Gatlinburg’s reputation as the Gateway to the Smoky Mountains means plenty of winter activities for out of town visitors. However, just underneath the idyllic mountain town’s surface lies a dark and twisted history that most on the Gatlinburg Haunts tour initially never think exists.
The area houses unprecedented paranormal activity levels, especially on the parkway, which is commonly called the Strip. This hour-long, one-mile tour will uncover the real story behind Gatlinburg’s rough frontier town origins, as well as its complicated and terrifying modern hauntings.
You will see the compelling haunted locations that test the limits of what you might believe. Rest assured, though, the authentic stories you will hear are plucked straight from the history books and confirmed accounts of encounters with the supernatural. Find out the storied history of one of the oldest graveyards in the state and the shadowy ghouls who lurk along its walls. Listen in horror to the tales of murder, suicide, jealousy, revenge, cannibalism, and everything in between. Gatlinburg’s glossy exterior may fool some of the people who visit the town, but we will help you understand the horror on which this town was built.
What’s in a name – a feud!
When there are only a few dozen people in the town, one general store might be enough. Any businessman likes a monopoly. Imagine the surprise then, of the members of the founding family of the town, the Ogle’s, (namesakes of the Ogle Brothers General store), when Radford Gatlin opened the Gatlin General Store. The feud compounded the mean-spiritedness and unfounded preferential treatment of people by Radford Gatlin. Then how did he become the name after which the town was named?
The dishonest way this came about will be revealed on our tour, as well as how the ghost of Radford Gatlin’s slave haunts the Mountain Mall, on land previously owned by the Ogle Family!
What makes Gatlinburg so haunted?
In a city with such a vibrant and modern tourist scene, separating Gatlinburg’s dark history from its ski-resort façade can be pretty difficult. Gatlinburg Haunts takes you on an up-close look at the city’s troubled history and macabre present that others would simply ignore.
Dating back to the early 19th century, the earliest inhabitants of the town were Scots and Irish settlers who secured their treasured independence during some of the darkest periods of American history by fighting to preserve their fierce seclusion.
Even as the area has developed in recent years, remnants of its tragic history poke through to the surface, whether through an aging cemetery (one of the oldest in the state), ancient blood-curdling Cherokee monsters, or the gory horrors of an old battlefield. Our unique tour along the iconic strip will explore the existential dread that tears at the flimsy facade of the town’s easily digestible tourist fair.
You may come to Gatlinburg expecting a quaint little tourist town, but on our tour, you will learn that there is much more to the Gateway to the Smokies than meets the eye, and you may not like what you see.
The graveyard has shadows and plenty of them, not cast by light, but remnants of unhappy former residents’ supernatural energy. Two people have lain independent claim to seeing clusters of shadows on the Church wall, inside the porch, and throughout the graveyard. Seemingly benevolent and fleeting, the shadows have been here longer than any current living resident of Gatlinburg.
Civil War in the Smokey mountains.
The residents of Gatlinburg were almost all sympathetic to the Union cause, yet being in the middle of the expanding Confederate territories, they chose neutrality. Mother nature, however, would intervene to put at least one conflict on their doorstep.
A saltpeter mine near the town (saltpeter being a key ingredient in gunpowder), attracted Confederate forces’ attention. A stubborn Confederate Colonel named William Thomas was tasked with occupying the mine. He led an integrated Cherokee infantry group into the town to take supplies before occupying the mine.
As well as putting the townspeople on edge, the move caught the attention of nearby Union forces who soon turfed the regiment out of their hastily built fort around the mine.
Colonel Thomas, however, did not take defeat well; he festered in a rough camp in the forests near the town. He continued to raid the town of Gatlinburg for supplies, and the occasional forced conscript, while he and his dwindling band of men cooked up a series of increasingly wild plans to regain the fort from the 600 well equipped Union men ensconced at the top of a hill near the mine. Some began to suspect the Colonel was starting to lose his mind. His wild-eyed demands of the townspeople grew increasingly bizarre.
Needless to say, the 5-month long guerilla war earned Colonel Thomas no friends in Gatlinburg as the constant raids wore the townspeople’s tolerance thin. The Union troops’ soon grew weary of the annoying harassment by Colonel Thomas and his band of rogue confederates. The Union troops attacked in a quick and deadly operation one night, the Cherokee’s scattered, many were captured, Thomas himself was shot and stabbed 23 times.
However, Colonel Thomas’s ghost still roams the woods, looking for another desperate way to get back the fort that no longer exists.
More stories in the thick woods of the Smokey Mountains
There’s an eerie energy in the Smokey Mountains, with its dark stories of Witchcraft, monsters, and cannibals haunt the town. Book your tour today to hear all these stories and more as told by professional local guides.
Read more on our blog about the nearby Inns, mansions, cabins, and restaurants haunted by more ghosts.