Guest Blog by Amy Petulla
Each night, groups ranging from two to twenty visit some of the city’s top haunted spots with Chattanooga Ghost Tours, taking countless photographic proofs of ghoulish beings. How is that? Apparently, ghosts can manifest on film in the form of unexplained light, called orbs or mysterious smoke or mist not visible to the naked eye, called ectoplasm, or even as faces or full body apparitions.
A lot of the photographic “proof” may be easily explained away, but some leave even experts scratching their heads. And skeptical suspicions may start to crack once you hear the story of the two college kids (who didn’t believe in ghosts) witness a funeral home director pace back and forth then disappear before their eyes. Or the 4-year-old who heard a voice in that same spot yell “Get out!” Or the woman who photographed an apparition in the window of the Delta Queen on her cell phone from roughly a mile away. Or see this photo that generated its own media coverage.
Until Chattanooga Ghost Tours began sharing the city’s spooky history, the many ghostly tales had largely been swept under the carpet, much like Underground Chattanooga – which was paved over almost 150 years ago to escape the relentless floodwaters of the Tennessee River. Wars, monumental floods, jealous lovers and estranged families have all attributed to Chattanooga being one of the most haunted cities in the South, just behind New Orleans and Savannah.
Turns out Chattanooga has a Pandora’s Box of apparitions, chilling encounters and unexplained activities in some of the city’s top downtown attractions – including sightings of Ulysses S. Grant’s spirit in a prominent downtown condo.
Were the ghosts unhappy with the unveiling of their stories? On March 29, the building Chattanooga Ghost Tours occupied collapsed unexpectedly. While it was the oldest commercial building in Chattanooga, they had no inkling there was any structural problem with the location, and operated there right up to the night before the collapse. Their new location with Quest2Escape in the Taziki building at 432 Market Street promises to be even better, with a steampunk theme and a brand-new tour route with more ghosts, more scenic history, an easier walk, and restroom breaks! They will also continue to do their original route beginning at the Walnut Street Bridge, as well, and are in negotiations to expand to a second location.
Chattanooga Ghost Tours is celebrating their 10-year anniversary June 2017 and was recently named 1 of only 2 Tennessee Small Business Champions in the national contest sponsored by SCORE and Sam’s Club. They are in the running for the national championship.
This is not the first time the ghost tour has received an important award. They were named 1 of the top ten ghost tours in the US by TripAdvisor just three years after their inception, and in 2015 USA Today gave them the same accolade. A number of other publications have included them on similar lists, and in 2015, they were one of the destinations included in the Nissan Altima Weekend Getaway national television ad.
While you’re not guaranteed a photo or experience, you can rest assured you’ll have an intriguing evening filled with vibrant storytelling that unearths some of Chattanooga’s lesser-known history. And for the more adventurous who want the type of experience they see more and more on TV, in 2011 they started their ghost HUNTS with equipment for guests to use. An all-adult ghost hunt takes place through UTC and Citizens Cemetery, while one downtown allows children aged 10 and up.
Tours and hunts last approximately 90 minutes, though an extended tour along the new route will be added soon for those who want even more. “Well-behaved” dogs are allowed on everything but the cemetery hunt. Kids are welcome on the tour at your own discretion. No one is going to jump out and scare them, but the spooky stories might have them sleeping in your bed several nights after.