Updated: Aug 29, 2018
For the third edition of the Tell-Tale Traveler, I’m going to take you on a strange trip to Nashville, Tennessee and also three locations near Nashville. Plan on spending at least two days in Tennessee because there is so much to do and see! Now, those who know me will tell you, I am no country music fan but I do love Johnny Cash, Chris Stapleton, Willie Nelson and Nashville, Tennessee. For those who haven’t been, a stroll along Broadway is a necessity. I don’t need to tell you where it is, everything country music in Nashville is on Broadway and you might even see some strange things without even looking for them.
I highly recommend that you start your Nashville trip by booking a room at a historical haunted hotel. You actually have two choices when in Nashville: The Hermitage Hotel or The Union Station Hotel. The Hermitage is named for Andrew Jackson’s mansion and sprawling estate about 20 minutes from Downtown Nashville. More on the mansion in a bit. The Hermitage Hotel opened in 1910 and in the years since, guests have reported seeing a young girl on an upper balcony, while others have claimed to see her elsewhere in the hotel. Strange sounds can be heard as well as phantom wailing. The Union Station Hotel was originally a train depot that has now been turned into a beautiful hotel. One story claims a woman, heartbroken over the loss of a love, threw herself on the tracks and that her ghost continues to reenact her death to this day, despite the tracks no longer existing. The other story seems to relate to the great train wreck of 1918. On July 9th of that year, two passenger trains collided head on killing 101 people and injuring another 171. The accident occurred on a single section of track called Dutchman’s Curve. Those killed in the accident, along with the injured were taken to the former Union Station train depot following the accident. Once you have decided on your haunted stay for the evening, head out to the Hermitage Mansion to learn more about the Jackson family and the ghosts that call the mansion home.
The Hermitage Estate been restored to its former beauty thanks to a local historical group. They have even managed to purchase pieces of furniture that are not only period appropriate but actually original to the mansion. Visitors can tour the mansion itself, as well as the Andrew Jackson Visitor Center, which includes a café for lunch, a gift shop and a theater. These changes must unnerve the former President, as it is believed that he is one of the spirits residing in the house, which seems quite likely since he and his wife are buried on the property. The former President has been known to wake overnight guests and even bark orders, as if he is still in charge. Noises have also been heard in the kitchen, as if former servants are still hard at work tending to Jackson’s many orders. Slaves were also kept by Jackson and his wife, and the spirits of those kept in bondage by the Jackson’s have been seen on the balcony of Jackson’s former bedroom and the sounds of chains can be heard on one of the porches. During the Halloween season, the Hermitage hosts ghost tours, hayrides and a Trick or Treat Trail.
After finishing your visit at the Hermitage, head back to downtown Nashville for a little shopping excursion. Your first stop should absolutely be Hail – Dark Aesthetics. This is one of the best little oddity shops that I have ever been too. Inside you can find taxidermy of all shapes and sizes, wet specimens, odd antiques, crystal balls, Ouija Boards, jewelry, pretty much anything for your dark and morbid needs. There is even a Jackalope in the changing room! And if Antiques perk your interest, Nashville is home to Antique Archaeology. You may recognize the name from a little show called American Pickers. The store is located in an old former Marathon Building and they really do have some interesting and unique items. During my visit, I added an early 1900’s bottle of Ephedrine, made by Eli Lilly in Indianapolis, to my curiosity collection. Also, conveniently located next door to Antique Archaeology, is Bang Candy Company. They sell chocolates, candies, flavored syrups (the kind you can use in cocktails or coffee) and the most amazing handmade, hand-dipped marshmallows ever! And the flavors are so unique. I quite fancy the rose cardamom marshmallow but I’ve been told the Maple Bacon Bourbon is quite good as well. Depending on what time of year you take your strange trip to Nashville, Bang Candy Company also offers seasonal marshmallow flavors.
Now that you’ve had your sugar fix and are probably hoarding more back at the hotel, you should be ready to take a Haunted Nashville Tour with Amerighost. They are a company that does Ghost Tours in Nashville, as well as Washington D.C. and Louisville. These tours have to be booked in advance but it’s well worth it to learn the haunted history of Nashville. I attended the Haunted Downtown Nashville Tour, which was led by a guide dressed in period clothing. Fun fact: The Ryman Auditorium is haunted and you might even make a stop at your hotel while on the tour. Amerighost also offers Haunted Tavern tours and Hearse tours.
It’s about time for you to make your way to Broadway to take in everything that is Nashville, grab a bite to eat and visit a local watering hole. On your way there, stop at the Stillery on 2nd Avenue for burgers, brick oven pizza and cocktails served in mason jars. The baked cheese is so good and they serve it with a pesto bread. On the cocktail front, it’s a toss-up between Cor-Basil, which is basically just gin, basil and simple syrup or the Blueberry Smash, which is exactly what it sounds like, blueberry vodka, smashed blueberries and a simple syrup. Just perfect southern cocktails.
Next, take a stroll down Broadway to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Trust me, you won’t miss it. The building is actually purple. Tootsie’s is a well-known Honky-Tonk and has hosted country music royalty throughout the years. Tootsie’s is a large multi-story venue allowing more than one band to play at once. If you are brave enough to venture inside Tootsie’s, be prepared for a packed house, as it is one of the most popular spots on Broadway.
