Nashville

The Most Haunted Places Near Nashville

Take a peek at some of these scary sites-if you dare.

Cragfont State Historic Site
Cragfont State Historic Site
Cragfont State Historic Site

Nashville has long been known as a destination for a scary good time, but Music City also has its share of truly terrifying locales in and around the city. With a long history of bloody military conflicts, plantations, and conflicts with Native Americans, there are plenty of reasons for departed souls to be unsettled. Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, Nashville offers all sorts of opportunities to raise a few goosebumps, from haunted hotels to spooky cemeteries and mansions. Turn on all the lights in the room and read about the spooky side of Nashville.

Tennessee State Prison

West Nashville
Although it hasn’t housed any prisoners since 1992 when it was closed, ironically, for overcrowding, the old Tennessee State Prison may well still be home to some spooky inhabitants. The striking gothic castle of a building has been featured in several major films, including “The Last Castle” and Stephen King’s “The Last Mile.” King’s novel features a death row inmate, appropriate since 125 men were executed in the maximum security prison’s electric chair, notoriously known as “Ole Sparky.” The crumbling penitentiary is not safe for tours, but past visitors report hearing echoing footsteps, screams, and the clanging shut of cell doors.

historicbellwitchcave
historicbellwitchcave
historicbellwitchcave

The Bell Witch Cave

Adams
Tennessee kids have long been scared of the Bell Witch, daring each other at sleepovers to say “I hate the Bell Witch” 100 times in front of the bathroom mirror to summon the legendary spirit. In the early 19th century, “Kate,” the Bell Witch ghost, tormented the Bell family in Adams, Tennessee, residing in a cave behind their property. Kate pinched, pulled hair, and taunted the family’s visitors with strange sounds, and she repeatedly tried to choke John Bell, the patriarch of the family. You can tour the spooky cave, which has been placed on the National Historic Register, and according to the tour guides, visitors have felt sensations of being pushed, touched, or held down by a heavy weight.

Carnton Plantation

Franklin
The Battle of Franklin was a major turning point in the Civil War, with Confederate blunders essentially decimating the Army of Tennessee which lost 14 generals during the one-day battle. One general was captured, seven were wounded and six were killed. Carnton Plantation was turned into a field hospital on the edge of the battlegrounds, and four of those dead generals were laid out on the stately mansion’s front porch. At night, visitors to the home claim to have seen the floors run red with the blood of soldiers, and there are many reports of ghostly spirits wandering the cemetery where 1,700 fallen soldiers were laid to rest.

Nashville City Cemetery Association
Nashville City Cemetery Association
Nashville City Cemetery Association

Nashville City Cemetery

South Nashville
Nashville’s oldest public cemetery has been accepting permanent residents for more than two centuries, and more than a dozen former Nashville mayors are interred on the grounds along with country music stars, casualties of the Battle of Nashville and victims of various epidemics through the years. According to legend, the ghost of a woman who took her life by jumping into the Cumberland River can be heard sobbing near the large boulder that her husband placed as a gravestone. He also thoughtfully added a lantern because she was afraid of the dark, and perhaps it is his soul that is seen lighting the lamp on spooky evenings.

Chapel Hill Railroad Lights

Chapel Hill
For years, it’s been a teenage rite of passage to pile into a car for the 45-minute drive south of Nashville to the tiny hamlet of Chapel Hill to look for the mysterious lights along the railroad tracks on the outskirts of town. Back in 1942, a man named Skip Adjent was walking along those tracks and apparently didn’t hear the train that was bearing down on him. The locomotive hit him from behind and killed him instantly. Ghost hunters make the pilgrimage to experience the mysterious sight of lights moving back and forth along the tracks like a lantern being carried to retroactively correct Adjent’s fatal mistake. Skeptics say that the lights come from swamp gas, but we’d like to think ole Skip is getting a second chance to watch his step.

