One of my most recent odd jobs that I’ve taken for some extra cash is that of ghost tour guide with Chattanooga Ghost Tours. My job is to be both a spinner of scary yarns and a historian while at the same time entertaining both young and old. It’s not as easy as it sounds. There are enough ghost stories in Chattanooga to fill an entire day's worth of storytelling, but here is a sampling of a few I might tell on a given night. Of course, the stories are much more terrifying when heard live in front of a talented storyteller ... ahem.
If you like your ghosts bloody and old, then the Chickamauga Battlefield near Ft. Oglethorpe in Georgia is the place to go. Even during the day, the fields can be creepy. I think it has something to do with the stillness of the atmosphere and the knowledge of how many people died at this location—the Battle of Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle during the Civil War. We rarely mention the battlefield on the downtown walking tour, but we hear constantly of people’s visits to the historic site and the eerie feeling of death that shrouds the place. There is one ghost that is often referred to as “Old Green Eyes” that many believe is either a terrifying monster or the ghost of a dead soldier. The most frightening aspect of this legend is that the apparition appears as just a floating, body-less head.
Confederate Cemetery (between East Fifth and East Third streets)
The Confederate Cemetery near UTC’s campus is the site of our “Ghost Hunt,” which features, among other things, the talking Ovilus X ghost-voice generator. Walking through this historic cemetery alone at night is about the scariest thing you could do downtown (with the exception of a midnight stroll through East Lake Courts). During the early years of the Civil War, Chattanooga became a sort of epicenter for hospitals (the most famous being the Crutchfield House, which later became the Sheraton Read House hotel and haunted ghost palace). Unfortunately, many of those soldier patients died and were buried in hastily constructed graves. Throughout much of the early part of the 20th century, the site of the Confederate Cemetery was forgotten and became unkempt and dilapidated. Finally, in 1992, Mayor Gene Roberts started an initiative to renovate the cemetery, which also involved digging up many of the graves and moving the bodies. A walk through the grounds today is both a history lesson and a terrifying reminder of the many lives that were lost so that we could be here today. Also, there are ghosts. So many ghosts.
Thomas Lattner's house
Another relic of the Civil War that no longer exists, the Thomas Lattner house once stood just to the right of the Walnut Street Bridge on the south side. It was considered to be Chattanooga’s first frame house at the time of its construction in the mid-1800s. When the Civil War broke out, the owner, Mr. Lattner, was forced to fight, and his wife had to flee to a safer location. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant himself saw the house and loved it so much that he made it his semi-permanent residence during many of the local tussles against the Confederacy. While he was occupying the house, he was forced to execute a night guard for falling asleep on the job. It is said to this day that late at night you can still hear the hurried clicking of the guard’s shoes as he continues to guard what are now extremely expensive condominiums.
The Delta Queen riverboat was haunted long before it became a part of Chattanooga’s scenic waterfront. It is said that the first female captain, Captain Mary “Ma” Greene, was such a wonderful hostess during her lifetime that she continues to serve that role after her death. Many a traveler on the Delta Queen has reported seeing the face of an elderly woman peering into room 109 from the outside. They also report hearing knocking sounds on the walls. Most guests think nothing of the face they saw until they pass a series of portraits hanging in the hallway on the second deck. Imagine their surprise when they recognize the same face from outside their window in a portrait of a woman who has been dead since 1948!
The Suck Creek giant death fish
Not a ghost, per se, but still scary nevertheless, the Cherokee Indians called it “Dawka.” Down around the area at the foot of Signal Mountain on this side is a place called Suck Creek. No, it wasn’t given its name because of boredom OR because it’s a common location to find prostitutes at work. It’s actually a whirlpool that creates “the suck” that caused two ships to capsize within a week of each other in 1973. Not only does the suck literally suck, but it’s also rumored to hold the souls of everyone who has died there. Oh, and also a giant “fish” that spans 20 to 25 feet long with a head like a rabid dog and a fin in the middle of its back. Eat your heart out, Sasquatch. It’s been several (like over a hundred) years since we’ve heard of it, but people still talk about seeing the giant fish after several 40-ounce cans of malt liquor.