While UT is known for its Volunteer spirit, that’s not the only kind of spirit we seem to have on campus. From residence halls to the Hill, campus has been tied to many haunting tales. Here are our top five picks for the spookiest spots on campus. Whether you’re a visiting alumnus or a current student, beware of the ghosts of UT.
Perkins Hall was built near the original Blount Hall ( itself was built in 1900 and demolished in 1979). During the early foundation work before Blount Hall was raised, the bodies of eight Union soldiers were uncovered and relocated to the nearby National Cemetery. While Blount Hall stood, it was often said the spirits of these soldiers would roam the corridors. Some individuals walking to Perkins Hall have even claimed the soldiers can be seen comparing maps near their original gravesites.
Crowned by Ayres Hall (built in 1921) and South College (built in the late 1800s), the Hill has been home to paranormal sightings for years, the likes of which include a large creature described in many different ways—among those descriptions are a phantom wolf and a cat-like monster that stands on its hind legs.
Reports of the wolf spirit tell of his coal-black eyes and long sharp fangs. Those familiar with the story of the spirit refer to it as the “barghest,” a product of Northern English folklore described as a spectral hound with huge claws and teeth. A barghest sighting was said to be an omen of certain death.
The feline description of the Hill’s creature is equally as frightening and often associated with the “wampus cat” of Cherokee legend. The wampus cat is said to have piercing glowing eyes, and, like the barghest, is considered a death omen.
A second spirit said to frequent the sidewalks of the Hill is much less scary—unless you take a look under his hat.
On any given night, one might encounter a gentleman walking among students on the steps toward Ayres Hall or strolling around the Hill. The apparition has been reported to wear a Celluloid collar and bowler hat and walks with his head bent and hands behind his back. Though some say he does not acknowledge the students around him, others have seen him tip his hat, revealing a gaping hole in his head. It is thought the man is a student from the 1930s who committed suicide after his girlfriend left him to marry someone else.
Built in 1931 with additions made in the 1960s, Hoskins Library is home to the well-known spirit called Evening Primrose, who is known for being active but elusive. Stories tell of her playing with elevator buttons, knocking books from shelves, and most peculiarly, baking cornbread. When the scent of freshly baked cornbread comes wafting through the halls, staff members know the spirit is to blame. The identity of Evening Primrose is unknown, and paranormal detectives have been unable to catch any evidence of her in Hoskins’ halls.
Most noteworthy of all haunted halls at UT was Strong Hall. Until 2008, Strong Hall was a women’s residence hall named for Sophronia Strong, who was born in Shelbyville in 1817. At the age of 16, she married Knoxville physician Joseph C. Strong. The couple made their life together in his brick home Cumberland Avenue. Before her death in 1867, Sophie had given birth to 12 children. One of her sons, Benjamin Rush Strong, left a large sum of money to the university when he passed away. He intended for the school to build a residence hall in his mother’s honor and specified it house only women and that a wildflower garden be planted in the courtyard. The construction of Strong Hall finished in 1925.
For decades, residents of Strong Hall reported incidents involving the ghost of Sophronia. She was known to students as Sophie and acted as a mother to them. Her spirit was mostly known to be playful, locking students out of their rooms or bathrooms or scaring them with hovering lights in the hallways. Despite her harmless, fun-loving personality, Sophie had no tolerance for disagreements, arguments, or unladylike behavior.
Two former Strong Hall residents shared their Sophie encounter with Knoxville historian Charles Price. According to the report, the two ladies were discussing an event, which turned into a debate. Things escalated quickly and the girls began to yell at each other. Suddenly, one girl fell completely silent as she looked ahead in terror. Sophie was standing in front of them with hands on her hips, glaring in dissatisfaction.
One particular room in Strong Hall was so filled with paranormal activity that it came to be called “Sophie’s Room.” It was rare that the student living in the room would last a whole semester before requesting to move. No photos or EVPs have captured anything out of the ordinary in Strong Hall. However, paranormal investigators did experience major battery drain and noted that a picture of Sophie was 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the room. Sophie’s ghost has also been seen in mirrors, usually on her birthday, February 17.
Tyson Alumni House
Until 1954, the Tyson Alumni House was owned by US Senator General Lawrence Tyson. He and his wife, Bettie, along with their two children and their beloved dog, Bonita, lived in the late 19th-century house. Bonita was a gift to their daughter from the son of President Ulysses S. Grant. Bonita lived a charmed life with the famous Tyson family, and when she passed away, she was buried in the backyard of the property.
Isabella Tyson Gilpin donated the house to St. John’s Episcopal Church in 1935. When the university bought the house in 1954, it came with one stipulation from the Tyson family—whoever utilized the building would have to maintain the resting place of their beloved Bonita. The grave could never be disturbed, making it the only legal gravesite on the campus. Stories say that Bonita still appears in the house, and that she can still be heard howling at night.
Have you had a ghostly encounter on campus? We want to hear about it! Share your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.