Clarksville Ghost Stories: True Crimes, Legends and Eyewitness Tales of the Unexplained


CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLENOW) – Melissa Arrington, assistant instructor in the APSU Department of Communication, was always drawn to ghost stories when she was young.

“I have always believed that there is more to this world than we will ever know or understand, and you should always keep an open mind,” Arrington told Clarksville Now.

The line between speculation and reality is blurred when it comes to the paranormal, but many locals said they felt a presence that was not of this world.

Austin Peay campus in the fall

The hauntings of Austin Peay

Austin Peay State University has hosted several supernatural tales over the years. One of the most notable is where famous paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren visited campus to give a seminar over a decade ago and felt overwhelmed while visiting the lower level of the Woodward Library. .

Arrington cited documents where Warren said he saw visions of wounded soldiers.

“During the Civil War, Austin Peay was at a place called Stewart College, and in the area roughly where the library is located was a dormitory called Stewart Hall. Just before Union troops reached Clarksville, they evacuated Stewart College and used the dormitories as field hospitals for soldiers, ”Arrington told Clarksville Now.

All the energy of this anguished story seems to live in the basement, exactly where Warren felt overwhelmed.

“There are a lot of stories about things going on in the library basement,” Arrington said. “Lorraine went down to the basement of the library and she actually couldn’t stay there because she could smell, see and hear Civil War soldiers who had died, or at the very least, had suffered a lot. when they were there. ”

David Johnson has been working in the library printing services business where these bizarre events have been happening for over 30 years.

“Very early in the morning before anyone got here, I heard someone say ‘hello.’ I thought I left the door open, but when I went to check out the door was still locked and it wasn’t. there was no one inside.

Johnson told Clarksville Now that he never stays after dark and doesn’t like being alone in the area.

“We had the death of a library manager, and he was an older guy and a heavy smoker. One day the funeral home asked me to do the funeral schedule, and I smelled like cigarette smoke the whole time I was doing it, ”Johnson said.

In 2019, Arrington completed his final thesis project in the form of a documentary on Strange Campus Events. She explored Harned Hall, where in the 1920s a girl committed suicide.

Arrington recalls that when she tried to download the video she and her team took from Harned’s attic, random parts of the SD card got corrupted.

“It was just that section of the attic, and I haven’t yet found anyone who can really explain it because so far everyone I’ve spoken to has said that if the SD card is corrupted, it should actually be the entire SD card, ”Arrington continued.

Arrington also said she heard what sounded like people walking around the building after everyone had already returned home. In another case, one of Arrington’s teammates, Ashley, was walking around and talking with one of the camera guys behind her, only to turn around and find he wasn’t there.

He was a floor below her.

The third floor of the Trahern building would house a spirit named Margaret. Arrington said some of the quirks people attribute to his presence are elevators that move on their own and random noises, among others.

William Parker, a historical interpreter for Parks and Recreation, told Clarksville Now that he thinks Trahern is the most haunted building on campus.

The witch with the bells

“One of the big stories in this area is the Witch’s Bell’s Cave,” Arrington said. “There have been Witch Bell movies, and not everyone agrees what caused Witch Bell, if she was even real, or if it was hysteria.”

Legends have surrounded Adams, a small town outside of Clarksville, since the 1800s regarding the supernatural being known as Bell Witch, who some know as Kate.

Abigail Brown said her great-great-grandfather, John, had ties to the community and knew the Bell family. Brown’s grandfather Joe said his grandmother told John the stories of Bell Witch throughout his childhood and urged him to take the tradition seriously.

“Her mother was born in 1851 so she would have known people who were alive and witnesses to what happened. John was a pious man, did not drink, worked as the state agricultural commissioner, and was very serious. So the fact that he always took the ghost story to heart was interesting, ”Brown told Clarksville Now.

“My grandfather was a little obscure about his own feelings towards the witch, but I know his faith has a lot of room for the supernatural, and I think that’s what he believed it was: an evil spirit, ”Brown said.

“He was taught not to play with it growing up and he taught his daughters to do the same – my mom taught me too. So I guess if you had to sum it up, my family is four generations of people who never want to play with Kate, ”she continued.

Speculation has always revolved around the cave and its paranormal events. Many locals have heard that if they took anything from the cave – even a rock – they would be cursed. People who took items from the cave even said they woke up to find the item in a different location, or with scratches on its body.

Every fall for the past 19 years, there has been a play written by David Alford that tells the story of Witch Bell right where it happened.

Smith-Trahern Manor

The mansion was built in 1858 on the corner of Spring and McClure streets, by Christopher Smith for his wife Lucy. Christopher was a riverboat captain and had also made his fortune growing tobacco, according to Debbie Johnson, the manager of the mansion.

The house in his apartment building included what is known as a Widow’s Walk, a small balcony on the top floor of the house that was a frequent feature of homes of the time.

The Widow’s Walk was mostly found in coastal homes where women could watch for the return of their husbands from the sea. The Widow’s Walk at Trahern Mansion was built so that Lucy had a view of the river and could watch Christopher as he walked home.

Christopher died on a river trip to New Orleans from yellow fever in 1865, just seven years after the mansion was built. When the ship’s crew returned her body to their family, their ship sank, killing approximately 1,200 people. Christopher’s body was lost at sea.

When news reached Lucy, she refused to accept his death, and it is said that she spent the rest of her life walking alone in the mansion, on the widow’s promenade while waiting for her husband who did never came back.

Arrington told Clarksville Now that Christopher was not the only one present on the ship, but also his father.

Some visitors have claimed to have seen a flowing white figure, believed to be Lucy’s tormented spirit, looking out the upper windows and walking in the Widow’s Footsteps.

The Bellamy cave murders and the plaza hauntings

Bellamy’s Cave, located in the Woodlawn region, once held horrific secrets. On June 20, 1885, William Morrow was hanged in what is now the public square for the murder of Dick Overton in 1883.

Bellamy’s cave was located on Morrow’s property, and it was his brother-in-law who found Overton’s body, according to the Memphis Daily Archive.

Morrow had confessed to his friends that he murdered Overton, and he was taken into custody shortly after the body was found. There was an area known as “Hell’s Hole” which was a deep ditch inside the cave where he dumped Overton’s body.

According to an archived Memphis Daily Archive article, Bill confessed to the murder of two blacks, but the public believed he was being used as a scapegoat by his father, Ransom Morrow, and his brother-in-law, Dr Bellamy, due to his lack of intelligence.

Morrow was already facing a life sentence for the murder of another black in 1878, Jim Brown. Morrow claimed in his final confession that Brown and Overton both tried to rape his loved ones, and that’s why he murdered them.

The parks and recreation offices are seated in the public plaza, and Parker told Clarksville Now that many employees felt the building was haunted. He even noted that on the side of the building he can see where the brick is new and where he thinks the gallows once was.

Parker said there were even more stories to be told in the public square and the haunting history of Clarksville.


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