men who are switching from dress shoes to sneakers as fast as they can in their cars. Other men who sometimes reach unconsciously to cover tattoos they’re not sure they want the other men to see.

Where else can you see such a wide mix of men all enjoying the day?

You used to be able to sit on the porch of the house on Old Glenrose and watch them.  When Laura was first born, before her mother had to go back to work, her mother would stand on the porch, a towel over her shoulder and then Laura draped over the towel and her mother would pat her back and watch the men.  Her mother had this fantasy, which she told no one, of one day going over there, in her sneakers and shorts, and she imagined how all of the men would laugh and tell her to go home or frown and tell her that this was no place for a woman, but then she would somehow get the ball.

And just like they could be on that field and it didn’t matter if they were lawyers or gang members or dishwashers or what, it wouldn’t matter who she was, when she was on the field, she would be a player.

Laura grew up in the little house on Old Glenrose, until she was four, when it burnt down.

The fire spread quickly and Laura’s mother and father nearly died. Laura did die.

The firefighter who carried her out said only one thing about it, ever, to anyone. One day, when he was sitting on his riding lawnmower, not moving, his wife came out to check on him, and he turned to her, and said, “She should have had a whole life.”

Her parents were still at Vanderbilt when the first 911 call came.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“Hay un fuego.”

“Darlene, I’ve got a little kid speaking Spanish. Can you take it?”

Darlene got on the line while the other operator worked frantically to try to figure out where the little girl was calling from.

“Ola. ¿Qué usted dijo?”

“Mi mama está dormida.”

And then nothing. The line went dead.

“What did she say to you?”

“En fuego?  That’s fire, right.”

“What’s that address?  Did we get the address?  Dispatch, we’ve got to get trucks to the 700 block of Old Glenrose Avenue. 712 Old Glenrose Avenue.”

There is nothing worse, you can imagine, than getting a 911 call from a child who is obviously in trouble, whether she knows it or not.  And so the 911 operators sat for the nexttweny minutes, checking the clock and waiting to hear something, anything from 712 Old Glenrose Avenue.

After about a half an hour, their supervisor came in.

“We’re going to need the tape of that Old Glenrose Avenue call.”

“Oh god, did someone die?”

“Yeah, two weeks ago.  That house is burnt to the ground.  Don’t worry.  Probably just some asshole kids gave that address just because.”

“No, that’s the address the system gave us. That’s the house that call came from.”

“Well, it must be a glitch in the system, then, because there’s no house there anymore.”

Of course, they checked for glitches. Even sent an AT&T crew out there, but nothing.

And still, the calls come.  Not very often, but often enough that every operator is warned about them. And folks have quit after taking them.

“Here’s what you’ve got to understand,” Darlene said to me.  “This isn’t an easy job as it is. You’re hearing people at some of the absolute worst moments of their lives, either because it’s happening to them or because they’re seeing something terrible happen to someone else, but you know you’re sending help.  You know you can send someone to help.  No, it don’t always work out, but at least there’s something you can do.

“Who can you send to that poor little girl?”

17. El Protector

My friend John asked me about ‘El Protector’ over lunch one day, asked if I’d heard anything about it. At the time, there was a big police initiative to reach out to the Hispanic community called ‘El Protector,’ which we considered to be something of a sad joke.  ‘Yes, we’re trying to deport your friends and family, but we also want to work with you to reduce crime in your area, so, please, call us.’

As you might imagine, this didn’t work so well.

“No, not the police thing. That thing on Charlotte.”

Well, this is how it works in Nashville, often.  Everyone who didn’t speak English who lived or worked along Charlotte Pike knew about El Protector. I didn’t know anyone who spoke English as his first language, except for John, who had heard of it.

John has a friend, Joselito, who agreed to have beers with us at the Las Palmas on Charlotte.  And I asked him about El Protector.  He laughed and said what I said, “Who wants to call the police? They’ll just take away your friends and the problems are left behind.  Better to stick with your friends and take care of the problems yourselves.”

“No, John, explain to him.”

And so John explained to him.

