Roy Exum: Never Rile A Ghost

Thursday, July 20, 2017 - by Ruth Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I don’t care whether you believe in ghosts or not but there is one of life’s rules that should be etched in stone – “Don’t Stir Up A Ghost.” Personally I’ve never seen a ghost but when I was a little kid I heard a bunch of them at different times, and I know where some hang out. There is the famous “Green Eyes” among a handful of haunts at the Chickamauga Battlefield. You can hear them moan. Then there is “The Hook Man” on Sanders Road halfway up Lookout Mountain, and everybody knows only a fool will stay the night in “Room 311” at The Read House.

The lesson is that if you know the whereabouts of ghosts you can avoid such areas and not aggravate them. Don’t even go on the third floor of the Read House.  Just give them a wide berth and you won’t have problems. And that’s the reason I feel compelled to pass along word that a new ghost has been reported this week and this one’s even got his own ghost town. His name was Drew Hester prior to his horrifying death.

Valley Head, Ala., is about a 45-minute drive south from Chattanooga and about five miles this side of town there once was a village called Battelle. In a wonderful article by Kelly Kazek in the Birmingham News (AL.com), she wrote that “Ghost Drew” fell 85 feet down the chimney of a beehive coke oven in the early 1900s and on dark nights some say you can hear Mr. Hester’s screams as he splashes around in the molten pig iron.

The writer even visited Battelle and said it is darn near impossible to find, explaining after driving down a dirt road for five miles and then hiking through thick bushes and vines for an hour, you can see the ruins of a few buildings and one is still standing. The word is that “Ghost Drew” keeps it up and that it is guarded by rattlesnakes.

She wrote you can also easily see what’s left of about 150 coke ovens – it was quite an operation. According to the Alabama-based website, DiscoverLookoutMountain.com, “Mining prospectors found pockets of a fairly good grade of iron ore, coal and limestone. All the ingredients for making pig iron. The Lookout Mountain Iron Company was consequently formed by a group of Ohio mining speculators, headed by Colonel John Gordon Battelle.

“Although he already had large investments in the iron and steel industry in Ohio and the Middle West, Battelle took a great personal interest in the operation to which he gave his name. He moved there and personally supervised the mine activity until it was determined that the mineral deposits were of insufficient quality or quantity to compete with the mines being developed in the Birmingham (Ala.) area.

“In 1905 the furnace was placed on a standby basis and the houses and other properties gradually liquidated,” the website story read, adding the British government bought the furnace and shipped it to Calcutta, India, “where it was in operation until 15 years ago.”

There is a historical marker for Battelle on display in “The Triangle” in Valley Head but I can’t imagine anybody trying to get there on a dark night. It’s said there have been some bear sightings up the mountain, around Mentone, and anyone who searches for the town must get the land owner’s permission because it is posted.

Believe it or not, Chattanooga is one of the top five locations for ghosts in the South, according to the Ghost City website. The others are Savannah, New Orleans, San Antonio and Charleston. New Orleans has the most and, after Katrina, some of the newest, too.

Down through the years there have been rumors of paranormal activity in the main train station at the Choo Choo, and the Faxon-Thomas-Hunter mansion that is part of the Hunter Museum.  I’m told there are some great ghosts in “Underground Chattanooga” but the city won’t allow anybody to go down there anymore. Once a guy was working in the basement of the old Miller Brothers building (now Elliott Davis Decosimo) and watched a ghost walk right through a wall to enter the Underground!

The most famous, of course, is Room 311 at The Read House. One story is that Annalisa Nethery died of a broken heart in the room after her husband ran off with another woman. The better version is Annalisa was a “lady of the night,” as it was called back then, and was found very naked in the bathtub with her throat slashed. It is said she walks the halls at night and moves things around in the room as people sleep.

During the Battle of Chickamauga the Crutchfield House (predecessor of the Read House) was an emergency hospital and the floors were slick with spilled blood. Some paranormal experts claim some Confederates haunt the place because William Crutchfield, the proprietor, was a no-count Union sympathizer and the Rebs swore they’d never forget.

It’s believed William actually challenged Jefferson Davis, who headed the Confederacy, to a duel shortly before the War Between the States began. It would have happened, too, if Tom Crutchfield hadn’t dragged his brother away. It ain’t out of the realm to figure Jefferson Davis’s ghost may be back looking for William. Nobody seems real sure how a lot of ghosts go about their business.

“The Hook Man,” who is said to slip out on foggy nights and watch lovers as they park and smooch halfway up Lookout Mountain, was a Confederate officer who lost an arm to cannon fire in “The Battle Above The Clouds.” He replaced it with a hook and it has been told for years that once when he was peeking on a couple, both the guy and the girl got the hibby-jibbies bad. They scratched out of there so fast they didn’t find the bloody hook on the outside door handle until they stopped at the Krystal on South Broad.

“Green Eyes” at the Chickamauga Battlefield has chased thousands of snipe hunters out of the park over the years. All you can see are two green eyes about five feet off the ground as he searches in vain for his lost comrades-in-arms. I don’t know how fast he can run but it’s been told that one night the apparition got ahead of this chubby girl who was going to Gordon Lee High at the time.

Faster than a second, it turned on her, their eyes not three inches apart. His were almost neon green; hers were shut tight. Of course, she fainted with fright and “Green Eyes” was gone when she woke up. He didn’t hurt her or anything but after that she never went outside when it was dark, not even to go to the prom.

Now we’ve got “Ghost Drew” right outside of Valley Head. I am thinking the scars from getting burned like that must look like something awful but I’ll never know. I don’t go around any ghosts.

royexum@aol.com


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