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As Halloween approaches, thoughts shift to candy, costumes and pumpkin spice. As we have with many of the old traditions, we’ve slowly chipped away at the ancient beliefs, leaving only the shining veneer of modernity.
But there are places in the world – and in these mountains – where the old ways haven’t entirely been lost.
In the Smoky Mountains, there is a chill from these spirits and their stories that has lingered from those who have died hard, tragically or with unfinished business. Here are the top six ghost stories about some iconic places around the Smokies:
6. The apparitions of railmen, loggers at Elkmont
The former logging cabin and upscale mountain resort has set empty for generations, a relic of a long ago time when the world was wild and the 20s were roaring. Many of the ghost stories associated with Elkmont focus on the tragic losses of life that occurred around the logging and rail operations.
But the truly creepy aspect, to me, is the remote mountain resort that has more than a little taste of “The Shining”. While reports of the nagging apparitions of railmen and loggers are disturbing, it’s the ghost of the top-hatted Great Gatsby wannabes of the roaring 20s that sends a shiver down my spine.
You haven’t been right and truly scared until you’ve been alone in an Elkmont cabin and heard the faint whispers of an Al Jolson song being carried on the breeze.
5. The barefooted woman at Roaring Fork Motor Trail
The Roaring Fork Motor Trail is another popular tourist drive, but the trail is reportedly haunted by the ghost of a barefoot woman named Lucy, who died in 1909.
It’s a classic haunting yarn, a tale as old as time. A man named Foster – or Forrester – met Lucy on the road. They shared a ride and he fell in love, which by the way, is a little bit fast.
Slow your roll, Forster.
Anyway, the man went back to talk to Lucy’s parents and ask for her hand only to be told she’d died in a fire the year before. Either way, if you meet a barefoot woman on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, don’t slow down.
4. The little girl who appears at 3:33 am at LeConte Lodge
Look, there’s a possibility that the act of getting to LeConte Lodge is enough to drive people ‘round the bend. But there have been several reports of people awakening at exactly 3:33 am to see a little girl at the foot of their bed.
At my house, that means my little girl Ainsley woke up in the night and wants something to drink. At LeConte, the girl is gone before she can tell anyone what she wants.
There’s no specific information about who the girl might be or why she likes to watch hikers sleep in the wee morning hours, but I can promise you if I wake up with a ghostly girl at the foot of my bed, I’m hiking back down off that mountain, and I ain’t waiting for the sun to come up.
3. A jilted lover’s revenge at Greenbrier Restaurant
The tale of the Greenbrier Restaurant in Gatlinburg is the classic story of a jilted lover exacting revenge upon patrons of a popular tourist attraction eatery.
It goes like this: In the 1930s a woman is jilted at the altar of a Gatlinburg church and returns to the lodge where she’s staying.
Distraught, she hangs herself, still wearing her dress. To add to the story, the ex-fiance is found days later having been mauled by a mountain cat – an animal long since extinct from the area.
Some diners report seeing a strange young woman atop the pivotal staircase. Others report feeling an immensely sad presence, which may or may not have come with paying the bill.
2. Glowing orbs at Cades Cove
When the sun begins to fall behind the mountains and the shadows grow long across the Cove, the old cabins, churches and graveyards begin to take a far eerier countenance than they do in the daylight.
There are reports of glowing orbs floating above the graves of people who lived and died in the Cove long before it became a tourist track. Some have even reported a woman’s face coming out of the walls of one of the churches.
Forget the bears. In Cades Cove, it’s the spirits that’ll get you, if you don’t watch out.
1. The shape-shifter in Cherokee
Spearfinger is a Cherokee legend of a stone woman with an obsidian spear for a finger. A deceptive shape-shifter, Spearfinger operates in the mountains between North Carolina and Tennessee, seeking out children whose livers she can devour.
In the autumn, the Cherokee tribe would burn brush fires, which Spearfinger would use to locate their village. She would come in the guise of an old woman, fooling Cherokee children into trusting her because she appeared to be a village elder. She would offer to brush their hair until they fell asleep, then she would stab them with her finger through the back of the neck or the heart and withdraw the liver, which she would devour.
She had a song that she’d sing as she moved through the mountains with her raven friends, “Liver, I eat it.”
It flows better, I assume, in the original Cherokee.
Though the most often appeared as an old lady, she could be anything she wanted – another child, a friend, an animal. She was made of stone so no weapon forged by man could stop her. Her only weakness was her heart, which she carried in her right hand for protection.
Her enemy, Stone Man, also ate livers, so he wasn’t exactly helpful to the Cherokee who used the stories of Spearfinger to keep children close to the village and fearful of strangers.
She and Stone Man also had powers to move boulders and rock. Spearfinger created a great rock bridge through the air to travel from mountain to mountain, angering the higher beings, who destroyed it with lightning. The remains of which are reportedly in Blount County.
Legend has it that Spearfinger was eventually destroyed when a Chickadee tipped the Cherokee warriors off on her weakness, and they pierced her heart, killing her.
Have you heard of any ghost stories about the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments!
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