Dressed in all white roaming the dark city streets, telling eerie tales of the dead to the living. This is how I met the creator of Knoxville’s walking ghost tours, Laura Still.
While Still might have resembled a ghostly woman in white, she happens to be quite alive. Just a passionate history buff with a fascination for the darker side of Knoxville’s past. Still’s interest in our city’s history started at her part-time job working at Visit Knoxville. During her time working at the center, she noticed a demand for something that the center did not have.
People would come up to Still to ask her where they could find history tours in Knoxville. Without any structured tour available, the best Still could muster for the inquisitive folks was suggesting possible places to check out. Upon experiencing these frequent requests for tours Still asked organizations for help. One of those sources was the executive director of the Knoxville History Project, Jack Neely. A history buff himself, Neely was all in for the idea but did not have time for the tours. Consequently, the spotlight turned to Laura Still.
To prepare herself for leading these tours, Still spent 6 years reading about Knoxville’s history. Some may view this as a long time to study up on our history, but Still insisted the necessity of it. She accredits Jack Neely to telling her, “The biggest mistake you could make is to try and do one tour that tells all about Knoxville because we have too many good stories.”
By the time she finished studying in 2012, she had two tours ready to exhibit to the public. One of the first original tours was a haunting walk through downtown Knoxville called Shadow Side Ghost Tour. These tours were obviously a hit as she has gone from two tours in 2012 to now having 10 tours available in 2018. Still is currently in the works of making number 11! She believes the tours are so appealing simply due to human nature.
“I always zone in on the people and to me, that’s what connects you to the history… that’s what makes us human… all the stories we tell.”
Right now there are no plans to expand the tours outside of Knoxville, but already there are requests of having her walking tours in other parts of East Tennessee. Still plans to guide these tours as long as she can. She has confidence, “this is the job where I was meant to be.”
Want to support Laura Still?
Take her walking tours for yourself! Check out some of the variety of walks she offers.
Proceeds from the tours goes towards these organizations and in turn they support her projects of spreading Knoxville history!
Knoxville History Project
Old Gray Cemetery
Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum