19. The Haunting of Eastland and Porter

There were two young men who went to the same church over on the east side of the river. As children, they were inseparable. Tom got married to his high school sweetheart and Danny, though not married when he died, was a well-known flirt, who spent most of his time in the church choir making time with the women who surrounded him.

There had been rumors of trouble in Tom’s life, and it was widely known in the church that he and his family had weekly meetings with the pastor and it was widely accepted that he had been encouraged to marry so young as a way of setting aside his wild youth and aligning himself with God’s will.

The young men were killed in a traffic accident at the corner of Eastland and Porter. Tom still had his motorcycle and Danny needed a ride someplace after church.  Now there is a three-way stop at that corner, but it used to be that only the person coming west on Eastland had to stop and that person was at a distinct disadvantage when trying to see if anyone was coming towards him around the curve. You just had to go and hope no one was coming too quickly.

Tom was the oncoming traffic that day. He skidded up Porter, his motorcycle still between his legs. He died instantly. Danny was thrown clear and he died a few days later.

Since then, the spot has become a magnet for paranormal groups looking to investigate active hauntings. When Davidson County Paranormal League had their Halloween special on WKRN, this corner was one of their features and flame wars erupted on local websites about whether the footage was faked.

The footage that had the whole city talking was of two distinctly male voices. One calls out “Tom? Hey, Tom!” and, after a few minutes, the other calls out, “Danny? Are you really here?” And then there’s a whoop and a scream and sobs.

The Davidson County Paranormal League explained that they considered this a residual haunting, that there weren’t actually spirits still here, that this was a moment in these men’s lives so profound that the right conditions could cause it to replay, over and over.

In a psychology class, up at Austin Peay, this clip was the centerpiece of a discussion of the group dynamics involved with believing in what the professor termed, “this paranormal nonsense.”

And so he played the clip for the class. And a woman in middle of the second row started to sob.

“Oh, my gosh,” she said, wiping her eyes, “I’m so sorry. That just hit me right in the heart. I know that noise.”

“Are you saying that you have witnessed a ghost?” the professor was suddenly worried the lecture was about to go way off track.

“No, no,” she said. “When my husband got back from Iraq, that’s the noise he made when he saw me again for the first time.”

It had not occurred to the professor that the noises at the end of the clip were noises of joy, of loved ones being reunited. But later, as he sat at his desk, playing the video over and over, he wondered how he had missed it.

When he got home, he told his husband about it. His husband, who grew up here, was perplexed, for a long time.

“It’s not obvious to you that the story is about two lovers?”

“No,” the professor said. “My students got it, though. Some of them were uncomfortable with it, but it was clear to them from the noise.”

“Well,” said the husband, “that’s something. In my day, it would have been clear to us from the young marriage, since she wasn’t pregnant. Times change.”

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