With October approaching, its time to find the perfect Halloween costume, watch scary movies with the lights out, and get in touch with the spooky side of life. Why not visit a few haunted places in the Smoky Mountains to get you in the scary spirit of this time of year?
Thanks to the rich tradition of storytelling from the Irish and Scottish immigrants that settled the Smoky Mountains, there are plenty of spooky stories to go around.
Usually, old folklore traditions are at the root of Smoky Mountain ghost stories. For example, Appalachian folk believed that the oldest tree in a mountain hollow was haunted and the crack and pop of a fire was the Devil snapping his fingers, signaling a bad omen.
While the pioneers of the Smokies have long since passed on, their legacy (and perhaps their spirits) can still be found in the nooks and crannies of the rolling hills of the Smokies. There are plenty of haunted places in the Smokies that will send shivers down your spine, but this list of ghost stories and haunted places in the Smoky Mountains are some of the most spine-tingling, spookiest spots in East Tennessee to visit on your fall Pigeon Forge cabin vacation.
1. The Greenbriar Restaurant
This is one of the favorite haunted places in Gatlinburg, TN which hosts one of the most famous ghosts in the Smoky Mountains. Shortly after opening as a lodge in 1939, a young woman named Lydia, who lived at the lodge, was jilted by her fiance at the altar of a Gatlinburg church.
Devastated, Lydia rushed back to the Greenbriar lodge, threw a rope over a rafter, and hung herself still in her wedding dress.
While Lydia's tragic death is enough to make Greenbriar one of the most haunted places in the Smokies, her false-hearted fiance's body was found days later mangled by what appeared to be a mountain cat. Since the animal had long since disappeared from the area, many guessed Lydia's spirit had returned for her revenge.
Diners are said to see a sad figure on the staircase which rests where Lydia hung herself, a strange young woman, or simply feel a sad presence. So stop into Greenbriar Restaurant for some filet mignon and, perhaps, another dinner guest.
2. The Devil's Courthouse
Located at Whiteside Mountain in nearby North Carolina, The Devil's Courthouse, like several other haunted places in the Smoky Mountains, makes for a great day trip for guests staying in Gatlinburg cabin rentals which lie around 2 hours from one of the oldest haunted places in the Smokies.
Early settlers in the Smokies named this barren, craggy rockface "The Devil's Courthouse" for its sinister appearance which led them to create a tale that the Devil himself held court in the cave underneath the diabolical-looking cliff.
Perhaps the pioneer's legend was adapted from the early Cherokee tale of Jutaculla, a slant-eyed giant with a voice like thunder and arrows made of lightning, who made his home in the same cave dancing and carrying out his own judgments.
3. Lucy at Roaring Fork
Those looking for haunted places in Gatlinburg or the Smokies may need only to drive down to Roaring Fork Motor Trail.
This scenic road is known for its waterfalls, but you may just meet a local spirit. If you encounter a beautiful young woman looking for a ride on the Roaring Fork Trail, you may have just met one of Gatlinburg's most famous ghosts.
Legend has that Lucy died in a cabin fire around 1909. About a year later a man named Foster, who was in the market for a wife, spotted a beautiful woman in the woods and shared his horse with her. He found it odd that Lucy was barefoot on a cold winter's night (apparently, abnormal warmth one upside to dying in a fire), but enraptured by her beauty, he fell in love with her. When he went to seek her parent's approval, they informed him that she had tragically passed not long ago.
Lucy still looks for rides along the highway and can be seen in the woods near where her cabin burned to the ground.
4. Huggins Hell in the Smoky Mountains
Like other haunted places in East Tennessee, Huggins Hell gets its sinister name from its unforgiving landscape. This area is located on the steep south slope of Mt. LeConte and isn't accessible by maintained trails. However, that doesn't stop the likes of ex-marines and backcountry enthusiasts from making the trip to Huggins Hell to experience this challenging wilderness.
By glancing at a trail map of the Smokies, you may notice that there are several places with names that conjure up imagery of the devil and hell. These places earned their names from early settlers who decided that only the devil himself would inhabit such a rugged and desperate landscape.
Whether or not the devil makes Huggins Hell his stomping ground, there's no doubting that these remote, inaccessible regions of the park give visitors a spooky, uneasy feeling.
Hikers who brave this rock face will expect a 4-hour steep climb near Mt. LeConte that poses a true danger. Not only would a fall from the steep cliffs of one of the most dangerous haunted places in the Smokies maim you, but, since authorized trail books don't even list the trail. If you were injured, no one would find you for quite some time (let that frightening thought sink in).
Over the years, dozens of hikers have gone into backcountry or off-trail areas of in the national park never to be seen again. The Smoky Mountains, for all their beauty, are still wild and are one of the few places left in the Eastern US where someone can seemingly disappear without a trace. When hikers stay on a trail, this is practically never an issue, but for adventurers who seek the most rugged parts of the mountains, this is an ever-present risk.
5. A Ghostly Guiding Light at Noland Creek Trail
Noland Creek Trail makes this list of haunted places in East Tennessee for several reasons. First, the trail itself boasts tons of cemeteries and old homesteads along its trail.
The Lake Fontana area contained several settler communities and their presence can still be seen in the gravestones marking the trail.
It's also a haunt of Spearfinger (who we'll get to later). There also exists a legend of a settler who died searching the hills for his lost daughter. Now, perhaps to make up for not locating his beloved daughter, a light is said to guide lost hikers to safety on the trail.
6. Elkmont Resort
One of the eeriest haunted places in the Smokies just might be Elkmont. Once a thriving resort at the beginning of the 20th century formed by wealthy hunters who founded the Appalachian Club, Elkmont now stands completely abandoned.
