Haunted Cades Cove: The Cussing Cover

Posted by blogger in Gatlinburg Haunts
Haunted Cades Cove: The Cussing Cover - Photo

A Bit of History…

Before it was a popular  tourist day attraction of the Great Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove was a place that hundreds of people called their permanent home. For over one hundred years before the park was designated, plenty of families worked and lived in the Cades Cove valley. Before European settlers came to the valley, the area itself was heavily traveled by the Cherokee people and was worked as a place to hunt the abundance of deer, elk, bison, and bears. The first of the European settlers appeared in the Cove in the very early 1820s. They quickly took advantage of the Cove’s overflowing resources and built a plethora of log homes, barns, smokehouses, corncribs, and even cleared land for agriculture. The land was fertile and provided the settlers with everything they needed to flourish. Now haunted Cades Cove, read on to learn of The Cussing Cover, the most popular haunt of this area!


Within thirty years by 1850, the valley had reached a population of 685 residents. Families were settling in, having children, and growing their homes. It was no uncommon for each family to raise 10-12 children each. As the population grew, many other buildings were erected in need of things like a schoolhouse and churches. Little did residents know that their small, happy town would turn into haunted Cades Cove.

Once Tennessee and North Carolina began purchasing land for the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cade’s Cove fell in the area being bought up. Many residents left willingly, but some others refused to leave the place they had resided in their entire life. Some residents signed ‘life-leases,’ which allowed them to live out their lives on their land, with restrictions on hunting and logging. Obviously, some of Cades Cove’s residents were extremely attached to the land and probably still are to this day. Since Cades Cove is still set up as it was in those early days, any spirits ‘living’ here are right at home in their surroundings, although probably confused about all the people walking about their homes.


Cade’s Cove’s Most Popular Ghost Story: The Cussing Cover


One of the families that grew attached to the land of Cade’s Cove was the Esteps. Mavis Estep and her husband Basil lived in a quaint two-room cabin along the Whistling Branch stream. The Esteps enjoyed their quiet life in the Cove, but a persistent but unrealistic fear truly plagued mavis… she was absolutely paralyzed by the idea of being struck by lightning.

The fear began when local legend told that she was fated to be killed by a lightning bolt since she was born during a thunderstorm. Mavis did not dare go out in the rain and banished metal beds or furniture from her home. She even refused to quilt with her metal needles during storms, in case the lightning felt like creeping up on her inside her home. Mavis was an avid quilter, and this truly showed how irrational her fear was, with her chances sitting only at 1 in 500,000 of being struck, let alone killed.

Of her many beautiful quilts, Mavis’s favorite creation was a patchwork made up of pieces of one of Basil’s favorite red flannel shirts. She named her masterpiece ‘The Cussing Cover’ because Basil had been wearing the red shirt during one of the couple’s first marital argument, in which Basil had spit some very colorful language. Now it is a symbol of haunted Cades Cove, living on in legend.


Struck by Illness, Not Lightning


In the end, it was not lightning that took Mavis’ life from her, but a severe illness. When she accepted that she did not have much time left, she gave Basil her blessing to remarry but made him promise her two things: one, he could never sell any of her quilts, and two, he was to never under any circumstances place her quilts on a metal bed. Basil agreed to these requests, and Mavis passed away peacefully in the home shortly thereafter.

Less than a year had passed before Basil was remarried to a woman named Trulie Jane, who was a much younger woman living in Cades Cove. When she moved in, she told Basil the old wooden bed wasn’t good enough, and after some prodding, Basil went against Mavis’ deathbed wishes and bought a new metal bed for the couple.

One evening, when the weather was strikingly cold, Trulie Jane asked Basil if they could add one of Mavis’ quilts to the bed to keep warm. Ignoring his promises to Mavis, he let Trulie pick a quilt to sleep under. As fate would have it, she picked The Cussing Cover, as she was quite taken by the beautiful red flannel patterns. In the middle of the night, Trulie Jane was awoken to an apparition of an angry woman standing at the foot of the couple’s bed. The woman locked eyes with Trulie and started to scream. Trulie woke up Basil in a panic, but when he awoke, the woman had disappeared. Despite Trulie’s fears, Basil told her it was simply a night terror, and they both returned to sleep.


A few hours passed when a brilliant flash of light burst into the Estep home and knocked Trulie out of bed. When the smoke of the light cleared, she found her husband Basil lying on the floor burnt to an absolute crisp where the metal bed had stood. The rest of the cabin was untouched and undamaged by this strike. Oddly enough, there were no thunderstorms that night in the Cove, just a single bolt of lightning that happened to land right on Basil. Mavis’ quilts were eventually sold to one of the Estep daughters and ended up in the hands of a collector. Rumor has it that the quilts are still around the Smoky Mountains.

While this may all seem like a colorful legend and sure, since this story has been passed down by word of mouth exclusively, some details have become lost. But a couple of facts remain: when visitors step foot into the Cove, unknowing of the stories that were born here, they report strange feelings and voices. While no one is quite sure which cabin belonged to the Esteps, one may be able to check the remaining homes near the stream and check for burn marks on the cabin floor!


Not only are strange experiences common in the Cove as a whole due to its extensive history, but freak thunderstorms have been reported here as well. Think; bright and sunny day turned dark grey with downpours within a matter of minutes. Maybe Mavis is still attached to her home here, angry at Basil for disobeying her last wishes. Regardless, we’d recommend not visiting Haunted Cades Cove during a thunderstorm, just to be safe! Gatlinburg doesn’t fall short of haunted cabins, check out our article about The Cabin on Roaring Fork here!


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Featured Image Courtesy of LibreShot