Whether you believe ghosts exist or not, there's no denying they have an impact on your existence. Tales of ghosts have fascinated and frightened listeners for centuries.
Here are three tales of local ghosts, stories that stem from actual events - a ghost train, a haunted cabin and and spooked valley. Don't read these alone. Nighty night.
Ghost train haunts Ghoul's Hill
By MIKE WILLIAMS
In the tradition of some pagan belief systems that ward off evil spirits upon All Hallow's Eve, people now come together to share their grizzly tales of spirits gone mad or man turned demonite on the fleeting day of October. I lay no claim to the tales that were spawned years ago, however, I do confess to possessing a morbid interest in the spinning of such yarns about the specters and their victims as much as the next red-blooded American. Give me a folk-tale chock full of decapitations, disembowelments, dismemberments and floating apparitions and I'll remain content for hours considering the possible reactions that might have been elicited from me in the same situation.
As it is now my turn to hold the candle, I do indeed have a story that needs ears. The tale came to me first hand and I have no doubt of the gentleman's honesty and sincerity. He has asked that his name be kept waxed, but has encouraged me to relay the event as often as I like, providing that it is told not for pure entertainment, but also as a warning.
As it is All Hallow's Eve and many of you will be taking the valley road home some hours from now, I feel it fitting for me to tell you his tale, for not only will it entertain us a bit, it may save a life or two this evening.
The man I am speaking of brought me his story five years ago, saying that he had kept all of the events an unspoken secret between him and a friend, who was also present, since the eerie day occurred more than a decade ago.
The two friends, who were but teenagers at the time, were driving home, well, only one of them was actually driving, on Burem Road one pre-dawn February morning. As they rounded the corner that tops Ghoul's Hill, they could see the train coming down the tracks that run parallel to the valley road for a piece, then bisect it at the foot of the hill.
"You've got to feel this!" the driver cried as he gassed the truck.
"What?" the other asked.
"What?" the other asked again.
"Standing a few feet away from the tracks while the train goes screaming by! It's a rush like nothing else can give you."
The driver whipped the truck into a wide-spot in the road near the tracks just as the crossing lights began to flash. The pair leapt out and dashed through the loose gravel along the tracks. The whistle of the train blew and the steel rumbling shattered the otherwise silent night.
The boys looked down the track for the headlamp they had just witnessed seconds ago. It was gone like a candle extinguished by a rain droplet. The crossing lights ceased and the night was quiet.
The second boy lay his hand on the iron track. There were no vibrations to imply there was a train in the vicinity and the metal was like ice, proving that no locomotive had just passed.
The two looked to one another perplexed.
The driver climbed into the truck and steered it onto the tracks, pointing the headlights in the direction they had seen the train coming.
Nothing was there for as far as the light exposed, which on this straightway was quite far. He repeated the procedure in the other direction with the same result.
The boys shivered and looked to one another.
"Weird," said the second one.
"Uh huh," the other vaguely mumbled.
Silently they got back in the truck and headed for home. They did not discuss what they had seen, rather, what they had not seen, with one another for several years. They simply tried to forget the whole incident.
A few years later the two friends were swapping ghost stories with some friends when one young lass told about a mysterious ghost train that haunted Ghoul's Hill. "Have you heard of it?" she asked.
"No," the first friend said, shooting a knowing glance to the other witness. "Why don't you tell us about it?"
Over the course of the next few years the two friends heard numerous other tales about the ghost train. Each of the stories was a little different from the one before it, told by folks from all walks of life. Some were fantastic farces involving UFOs and cattle mutilations, others were simply creations of too much time at a barstool. Some dispelled the tale as myth, citing the fact there are a couple of lights near the track that could have been mistaken for the lamp of a train. Of course, those explanations did not address the flashing crossing lights, the piercing whistle or the rumbling of a locomotive engine the boys had seen and heard.
There have been numerous deaths on Hawkins County's tracks in the past century. Some were simply the result of carelessness while others were freak accidents. None, however, has been attributed to a "ghost train."
But, be wary of lingering by the tracks at Ghoul's Hill. You can never know if the old iron horse is actually made of metal or mist and nobody knows which one is more deadly.
Couple haunts home where they were killed
By MICHAEL FROST
For centuries, controversial stories of ghosts returning from the dead and appearing before the living have been passed down through generations.
