It was a dark and stormy night . . . Actually, it was pretty well lighted on Market Square when we gathered and there was a light rain that soon stopped, but the night had a spooky element to it, or so it seemed to me. The occasion was a ghost hunting excursion with J. Adam Smith of Haunted Knoxville on his Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tour. Urban Brother and Urban Niece were in town, so I booked the excursion and invited friends. We were also joined by three others and, as a group, probably covered the gamut from true believers to complete skeptics with many of us falling in between.
J. Adam Smith is a paranormal psychic investigator. While he’s worked privately to investigate particular sites, he also leads tours, taking interested parties to spots in the city that would have reason for paranormal activity. With several different tours available, he feels Knoxville’s long history makes it ripe for investigation. The purpose of the tour isn’t to tell scary stories or elicit blood-curdling screams from the participants, but rather to educate the group regarding the history of the selected spots and signs of paranormal activity, in general. The tour participants become actual partners in searching for signs of activity.
A couple of interesting notes were made before we began. J acknowledged that people have different belief systems and that it wasn’t his intention to alter anyone’s beliefs. It was an important point, I think. Do you believe in a “soul?” Do you believe in an after-life? Do you have a background steeped in sermons about demons and evil forces? Do you believe in the devil? When a person dies are they just gone? Is the “soul” simply energy and can it get trapped on earth or is it always here in different forms? The answers to these and other questions would influence what you might be willing to accept and how you view any unusual occurrences.
One person in our group said at the beginning that spirits are attracted to her and she was obviously concerned that a spirit might attach itself to her that night. J. also seemed a bit concerned about the issue asking, “Is anyone inebriated?” He explained that spirits can detect a mental vulnerability at exploit it. He assured the young woman who was worried that he was also a minister and would make certain she was “surrounded by light,” before she left.
Some of you are probably thinking this is hokum, while others of you probably accept every word. That reflects the attitudes in the group. It’s interesting for myself to note that I don’t think I really believe in much of that – but then I get scared to death when something creepy happens. So, if I really don’t believe then why to I get afraid? Part of it likely goes back to my childhood in which we were taught that spirits are very real and sometimes very unpleasant. We also had uncles and a grandfather who could tell a story certain to keep us up all night waiting for the inevitable, or so we thought, appearance of one particular ghost or another.
So, we walked into Krutch Park where we had a crash course on the equipment we would use in the investigation. These included an EMF detector (K2), a Hanz and Franz Box, an Esmog Scout (audible EMF detector), small flashlights, a hand-held ambient thermometer and compasses. These were the primary sources of verification. The idea was that spirits can alter temperature. J defined a significant temperature change as ten degrees or more, not a small variation. The EMF detector picked up currents of energy and had a light read-out. The flashlights were set to a loose connection with the battery, placed on a stable surface (like a wall) and monitored for flashing.
We headed to our first stop, which was just outside the old Custom House. We were told a number of reasons there could be activity in that spot. A woman has been spotted in an upper window, we were told and we were given a reason why that might be the case. So, what happened? Urban Woman got energy readings at a certain spot in the street. Underground wiring? Who knows? There was one spot beside the custom house that very strange things happened. The flashlight, sitting on a wall, shone steadily until certain questions were asked and then it flashed dramatically. Other questions brought nothing. A return to the original topic brought the activity, again. The energy meter also registered highly there.
We rounded the corner and walked out Church Avenue to the area around the Rowing Man and were told the history of the spot, including reasons there may be unfinished business there. One spot along a low wall got a reaction from the audible EMF detector. Our friend who was carrying it at the time said that spot is where her dog always wants to walk even though it is out of their path. Does the dog sense something?
We walked down an alley toward First Presbyterian Church and the Glencoe. And, of course, the oldest graveyard in the city. Some of the founding families of the city are buried there and, as is the case in all old cemeteries, so are a number of children. We were told there had been sightings of children, more so in particular spots, and then we were turned loose to investigate.
Interestingly, you might suspect the power of suggestion would make a spot more likely to seem active, but the opposite happened. The area of supposed past sightings didn’t register in any significant readings. People drifted to other parts of the area. I should note here that we walked around the perimeter of the cemetery, but didn’t enter it, out of respect for the graves.
Finally, however, a spot brought readings on every instrument we had. The group gathered round and watched the flashlight flickering wildly when asked certain questions and then going quiet. When Urban Brother sang a very old hymn, the light and noise meters went wild. The activity seemed to be strongest next to a very small grave whose markings have faded with time. After experiencing intense activity in this spot, the group walked back up to Gay Street, which is where the tour ended.
J reminded us throughout the tour that beyond the possible detection of a spirit, the purpose of the trip was to have fun. He really didn’t need to keep reminding us. We came on the trip for fun and I think every single person in our group had a very good time. Twenty dollars for two hours of ghost hunting around town, complete with a few shivery moments seems like a pretty good bargain, to me.
Did we actually see a ghost, feel a ghost, smell or hear a ghost? I don’t think anyone in the group would say we did. Did we observe some strange readings consistent across all the instruments? Yes, we would likely all agree to that as well. In the end, I doubt anyone’s mind was changed one way or the other, but enough happened that it encouraged further thought. Everyone tried to take it seriously and be open-minded and I think that’s important. Mostly, we just had a great time.
Oh, and I was the “official photographer” since I had the camera. I took 127 photographs and narrowed them to these 33. I didn’t see any classic orbs or streaks of light. There was an odd light on the back of a tombstone, which probably could be explained, but I will say I took two photographs back to back without moving and, as you can see above, the one had the circle of light and the other didn’t. Make of that what you will.
Tours form most every Friday and Saturday night and you can follow the links above to learn more about the tours, more about J, and to purchase tickets. Or you can leave this article and go directly here to purchase tickets. There is a tour at 7:00 PM tonight which, last I heard, still had openings.