East Tennessee Hospital for the Insane was completed and opened in 1886. It would later become known as the Lakeshore Mental Health Institute, and now, many simply refer to it as the Lakeshore Asylum. Regardless of the chosen moniker, this location is one of the more famous haunts in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Most of the original buildings have already been demolished, but a couple, including the Administration building, still remain. In fact, the Administration building has been renovated for use by the city parks department.
During the peak of operations in the 1960’s, Lakeshore Asylum housed roughly 2,800 patients. And there were many positive outcomes from these facilities: many pictures show residents smiling, singing, and dancing, neatly dressed and living a comfortable life.
However, dark times also wracked the reputation of the institute. In the 1980’s, newspapers depicted overcrowding, dirty conditions, and lack of attention and activities for many residents. Funding and operations scaled back gradually from this point on until eventually shutting down in 2012.
Rumors of mistreatment and abuse plagued the Asylum for years. Claims of paranormal activity most certainly stem from these rumors. Many visitors have claimed to have seen shadow figures and light anomalies, and even more have heard disembodied voices and screams.
We visited the park in 2014 and took some pictures, but we did not investigate inside the buildings, though we would have loved to. Now, many of those buildings are gone, but the history (and administrative building) remains. Hopefully one day we can return and set up a proper investigation.
For more information on this location, here are a few good places to start:
The Baker-Peters House in Knoxville, Tennessee is one of the city’s historic landmarks. It’s Civil War era architecture stands out amidst the hustle of Kingston Pike on the west side of town.
The surroundings of the house have changed significantly since its construction in 1840. Initially centered on acres of farmland, the building now resides within one of Knoxville’s busiest commerce centers.
Dr. James Harvey Baker was the original owner of the home, and lived peacefully as such from 1840 on until the American Civil War broke out in 1861.
Many unconfirmed accounts claim that Dr. Baker was a Confederate sympathizer. What we do know for a fact is that his son Abner was enlisted with the Confederate army.
In the waning half of the War, Dr. Baker began treating wounded Confederate soldiers at his home. In 1864, Knoxville’s postmaster, William Hall, revealed this information to Union soldiers in the area.
These Union soldiers then rushed to the Baker House, finding that Dr. Baker had barricaded himself in his bedroom upstairs. The soldiers fired several shots through the door, mortally wounding Dr. Baker. This door has since been moved downstairs, but can still be seen in the house today, with the original bullet holes still very visible.
After the War, Abner Baker returned to Knoxville, where he sought out William Hall to avenge his father’s death. Abner shot and killed the postmaster. Shortly after, several of Hall’s accomplices ambushed Abner, who was hanged for the killing.
These tragic events have left many feeling as though the Baker House is one of Knoxville’s most haunted locations. Several people have claimed to see apparitions of Abner leaning on the railing of the staircase and in windows while standing outside. Others have felt a cold hand grab their shoulder from behind, only to turn and find nothing was there.
As if these tragedies were not enough, the house has an even darker portion of it’s history encased within the walls of its basement. Dr. Baker was a slave owner, and the slave quarters were in the dark confines of the lowest level of the house.
A stairwell linked Dr. Baker’s bedroom directly to the slave quarters so that he could check on them at any point during the night. We have been told that James Baker may not have been the most kind slave owner.
With our investigation, we hoped to find some kind of confirmation of the truth behind these stories and hopefully affirm any outstanding speculation. We think you’ll be intrigued by what we found here.
Constructed in 1835, Bethesda Presbyterian Church is a remnant of the Civil War’s effect on East Tennessee. As the war began, the congregation divided in two: many sided with the Confederacy, though many more still were Union sympathizers. During this period, the church closed its doors. The Battle of Bean Station took place on December 14, 1863. After this historic battle, Confederate General James Longstreet arrived at Bethesda Church with 25,000 men who were stationed on the land until February 1864. During this time, the church served as a hospital. In the cemetery just outside the church doors, over 80 unknown soldiers were buried in mass graves. While some Union soldiers were laid to rest here, most of the unknown dead are presumed to have fought for the Confederacy.
In October, Federal troops pushed closer to the encampment at Bethesda during an engagement known as “Vaughn’s Stampede.” In November, Confederate troops pushed the Union soldiers back west towards Knoxville. This battle is known as “Gillem’s Stampede.” During this push, a cannonball smashed through the eastern wall and caused severe structural damage. The walls were quickly repaired and reinforced with iron bracings and rods that can be seen in the photo to the right. The original pulpit and high-backed pews remain to this day, and the floors lie permanently stained with the blood and disdain of our American predecessors.
As the war ended and soldiers from both sides began to return home, the congregation attempted to compromise and reconvene. Sporadic services dotted the calendars. Between 1866 and 1871, sympathizers of each cause sat in the outer pews, leaving the middle column empty. Eventually, one side left and helped form the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown. The remaining church body stayed through 1875. However, in time, the majority began attending the new Russellville Presbyterian Church.
Bethesda has remained closed since that time, save for a few irregular services held for major Christian holidays such as Easter. Now the building stands to serve as a reminder of the sacrifice of our ancestors in East Tennessee. Within its walls and grounds lies the story of a church body that symbolized the civil issues of the time. This once-unified group of people was just another casualty of a war among brothers.
As for potential paranormal activity, many have claimed to see apparitions of restless Confederate soldiers both inside and outside the church. The apparition of a weeping woman has also been seen on the far side of the cemetery. Her cries are often heard late at night. We have also heard reports of a “witch” buried on the grounds near the woods.
We investigated Bethesda Church and the surrounding grounds this past Sunday evening. Check back soon to see what we found!