“Oh. That’s nothing. Just stories.”

“Yes, but I want to know the stories.”

He turned to John and they had a long conversation.

John then turned to me.  “He says it’s nothing.  Swamp gas.  Rising out of the creek and then up the hill towards the Kentucky Fried Chicken and that there’s a scientific explanation for it.”

“Wait.  He’s saying there’s a light that rises up out of the creek and heads west along the street?”

I waited for more discussion.

“He’s saying that’s not what people say, but that’s the most likely explanation.”

“What do people say?”

“I can tell you,” our waiter said, dropping off another round of beers and some more corn chips.  “It is a man with a lantern.  You can see the light from a long way away, clear down by Bobby’s Dairy Dip and it comes…”

“No, it comes too fast to be a man,” interjects another waiter.

“A man on a horse?”

“Oh, yes, a man on a horse.”

“It comes, just the light, this faint yellow light, down the road and you hurry to get in your car or back in the building. You don’t want to be out when it gets by you.”

“Or it will throw its giant pumpkin head at you?” I joke.

“No, no. If you are good, probably nothing.  But, if you are bad, you will die.”

“Wait, El Protector kills people?”  I try to clarify.

“A ghost can’t kill people,” John says, in a way that seems designed to end the conversation.

“Of course not,” Joselito says.

“Someone else kills you,” the waiter says.  “Seeing El Protector up close is a curse.”

“How often does this happen?”

“Oh, all the time,” the other waiter says.  “You can sit in our parking lot all night and you will see it.”

“Because I’ll be hallucinating from lack of sleep,” says John.

And we all laugh and that is the end of it.

Except, of course, it’s not.

A couple of months later, I’m having lunch with John again and he seems very shaken, but he won’t say much, except to tell me about how his kids are doing in school.

“No, really, what’s troubling you?”

“I saw it.”

“What?  The light?  The ghost?  Up close?”

“JJ was sick and it was the middle of the night and I had to run to Walmart and you know how they’re closing down 40 at night to do repaving?  So, I was coming back home up Charlotte when I saw a light coming towards me.  I thought at first it was a motorcycle.  But it was going too slow.  And the light seemed too high up.  It was just like they said.  Like where a lantern would be if you were holding it out in front of you on horseback.  And…”

“Did you see it?  Did you see it up close?”

“No.  I chickened out.  When it got close enough, I shut my eyes.”

“While you were driving?!”

“I hit a dog.  Killed it.  It was terrible.  I feel terrible.”

“Maybe it was an evil dog.”

“Oh god, shut up.”

16. Granddad

Dear readers, I admit, when the woman from the Downtown Presbyterian church said, “We never have crying babies on Sunday morning,” it was out of my mouth before I could stop it, “Do y’all have any babies in church on Sunday morning?”

Luckily, she thought that was funny.

To look at it, you would assume that the Downtown Presbyterian Church, if haunted at all, is haunted by the Civil War soldiers who died in it when it was used as a hospital.

But no, instead, it is haunted by an old man they affectionately call ‘Granddad’, with a kind of shambling way of walking, who is often seen sitting in the pew on Sunday morning or walking down the center aisle after the service, leaning over the ends of pews, as if picking up the bulletins and attendance pads left behind.

Some folks thought he wasn’t really a ghost, just a memory of an old usher that replays over and over, not able to interact with folks.

But one morning, a young mother was sitting in her pew, her baby in the carrier beside her on her right.  The baby, as babies often do, began to fuss.  The mother turned to her left to dig through her bag to get a pacifier when she heard the faint, but unmistakable sound of keys jingling.

And then, the baby laughed.

Of course, she assumed it was one of the other congregants, entertaining the baby, but when she turned to thank them, there was no one there.

15. Bacon Frying in the Pan

Years ago a couple, the Andersons, moved to a little house on Ordway. Their neighbor was a little old man named Tim Macon, who lived alone now that his wife had died and his children had moved north.  He was a perfectly delightful neighbor. He’d come over to help Mrs. Anderson dig bulbs.  He could be counted on to watch the dog while they were on vacation.  And when Mr. Anderson needed someone to stand under the hood of his old beater with him, Mr. Macon was knowledgeable and brought beer.