It has long been told of a rural log home on Longs Bend Road haunted by the apparitions of a young couple mysteriously killed there nearly 20 years ago.
As reported in The Rogersville Review in July, 1981, Andrew and Pamela Harrison were natives of Pennsylvania and had moved to Surgoinsville in the late 70s. They were remodeling the log home where their lives were abruptly ended one day by a "coldhearted killer."
It was late one Tuesday evening during the summer of 1981 when Andy was seen walking the streets of the neighborhood calling for his wife, who had mysteriously disappeared.
That night, a neighbor reported seeing Andy walking up the road with a stranger. Andy called to the neighbors from the road and asked them if they had seen his wife, Pam.
"No," the neighbor replied.
"Well, I guess she's among the missing," Andy said.
That was the last time Andy was seen - at least the last time he was seen alive.
Andy, age 28, was employed as a driver for Pepsi-Cola Company in Johnson City. Pam, age 27, worked for a Kingsport Holiday Inn.
After that evening, neither Andy nor Pam showed up for work the following days.
By Friday, Pam's worried fellow employees contacted the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and FBI agents were sent to the Harrison home.
Near midnight on that Friday, an agent approaching the house found the outside door padlocked and the residence seemingly undisturbed. It is reported the agent "noted an odor of death."
Suspecting foul play, the agent forced his way into the home - and there he found the body of Andy Harrison lying on the floor behind the front door of the house. He had died from a single shot to the head. His body was covered with clothing, some still on hangers.
Just as Andy had fruitlessly searched for his missing wife, investigators found no trace of Pam.
Detectives scrambled to find her in hopes to uncover a motive for this bizarre killing.
The next morning, a first-shift officer reported to duty at the crime scene. As he walked around the house, he noticed a five by ten concrete septic tank which had never been used for its intended purpose. Inside, he made a gruesome discovery. Stuffed in the dry cistern was the body of Pam Harrison wrapped in a blanket. She had been shot in the head.
Investigators worked round the clock trying to find answers, interviewing persons associated with the Harrisons and hoping the case would simplify itself.
Even though a suspect was arrested in the double killing, reports indicate he was never convicted of murder.
Several local folks recall the disturbing story of the Harrison deaths and the mystery that surrounds the incident - but it is the story of a local woman's late-night experience outside the cabin that makes the tale even more intriguing.
As reported in The Rogersville Review in an October 1984 issue, Janie Rimer saw what she believes was the ghost of Andrew Harrison late one summer night while walking along Longs Bend Road.
The ghost appeared not to frighten Ms. Rimer, but to send her a message.
It was a little after 10 p.m. one July night in 1984 when Ms. Rimer, who lived with her husband near the Harrison home, was taking a walk with her two daughters, a grandchild and a neighbor's child.
Enjoying the warm night air as they casually strolled along together, they neared the log cabin that had once been the Harrisons' home.
The cabin had stood empty since the killings. There had been no inhabitants and no electricity. Yet, that night, as Ms. Rimer and her daughters neared the cabin, they noticed a small, glowing light radiating from inside the cabin.
Startled, the women and children watched as the light expanded until the house was a brilliant, incredible glow, a sharp contrast against the black night.
They stood and watched, shocked and stunned. Just as they started to hurry away, Ms. Rimer saw a figure of a man on the front porch.
The man stood there quietly, watching and waiting. He was wearing a Pepsi-Cola company uniform.
Ms. Rimer recognized the man as Andy, dressed as he had been the night she last saw him - the night he was shot and killed.
She was not afraid, but yet she was unable to speak.
Suddenly, one of the girls screamed, the light faded and the figure of Andrew Harrison disappeared. The house was once again dark and still.
Several families have lived in the house since the reports of the killings and the stories of the ghost sighting.
It is said that one family who lived there in the late 80s experienced strange events in the house, one such event being a mysterious self-burning fire in the wood stove. Flames would suddenly ignite and the fire seemed to stoke itself, the prior owners have told.
It is said that another person who lived in the house reports seeing Pamela's reflection in bath water.
The current owner of the house, Jane Turner, reports hearing footsteps through the hall at night and has noticed that her cat often hides in fear beneath the bed. Turner says doors often slam by themselves. The blood stain on the floor where Andy was found shows through, even though it has been covered with plywood, tar paper and oak flooring, she said.
