Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Review: Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee

Tennessee has some of the best ghost stories I have ever heard.  As an Alabama girl,  I'm often jealous of the state just North of me.  It is so rich in folklore and ghostly tales that it makes the rest of us look poor.  The Belle Witch alone could and has filled entire books with her witchly horror.This is why I was thrilled to read Christopher K. Coleman's Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.   There are a lot of books about the ghosts of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley.   This book stood apart to me in the way it was laid out.  As a paranormal explorer, I love to travel to and visit the locations I read about in books.  Some collections of ghost stories make this almost impossible to do.  They don't give detailed locations so there is no way to find the haunted location and visit it yourself.  This deficit in so many books makes me sad.  Coleman gives addresses and locations for every haunted spot he describes making this a paranormal tourist's dream.

Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee is more than a guidebook, however.  It is also a fun collection of folklore and Southern superstition.   My favorite chapter is called Mountain Witches.  It traces the origins of Tennessee's mountain witches back to Celtic lands and into the mountains of Tennessee.  It lists many old charms to be used as protections against enchantment.  These might include putting a dime in your shoe, laying a broom across the threshold of your home, and spreading salt around your home.   The book also explores the numerous mysterious monsters and beasties that wander Tennessee.   It discusses my favorite beastie, old green eyes, and many other mysterious creatures.   Ghost and Haunts of Tennessee is a fun collection of ghosts and folklore for any Southerner, especially those of us who live close enough to go find some of Coleman's haunts.

6 comments:

Marbella Jewelry Designs said...

How cool! I'm gonna search for it tommorow since TN is my new home. I've been to the bell witch cave. I did that soon after I moved here. As soon as the weather improves I want to go back. I didn't see or hear anything weird, but my sil said she saw a shadow movement in the cave. I just got claustrophobic in the tight areas. Loretta Lynn's haunted house is not too far from here either and I want to go there this summer.

Jessica Penot said...

I still haven't been to the bell witch's cave. I really need to do that. I hope you enjoy Tennessee!

Bleaux Leaux said...

As many times as I've been to Tennessee, I never properly investigated the Bell Witch site. Do you know if it's accessible?

I couldn't agree more about the the annoying lack of details in some of these books. There's nothing more frustrating than (for example) a great ghost story that begins "Just outside of Richmond, there's a house..." or "In a cemetery north of Bristol"...

Courtney Mroch said...

Bleaux Leaux, I can answer that. There is a Bell Witch Cave that is a tourist attraction, but it is NOT the Bell Witch site. It IS in Adams, TN near where the Bell's homestead was, but the cave was just part of the lore of where people thought the witch "lived." There's no evidence of anything ghostly, just a tourist attraction...that IMO nickles and dimes people just to see a cave.

Jessica, this was a GREAT post. It's interesting to see the state where I live through your eyes. You appreciate it's haunted lore way more than I. (Don't get me wrong, I appreciate it and like it, but how you feel about TN's ghost stories is how I feel about FL's.)

Lewis Powell, IV said...

I just got a copy of this book recently and I used it heavily in my Haunted Tennessee post I just posted. Certainly he has covered a number of hauntings that are not well documented, especially his descriptions of Memphis' Victorian Village.

As for Bell Witch Cave, Troy Taylor is his "Down in the Darkness: The Shadowy History of America's Haunted Mines, Tunnels and Caverns" (Whitechapel Press, 2003), describes a good deal of activity that has been witnessed in and around the cave. While caves tend to distort the senses, there are some occurances that may not be linked to that.

Jessica Penot said...

Lewis...I'm glad you got it and liked it as much as I did and were able to use it.

Courtney... I think I see Tennessee in a better light now. It took me months to get together all the stories for Haunted North Alabama and they weren't always easy to find. Just writing about Chattanooga, TN (not even touching a tenth of the state)I found ten stories in a few days. Maybe TN just makes its ghost stories easier to find, but I think TN is rich with them.