The Great Smoky Mountains are famous for their ghost stories! From Cherokee legends to tall tales from Cades Cove, the Smokies are brimming with supernatural yarns that have been passed down for generations. If you’re looking for a good fright, check out three of our favorite Smoky Mountain ghost stories.
1. Lucy of Roaring Fork
One night in the year 1900, a man named Foster was riding his horse through the forest. He was passing by the Roaring Fork, a stream located just outside of Gatlinburg, when he saw a beautiful young woman on the side of the road. Despite it being a chilly evening, the young woman was walking on the cold ground without any shoes.
Foster offered the mysterious woman a ride, and she climbed up on the back of his horse and introduced herself as Lucy. Together, they road through the night, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist. As the journey progressed, Foster found himself falling in love with Lucy, and after dropping her off outside of her home, he vowed that he would make her his wife.
The next day, Foster returned to Lucy’s home and knocked on the door. A middle-aged couple greeted Foster and he told Lucy’s parents that he had come to ask for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Instead of receiving the blessing he was expecting, Foster was given some disturbing news: Lucy had unexpectedly passed away two weeks earlier.
If Lucy had been dead for weeks, then who did Foster give a ride to on that frigid evening? We may never know, but rumor has it that a barefoot woman can still occasionally be spotted along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.
2. The Cussing Cover
Another one of our favorite Smoky Mountain ghost stories comes from The Granny Curse and Other Ghosts and Legends from East Tennessee, a 1999 book by Janet Barnett and Randy Russell. In the story “The Cussing Cover”, Barnett and Russell tell the shocking tale of Mavis and Basil Estep.
Long before the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Basil and Mavis lived in a two-room cabin in Cades Cove. The Esteps enjoyed their simple life in the valley, but Mavis suffered from an unconventional fear: she was petrified of being struck by lightning. Mavis was born during a thunderstorm, so he held the superstitious belief that she was destined to be killed by a bolt of lightning. Due to her phobia, Mavis never allowed Basil to buy a metal bed for their home.
In the end, it wasn’t a thunderstorm that would claim Mavis’s life, but rather a persistent illness. When she was on her deathbed, Mavis made Basil promise her two things: 1.) that he would never sell any of her beloved handmade quilts and 2.) that he would never place any of her quilts on a metal bed. Basil swore that he would follow Mavis’s wishes and she passed away soon after.
A number of months after Mavis’s death, Basil married Trulie Jane Lawson, a much younger woman who also lived in the cove. Before long, Basil and his new wife were sleeping on a metal bed, because Trulie Jane was too large for Mavis’s old wooden frame. On one frosty night, Trulie asked Basil if they could sleep with one of Mavis’s beautiful quilts, and he acquiesced. Trulie chose a quilt that Mavis had called the “Cussing Cover” because the pattern contained a piece of a shirt that Basil had worn during their first marital spat.
Later that evening, Trulie Jane was awoken by a tremendous flash of light that burst into the cabin and knocked her right onto the floor. The room filled with smoke and a burning smell permeated the air. When all of the smoke cleared away, Trulie found that Basil had been charred to a crisp and the metal bed was completely disintegrated. Strangely enough, the Cussing Cover was in perfect condition and there was no other damage to the cabin.
Legend has it that the Cussing Cover was eventually sold to a collector in the Smokies. So, if you ever come across a quilt with a piece of red flannel in it at a shop in Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge, don’t buy it!
3. The Enchanted Lake
Before white settlers came to the mountains, the Cherokee people lived in the area they called “Land of Blue Smoke.” A number of Cherokee legends about the Smokies have been preserved, including a story about Atagahi, an enchanted lake that humans cannot see.
In one story, a young Cherokee man spent days fasting and praying with the hope that Atagahi would be revealed to him. The young man did not want to hunt at the oasis, he simply wanted to witness the beautiful wildlife and scenery that were rumored to exist at the lake. The man’s spiritual devotion finally paid off when Atagahi emerged from the forest right before his eyes. The magical lake had a stunning violet color and it was teeming with waterbirds, fish, bears, and even more animals. When his vision ended, the man decided to mark the location of the hidden lake with a pile of rocks.
A few months later, a brutal winter arrived in the Smoky Mountains, bringing the Cherokee to the brink of starvation. Desperate to find somewhere that he could hunt during the snowstorm, the young man returned to the spot he marked in the forest. Upon entering Atagahi, the man took aim at a black bear with his bow and sent an arrow through the animal’s heart. Rather than dropping to the ground, however, the bear fell into the violet water of the lake and quickly emerged from the water without a single scratch on his body. In a booming voice, the resurrected bear declared that the young man had betrayed them, and all of the bears at the lake descended on the hunter.
In the days following the storm, hunters from the young man’s village found his body in the snow, but there were no tracks left by the bears that mauled him. According to Cherokee tradition, Atagahi is now impossible to find, but visitors to Clingmans Dome can sometimes see morning mist rising from the magic lake.
Where to Stay in the Smoky Mountains
We hope that these Smoky Mountain ghost stories have put you in the mood to plan a vacation in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge! When you stay with Hearthside Cabin Rentals, you will have the perfect home base for enjoying all of the fun that the Smokies have to offer. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins for romantic retreats to 18 bedroom lodges for family reunions, we are guaranteed to have the ideal accommodations for your getaway. Browse our selection of Smoky Mountain cabin rentals to book your next escape!