The Most Haunted House in Memphis?
Our history expert pays a visit to a home with sights and sounds no one can explain.
by Vance Lauderdale
October 30, 2018
A quiet residential street close to Germantown may seem an unlikely location for a haunted house. But for the past 14 years, the residents of an unassuming home off Kirby Road have been plagued by ghostly sights and spooky sounds they can’t explain.
The homeowners don’t want to be identified, because they don’t want people knocking on their door hoping to see their “ghost.” So let’s just call them James and Linda. James is a retired mechanical engineer, Linda a homemaker. Their home is a typical one-story ranch-style brick house constructed in 1972, with a kitchen facing the back yard, and a large den at the rear. All of the four bedrooms are on one side of the house, linked to the den by a long hallway.
James and Linda moved here in 1979. If the previous owners had any problems with the house, they never mentioned them. All went well for about a year. Then James and Linda say they began to hear odd noises — creaks and bumps throughout the house. One night, James was sitting in the den when he heard something rap three times against the sliding-glass door right behind his chair. “It was just like someone knocking on the door,” he says. “The drapes were open and I looked out, and there was nothing in the backyard.” What’s more, the motion-detector lights hadn’t come on. James has a cooler head than most people. “It happened two or three more times that night, so finally I just shut the drapes.”
Visitors to the house often complain about a cold wave that seems to move through the den, without feeling any draft. Others complain about an uneasy feeling, “as if somebody is watching you.”
Returning home one afternoon, Linda put groceries away in the cabinets and left the kitchen. A few minutes later, she found all the cabinet doors standing wide open. Another time, she put her purse on top of the refrigerator, where she kept it. When she went back in the kitchen, the purse was in the middle of the floor. She and James began to joke nervously about their “ghosts.”
The joking soon stopped. One afternoon, while James was at work, Linda was in the kitchen and her 5-year-old grandson, Michael, was sitting on a couch in the den, reading. The couch offers a straight view down the hallway leading the bathrooms. Michael suddenly ran into the kitchen, obviously frightened, and asked, “Who’s that man, Grandma?”
Surprised, Linda asked him, “What man?”
“The man that was standing in the hallway,” Michael replied. “He’s gone now. He just walked into that bedroom.” Linda ventured into the hallway and peered into the bedroom. It was empty. Michael, who had never been told about the home’s “ghost,” said it was a man in a long, dark coat, who stood in the hallway and stared at him, before entering the bedroom.
A few weeks later, Linda was taking a bath late one afternoon. James had not yet come home from work, and she was alone in the house. Or so she thought. She heard the adjacent bedroom door open, then something went “clunk-clunk” in the closet next to the bathroom, and she heard what sounded like her clothes being pushed back and forth in the closet. She next heard the bed creak, as if someone had laid on it, and she thought: James has come home, tossed his shoes into the closet, and laid down on the bed .
When she finished her bath, got dressed, and walked into the bedroom, it was empty. Even worse, she says that “something” had switched off all the lights in the house. “I’ve never been so frightened,” she remembers. “I got out of the house, went outside, and sat in the car until James got home.”
Oh, just a housewife with an overactive imagination, you say. But then James, who seems a very level-headed fellow, began to have his own frightening experiences. Several times, he says, while sitting in the den, he heard loud thumps in the attic, “just like someone bouncing a basketball on the roof.” He even clambered into the attic but never found the source of the sounds.
“One time I head the noises, and it had been snowing, so I looked outside,” he says, “but there weren’t any footprints in the snow around the house. So it’s not like it was coming from outside, either.”
Both James and Linda claim to have seen something in the hallway, which James says is “like a white fog that appears and then fades away. Sometimes it seems to move from the bedroom across the hall into the bathroom. It’s never lasted long enough for me to get a good look at it.”
But it has apparently shown up on film. A couple of snapshots taken during a Christmas party one year seem to show a white mist floating around people in the den. “We took the pictures to a camera store,” says Linda, “and they couldn’t explain it. It wasn’t a processing fluke, they told me. Whatever it was, it was on the negative.”
The “visits” continued. One evening, James was watching television in the den while his wife got ready for bed. When she finally came into the den, he asked her, “What in the world is the matter?”
She said, “Huh? What do you mean?”
“Just now,” James said. “You came down the hallway, and just before you got to the den, you burst out crying and ran back down the hallway. I heard you plain as day. So what was the matter with you?”
Linda looked at him a long time. “James,” she said, “ that wasn’t me .”
The worst incident took place just a few months later. James and Linda had gone to bed, when she shook her husband awake. “I hear voices,” she whispered. James sat up in bed. He could hear them too, and after listening for a few minutes, said, “Oh, I know what it must be. We must have left the bedroom on in the guest bedroom.”
The same bedroom their grandson had seen the “man in the dark coat” enter — and never come out.
James got out of bed, walked down the hall, and paused outside the closed door of that bedroom. He could hear voices, and he said later they sounded like a man and woman having some sort of argument, but he couldn’t make out the words. James then did something most people wouldn’t have done. He slowly opened the door.
When he did, the voices grew louder, but he still couldn’t understand them. He stepped across the room and reached down to switch off the TV. The voices suddenly stopped, and James realized with a shock that the TV was not on.
He backed out of the room, and closed the door behind him. He told his wife that he had turned off the TV, but that was a lie. He admits, “I don’t know what that was, but I didn’t get any sleep that night.”
The encounters — and there have been many others — have continued to this day. Just last week, James says, the “voices” returned, coming from the guest bedroom so loud they woke him up one morning. “They always seem to be coming from the corner around the TV,” he says, “but I’ve never heard of a TV that can broadcast when it’s not even turned on.” Or plugged in, for that matter. James made sure of that.
Linda says friends have urged them to have a priest some to the house and exorcise it, but she doesn’t want to do that. “Sometimes I just tell them to shut up,” she says, “but I don’t want to do anything to rile our ghosts. They’ve been here a long time with us, and haven’t done anybody any harm.”
This story originally appeared in the October 27, 1994, edition of the Memphis Flyer .
Copyright © 2023 Memphis Magazine. All rights reserved.
Haunted Places in Germantown, Tennessee
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