If you make it through the night at your haunted hotel, wake up, have a marshmallow and get ready to bid Nashville adieu because you’re heading North but not before grabbing a bite to eat, of course. Begin your second day in Tennessee with a stop at BB King’s Blues Club for lunch. The restaurant is tucked away on a side street not far from Broadway. While this may not sound like a typical stop for a strange road trip, the artwork and décor of the restaurant is so kitschy cute but with a Southern flair and there are caricatures of several musicians hanging throughout the restaurant. The food matches the southern side of the décor and it’s really good. I highly recommend the tomato soup with a chunk of sourdough bread floating in the middle of the bowl. On certain days, Jazz and Blues bands perform and what better way to end your Nashville stay than with live music, and perhaps a cocktail, made with what else, but Tennessee Whisky.
This next stop may seem a little morbid to some, while others may wish to pay their respects with a visit to the graves of Johnny Cash and his wife, June Carter-Cash. Thirty minutes Northwest of Nashville is the Hendersonville Memory Gardens located in Hendersonville, Tennessee. The graves are located atop a small hill with other notable musicians of the early days of country music. Music fans of all genres visit the graves leaving items, almost as an offering to Johnny and June. On each of my two visits, I’ve seen cigarettes, change, pictures, and flowers. I tend to leave black roses for the Man in Black.
For your final strange stop of your road trip of Tennessee, you’ll be heading an hour North to rural Adams, Tennessee. The home of the Bell Witch Cave and one of America’s earliest hauntings. The story began in 1817 when one of the Bell children is believed to have found a tooth, thought to belong to a recently deceased member of a local Native American tribe. Not long after finding the tooth, it was dropped inside the Bell home, falling between the floor planks. This event would signal the beginning of the Bell Witch haunting. As we were told on our tour, the Bell’s would soon be visited by the ghost of a woman, claiming to be “Old” Kate Batts, a nearby Bell neighbor and presumed witch. The only kvetch, Kate Batts was not dead but very much alive. The apparition would claim to be other people including the owner of the lost tooth, angry that her final resting place had been disturbed. She would also change forms, becoming dogs or birds, chains and scratching could be heard and the Bell children would be scratched and have their hair pulled. The Bell Witch focused much of her havoc on John Bell, calling him “Old Jack” and one Bell child, Betsey. The Witch did seem to take a liking to Mrs. Bell and would bring her fresh fruits from time to time. After sometime, John Bell would fall ill, requiring medicine for his condition. It is said that the Bell Witch turned his medicine black, poisoning John. She would let the family know afterward, that she was responsible for John’s death. The witch would then announce her plan to leave but promised to return in 1821, which she did. The family chose to ignore her behavior and she soon left the house again. Now you may wonder, what does a cave have to do with all of this? Well, the cave is actually located on the former Bell family property and it is claimed that upon leaving the Bell home, the witch fled to the safety of the cave and resides there to this day. The cave is made especially creepy by its location next to the Red River and below a bluff that formerly contained the graves of a local Native American tribe. The cave is roughly 500 feet long and contains some interesting formations: one that actually looks like a witch. There is also a stone grave that once contained the skeleton of a Native American child but vandals stole the child sometime ago, leading the owners to add a gate to the entrance of the cave. Lastly, it is believed that in one of the tighter sections of the cave, is a vortex, allowing spirits to enter our world with ease. For those interested in exploring the cave, tours are given four days a week and include a presentation regarding the Bell Witch haunting. I can only make one suggestion before you go, DO NOT STEAL A ROCK FROM THE CAVE! Some people may be tempted to question the Bell Witch myth by removing a souvenir from her cave. Just don’t! People have long reported that after removing a rock from the cave, they have been cursed by bad luck, to put it mildly. For the privacy of those involved, I will just say, that I am familiar with two people who took rocks and though I hate to use the term cursed, they may just want to return those rocks, perhaps by mail, as has been done before according to the Owners of the Bell Witch Cave.
I hope you enjoyed this edition of the Tell-Tale Traveler and that you soon find yourself hitting the road for Tennessee.
Tell-Tale Traveler Strange Nashville, Tennessee Itinerary
3) Hermitage Plantation - 4580 Rachels Ln, Hermitage, TN 37076 – Hours: Monday through Sunday 8:30am to 5:00 pm- www.thehermitage.com
7) Amerighost Haunted Tours – (888) 844-3999
Haunted Nashville Walking Tours –Sunday through Friday 8:00 pm, Saturday 8:00pm & 9:00pm – Cost: $17.00 Adult (Ages 12 & up), $ 10.00 Child (Ages 7-11), FREE Child (Ages 6 & under)
Haunted Tavern Walking Tours - Sunday-Saturday 6:00pm - Cost: $17.00 Adults (21 & up only)
Nashville Hearse Tours - Sunday through Saturday 8:00pm & 9:30pm – Cost - $25.00 Adult (Ages 12 & up), $15.00 Child (Ages 7-11