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.

7 thoughts on “12. Some Ghosts Make You Blush

  1. This makes me sad.

    I do believe in ghosts, but more as a sort of residue of a person, not the entirety of their soul.

    I have to believe that way because the thought of some poor woman who still has to fiddle with drudgery in eternity is just too sad to bear otherwise.

  2. But these ghosts are having embarrassingly loud, hot sex. I hope that’s not sad. That’s how I plan on spending eternity, if I discover I’m a ghost.

  3. Another well written tale.
    For those interested in reading more about prostitution in Nashville during the Civil War, pick up this book: The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War by Thomas P. Lowry.
    The prostitution district, called Smokey Row, was actually centered around lower Church Street (then called Spring Street). After an unsuccessful attempt to ship the women (many of whom arrived following the Union troops) out of town, the Union Army decided to legalize the profession. Women were inspected, licensed, and, if they had veneral disease, cared for in a Union hospital. At the time, it was considered a medical success story and an argument for the legalization of prostitution elsewhere.

  4. AT the time?!?

    What about now? I mean, among those of us who favour legalised prostitution. Have there been better case studies showing how much good it’s done for women and society to have prostitution be a shadow economy enforced by goons?

  5. Yes, at the time in military circles, though not so much among clergy and the general public. The AEF also benefited from France’s willingness to license and regulate brothels — blue light for officers, red light for enlisted personnel. AEF medical officers also tackled the VD problem by distributing rubbers. (Pershing was squicky about openly acknowledging whores, though apparently ok with his soldiers fucking for free as long as they didn’t catch the clap.)

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