Today we explore Appalachian folklore, as Becky tells us about the ghosts and legends that haunt the highways of East Tennessee. Let us bring you along on a meandering road trip. We’re driving right into the spookiest legends from the region.

In this episode, Becky muses about her upcoming trip to Kingsport for a funeral, and why she chose to stay in a historically haunted hotel. The trip brings back memories of haunted locations she’s heard about on previous road trips.

Listen now:

Appalachian Slang and Quirks

Ever the etymologist, Diana challenges Becky to see if she’s familiar with some of the more unusual Appalachian phrases and slang terms. We delve into the authenticity and meanings of these unique expressions.

Do you know what any of these slang terms mean? Does your family use any of these Appalachian euphemisms?

  • Airish
  • Mushmellon
  • Startin’ to Turn
  • Tater Hole
  • Sigogglin’
  • Boomer
  • Dope
  • Ballhootin’
  • She-balsam and he-balsam
  • Pig in a Poke
  • Whistle Pig
  • Long Sweetenin’ and Short Sweetenin’
  • Comefluttered
  • Can See to Can’t See
  • Zonies Alive!
  • Eh, Law!
  • Painter

Comefluttered yet? Well sure, ya gotta listen to the episode to hear what they mean! Or at least, what they probably mean. Some of these were apparently from deeper into the mountains than even Becky hails from. If you have any favorite Appalachian slang that we missed, or if we mis-translated a phrase you use fluently, tell us about it in our discussion on Facebook.

East Tennessee Legends

The Appalachian region is home to numerous fantastical legends that have been passed down through generations. In this section, we delight and horrify your auditory flesh windows with four distinct spooky legends. Each one holds a unique place in the lore that Becky grew up with.

Roaring Fork Nature Motor Trail

The Roaring Fork Motor Trail, nestled in the heart of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, carries more than just the sound of its rushing streams; it echoes with tales of the supernatural. If you drive along the trail, chances are you’ll be overwhelmed by the scenic beauty of the area. And, you might just also see a ghost.

The Spirit of Lucy

In 1909, a fire engulfed a cabin in the area of the Roaring Fork river, claiming the life of a young woman named Lucy. Since then, travelers have reported sightings of a young girl wandering the trails, especially in winter, as if reenacting her untimely demise. Wrapped in a white nightgown, with no shoes, and appearing inexplicably warm in the biting cold, Lucy’s spirit has become a somber reminder of the area’s tragic past.

Briceville’s Coal Creek War and Dick Drummond’s Ghost

Briceville, Tennessee, is a place where history and hauntings intertwine. The Coal Creek War of 1891, a significant labor uprising in Tennessee’s mining history, sets the backdrop for the town’s ghost stories.

The Tale of Dick Drummond

Among the many souls affected by the war was Richard “Dick” Drummond, a soldier turned miner. During the uprising, Drummond reportedly killed one of the soldiers sent to quell the feud. Of course, Drummond wasn’t the only one, but for some reason, one of the militiamen decided to execute him without a trial. Some say the executioner took a shine to the same lady that Drummond was courting. The real reason is lost to history.

What we do know, however, is that the militiaman strung Drummond to the steel beams of a nearby bridge and left him to die by the elements. Now known as Drummond Bridge, this liminal space still holds Dick’s spirit hostage. Legend has it that to encounter Drummond’s ghost, one must cross the bridge at night, ideally dressed as a soldier from the late 19th century. Those who have dared to do so report an eerie silence and a sense of foreboding enveloping the bridge.

Dick Drummond, who still haunts the bridge of his namesake after his tragic execution.

Netherland Inn Road

On her way to her haunted accommodations, Becky makes a detour down Netherland Inn Road to swing by Rotherwood Mansion. You already know all about the story of Rowena Ross from our previous coverage. But there’s another haunting on this road that might be new to you.

The Netherland Inn on Netherland Inn Road as it looked in 1964. It looks a lot better now.

The cautionary tale of Hugh Hamblen

According to local lore, Hugh Hamblen tragically lost his life in a car accident while crossing this road to his waiting vehicle, enveloped in thick fog. Since that fateful night, drivers have reported the chilling sight of Hamblen’s ghost along the side of the haunted highway. Wavering in the dense mist, Hugh’s spirit seems to be warning motorists of the perilous road conditions that claimed his life. His spectral figure, often seen frantically waving his arms as if to caution the living, is the embodiment of a cautionary tale of just how risky driving in the fog deep in the mountains can be.

The Haunting of Sensabaugh Tunnel

The Sensabaugh Tunnel, located close to Kingsport, Tennessee, is busting with supernatural legends. This seemingly unassuming tunnel also holds a reputation for being one of the most haunted places in the East Tennessee region. You’ll recall that one of our previous guests also talked about the legends of Sensabaugh Tunnel.

The most prevalent legend associated with the Sensabaugh Tunnel involves its namesake, Edward Sensabaugh. The story narrates a tragic incident of the Sensabaugh family hosting a homeless man in their home. The man ends up to be untrustworthy, but the family found out too late. Caught stealing the Sensabaughs’ belongings, the man grabs the only leverage in arms reach: the baby. In a dreadful turn of events, he drowns Edward’s baby daughter in the tunnel. The sad event left a lasting imprint. Visitors today speak of hearing a baby’s cry and Edward’s ghostly footsteps echoing through the tunnel. If one turns off their car engine inside the tunnel, it may refuse to start again. Many travelers in this uncomfortable position report the feeling of being watched.

What’s your favorite Appalachian legend?

Each of these East Tennessee legends, from Roaring Fork’s sorrowful ghost to Bryceville’s echoes of labor strife and the sad happenings of Sensabaugh Tunnel, illustrates the Appalachian region’s deep connection with the supernatural. These stories continue to captivate and haunt those who are bold enough to go ballhootin’ down these historic paths.

Follow along on our Patreon to witness our upcoming Appalachian road trip, at the beginning of May, 2024. While you’re there, why not stay a spell? Members get fresh, hot, and steamy exclusive bonus content every week, and access to all episodes ad-free.

And as always, if you have a spooky legend, either from East Tennessee or from your own neck of the woods, drop us a line. You might hear your voice on the next episode of Homespun Haints, and we can all have a spooky day!