And one day, Mr. Macon died.  He sat down to rest on the swing on his front porch and never woke back up.  It was as mild a death as one might have.  Which is, perhaps, why it didn’t seem to slow him down.

When the new neighbors moved in, the wife came running over to the Andersons’ one morning, almost in tears.

“I smelled bacon,” she said, as she started to calm down.  “I heard bacon frying in the kitchen.  I thought it was my husband.  But he was still in bed with me.  We went into the kitchen and…”

“There was bacon?” Mr. Anderson asked, half teasing.

“No, there was nothing, nothing but the smell of bacon frying in the pan.”

They calmed her down, convinced her she was dreaming, and sent her home.

Three days later, she was back.

“Come now.” she ordered.  “Come now.”

They ran next door and, plain as day, they could smell cigarette smoke.  Not the stale smell that might work its way out of paint or carpet, but fresh cigarette smoke.

“We don’t smoke,” the neighbor husband said.

“Mr. Macon?” Mrs. Anderson asked.  “Is that you?  Now listen, you are scaring the pants off these poor people.  Why don’t you come and live with us?  You know we don’t mind.”

I heard this story from the neighbor, which is why she remains nameless.  She says that, after this, she never had any problems in the house–no ghostly bacon, no cigarette smoke.

But here’s the weirdest thing.  So, years go by and the property values on Ordway go up and the Andersons decide to sell their house and move out on Lickton Pike, in the country.  The new people who bought the Anderson’s house, after about six months, came over to the neighbors’ and said, “You’re not going to believe this…”

“Cooking bacon?”

“How’d you know?”

“That’s our old home owner.”

“What should we do?”

“I don’t know.  I’d call the Andersons and ask them.”

And you know what?  The Andersons came back to their old house, told Tim Macon that he was freaking out this set of homeowners and that Lickton Pike was lovely; he should come and stay with them out there.

And it worked.

14. The Sylvan Heights Soldier

Sylvan Park has properly gentrified and West End has had a fancy streak for as long as anyone can remember, but Sylvan Heights, wedged between the two of them, laying along the railroad tracks is still waiting for its neighbors’ good fortune to spread through it.

So, a person cannot be blamed for not noticing at first that the neighborhood is haunted by Union soldiers.

After all, it’s easy enough to assume, when you catch a figure skulking along the railroad tracks, that it’s one of the hobos who lives in the camp on the other side of 440.  And if you should be sitting in your living room and you hear the storm door open, see the door knob shake as if someone is trying a locked door, and you bound across the room to see if it is your loved one, home from work, and you throw open the door and find no one there, might not it have been just the wind?

It’s harder to explain the mornings when you are out walking your dog down Park Circle, when you cross Acklen Park and you look down towards the curve and you see a man standing there, a plain wool blanket over his shoulders like a cape, and a strange hat.  In the early dawn light, you cannot make out much more than that, just a man in a blanket. You keep walking and when you get to the next block, you look downWrenwood towards the train overpass and you see a man–surely not that same man–hunched down in the middle of the intersection, watching you.

You should probably be afraid, but you have a big dog and a cell phone and you’ve spent most of your time in the city convincing yourself that those are all the tools a girl needs to ward off danger.

So, you stand there, in your overalls and your winter coat, your pajamas still on under it all.  Your breath making an icy cloud in the cold morning. If he has a breath, he’s been holding it a long time.

Suddenly, right behind you, you hear “Ma’am?” and you turn towards the clipped Yankee accent.

There’s no one there.

And when you turn back around, there’s no one there either.

13. Pebbles

Here is a sad story I heard. There is a son, who is old now, whose mother died when he was young. They lived out in the country, down Bull Run Road, and she was buried in their family plot. Every Sunday he can, he still goes out to her grave and sits with her. He then leaves something, a small rock, a penny, his receipt from lunch, just a little something to let her know he’s still there.

And there is a mother, who died when her son was still young, who rises early, every Sunday morning, and walks from the cemetery to the old farm house where her son still lives and she leaves on his doorstep something, a small rock, a twisted root, a fine layer of dirt, the feather from a molting bird, an earthworm.  And she sits in the rocker on the front porch, all Sunday morning, just trying to spend some time with her son.

Neither knows of the other’s habit.

Only the small neighbor girl knows this. If she isn’t forced to go to church, she will run through the cow pasture and hide herself behind the old stone wall. She peeks over to watch the two of them pass right through each other.

“When I’m a grown-up,” she says to herself, later, in her room, “I will tell them.”

But when she is grown, she convinces herself that she imagined them.

12. Some Ghosts Make You Blush

If you’ve ever been into any of the four story buildings on Lower Broad or 2nd Avenue, you may find yourself wondering why, no matter what time of day it is, the music is always so loud.

You’re not trying to be a party-pooper, you think, but how is a man supposed to talk to his wife over lunch with all that racket?

The racket is for a reason.

See, during the Civil War, this part of Nashville was basically an open air brothel.  Every building housed prostitutes.  And I’m not going to lie to you and tell you some romantic story about how wonderful it was. It was, in general, pretty horrible and a pretty horrible way to make a living.

But it was a living, at a time when a lot of folks were starving.

Yes, women were treated poorly. Yes, they had diseases. Yes, often times they laid there and stared at the slow shadows on the wall passing while they waited for the soldiers to be done with them. And sometimes they were beaten, and robbed, and killed, and no one cared.

Yes, all of that.  But…

If you go into those restaurants, the ones that admit to being haunted, they will tell you some sad tale of women who, a hundred and fifty years on, still mope around and have nothing better to do than to rearrange furniture and silverware.

But the truth is that, when it’s quiet, bar tenders will hear a woman clearing her throat at the end of the bar, the universal signal for “Poor me another one.” When it’s quiet, they can hear the silverware being pushed off the tables as if someone has taken her arm and brushed it all aside in one dramatic motion to make room for her butt or her hands and knees up there. When it’s quiet, you can hear the moans of dead women, the gasps, the shrieks, the screams, and those places, all trying to be respectable now, can only wish those noises sounded scary.

11. Pressed into Service

Jesse Price was an ordinary guy, who died when he was 26 in a train accident in 1880 on Valentine’s Day. If there was speculation about his death being more suicide than accident, based on the day, let me put that to rest now. Price just died, in a way people just die.

He laid in the ground unbothered for quite some time. What he thought about, if anything, we don’t know.

This, though, we do. We know of a girl, a young girl, so desperate for good fortune, for her boyfriend to return from the war in one piece, that, in the middle of the night, she parked her car back behind the far wall, walked nervously up Oak Street (and for good reason; that part of town was, back then, not that safe even during the day) and, when she felt sure there were no cars about to come by,slinked over the fence.

She was looking for her family plot, to beg a dead great aunt for help.

But imagine, you’re in an ancient cemetery at nigh, stumbling around with only a small flashlight you need to keep pointed down if you don’t want to attract the attention of neighbors or the police.  Every twig snap, every shadow shift, and soon she terrified out of her mind.  And there, before her, was Mr. Price’s grave.

“Oh, please,” she whispered, “For Christ’s sake, bring Donny home.” And then, she found a small stone near by and made a small cross on the back of his grave.

And this tells you a lot about the kind of person Mr. Price was, because Donny came home.

I was there with a medium on the annual October tour and when we walked by Mr. Price’s grave, she laughed.

“Oh my,” she said to no one in particular, “That hasn’t worked out.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Mr. Price feels very fondly towards these folks, who have worked so hard to clean the place up. He has, whenever someone has marked his grave, done the one thing he can think to keep them from marking it again.”

“Oh?”

“He’s tried to make what they’ve asked for happen, so that they won’t come back.”

“Ah, I see what you mean. Has he considered stopping?”

“Not lately. By now, he kind of likes feeling useful again.”