Hidden Gems: Walking Ghost Tour

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What comes to mind when you think of downtown Knoxville? Countless would say gifts shops, local street performers, or maybe lack of parking. Would it be a surprise if I say triple homicide murders and reanimated corpses?

Check out Shadow Side Ghost Tour and bloodthirsty murderers might be on your list of downtown stories!

The tour runs for 90 minutes. It will take locals and visitors on a ghastly journey through Gay Street, Central, and all the way back to Market Square.

“All the stories told are shockingly true.”

Opposed to the fake dramatics of cheesy horror and jump scares, the tour takes a more historical approach to creeping out the living. All of the stories told are shockingly true. The tour guide will point out a variety of local sites and tell the story behind why people hear footsteps in the night or catch faces peering out of windows.

It starts in front of the Phoenix Pharmacy and Fountain on Gay Street. This is where the history buff who created the tour in 2012, Laura Still, will be waiting. Armed with a stick megaphone taller than her body, she will lead the group through some of downtown’s active haunted spots.

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Stay close to her as she speaks! The loud sounds of busy downtown traffic can drown out her stories. Still excels in retelling these chilling narratives so you do not want to miss any word of it.

“… your favorite places might be home to a sinister story.” 

The first part of the tour is mainly up and down Gay Street. Still will transport everyone back to a time where downtown Knoxville was split into two. The top of the hill where the upper-class citizens resided and the lower hill where the darker side of Knoxville was, hence the shadow side. On the shadow side of Knoxville is where a majority of grisly crimes and deaths happened. It might come to a surprise how many of your favorite places might be home to a sinister story.

After a stroll down memory lane of Gay Street’s history, the tour will move to a more eerie setting. Knoxville’s oldest graveyard, The First Presbyterian Church Graveyard. Created in the 1700s, Still identifies the tombstones of prominent figures in Knoxville and spins their hair-raising tales. During this part of the tour, it gets dark fast so be cautious of your footing so you won’t kick a tombstone and upset the church and the spirit too!

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The tour will continue down Central and onto the block between Main and Hill. Still will give more sinister stories about murderers who used to lurk the street at night and the ghosts who still hang from their former gallows. Historical houses will also be on this part of the tour so get your camera ready for some neat shots.

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On ending the tour, you will find our little scruffy city has more secrets than we know. This is definitely a must-do if you’re a fan of the supernatural or just looking for something new to add to your Knoxville Bucket List.

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City Dwellers: Laura Still

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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.

Storytelling.

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.

http://knoxvillewalkingtours.com/the-tours/

Donate!

Proceeds from the tours goes towards these organizations and in turn they support her projects of spreading Knoxville history!

Knoxville History Project

https://squareup.com/store/knoxville-history-project

Old Gray Cemetery

http://www.oldgraycemetery.org/OGC/Donate.html

Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum

http://knoxgarden.org/support-the-garden/donations/