A tourist believes he captured the image of a ghostly woman while visiting Chattanooga over the weekend.
Lewis E. Atchison Jr. and his wife, Valeria, were in Chattanooga for the Head of the Hooch regatta this past weekend. During their stay, they decided to explore the city's haunted past by taking an extended ghost tour with Chattanooga Ghost Tours.
The above photograph was the result.
Atchison snapped the photo during the tour at what is known as the Underground Chattanooga parking deck at 633 Chestnut St. A historical marker at the location recalls the life of G.W. Franklin, a black business owner who lived from 1865 to 1928. Among his establishments was a successful undertaking business, thought to have been located at this address.
For several years, access to below the parking deck was blocked by chain-link fencing. Only recently has the fence been open to allow people inside for those who dare to enter.
Two caged areas thought to have been used as livery stables are still located underneath the street and accessible via the parking deck. According to Chattanooga Ghost Tours owner Amy Petulla, this specific location is more "active" than other locations on the tour. The site has produced several memorable photographs, including this one of what appears to be a little girl in a pink dress.
But Atchison's photo is by far the most convincing, Petulla said.
"We've gotten a lot of photos, but this is the best one," she said. "It's not a double exposure; there's no reflection, no flash. It just looks like a female form."
Hope Holloway, a veteran tour guide with Chattanooga Ghost Tours, was with the Atchisons during their Friday night tour. She said something felt strange from the moment they entered the parking deck area.
"The fence has been open for the past three or four weeks, so we get to go all the way down to the cages now," she said. "From the moment we walked in, the air was statically charged, and all of my guests were saying they had that 'hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-standing-up feeling.'"
Atchison also recalled feeling "that feeling" when he entered the area, but he said in a phone interview that his wife felt the presence of something sooner.
"While we were walking along the sidewalk, she felt uneasy walking along the sidewalk above ground," he said. "She had chill bumps all over her body and the hair on her arms was standing up."
That same feeling didn't hit Atchison until he walked under the parking deck. He recalled the hair on his body standing on end the moment he walked in.
But as an experienced ghost hunter with Scare of Alabama, Atchison said he was used to the uneasy feeling. Instead of fleeing, he felt an urge to explore further. He then proceeded on his own investigation of the premises while Holloway told her stories to the rest of the group.
Alone and near the cages in the back, he watched as his EMF detector spiked with an electrical charge and his thermometer suddenly dropped 15 degrees.
"I started talking aloud and stating my intentions that I was there to help, not to harm or disrespect any of the spiritual presences there," he said. "When I did that, my EMF meter spiked again."
He quickly realized that Holloway had taken the rest of her tour to the other side of the parking garage and that he was on his own.
"I proceeded along the back wall and I walked all the way down to where it turns into brick and stacked stone," he said. "I moved over there, and again, not knowing who was there with me, I declared my intention that I was there simply as an observer."
Atchison then alerted any "spirits present" that he was about to take a couple of photos and that "if anyone would like to participate," he would welcome them to do so. He quickly snapped the photo with his Nikon D60 DSLR—and the results are extraordinary.
"It looks a bit like a woman ... the rugged look of a matron who is in a caring pose," he said.
Atchison also believes that several other figures can be seen in the photo, including a "statesman" with a full mustache and hat and, possibly, a disembodied apron recalling of the former business hanging on the back wall.
Petulla said the photo will be explored by several scientific paranormal investigation groups to determine authenticity, but it's hard not to see a ghostly female form no matter which angle you look at it.
As for his wife, Atchison said she refuses to visit the location again. Shortly after the tour, she noticed what appeared to be two fingerprint-sized bruises on her arm.
"My wife says she'll never go back," he said.
What do you see in the photo?