Jerry Summers: Hales Bar Ghost Inhabited Site

Friday, October 23, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

We have previously written about the ghosts that resided at Brushy Mountain Penitentiary in Petros and South Pittsburg’s haunted hospital in Marion County.  However, the closest site to Chattanooga for the paranormal fans is the Hales Bar Marina.

I have been informed that the haunted spirits will be communicating with any citizens brave enough to venture on the premises at 1265 Hales Bar Road, Guild, Tennessee 37340.  Details can be obtained by leaving a phone message at (423) 942-9000 or on the web at www.halesbarmarina.com.  From the website it appears that they are planning to have various guest speakers during October 2020 and plans include vendors, food, soft drinks, and beer at their cash bar.  Tickets should be ordered now.

The history of Hales Bar Dam has been well documented but it is a vital part of the history of the Tennessee River.  Prior to the building of the Nickajack Dam near Shellmound in Marion County the main effort to curb the often-raging river was the facility at Hales Bar.  Before Hales Bar Dam, the Tennessee River was a major source of danger to year-round traffic in the Tennessee River Gorge in three whirlpool areas knows as “The Suck,” “The Skillet,” and “The Pan,” with “The Suck” being the most dangerous.

These sites also had paranormal reputations as the Indians that originally lived in the area prior to the “Trail of Tears” claimed that they could see the souls of their ancestors being sucked into the massive whirlpool.  In 1905 after a favorable site had been approved by the U.S.

Army Corps of Engineers, construction started at Hales Bar which was an economic boom to the community.

Joseph Conn Guild, an engineer from Chattanooga, lobbied Congress for the authorization to raise funds to build the dam in exchange for the rights to the dam’s hydroelectric output to be public and available to communities.  Guild then formed the Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company later known as TEPCO.  Two self-contained communities, Guild (Haletown) and Ladd, were created to accommodate the thousands of workers necessary to erect the claim.

Legend also included the presence of some angry Indian spirits who were upset because the water where the dam was being built was sacred and that War Chief Dragging Canoe cursed this land on March 17, 1775, during the illegal Treaty of Sycamore Shoals. 

Problems arose during the construction of the dam when it was discovered that it was being built on a weak limestone foundation.  Leakage would remain a problem for 40 years.  Although originally scheduled to start producing electricity in 1909, it was not able to commence operation until November 13, 1913, at a cost of $10 million instead of the original estimation of $2 million.

Prior to the adoption of the OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) statute, which was enacted by Congress on December 29, 1970, working conditions were very dangerous with limited safety rules to protect workers on projects such as Hales Bar.

As a result, there were many deaths and bad injuries on the site.  This has likewise led to more paranormal stories about construction and mason workers who helped build Hales Bar Dam and were killed and are buried within the concrete walls and their spirits still haunt the premises.  One of those spirits is the ghost of a murdered woman whose body was buried in the concrete walls and who is still present. 

In 1967 the federal government finished Nickajack Dam that replaced Hales Bar Dam and left only the massive control house on the shore of the river that is the location of the paranormal experiences.

Marion County provides potential “ghostbusters” the opportunity to exercise their urge to visit the spiritual world at either the haunted hospital in South Pittsburg or the likewise haunted power house at Hales Bar.  Both are just a short drive off I-24 and reservations can now be made for the various events scheduled during the rest of October and in the following months throughout the year and in 2021.  Aptly named “6 Fears Hells Bar Dam” ticket sales end on November 1.  For the additional sum of $6 your group can even purchase your own “Ghost Meter” and search for paranormal activity at Hales Bar. 

Who knows?  The Ghosts of Halloween may be present!

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)  


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