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. But much like Underground Chattanooga – which was paved over almost 150 years ago to escape the relentless floodwaters of the Tennessee River – the city’s hauntings have largely been swept under the carpet.
That is, until 2007, when Amy Petulla launched Chattanooga Ghost Tours, now one of the top 10 tours in the country according to Trip Advisor. Unsure of whether or not Chattanooga had enough documented ghosts to justify a tour, she began doing some research. That’s when she opened 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.
Each night, groups ranging from two to 20+ visit some of the city’s top haunted spots, with countless photographic proof 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 full body apparitions.
A lot of the photographic “proof” may be easily explained away. But your 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.
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. (If you’re looking for more, they also offer adult-only ghost hunts that use specialized equipment like that seen on ghost hunting TV shows.)
Tours start at the shop (directions here) then move on to the Hunter Museum of American Art, site of the most confirmed ghosts in the city, and end inside the Read House Hotel, site of the most famous Chattanooga ghost.Tours are a little over an hour long and do not allow time for bathroom breaks. They do, however, allow “well-behaved” dogs. Kids are welcome 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.
For more chilling Halloween adventures, visit the ChattaBOOga page.