Haunted Tennessee Blog Series – Colleges

Colleges in Tennessee have histories that are filled with stories of love lost and loving faculty members. Here are some favorite local legends attached to a colleges across Tennessee:

Athens, Tennessee
Wesleyan College – Two Trees

On the campus of Wesleyan College in Athens, Tennessee stands one Oak Tree and one Hackberry tree. Local stories indicate that the trees grew together instead of a part due to a beautiful love story gone wrong.

In 1780, Nocatula, the daughter of a Cherokee chief, fell in in love with a wounded English soldier the tribe had named Conestoga, meaning Oak. Nocatula nursed Conestoga back to health and the two fell in love. Their Union was blessed by Nocatula’s father, Atta-kulla-kulla. Unfortunately, their love upset Nocatula’s previous suitor named Mocking Crow. Mocking Crow killed Conestoga during a hunt. In despair, Nocatula killed herself once she discovered Conestoga was dead. Nocatula’s father ordered the two to be buried together. He placed an acorn in Conestoga’s right hand and a hackberry seed in Nocatula’s. The next year, the two trees sprouted and began to grow.

The trees grew on the campus until 1945 when the hackberry elm began to die and had to be removed. As the lovers in the story, the two trees could not survive without one another. Five years later, the oak tree was dead and removed.

In 1957, two trees were planted in the location of the others, along with a historical marker retelling the story of Nocatula and Conestoga. Local legend says that you can hear the two whispering and making strange noises. Shadows can also be seen near the trees, resembling two people holding hands.

Clarksville, Tennessee
Austin Peay State University – Trahern Theatre

The Trahern Theatre has a ghost presence that has been affectionately named “Margaret.” Local stories indicate that Margaret was a young student at the university that took her own life after a romance gone wrong. Students and facility have said that Margaret enjoys riding the elevators, locking doors, banging lockers and calling to those that remain late at night in the theatre.

Greeneville, Tennessee
Tusculum College – Doak House and Katherine Hall

Tusculum College, the oldest college in the state of Tennessee, has many stories to tell.

The Doak House is a historical landmark located on the outskirts of the campus. Originally built by Reverend Samuel Witherspoon Doak in 1830, the house served as a home for the Doak family, the founders of Tusculum College. Now the house is a museum or historical artifacts. It is operated by the Department of Museum Program and Studies at Tusculum College. Local legend says that an organ or piano can sometimes be heard being played upstairs. This occurs when there is no one upstairs. Some speculate it is Reverend Samuel Witherspoon Doak trying to communicate with the living.

Katherine Hall is a largest dormitory on Tusculum’s campus. Built in 1962 and renovated in 1999, Katherine Hall is three stories tall and can house 140 students. Local legend says that while attending Tusculum, a young girl gave birth to a baby in Katherine Hall. The house mother took the child from the girl. According to legend, the young mother took her child back, only to discover the child was dead. In fit of rage, the young girl killed the house mother then took her own life. The baby is rumored to be buried behind the hall. At night, students say they hear a baby crying behind the building. Sometimes, students claim to have heard a woman crying, looking for her child.

Harrogate, Tennessee
Lincoln Memorial University – Grant-Lee Hall and the LP Dorm

Lincoln Memorial University was built where the Four Seasons Hotel stood in the 1800’s. A sanitarium was on the property as well. In the late 1800’s, a fire broke out in the sanitarium, burning the building to the ground. Local stories say that all survived the fire except for a woman in a red dress and her child, both of which were on the fourth floor and unable to escape.

In the early 1900’s, the Grant-Lee Hall was built on the orginal location of the sanitarium. Part of the building was constructed using the remaining blocks from the sanitarium. In the 1960’s, the building caught fire again and burnt to the ground. Local legend says that a woman in red was standing in the fourth floor window, crying for help when the building burnt, but no human remains were recovered.  Students report on a regular basis sounds of someone pacing the stairs going to the fourth floor, seeing a woman in the fourth floor window in a red dress and a woman running through the building looking for her child.

The LP Dorm also has a reported supernatural aspect. A foreign exchange student was living in the LP Dorm on the Lincoln Memorial University campus when he experienced his encounter with the unknown. The student reported being awoken by someone holding him down to his bed. When he opened his eyes, there was no one there, but the force holding him down would not let go. The force spoke in very rapid English, which the foreign exchange student was unable to understand.

Johnson City, Tennessee
East Tennessee State University – Gilbreath Hall and Burleson Hall

East Tennessee State University is said to have numerous spirits lurking, watching and protecting the campus. Here are two that are very active:

East Tennessee State University has a particular spirit that does not want to leave. Sidney Gilbreath, founder and first president of ETSU, was known throughout the community as Uncle Sid. Uncle Sid was a very active participant in the school. He picked the location of Gilbreath Hall by walking to the edge of a rolling field and jamming a wooden stake in the ground.

Gilbreath Hall is the current home of the Computer Science, Math and Drama departments for ETSU. Uncle Sid ensures these departments do not harm the building he worked hard to build. Uncle Sid is known for shutting windows that were left open by mistake late at night, closing doors and windows before a thunderstorm, shutting off water that is running for too long and walking through the crawlspace above the building. Uncle Sid has also been heard telling students to get to class and has been seen through the windows late at night by students.

Burlson Hall, another building at ETSU, is said to be haunted by Christina Burleson. Miss Burleson began teaching at East Tennessee State University in 1925 and taught until her death in 1967. She focused heavily on teaching aspects of Shakespeare. She committed suicide in 1967. Some say it was because she had been diagnosed with a debilitating disease and struggled with the idea of being a burden to those around her. Others suggest it was due to an unrequited love with a novelist. Whatever the actual reason, she is said to haunt the hall that bears her name. Some say she has possessed a portrait of her father, whom of which was also a professor at ETSU. Others say she follows students in the halls. Some students and faculty report cold spots and a feeling of a presence of someone walking with them in the building, even if they are alone.

East Tennessee State University – Burlson Hall

Knoxville, Tennessee
University of Tennessee Knoxville – Strong Hall

The ghost of Strong Hall is one of the most recognized spirits at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus.

Sophie Strong was born Sophronia in 1817. In 1833, Sophie married a doctor from Knoxville, Tennessee by the name of Joseph C. Strong. Dr. Strong and Sophie built a beautiful brick house in Knoxville, on the current location of Strong Hall. Sophie gave birth to twelve children in that brick house. She died at the age of fifty in 1867. Her son, Benjamin, willed the property to the University of Tennessee on the conditions that the flower garden be maintained and the property would always be a women’s residence hall.

Local legend and residents of the hall say Sophie never left the grounds. Sophie is said to act like a mother to all students that enter Strong Hall. She also enjoys tricking students by locking them in bathrooms or out of their dorms. Students also report seeing eerie orbs of light in the hallways. Sophie does not, however, like arguments, disagreements or unladylike behavior. Students have reported seeing Sophie with her hands on hips, glaring in dissatisfaction when arguments reach a high enough point.

Do you have a spooky story from your college days? Share it with us!

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