The Ghosts I've Seen in Middle Tennesee
This summer I've invited authors to share ghost stories on my blog to celebrate the release of my new novel Lost on the Water, A Ghost Story. They've been sharing excerpts from their novels or real encounters they've had. Today, I thought I'd share a couple of my own experiences.
I've witnessed ghosts a handful of times in my life. I don't consider myself a medium or to have any extra-sensory powers, but I have experienced a few things that can't be explained by anything else except paranormal phenomena. Most of my ghost encounters have been since I moved to Tennessee. Not surprising. Everyone says the South is haunted.
When my daughter was about 7 or 8, she came into the living room to find my husband and I watching Ghost Hunters. (Yes, I'm crazy about true ghost stories, if you haven't guessed that yet.) At this impressionable age, she asked, "Mom, are ghosts real?" I looked her in the eyes and lied. "Of course not." Then I explained how fake the show was.
I didn't tell her that the house we'd just moved out of had ghosts in it. They were children, and they were often laughing and playing in our yard.
I didn't tell her that the theater where we did (and still do) most of our shows was haunted. My husband and I had a rehearsal interrupted by one of them wiggling a doorknob to the room we were in and peeking in through the square window.
I didn't tell her that the 150 year old building that used to house the child care center where I work was filled with ghosts who liked to turn on toys, slam doors, and entrance the babies in my care. (No kidding, they all would zone out and stare at the exact same spot in the room and then start smiling or giggling at whatever was up there. We named that ghost Duncan. A woman who now works in that facility recently visited us at our new location and said she has often heard the clicking of heels walking around in the hallways after hours.)
My daughter didn't need to know about ghosts just yet. I wanted her to sleep at night.
The truth is that I do believe in ghosts. Five years ago, for my husband's 50th birthday, we decided to do a 'bucket list' challenge and participate in a real ghost hunt. We signed up for the Ghost Hunt Weekend retreat at the Thomas House hotel in Red Boiling Springs. My husband has family in that area, and has known about the hotel his whole life. This hotel was built in 1890 over some natural hot springs and was once a popular attraction. Even Teddy Roosevelt stayed there once upon a time.
For the ghost hunt, they gather everyone together and told the history of the building and all the ghost stories surrounding it. Then they split us into groups and took us around the property to see if the ghosts would reveal themselves.
In the dining room, they set up so we could hear Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), and we heard voices of a couple children and then a stern man's voice telling them "no" and to not talk to us. Later, in the restaurant area, they had a laser grid shining around the room, and we saw figures running through it. It was after 3:00 in the morning when we finally retired to our room. I still couldn't sleep, because they had told us about the ghost that haunted our particular room. I was certain she was there. It was a fun but nerve-wracking event.
I used the memory of it in a scene in Lost on the Water, A Ghost Story. The setting of this book is less than an hour away from The Thomas House. I have a scene where the boys in town are sharing all the Tennessee legendary ghost stories they know with Dannie. Here's a bit of that scene:
Jasper said that he and his brother spent the night at a hotel up in Red Boiling Springs and did an honest-to-goodness ghost hunt, just like they do on TV. They stayed up all night and listened to the spirits of children talking through EVPs and watched for shadows in the corners. “It was freezing, and you know how they always say places that are haunted are super cold. I couldn’t sleep at all.”
“Yeah,” Brian teased, “but that’s because they said some lady haunts the room we were in and watches people while they sleep.”
“That’s creepy,” Jasper said, defending himself.
“Depends,” Chris said. “Is she a hot ghost?”
I had to ask. “How do they know the hotel is haunted?”
“Lots and lots of deaths there,” Jasper said.
“They don’t call it Red Boiling Springs for nothing,” Brian added.
Lamont tapped me on the shoulder gently and said, “There used to be these hot mineral springs up there. People came from all over the country to soak in them, thinking the hot water would heal them of illnesses. The hotel was built on top of them.”
“And they’re red because of all the blood that spilled into them over the years,” Brian said as dramatically as possible.
“Ooooooh,” Chris added, his hands ﬂying in front of him like he was a blind ghost. I wished he would walk into a tree.
Lost on the Water is not a horror novel despite A Ghost Story being part of the title. It is a contemporary coming-of-age adventure story. There is ghost in the story (more than one depending on your definition of 'ghost'). The novel takes place at a real location, a lake in Tennessee called Center Hill Lake. This lake is vast and winding and surrounded by forest, an easy place to get lost if you're in a rowboat and don't know your way around. It is a popular vacation spot for boating and fishing trips. It is no surprise that there is at least one death per year.
This is also a man-made lake. The Army Corps of Engineers built a dam on the Caney Fork River in 1948. The lake is 62 miles long, with 415 miles of shoreline and covers land in three counties. Apparently, when the lake was created by the dam, the water completely covered some small towns and the cemeteries within them. They say the bodies were exhumed and moved elsewhere, but I've seen Poltergeist and I have my doubts.
At any rate, I found out that there is a Haunted Canoe ride that happens every November. Apparently, they tell you all the scary stories about the lake, and then you go out on the water in canoes and paddle right over one of the old cemeteries just fifteen feet below. Well, it's my 50th birthday at the end of this year, so I think we're going to have to do this canoe trip so my husband and I will be even-Stevens on our ghost encounter birthday trips. I'll let you all know how it goes.
Lost on the Water, A Ghost story is on preorder now and releases everywhere on Tuesday, July 17th. You can find all the links and read another excerpt from it here. If you're a fan of stories like Stephen King's "The Body" (the movie is Stand By Me) or you're looking for a fun summer themed book, give this novel a look.
As always, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or share a haunting experience of your own. You can join my mailing list here. And if you're new to the blog, scroll on down and enjoy the other posts. Thanks for stopping by.
D. G. Driver
Award-winning author of books for teen and tween readers. Learn more about her and her writing at www.dgdriver.com
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