University of Tennessee
The University of Tennessee was founded in 1794, making it the second oldest university in the state (Tusculum is the oldest). It was chartered on September 10, 1794, as Blount College, before Tennessee even became a state. In 1807, it became known as East Tennessee College, and then East Tennessee University in 1840. It wasn't until 1879 that the university became known as the University of Tennessee.
In it's early days, the University was similar to a military academy, and life was very strict. It also holds the distinction of being the first coed college in the United States. During the Civil War, classes were suspended, and the Battle of Fort Sanders was fought on the grounds. Given it's long history and tragedy, it's not surprising that this university boasts a number of spooks, rivaling East Tennessee State University as the most haunted college in the Volunteer State.
The most famous haunting at UT is probably the ghost of Strong Hall. This women's residence hall is said to be haunted by the woman it was named after, Sophronia Strong. She was born in 1817, and married Dr. Joseph Strong. They lived in a house currently located where Strong Hall is, and "Sophie" died in 1867. In 1915, her son, Benjamin, willed the property to UT on the conditions that it be a women's residence hall and that a flower garden always be maintained outside.
Today, the ghost of Sophronia is said to haunt the residence hall. She is known to students as "Sophie," and acts as a mother to them. She has no tolerance for disagreements, arguments, or "unladylike behavior." Her ghost appears as a white apparition. You are most likely to see it in a mirror on her birthday - February 17.
The Battle of Fort Sanders, a Civil War battle, was fought on the campus of UT, and not surprisingly, has left its mark. Like most battle grounds, the area is said to be haunted. Many soldiers were killed in this battle, and now their souls are said to haunt the UT campus. Union soldiers are sometimes seen walking around campus, and distant gun shots and marching can be heard late at night. This occurs most frequently on "the Hill," and at the apartment house at the corner of Lake Avenue and Fifteenth Street. These are mostly quiet spirits and don't seem to want to be noticed much. Most are thought to be soldiers who were Missing-In-Action, and their bodies still lie undiscovered on the campus.
Another supernatural occurrence on The Hill is that of a wolf, who wanders the grounds and emit a low, mournful howl. This has happened for years, and no explanation has been found. There have also been a few Wampus Cat sightings on The Hill.
Legend has it that Hoskins Library is home to at least two ghosts: the ghost of a former director and the "Evening Primrose." The Evening Primrose is a female ghost who wanders the library. She has been known to knock books off of shelves, and play with the elevators. Sometimes, cornbread can be smelled when she is around. No one seems to be really sure who she is the ghost of. Perhaps a former student or faculty member?
Not much is known about the former director, except that he has been sighted on occasion. Perhaps he works in conjunction with the Evening Primrose to wreak havoc on the library.
The ghosts of Reese Hall are lessor known than the other spirits on campus, but they are no less interesting. Early maps of Knoxville (early 1800s) show Native American burial grounds as well as an old cemetery where Reese Hall now stands. Disturbingly, there is no record of any of the graves being moved. The graves are probably still there, located under the foundation of the building and the parking lot!
Today, the spirits of those buried under Reese Hall are not happy. They are said to wonder the halls of Reese Hall, scaring anyone they come into contact with. In recent years, this dormitory has hosted an annual Halloween party.
Tyson Hall is said to be haunted by the ghosts of Lawrence D. and Betty Tyson. Today, this house is home to the Lutheran Campus Ministries. Occasionally, the spirits of these former owners can be seen walking around the house.
They Tysons may not be the only ghost to haunt the Tyson House. In 1954, Lawrence and Betty Tyson sold their house to UT under one condition: they maintain the grave of their dog, Benita. Benita's grave is still maintained behind the house. Some people have claimed to see Bonita walking around, or heard her howling on dark, cold nights. Benita will remain buried there undisturbed forever.
These are certainly not the only haunted areas on campus. For example, Hess Hall is said to be home to a ghost of a student who committed suicide there many years ago. McClung Museum was built on top of Indian burial mounds, and their restless spirits are said to wander the area. Native American spirits also roam the Agricultural campus.
There were many other haunted buildings that once existed that have been torn down. Among them was Barbara Blount Hall. This was a women's residence hall that was haunted by the same Civil War soldiers which haunt so many other parts of campus. Unfortunately, Blount Hall was torn down in the name of progress in 1979.
Science Hall, removed in 1967, was once the pride of UT. It had beautiful architecture and was home to a theater. This theater was haunted by a sprit known as "Fanny." It was Fanny's dream to be a Hollywood actress, and when a movie studio offered her a contract, it appeared she was about to realize her dream. Tragically, she became sick and died before she could play in any movie. Her spirit then haunted the theater, which she had loved so much.
No one knows what became of these ghosts when their haunts were destroyed, but many believe they simply relocated. No doubt there are many more stories, and if you know of any, I'd love to hear them.
©2002-2005 John Norris Brown. Part of John Norris Brown.com