Larry Hillhouse isn't afraid of ghosts, vampires, zombies or things that go bump in the night. He is fascinated with "supernatural" beings. He even harbors pity for them.
"Back in the 1950s, I delighted in staying up late on Friday nights to watch 'Shock Theater‚' which showed horror movies -- the classic Dracula, Wolfman, and Frankenstein‚ favorites, said Mr. Hillhouse, author of the recently published "Ghosts of Lookout Mountain" (Quixote Press, $9.95, 153 pages, paperback).
Mr. Hillhouse, now a resident of Texas, spent his childhood in Tennessee.
"I would usually watch (the movies) alone, and then hide under the covers while trying to get to sleep. I genuinely felt sorry for the monsters, and felt they were misunderstood and abused."
He said his sister, who had earlier denounced her belief in ghosts, changed her mind when she encountered one many years ago in her home.
Mr. Hillhouse is fascinated with firsthand testimonies of ghost sightings, he said.
"A friend, who was recovering from major surgery, told of seeing entities moving around her bed that other people apparently did not see," Mr. Hillhouse said.
"A small, curly-headed girl crawled upon the bed and lay her head on my friend's shoulder. My friend said she felt very comforted by the girl's presence, and considered the entities as angels, rather than ghosts."
Ghost encounters aren't as believable to many people as are interactions with angels, he said.
"After all, the Bible is full of angelic appearances, so angels are more apt to be acceptable, even to the most conservative types," he said.
Larry Hillhouse's curiosity about tales of ghosts inspired him to pen "Ghosts of Lookout Mountain." He says the Lookout Mountain area offers a rich heritage of ghosts.
"Much of American history is embodied in the one single mountain -- Lookout Mountain, and the surrounding area," Mr. Hillhouse wrote. "The clashes between the native Americans and the whites‚ were only the beginning. The Revolutionary War impacted the area, and also the Civil War. All of these circumstances contributed to this corner of America being an epicenter of violence."
The following excerpts from his book are ghost stories told to Mr. Hillhouse from people living on and around Lookout Mountain:
The mystery at Ruby Falls
In 1928, while drilling for an elevator shaft above Lookout Mountain Cave, Ruby Falls, a cavern containing a 145-feet waterfall, was discovered. But it was a lesser-known cavern, discovered by a man named "Lomax," that is legendary in area ghost folklore. Lomax was deep in the cavern when his light failed. He was alone in a pitch-black cavern for hours when a search party found him sitting, staring straight ahead, and unable to speak coherently. He kept mumbling a warning to them about not going farther into the cavern. The following day, every hair on his head turned white. He never returned.
The phantom rider at Cloudland Canyon State Park
There have been many sightings of Native American ghosts along the rugged hiking trails throughout the park. But there's one ghost who makes his presence known frequently. The ghost, a warrior, patrols the park on horseback. Some people say the ghost is haunting the area while others are convinced he is protecting the park's visitors.
The Battle of Chickamauga
One of the Civil War's most famous and deadly battles, the Battle of Chickamauga is the site where 35,000 soldiers perished in combat on Sept. 19-20, 1863. After the battle ended, women, carrying lanterns, roamed the fields at night looking for their kinfolk. Since then, tales of people seeing eerie lights and hearing moaning and wailing from the same battlefield have been reported.
"Old Green Eyes" in Chickamauga Park
This is a tale that has repeatedly been told by visitors and park rangers alike. Legend has it that "Green Eyes" is the ghost of a Confederate soldier who had his head blown off during a battle. His headless body was buried, and now he continues to prowl the area searching for his head. Another version is that it's a beast that was present long before the Civil War. Reports depict "Green Eyes" as a tall creature with long, unruly hair, fangs and glowing green eyes. The beast is said to approach witnesses by walking straight toward them snarling and growling.
Wilder Tower ghosts
The 85-feet stone tower in Chickamauga Park was built by men who had served under Colonel John T. Wilder at Chickamauga. When the tower was erected, souvenirs of the war were sealed into the cornerstone. In 1976, the cornerstone was opened and nothing was there. Ghosts are said to stand guard at the tower, discouraging anyone from getting too close.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...