Tales of ghostly visitors live on in downtown Knoxville

On Gay Street, you can find an iconic Knoxville façade dressed up for Halloween with ghouls and goblins in the windows, but that look for The Bijou Theatre might not be far from the truth.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With Halloween this week it is no surprise to find ghosts and all things spooky decorating every corner you turn, but there are some places in Knoxville that some say are actually haunted.

On Gay Street, you can find an iconic Knoxville façade dressed up for Halloween with ghouls and goblins in the windows, but that look for The Bijou Theatre might not be far from the truth.

“Every [paranormal] organization has resoundingly confirmed that this building is certifiably haunted,” said Development Director Courtney Bergmeier.

Before The Bijou was the bustling theater we know today it had several lives.

“It went from a hotel to a Civil War hospital, to a brothel at one point,” Bergmeier said.

Parts of the building date back two centuries. The front part of the building was built in 1817 as a hotel. Original hotel pieces are still intact, and legend has it some of the people who were here then may also still be around.

Bergmeier has worked at The Bijou for two years and has ghostly tales of her own. She said the most haunted place in the building is supposedly the second-floor bathroom.

“This is where I felt the two tugs on the sweater,” she remembered.

She is not alone. Haunting stories are told all over the building.

Bergmeier recounted one in the theater told by a former employee, “He was walking across the stage, heading toward that door on the side and then whoosh behind him plaster comes crashing onto the stage floor.” When the man checked to see where the plaster fell from, he could find no signs of any missing pieces.

In The Bistro at the Bijou restaurant in front of the theater, employees tell stories of a woman in white, late at night passing through the room.

Up on the fourth-floor old hotel rooms sit empty, but maybe not all of them.

Civil War General William P. Sanders is said to have died in what was believed to be the bridal suite in 1863. Perhaps he never left.

“His soldiers actually concealed his body here because they didn’t want to discourage the morale of their troops,” Bergmeier said.

These spirits might not be the only ones spending the afterlife in downtown Knoxville.

About 120 years ago tragedy struck one block of Gay Street and may have left behind some spirits here in many of those buildings.

A fire destroying an entire city block where the Mast General Store and Downtown Grill and Brewery are now. Decades later many tales of spirits at unrest there.

But for many of them, like The Bijou, the supernatural visitors add to the charm and mystery that comes with the notable places they possess.

“It creates so much intrigue around the building,” Bergmeier said.

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