The Union Station Nashville Yards
The Union Station Nashville Yards
The Union Station Nashville Yards

Union Station Hotel

SoBro Nashville
Voted “Best Haunted Hotel in America,” Union Station was once the main train terminal in town and the deployment point for thousands of soldiers shipping off to WWII. A young woman named Abigail was the beau of one of those soldiers heading off to war and vowed to meet him again on the train platform when he returned. Unfortunately, he never returned after he was killed in action in Europe. She threw herself in front of the train and now haunts the property, particularly room 711. She chose that room for the view of the tracks below, and present-day guests report flickering lights, strange apparitions in the mirror and sudden drops in the temperature of room 711.

Cragfont

Castalian Springs
A frequent destination for paranormal investigators, the former home of General James Winchester is considered one of the most haunted sites in Tennessee. The tobacco plantation was built on sacred Native American land by slave labor, so there are plenty of reasons why the spirits might still be angry about its construction. Professional ghost hunters have reported seeing glowing orbs floating in different rooms of the house, and security camera footage has revealed inanimate items moving around on their own and candles bursting into flame of their own volition. Previously-made beds look like they’ve been slept in overnight, and full-body apparitions have been reported haunting the hallways. The state now owns the historic log structure and offers tours, which is good because nobody would probably want to share their home with so many spectres.

Andrew Jackson's Hermitage
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage

The Hermitage

Hermitage
Nashville’s relationship with Andrew Jackson has long been, well, complicated. He was a hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812 and served as the seventh president of the United States for two terms, and heck, his face is on the $20 bill. (At least for a while longer.) However, he was also a slave owner and responsible for displacing thousands of Native American from their tribal lands. So it’s no surprise that The Hermitage, Jackson’s mansion-turned-museum, might be home to some unsettled souls. Through the centuries, almost 500 deaths have been reported on the grounds of the Hermitage, not counting unreported slaves. Visitors report hearing someone whistling in the corridors late at night, apparitions of Civil War soldiers marching on the property, and even the sound of Old Hickory himself riding a horse down the hallway. The museum hosts several different thematic tours, and most of them at least mention some supernatural activity happening on the grounds.

Tennessee State Capitol/Polk’s Tomb

Downtown Nashville
In addition to the spooky stuff that the legislature continues to practice inside the building, the State Capitol has been home to some frightening history, and it’s the only capitol to serve as a mausoleum. William Strickland, the original architect of the building, is buried inside the walls of the capitol, as is Samuel Morgan, the manager of the construction project. The two men quarreled constantly during the build, and it’s said that you can still hear them arguing from their respective corners of the capitol during the night. Another ghost reputedly haunts the building’s cupola, standing at his post guarding the flagpole where he was killed when Union soldiers arrived to raise the Union flag after winning the battle of Nashville. President James K. Polk is also buried on the grounds, and a man in a dark suit has been seen kneeling near the crypt, only to fade away when curious visitors approach.

Printer’s Alley

Downtown Nashville
Once home to Nashville’s printing and newspaper industry, this strip of downtown became a seedy entertainment district during the middle of the 20th century. The ghost of a tavern owner supposedly can be seen peeking through an upper story window of his former bar after he took his life rather than give in to Prohibition. Legendary club owner David “Skull” Schulman was murdered in his bar, The Rainbow Room in 1998. It was well-known that Skull kept wads of cash stuffed in his overalls before two drifters slashed his throat and took his money. Reportedly, Skull can still be seen walking his beloved poodle in the alley late at night.

Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium
Ryman Auditorium

Ryman Auditorium

Downtown Nashville
The Ryman is best-known as a performance venue and the most famous home of the Grand Ole Opry, but before it became “The Mother Church of Country Music,” it was an actual tabernacle that hosted traveling preachers visiting Nashville to evangelize. They say Thomas Ryman must not be totally pleased with the transformation, because some ghost (perhaps him) has been known to cut the lights, sound or power when performers get a little too rowdy. There’s also “The Opry Curse,” where legendary performers like Hank Williams and Patsy Cline met untimely deaths soon after appearing on the Ryman stage. Cline is said to still haunt the site of her most famous success, and Williams’ ghost has been reported in the alley between the Ryman and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge where he used to sneak to between sets for a quick snort at the bar.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of Nashville, where he has lived his entire life — except for four years in California where he studied liberal arts at Stanford University and learned how to manipulate chopsticks. He is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene, Nashville Lifestyles, Local Palate, Edible, FoodRepublic.com, and Conde Nast Traveler. He likes beer, bourbon, and bacon but isn’t fanatical about any of them.

Nashville

How to Get into Nashville’s Best Speakeasies and Secret Bars

Nashville's speakeasies have impeccable cocktails and even better vibes.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

It’s not like it’s difficult to find a spot for a proper cocktail in Nashville, except when it’s intentionally hard. Some of Nashville’s finest bars are a little more hidden away, to create a sense of exclusivity and limit crowds so that talented bartenders can offer the sort of individualized attention that their inventive drinks deserve. Besides, it’s nice to have a conversation at a bar where you don’t have to yell to be heard. Here are some of our favourite places to chill.

The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club
The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club

The Fox Bar and Cocktail Club

South InglewoodThe talented mixologists at The Fox are a big part of the attraction, and some of their novel takes on classic cocktails have actually won national awards in recipe contests. But even if all you want is a proper gin and tonic, you’ll be delighted by the cozy library vibe of the East Nashville emporium. The bar staff insists on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, so the drink menu changes frequently. Don’t worry if your favourite rolls off, because there’s sure to be something new to delight you.

Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins
Danielle B. Atkins

Attaboy

East NashvilleAn outpost of the James Beard Award-nominated NYC cocktail bar, Nashville’s version of Attaboy is no slouch either. Well, the building is kindy slouchy, a cinderblock edifice hidden away in an alley where guests are invited to “knock gently” to gain entry. If the bar is full, you’ll have to wait outside, but once you gain entrance, the fun really begins. Bartenders interview patrons about their drink preferences and then compose cocktails on the fly to fulfil their wildest dreams. Sit at the bar or settle into a blue velvet booth to enjoy a completely crafty cocktail or two.

Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar
Hidden Bar

Hidden Bar

DowntownThis subterranean lair in the Noelle hotel downtown is intentionally difficult to find. The entrance is through a door you’d probably never pass through unless you work for the hotel cleaning staff, but it’s a passage to something wonderful. Hidden Bar often stages thematic pop-ups that extend to both the riotous decor and the drink list, and large-format drinks are designed for sharing, so bring a few friends.

Skull's Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room
Skull’s Rainbow Room

Skull’s Rainbow Room

Printer’s AlleySkull’s has been a Printers Alley institution since the middle of the last century, except for the few years it was closed when notorious club owner David “Skull” Schulman was murdered, reportedly by someone that knew he always kept the evening’s cash receipts in the top pocket of his trademark overalls. Since reopening, the showroom has revived the old-school vibe with nightly jazz and burlesque shows, classic cocktails served from an elaborate wooden bar and a restaurant that features an excellent chophouse menu. It’s easy to forget the time during an evening at Skulls. Heck, it’s easy to forget what decade it is.

Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign
Bar Sovereign

Bar Sovereign

SoBroTucked away in a nondescript strip mall among the towering hotel buildings of SoBro, Bar Sovereign’s entrance is marked only by a small golden plaque that is fortunately close to eye level. Inside is a wonderland of bold artwork covering the walls, a sculpture created from a disassembled piano behind the bar and a menu of interesting and affordable cocktails that is rare to find amongst the nearby tourist destinations. The atmosphere gets a little wilder late at night when DJs spin tunes for the party people and industry folks looking to blow off a little steam at the end of a shift.

Bay 6
Bay 6
Bay 6

Bay 6

East NashvilleThis microbar has a double punny name. First of all, it is, indeed, crammed into the sixth bay of what used to be a self-service car wash before the building was converted into an elevated food and drink court with international carryout restaurants occupying the other quintet of stalls. Secondly, the menu is intentionally basic, with simple, well-made cocktails designed to be served quickly so that guests can enjoy them in one of the very few seats in Bay 6 or carry them out to the lively outdoor patio where patrons enjoy their food from one of the options at The Wash.

Green Hour
Green Hour
Green Hour

Green Hour

GermantownBy day, Tempered Fine Chocolates occupies this space, but on Thursday through Saturday evenings, they unpack the bottles, build a bar and flick on the green light that lets tipplers know that Green Hour is now in session. Dedicated to the exotic “Green Fairy,” absinthe, the bar offers pours of more than a dozen versions of the anise-flavoured spirit. Enjoy a classic absinthe service with drops of water to open up the aromas and flavours or order a flight of three for comparison. The bartenders also employ absinthe in an array of exotic cocktails, but if you don’t like licorice, you might want to pass.

Never Never
Never Never
Never Never

Never Never

Wedgewood-HoustonIt’s not like they’re trying to hide Never Never. It’s just that the former welding shop is so non-descript and hidden away next to the railroad tracks, you might need someone to show you the way to the front door. It’s worth the hunt, though, because the cocktails are both clever and cheap. Enjoy small bites, beer, wine and cocktails at the amiable dimly-lit bar or discover the patio oasis out back that feels like being a guest at a friend’s house party.

Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue
Minerva Avenue

Minerva Ave

North NashvilleDress to impress at this Tennessee State University neighbourhood cocktail lounge. A tall fence surrounds the compound to provide privacy, but once you knock for admission, you’ll encounter an expansive outdoor deck with cabanas, fire pits and an outdoor bar. Inside, it’s a little more vibey with plush booths, dramatic lighting accents as well as nostalgic music and artwork. Smokers can enjoy hookah service and cigars, and bottle service is available for high rollers.

One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club
One More Cocktail Club

One More Cocktail Club

DowntownTucked away in the hallway outside of Level 3 South at the Assembly Food Hall, One More Cocktail Club feels like worlds away from the tourist throngs below. There’s only room for a couple of dozen guests in the chic lounge, so everyone is treated like a VIP. The menu is a mix of new craft cocktails and classics, with special attention paid to creating beautiful works of art including appropriate garnishes. A tight menu of red, white and bubbly wines is also available for those in the know.

Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas
Pushing Daisies Underground Margaritas

Pushing Daisies

DowntownIf you park on the top deck of the garage below the Fifth + Broad retail/dining/entertainment complex across from the Bridgestone Arena, you’ll actually have to walk down to get to Pushing Daisies, home of “underground margaritas.” Named after the class of cocktails that feature citrus, sweet and sour, this hot new lounge concentrates on the tequila version of the whiskey sour or daiquiri. Margaritas are crafted using luxury ingredients and quaffed by a hip crowd of guests enjoying pumping music and dramatic lighting. It’s definitely a scene to be seen.

The Late Great
The Late Great
The Late Great

The Late Great

Demonbreun/Music RowFor the first year this cocktail lounge at the Virgin Nashville was open, it wasn’t really open. Instead, it was a private membership club with an entrance hidden away even from hotel guests. Now, we civilians can make reservations for a three-cocktail “experience” in this shrine to music and creativity, decorated like the writers’ lounge outside the legendary recording studios on nearby Music Row. Private memberships are still available if you’re so inclined and still flush with those songwriter royalty checks.

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Sarah Carter is a writer and country music lover living in Lebanon, Tennessee. Follow her (mostly southern) regional exploits and stories on Instagram.

Chris Chamberlain is a food, drink, and travel writer based out of his hometown of Nashville. Find him on Twitter @CeeElCee.

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