The wealthy resort-goers pleasure cabins stand empty. Up until the past decade, the ruins of the Wonderland Hotel stood as a testament to the fledgling resort community that once thrived in the woods. Now, all that's left are empty homes and eerie ruins that are slowly returning to nature.
Additionally, Elkmont was once an active logging camp in the early 20th century. Before the formation of the park, dozens of workers were maimed or killed in horrific logging accidents and train wrecks in this rugged part of the mountains. These gruesome incidents involved exploding boilers and derailed trains with tons of falling logs, so some poor souls must have met ghastly ends. To this day, some visitors to the area even report an uneasy feeling as they walk past historic homes in Elkmont or the lingering feeling they are being watched.
Vacationers looking for haunted places in East Tennessee that are uniquely creepy will want to stop by this spot.
7. Spearfinger's Haunts
Said to roam Noland Creek Trail and Whiteside Mountain, Spearfinger may be one of the creepiest Cherokee folklore traditions.You might want to stay clear of these haunted places in the Smoky Mountains as Spearfinger is one frightening spirit to encounter.
Said to have a long blade of obsidian as her right forefinger, Spearfinger lurks in the shadows, her mouth stained with blood from the livers of small children she managed to lure away from their parents. She walks around clenching her right hand tightly as to protect her one weak spot - her heart hidden in her right palm.
The Cherokee were distrustful of anyone who wondered away from the village for too long since Spearfinger possesses the ability to shapeshift. As a result, this fearful presence could take the form of a seemingly harmless squirrel or a faint shadow in the forest. Spearfinger appears throughout Cherokee stories and is said to make her home in the highest ridges of the Smokies.
It's not surprising that the Cherokee told stories of shapeshifters who stalked the mountains. If you go on a hike in a quiet part of the park, it's easy to become spooked by a sudden sound by some unseen animal. Some hikers even report the feeling that they are being watched as they make their way through the forest. Perhaps it's just a squirrel moving through the leaves, or perhaps it's Spearfinger on her way to claim her next victim.
8. Haunted Cades Cove
Probably the most well-known location on this list of haunted places in the Smoky Mountains, the abandoned cabins, churches, and cemeteries make for an eerie scene as dusk approaches.
It's no wonder that several visitors hold this site to be a haunt for Smoky Mountain ghosts. Over the years, Cades Cove has seen its fair share of murder and tragedy, like the gravestone of Gregory Russel that reads "Killed by North Carolina Rebels." While there are few specific ghost stories in Cades Cove, there's plenty of spooky activity. Several pictures on the internet depict orbs in the graveyards, cabins, and other buildings at the historical site.
One particularly notable photo seems to capture a woman's face coming out of the wall of one the old churches. If you'd like to see some ghostly activities in Cades Cove, simply stick around dusk when the crowds die down. There's no telling what kinds of encounters you could have in this historic community.
9. Wheatlands Plantation
One of the most historical haunted places in the Smoky Mountains, this Sevierville plantation has seen fighting in both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Wheatlands Plantation saw carnage from of The Battle of Boyds's Creek, where Cherokee supported by the British fought John Sevier and other East Tennessee Revolutionaries.
The 28 Cherokee who died at the battle rest in a mass grave on the Wheatlands Plantation property.
The house itself has seen 70 murders and deaths, giving it the most deaths of any of the haunted places in East, TN on this list. Additionally, a nearby cemetery contains the graves 69 African slaves and 2 Revolutionary war heroes.
Perhaps the most famous of the deaths that occurred at Wheatlands Plantation is still visible today. A blood stain on the living room floor of the house stands as an eerie reminder of a father slain by his son centuries ago. Needless to say, an old plantation house with this much bloodshed and tragedy is bound to have specters roaming its halls.
10. White Oak Flats Cemetery
The Smoky Mountains has several spooky cemeteries that vacationers eager for a scare can add to their list of haunted places in the Smokies to visit.
There are several cemeteries along hiking trails, such as the Noland Creek Trail or Little Greenbrier, and Cades Cove boasts a cemetery at both the Primitive Baptist and Methodist churches. Occasionally, visitors have reported strange sightings of figures near grave sights. But perhaps the most active place for ghostly activity is White Oak Flats Cemetary in Gatlinburg.
White Oak Flats Cemetery is a bit of a hidden gem of haunted places in Gatlinburg, TN. A short walk from Gatlinburg's The Village, you'll find one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. Established in 1830, this cemetery boasts the graves of several of Gatlinburg's early settlers as well as several unmarked graves.
Who knows what spirits might lurk in the nearby forest? Many guests visit this and several other haunted places in the Smoky Mountains, such as Greenbrier Restaurant, through Gatlinburg ghost tours.
While there are plenty of other spooky haunted places in the Smoky Mountains, these are some of the most spine-tingling highlights. Want even more scares and goosebumps? Why not visit a haunted house such as The Mysterious Mansion to complete your haunted tour of the Smokies.
Final Thoughts on Haunted Places in the Smokies
For your next cabin vacation in the Smokies, be sure to explore some of these spooky places in the mountains! There are all sorts of mysterious phenomena like the strange lights hikers sometimes report seeing on mountainsides, much like the Brown Mountain Lights in nearby North Carolina.
Inside the 800 square-mile national park, the landscape is littered with abandoned homes and gravesites from former residents of the Smokies. In these quiet places that were once filled with life, it's not uncommon to get an eerie feeling while hiking in the mountains.
Take some time to explore abandoned communities inside the national park like Elkmont, Sugarlands, Tremont, and Cades Cove, and you may even run into some mysterious spectral presence from days long past.
Of course, if you'd rather not run into a wandering spirit, you could always just spin some of your own ghost stories while you sit around the fireplace in your cabin.
Written by Brittany Tipton