Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Nashville Ghost Story

When an early darkness begins to shorten sunny days and bony fingers of frost spread over the windows at night we are reminded that Halloween will soon be upon us. Unfortunately, Greece does not celebrate Halloween, nor do they have much knowledge of it aside from what they have heard in movies or in the media. This saddens me, as I always had a particular affinity for Halloween – the costumes, the candy, the scary stories, souls meeting at the crossroads – all the elements of a fine Gothic holiday. Greeks do dress in costumes during Carnival, before the Easter fast, but that is more of a get your jollies out holiday, and not one steeped in mystery and the occult.

One of the fun things about October is the prevalence of ghost and horror stories. People like to tell them, people like to listen to them, and they are all around you in the month preceding Halloween. I’ve always had a fondness for a good horror tale, a convincing ghost siting, anything that leaves a chill down my spine. So I shall share with the world my experiences with a single ghost, a ghost who isn’t talked about much, but who lurks in the shadows of a Nashville institution.

I attended Belmont University for both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, and I worked there, so I spent quite a bit of time on campus. Attached to the campus is the historic Belmont Mansion, home of the infamous Adelicia Acklen, a powerful woman in a time when women were rarely looked upon as more than emotional bags of air, baby creators, or servants. She was a manipulative woman who used her men well, and ended up exceedingly rich as a result of her feminine wiles.

As soon as I set foot on campus I began hearing stories about Adelicia’s ghost. It was said that she wandered the halls of the mansion, keeping guard over her stately home. The silliest suggestion was that her goal was to tempt and seduce the young men of the campus, as if she was some sort of undead siren. It was even hinted that she participated in the occult, as evidenced by the goat heads and chalices that could be found in the gazebos around the grounds, the artwork she had around the mansion and the animal statuary that were all over the estate.

Of course I wanted my chance to see her. By a stroke of good fortune, I had the opportunity to wander the mansion at 2am, accompanied by two friends. We were dubious about the whole ghost story, and more interested in finding more evidence of her occult practices than anything. The mansion was extremely dark, we moved through it only with the assistance of flashlights, which in itself gave the whole experience an ominous, spooky air.

The first floor yielded nothing of interest. Disappointed, we made our way to the second floor. A big portion of the area was either closed off or in use as offices/work areas, so the only rooms to be seen on the second floor were the bedrooms of Adelicia, her husband, and her children, which were all in the same area of the house. When we first entered Adelicia’s bedroom, all three of us noticed a dramatic drop in temperature. Since it was summer, we guessed it might be air conditioning, and looked in vain for a vent that might have been blasting cooler air into that particular room. There wasn’t one. We didn’t see any ghosts, though, and we proceeded into the children’s bedroom. The one thing of note there was a big opening that looked over the stairwell. This was there supposedly so the children, when in their rooms, could peek at the lavish parties Adelicia would throw. All you could really see was the stairs, though, so unless people hung out on the stairs doing something interesting, I am not sure how much fun it was to look out that opening.

Having found absolutely nothing of interest, we made our way back down the stairs. After we passed the opening to the children’s room, I happened to look back at it. To my surprise, I saw a woman standing there! Knowing that there couldn’t have been anyone else in the building, I turned quickly and practically pushed my friends down the stairs in a mad dash to get the hell out of there. I had no intention of chatting up Adelicia’s ghost and I really didn’t want to look back and see her again, if it was indeed her ghost.

A few years later, I was walking through campus at dusk, right beside the mansion. I glanced up at a window upstairs, something had caught my eye. There was a woman staring back at me, standing in the darkened window, no lights in the room behind her. I stopped and looked for a minute, trying to decide if it might be an employee in the mansion, but it couldn’t have been. All the employees except for the curator (who was a man) typically left much earlier, and there wasn’t an event scheduled in the mansion that night. She didn’t move from the window, nor could I see her well enough to see an expression on her face. I smiled at her, and walked away.

Had I seen Adelicia’s ghost? I’ll never know for sure. But it sure does make life more interesting to think that I did.

1 comment:

Eff said...

I can't say I've had an experience like that. I heard a deep male voice in my bed room once. It said what sounded like "damn" in my ear.