Memphis is loaded with some pretty amazing history... and with history sometimes comes ghosts. From Civil War spirits who haunt a former hospital to a ghost who plays music on a jukebox from beyond the grave to a mysterious figure who might even be Elvis himself, Memphis has its fair share of specters. If you're looking for a paranormal experience in Memphis, here are the best places to visit... and what to look out for while you're there.
Earnestine and Hazel's is famous for being one of the country's best dive bars... and one of the country's most haunted, too. The joint has a storied past, naturally. It started off as a pharmacy owned by Abe Plough, who found success making a hair straightening concoction and Coppertone sunblock. He sold the pharmacy to Earnestine and Hazel, two hairstylists who worked above the business. They turned it into a cafe that hosted blues legends like B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Sam Cook, and Chuck Berry – thanks to the nearby Club Paradise, which was run by Earnestine's husband. The cafe closed in the 1970s, but was reopened as a bar in the 1990s. It's since become famous for its soul burgers, live music, and ghostly jukebox. As the story goes, a group of ladies celebrating a friend's divorce were mysteriously serenaded by the jukebox with “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” by Tammy Wynette. According to another legend, as soon as a customer finished telling a story about a coworker who vomited in a cab, the jukebox turned on and began playing “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Don't be afraid to ask a bartender about their otherworldly experiences at the bar... if you're prepared for some really creepy stories, of course.
Memphis' Victorian Village, with its many grand historic homes and famed Millionaire's Row, is a great spot for a ghost-spotting tour. The Woodruff-Fontaine House is one of the most famously spooked. The French-Victorian mansion, built in 1870 by carriage-maker and eventual Mayor of Memphis Amos Woodruff, was also home to cotton mogul Noland Fontaine before it was abandoned in the 1930s. In the 1960s, it was saved and refurbished, eventually becoming a museum... but the house is still home to a few of its former residents.
The friendly spirit of Mollie Woodruff Henning has been known to sit on the bed in the Rose Room, leaving behind an impression on the mattress. Legend has it that she also appeared to docents and helped them rearrange the furniture in the room to appear as it did when she lived there. The basement and parlor are also paranormal hotspots; during ghost hunting sessions, a male voice EVP has been recorded as well.
The Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum offers evening ghost tours a few times a month; if you're determined to see a spirit - or at least hear a few really great ghost stories - be sure to reserve a ticket!
The Hunt Phelan Home is a mansion that was used as both a Confederate and Union military headquarters during the Civil War. It was also a home for soldiers and served as a hospital at one point. Later, it was used as housing for teachers who came to Memphis to educate newly-freed former slaves. It was eventually turned back into a private residence. The Hunt family lovingly restored the damage done to the home during the war. It was then bought by Stephan Rice Phelan, who became so obsessed with researching the home's history and his own eccentricities that the building again fell into disrepair. It was later rehabilitated and turned into an inn. Presently, the home is a popular event space for rent.
The most common apparition spotted on the property is a male servant dressed in 19th century garb. Some sense that this ghost is trying to show the living where former residents hid away treasure in an attempt to keep their fortune out of military hands during the Civil War.
Memphis' beloved Orpheum Theatre was built in 1928, but its history actually begins with the Grand Opera House. The Opera House was built on the same site in 1890 but burned down in the early 1920s. It was replaced with the Orpheum, which became a popular spot to watch vaudeville performances and, later, touring Broadway productions. Performers and guests often report mysterious happenings that many claim to be the result of paranormal entities. One of the most commonly spotted ghosts is Mary, a 12-year-old girl who was possibly hit by a trolley outside the theater and brought inside where she died. Flickering lights, slamming doors, cold spots and weird figures that look strangely like a young girl are not unusual experiences at the Orpheum. It still remains a beautiful old theater and is a fantastic place to catch a show.
The National Ornamental Metal Museum contains stunning displays of metalsmithing and metal art... and a few ghosts, too. The buildings that now house the exhibits were once part of a Marine hospital complex dating back to the 19th century. The actual hospital building is still abandoned, but the nurses’, officers’ and doctors’ quarters (which contained the morgue) all are open today. Frequent reports of weird voices, ghostly apparitions, and a strange, uncomfortable feeling of being watched make this a definite paranormal hotspot.
But, of course, the most famous ghost in Memphis is the King of rock ‘n’ roll himself: Elvis Presley. Presley’s beloved Graceland is allegedly still haunted by his spirit – not too surprising since he died and is now buried here. Add in the fact that the decor and furniture haven't been changed since Elvis lived in the Graceland mansion and it makes sense that his spirit is still present. Elvis has been spotted in the room where his jumpsuits are on display, while others claim to hear his singing coming from the second floor (which is closed to visitors). The whole place has a very intimate and personal vibe, so don't be shocked if you feel his energy on the property, especially in the meditation garden.
Whether you're looking for a paranormal encounter or just a few scary stories to thrill you while on your visit, Memphis has loads of ghostly tales. But, with so much history and an abundance of soul, don't be surprised to hear a special song on the Earnestine and Hazel's jukebox or see Elvis casually wandering the halls of his home sweet home!