Oh, Memphis. Mighty 901. We have a lot of history, don’t we? Musicians have sung songs of the Home of the Blues, the Birthplace of Rock n Roll. People have cheered and chanted about the Grind City. But every year, the dark side of our fair blip on the map comes around: we gotta lot of straight-up weird stuff. Lively cemeteries. Haunted theaters, bars, and parks. Nefarious characters parading as kind patrons of the city. Unsolved mysteries. Hell, we even had a Crystal Skull meticulously hidden inside the top of The Pyramid, no Indiana Jones needed! (My love for Indie runs as deep as the earth’s core though, so don’t test me.) From Urban Legends you can see for yourself, to spooky haunts that offer themselves up year-round, Memphis brings the spooky, the unsettling, the dark like the best of them.
The Woodruff-Fontaine House
One of the most famous haunts in Memphis, The Woodruff-Fontaine House has been standing since 1871. Now a preserved historical location, the House serves as a museum, honoring those who died during the Yellow Fever epidemic. As seen on Ghost Hunters, the house is riddled with spirits of members of the two founding families: Molly Woodruff lost her husband and two children in the home, while the Fontaine family lost three sons. Every year, the House opens up for Ghost Tours, one with a professional investigator that leads you through the house, and another where you can bring your own ghost hunting gear and experience a “lights out” hunt with a team.
St. Peter’s Spiritual Temple, AKA Voodoo Village
I’m going to preface this section with a strong note: DO NOT GO HERE AND HARASS THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE. Not because I think they’re going to curse you, but because you should respect their privacy and leave them alone. I put St. Peter’s Spiritual Temple (the real name of Voodoo Village) on this list for completion’s sake, as it deserves its part of Memphis’ landscape. But seriously, people live here! I’d chase you out of my yard too!
There are so many stories of Voodoo Village floating around Memphis. Through the compound’s trees, you can see ornate carvings and metal works, all sorts of Freemason symbols, animal skulls and bones, and bright colors– all of which, combined with the closed-off nature of the compound sitting on a dead end street, contributed to its nickname Voodoo Village. Created by Wash “Doc” Harris, the Spiritual Temple was to be an area of spiritual healing, which he believed he was blessed by God to work with. Adorned with folk art and steeped in belief, the community kept to themselves as much as possible. Before being gated off with a security system in recent years, people reported seeing Voodoo priests, rituals, and ghosts, as well as supernatural happenings, such as their cars going dead in the middle of the street. Folks also said that buses and bat-wielding cultists would trap you in, refusing to let you leave… of course, if they didn’t let you leave, how’d you get out to tell the tale? Part myth, part hysteria, St. Peter’s Spiritual Temple has half-earned, and half-been-forced to have its place in Memphis’ spooky history.
Georgia Tann & the Tennessee Children’s Home Society
The Tennessee Children’s Home Society. A kind, unassuming name for an unearthed urban legend, a front for some cruel and unusual activities. On the surface, founder Georgia Tann was seen as a helping hand for families who were not able to keep their children, and thus were put up for adoption through Tann’s agency. But investigations arose as children were ripped from their parents: sometimes, parents would drop their children off at “daycare,” and come back to find out their children were missing, actually being sold to rich patrons or celebrities, for child labor, or worse. Some parents were told their babies needed medical care, and they never saw them again. Others were kidnapped, plain and simple. Being as rich as she was, Tann had every notable name on her side, Judges and police ruling in her favor every time she was challenged. Tann wasn’t only stealing children and adopting them out, making millions of dollars; she was also herding up the weak and sick, leaving them to die in a number of cruel ways. She was “kind” enough to bury them in a large, unmarked plot in Elmwood Cemetery, another of Memphis’ most famous places. This woman and her cronies went deep into madness. Unfortunately, she was never brought to justice, as she died of cancer before the findings were made public. There were some celebrity adoptions made through the agency; most notable for our particular audience (and less of a grim story) is that of Ric Flair. Yes, the wrestler.
A notorious, depraved woman. An Urban Legend that was finally confirmed.
The Orpheum Theatre
Ah, The Orpheum Theatre. Much beloved by the 901 crowd, The Orpheum brings Broadway to Memphis, offering a huge array of concerts, musicals, and stand-ups. Registered as a National Historic Register, walking into the Orpheum is like walking into the past; ornate and grand gilded designs cover the walls, with huge, sweeping red curtains, long chandeliers, and a quadruple-decker stadium of plush seating rising over the floor.
It’s as 1920s as you can get. And it’s glorious.
But eager thespians and fans aren’t the only ones walking its corridors- a young ghost by the name of Mary also frequents the grounds. Her story differs depending on who you ask; some say she was injured in a car accident, while others say it was a fall that took her young life. No matter her origin, Mary makes her presence known to actors, workers, and visitors alike. People say she’s often noticed in her favorite seat, C5, and is always described as having long, dark braids and a white dress. Mary’s played tricks on repairmen, taken in many a show, and been felt and spoken to by psychics and seance members alike. The latter indicate that there are other spirits in The Orpheum, former home of the Grand Opera House, though none are as well-known as Mary.
You can’t talk about Memphis without talking about Graceland, or any proxy of The King, Elvis Presley, for that matter. While thousands flock to the city every year for Elvis Week, there are those who also line up in hopes of seeing The King himself. That’s right, thousands of folks swear Elvis has not left the building, and is still hanging out at home, particularly in the Jungle Room. (And if you didn’t know, he’s buried on the grounds… though some swear he’s still alive and it’s not a ghost!) Considering the amount of time he spent in his refuge, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was walking his own halls.
These are just a tiny handful of the stories that come out of Memphis, especially when it comes to ghosts, spooks, and the supernatural. If you get the chance, I recommend you come try a few ghosts out for yourselves… if you’re brave enough. 😉
What are some of your favorite urban legends?
References, awesome articles, and overall good time spooky stuff:
Reddit: Urban Legends of Memphis
WREG: The Truth About VooDoo Village
Earnestine & Hazel’s
Choose901: Urban Legends
Memphis Magazine: Unsolved Mysteries
Georgia Tann & the Tennessee Children’s Home Society