As for Mr. and Ms. Rimer, they have moved away from the area.
Ms. Rimer said at the time, she wanted badly to speak to Andy that night, and she felt he wanted to speak to her. She said she believed Andy had something to say.
Perhaps he appeared to thank her and let her know she had done all that she could. After all, she had been a key witness for the state in the trials where the accused killer had been acquitted.
The Haunting of Sulpher Springs Valley
By RODNEY FERRELL
Some people believe in ghosts and some don't. The old folks believed. Many of us grew up hearing them spin true tales of long-ago happenings and strange events. Elders told many ghostly tales that originated from Sulpher Springs Valley - and many witnesses to these tales still survive to prove their validity.
There is a mountain valley in Hawkins County where it is believed spirits of ancient Indian warriors protect their dead. It is a place where supernatural lights warned of tragic events to come, where a ghost horse was heard trotting behind a wayward traveler - and where there have been numerous sightings of a headless specter, believed to be the ghost of a soldier long-since dead.
Sulpher Springs Valley lies between Rogersville and Pressmen's home just off Highway 70. Settlers began to come into that area in the early 1800s, although the woodland Indians occupied the valley for hundreds of years. There is a large Indian burial ground located on the Stone Mountain above the valley.
Over the years, many people have tried to dig in the graves in search of two alleged treasures - but no one has ever succeeded.
When a grave robber would dig so far, he would hear the horses coming down the mountain and the sounds of tree and rocks falling. Old-timers swore that the burial ground was protected by the spirits of Indian warriors.
Even today, those who hike up the mountain can see the distinguished site by the twisted trees and empty holes. At night, strange lights can be seen in the area.
Over the years, valley residents have reported seeing the unexplained lights floating along the paths that wind through the dense woods.
Will Helton was a young man growing up in Sulpher Springs. Walking home from work one night, young Will was confronted by an unusual presence.
Will said a light the size of a basketball came out the Shepherds Cemetery and followed him all the way to the end of the road until it disappeared. The light resembled a small moon and appeared just before a tragic event... two days later, Will's mother died.
Dee Stills lived in the valley in the early 1930s. Coming home from a revival at a nearby church one night, he was just inside the hollow when he heard a horse and rider approaching. Horses were commonplace them. As he heard it drawing closer and closer, he felt it was right behind him. He stepped out of the path to let it pass, but when he turned around, there was nothing there. Many people back then reported hearing the sounds of the horse's clip clopping through the valley. As automobiles became more prevalent, the reports became fewer and fewer.
The most frightening tale from the valley passed down over the years was first told by Charlie Baker, who swore that stories of the headless ghost of Sulpher Springs Valley were true.
And he was not the only one who believed.
Many people over the years reported seeing the ghost. Charlie said the ghost always walked the same route - out of the woods near Spires Chapel Church and into the road - and then disappeared into Shepherd's Cemetery.
The headless man wore what resembled a tattered Confederate Uniform.
Sulpher Springs Valley was the sight of many skirmishes during the Civil War and anyone living in the valley at the time suffered great difficulties. As the story goes, a young Confederate soldier was returning home to his dying mother when he was ambushed by renegade Union soldiers. The robbed him and cut his head off with his own sword. His body was thrown into a ditch and his head was thrown into a well. The grief stricken mother died a few days late and she was buried in Shepherd's Cemetery.
In 1942, Jesse Helton was digging an irrigation ditch in front the Spires Chapel Church. Just as he neared the edge of the creek, the ground gave way revealing an old well. This was the exact site from which the headless ghost would begin his night journey.
Kate Helton lived in front of the church for more than 40 years. Early one morning about 3 a.m., she stood in the doorway waiting for her son to return home from a date. While looking out on the dark hills of the valley, she too saw the ghost walking from the site of the well and to the cemetery.
After the old well was discovered it was soon filled up with dirt and fewer sightings of the headless soldier were reported.
Mr. Baker said the soldier's body was buried next to his mother's in the cemetery. Perhaps the soldier finally found his mother and now rests in peace.
Or perhaps he stills walk the moonlit hills and roadways on his way from the site of his death to his final resting place.