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July 23, 2014   A-Z Index | WebMail | Dept. Dir. | Text Only | Accessibility 
The University of Tennessee System

Is our campus haunted?


Is The Hill haunted?Some people want to stay in college forever . . . and, if you believe these ghost stories, sometimes they actually do.

The University of Tennessee dates back to 1794, and over the years, there have been plenty of reported sightings of ghosts, said Betsey Creekmore, UT associate vice chancellor for space and facilities and an expert in UT history.

Here, in honor of Halloween, Creekmore describes some of the more famous UT "ghost stories," and tells about some gravesites located on campus.

"Evening Primrose" Haunts Hoskins Library

A ghost named "Evening Primrose" is blamed for unexplained footsteps, elevators that move from floor to floor without riders and the odor of cornbread baking wafting through the halls of Hoskins Library. She also has been given credit for books falling off shelves. The identity of “Evening Primrose" is unknown, but she is rumored to be a poor graduate student who secretly lived -- and died -- in the Library while researching her dissertation.

"Fanny" Haunts Alumni Memorial Building

"Fanny" originally haunted Old Science Hall built in 1894. But when the building was torn down, Fanny was said to have moved to Alumni Memorial. Legend has it that Fanny haunted the auditorium of Science Hall, which was used for plays as well as for chapels, assemblies and lectures, and that she loved the theater and considered herself an actress. In the 1920s, a film was shot in Knoxville and Fanny won a small role. Having impressed the producers, she was offered a contract to go to Hollywood to be in the movies. She never made it, though, because she fell ill with tuberculosis and died. After Science Hall was razed, sightings were reported in the previously unhaunted Alumni Memorial Building in the main auditorium as plays were rehearsed.

Huge Dog that Guards The Hill

A barghest (very large dog with huge claws and teeth) is said to guard The Hill, producing a low, mournful howl that, on moonlit night, has resulted in calls to UT Police. The dog's eyes are said to glow ruby red and its long fangs to drip saliva. Some say that this is the ghost of "Bonita," the beloved pet of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Tyson, which is buried on the lawn of Tyson House. The dog prowls the campus searching for its master and mistress and waits on The Hill for the "sham battles" that General Tyson carried out while he was in charge of military instruction.

Union Soldiers Confer at Perkins Hall

In the grassy area next to Perkins Hall, late on a clear, moonlit night, a group of eight men dressed as Union Army soldiers can sometimes be seen looking over maps and talking to each other. This group is said to be soldiers whose graves were discovered when the foundations for Barbara Blount Hall (located immediately to the north of Perkins) were dug in 1900. Construction was stopped, and the bodies were reburied at the National Cemetery, in marked, but unidentified graves. The spirits of the men were said never to have left their peaceful resting place above the river, and to have wandered upon occasion through Barbara Blount Hall. Soon after Barbara Blount Hall was razed in 1979, reports of the meetings in the courtyard next to Perkins began.

Is Strong Hall haunted?Sophronia Strong Keeps Watch Over Residents of Sophronia Strong Hall

Benjamin Rush Strong provided a sizable gift to the university in 1915 to be used to build a women’s residence hall named for his mother, Sophronia Marrs Strong. Born in 1817 in Shelbyville, she married Dr. Joseph C. Strong, a Knoxville physician, at the age of 16. She had 12 children and died in 1867 at the age of 50. The opening of Sophronia Strong Hall in 1925 provided Sophie, who had taken care of so many chidren of her own, a new venue to care for young people. The first sighting was reported soon after the opening: this residence hall had full-length mirrors in each occupant's room, and Sophie was seen in the mirror standing behind one of the new residents as she brushed her hair. She continues to appear in mirrors on her birthday, Feb. 17, as a lady dressed in white. She is credited with mischievous pranks, such as locking students out of their rooms, locking bathroom doors, and being the source of eerie lights that appear out of nowhere and float down hallways. She is most commonly seen, however, when there is trouble or heated discussion, looking disapprovingly at those whose voices are raised.

Tyson House

Workers at Tyson Alumni House contend that the basement of the house is haunted, and workers in the Alumni Affairs office report hearing sounds of someone walking in corridors when no one is there, as well as low moans. The unidentified ghost is also credited with turning on lights.

Walker on The Hill

The apparition of a young man wearing a Celluloid collar and bowler hat sometimes joins students in the evenings as they walk up the steps to the top of The Hill. He is generally seen walking with his head bent and his hands behind his back -- and he does not acknowledge those with whom he walks. The legend goes that this is the spirit of a student from the 1930s who had been dating a young lady who suddenly ran away to Boston to marry someone else. The ghost walker was in such despair that he took his own life by shooting himself through the head. It is said that if the ghost were to remove his hat, there would be a gaping wound in his temple.

Graves on Campus:

  • On the Agriculture campus is a "Hamilton Mound," an Indian burial mound that probably contains between 10 and 100 graves. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

  • The only grave on the main campus is in the yard of Tyson Alumni House. It is the grave of "Bonita," the pet dog of Lawrence D. and Betty Tyson, who owned the house. Ulysses S. Grant Jr., son of U.S. president Grant, gave the dog to the Tysons’ daughter.

  • One planned grave never came about. In 1894, a committee of the Alumni Association recommended moving the remains of UT’s first president, Samuel Carrick, to campus from the graveyard of First Presbyterian Church and erecting a monument to him. President Dabney supported the effort. Another committee was formed to raise the money to do this, but funds were not raised and the project was abandoned in 1897.