Senior Chet Guthrie is part curiosity seeker, part ghost hunter, and part thrill seeker—all with a video camera in hand.
Guthrie, of Cleveland, Tennessee, graduates Saturday with a double major in journalism and forestry with a concentration in recreation management.
Undergraduate college commencement ceremonies will take place Thursday through Saturday, May 10 to 12, and graduate hooding will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 10. The university will award 3,113 undergraduate degrees, 923 graduate degrees, 109 law degrees, and 82 veterinary medicine degrees. See the commencement website for a schedule of ceremonies, speakers, security information, and more.
For the past year, Guthrie has teamed up with friends Nathan King John Galay and Ryan Chalmers to produce content for Adventures United, a documentary-style internet channel focused on travel, which was created by King and Galay.
“We met at our old community college and both of them became really good friends of mine in Cleveland, Tennessee. Nathan’s interests began with inspiration from his father, who dived for gold on shipwrecks in Honduras,” Guthrie said.
Based out of Cleveland, the trio travels the Southeast looking for quirky stories, historical oddities, and little-known haunts.
“We try to go every weekend or every other weekend,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie’s first outing with Adventures United was to the Calderwood mining town in Alcoa, Tennessee.
Established in 1912, Calderwood acted as a base for the Aluminum Company of America’s Little Tennessee Valley hydroelectric development operations. The town housed construction and maintenance personnel for the nearby Calderwood Dam and has been abandoned since the 1960s.
The team usually works on weekends and they try to work around everyone’s schedules.
The farthest that Guthrie has traveled is Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Petros, Tennessee. They were looking for “the train to nowhere.”
The Adventures United crew stumbled upon Brushy State Penitentiary. Operating from 1896 to 2009, the penitentiary was known as the Alcatraz of the South. Brushy State once housed James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. The vacant prison is surrounded by a rock wall.
Guthrie said his favorite filming site has been Hales Bar Dam.
“We got permission to dive beneath the dam,” he said. “One of the really cool things we found down there was a hand-painted sign for one of the generator rooms.”
Adventures United has also taken Guthrie to some frightening locations.
“The scariest place, hands down, is Old South Pittsburg Hospital.”
The abandoned hospital, located in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, is known as one of the most haunted places in East Tennessee. The hospital closed in 1998. Today, owner Stacey Hayes provides tours of the abandoned hospital to the public. The building’s popularity stems from its paranormal nature. It has been featured on TV shows such as Paranormal Witness and Ghost Asylum. The location is so popular that tours are booked two years in advance.
Walking through the old hospital, Guthrie began experiencing odd feelings.
“There’s one specific area where I felt angry,” he said. At another point, his arm and leg went numb, his heart started racing, and he felt nauseated.
He didn’t like it.
“That’s why I will not return back to the Old South Pittsburg Hospital.”
The group’s latest project is filming at the old Tasso train wreck.
In 1864, a Confederate train—loaded with guns, supplies, and a payroll of gold and silver coins for Confederate troops in Charleston—exchanged fire with a Union train as the two approached the Confederate army’s Tennessee troops near the community of Tasso, about five miles northeast of Cleveland, Tennessee. Confederate officers in the camp ordered explosives to be set up to blow up the Union train. The trap was set, but the Union train passed unscathed. The Confederate train blew up.
Catherine Luther, director of UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media, said it’s been fun to watch Guthrie use his classroom skills in such an innovative way.
“I think it is fantastic that Chet has been combining the production and journalistic skills he has learned as one of our majors together with his own creative instincts and adventurous nature to document interesting locations in East Tennessee,” she said. “I view it as a form of experience learning. It also showcases his entrepreneurial spirit, a quality that I always like to see in our students.”
Guthrie said he once dreamed of being a park ranger but then realized his interests in writing, photography, and videography. He’s grateful that he found a way to combine all of those interests in a degree—and hopes he can parlay that into an adventure-filled career.
He’d like to do archival work with the Tennessee Parks System but adds, “the job I really hope to land is working for the Discovery network when they completely move to Knoxville.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)