How to avoid trouble with ghosts in the Smokies

One of our favorite historians, Joseph S. Hall, not only recorded bits of mountain speech and music, he also documented a fair number of Smoky Mountain ghost stories. His 1970 article in the Tennessee Folklore Bulletin offers the following tips on what to do when encountering specters in the Smokies.

For one, avoid the following places and circumstances, as these are common lurking places for ghosts, boogers, and other varieties of “ha’nts”: haunted churches, haunted houses, haunted schoolhouses, graveyards, and dark stretches of road (especially while transporting moonshine).

Smoky Mountain Mystery
How to avoid trouble with ghosts in the Smokies

One of our favorite historians, Joseph S. Hall, not only recorded bits of mountain speech and music, he also documented a fair number of Smoky Mountain ghost stories. His 1970 article in the Tennessee Folklore Bulletin offers the following tips on what to do when encountering specters in the Smokies.

For one, avoid the following places and circumstances, as these are common lurking places for ghosts, boogers, and other varieties of “ha’nts”: haunted churches, haunted houses, haunted schoolhouses, graveyards, and dark stretches of road (especially while transporting moonshine).

If you do have the misfortune of encountering a ghost, Hall’s informants recommend the following. “If you a agree with them, you will be rewarded. But if you argue with them, the results will be fatal,” wrote Hall. In one anecdote, a group of people saw a ghost on one particularly dark night, and several foolishly tried to follow it. The uninformed who disagreed with the ghost “got killed. One old lady tried to follow him, treated him nice, agreed with him, and he led her to a big stump where there was a pot of gold…”

The more elaborate Smoky Mountain ghost stories often involve churches. In one tale, the town mayor and church deacons offer a stranger $500 to spend an entire night in an old dilapidated church that is thought to be haunted. “The windows are broken, cobwebs gather, and weird shapes are thought to be seen when moonlight shines through windows,” Hall wrote. The brave young stranger takes the elders up on their offer.

As the moon rises, spirits of departed brethren, some of them lacerated and bleeding, rise up and terrify the young man. They drift about over the pews, shriek, moan, and rattle chains. Finally, the man is unable to control his fear and breaks for the door, willing to forfeit the prize money for escape from the old church. Heading for the door, he suddenly finds himself surrounded by a ring of howling skeletons from the graveyard. Gathering his wits, the man grabs a couple of the heavy wooden church collection bowls and pushes them in front of the jangling skeletons. “’Here, we’re going to take up a collection,’” says the man to the skeletons. The boney assailants nod and slowly fade away.

The next morning, when the man describes his night in the haunted church to the deacons and community leaders, one of the elders surmises that the haunting is related to the poor condition of the church. To put the spirits to rest, the church must be repaired. The offering bowls are passed throughout the town and the church is restored to its previous glory. Plus the stranger gets his $500.

The End.

Related Posts
  1. The Strange Case of Cades Lake The Strange Case of Cades Lake Depending on who you were and what you stood for, the idea of turning most of Cades Cove into a 50-foot-deep lake—three miles long and two miles wide—was either brilliant or terrible. Pro-lake constituents included National Park Service
  2. Why Some Mountain Children had to Wait an Extra 11 Days for Christmas Why Some Mountain Children had to Wait an Extra 11 Days for Christmas During the early to mid 19th-century, in some remote areas of the Great Smoky Mountains and elsewhere in rural America, Christmas might be celebrated in January, not December. Stranger still, one of the old Christmas traditions was to stay up until m
  3. Are the Smokies the true 'Land of Lincoln?' Are the Smokies the true 'Land of Lincoln?' Both Groundhog Day and Presidents’ Day occur in February. The former can be celebrated in the Smokies by a trip to the Oconaluftee Mountain Farm Museum to check on the activity level of the robust population of groundhogs (aka woodchucks) livin
  4. Premature and Belated Burials Premature and Belated Burials Unfortunately, death was no stranger to the families who once scratched a living from the rocky ground of the Great Smoky Mountains. A trip to any park cemetery will quickly reveal that death struck most families often, and at any age. In those days