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.
Legends of Sensabaugh Tunnel
Sensabaugh tunnel has been a part of Tennessee folklore for years. Built in the 1920’s in Kingsport, TN and named after the man that owned the land, Edward Sensabaugh. A stream flows around and through the tunnel and the walls are covered in graffiti.
There are several claims of activity in Sensabaugh tunnel. One of the most frequently reported ones is the sound of a crying baby. It is also said that the apparition of a women will appear in the back seat of your car while driving through. Another one of the most common claims of activity, suggests that if you turn your car off when you are in the middle of the tunnel, you will not be able to turn it on again until you push it out of the tunnel. Many tales are in circulation about Edward and how the tunnel became haunted, every one of them differs depending on the source.
The Act of Kindness
Ed once let a homeless man into his house as an act of kindness. Shortly afterwards, the man tried to steal jewelry from Ed’s wife. Ed grabbed a gun and confronted the man. The man grabbed Ed’s infant daughter and ran from the house. It is said the he drowned the baby in the tunnel during his escape.
One tale revolves around Ed being a madman. Legend has it that, one night, Ed went crazy and murdered his wife and child. Ed proceeded to place the bodies inside the tunnel. No one really knows why he snapped.
“Get Out of My Tunnel”
Ed was always very protective of his land. In the 1950’s teenagers started to use the tunnel for many devious things. This upset Ed greatly. So, he started hiding in the woods and when a vandal would show up, he would let out a shrill that would echo through the tunnel. Needless to say this would scare off any unwanted visitors hiding inside.
Shelter from the Storm
One stormy night a mother and her child where driving through Kingsport. As the storm grew worse the mother decided that the roads where no longer safe to travel. When she came upon Sensabaugh Tunnel she stopped. They would not survive the night. The next morning their bodies were discovered inside the car, which was parked in the middle of the tunnel. Nobody knows exactly what happened to cause their sudden deaths or if it is even true.
What we found…
Regardless of the origin story, we visited Sensabaugh Tunnel for an investigation. Several claims state that if you turn your car off in the middle of the tunnel, it will not start back up. We tried turning the car off several times, in both directions, and the car started without a problem each time. After spending several hours there and not feeling or experienced anything, we concluded the investigation. During the review process, to our amazement we found an EVP that sounds exactly like a baby crying. We hope to visit the tunnel at a later date in hopes that we can prove or debunk some of the other claims of activity.
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!