Knoxville’s Haunted Bijou Theatre Feb 26, 2016 7:30:52 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Feb 26, 2016 7:30:52 GMT -5
Knoxville’s Haunted Bijou Theatre
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Haunted Tennessee just got a lot closer to home. Located on the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Gay Street, the Bijou Theatre is one of the city’s oldest buildings. Constructed in 1817 as a hotel originally called the Lamar House, the structure has switched hands several times over the past 200 years and served different purposes. What most people don’t know is there have been a number of deaths on the site, turning it into one of the most haunted locates in Tennessee.
At the beginning of the War Between the States, the hotel was converted into a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers and there was much fighting and shooting between the opposing sides. General William P. Sanders is the most well-known casualty of the war in the Bijou and, according to J. Adam Smith, director of Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours, Sanders is buried at the entrance of Krutch Park next to Market Street. “Knoxville has the potential to be one of the most haunted places in America due to its history,” Smith said.
However, the theater wasn’t always as respectable as it is today because in the past, it has served as both a brothel and an adult film house. In other words, the Bijou has been patronized by an eclectic mix of people. Smith explains “haunted locations are based off trauma” and the Bijou is not lacking in that department. In an unsettled time period such as the early 1800s, fights were common and the customers who patronized the brothel weren’t hesitant about using their weapons.
According to Martha Boggs, owner of The Bistro at the Bijou, “most of the phenomena with hauntings are associated with the Lamar House.” There was a lot of stress during the period leading up to the War and paranormal investigators claim such emotions tend to leave a mark on buildings.
In 2006, the East Tennessee Paranormal Research Society investigated the spirits remaining in the historic theater. In addition to nights spent in hopes of encountering a ghost, the team also studied video footage and EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) for months. Team members believe they captured several voice recordings of residual spirits as well as video of a small figure darting past the camera in the fourth floor bathroom.
According to the Manchester Paranormal Investigations, a residual haunting is different because it is not caused by a restless spirit, but rather a recording of the past that inexplicably replays. The belief is that structures may sometimes act as natural recorders and store energy and memories of past incidents in materials such a stone, wood or bedrock. Examples of residuals are audio recordings of such things as a couple inquiring about a show, or a bellboy asking “May I take your bags, sir?”
But finding spirits at the Bijou is not just for those who consider themselves “professionals.” There are several videos on YouTube of various audio recordings of unexplained noises and voices. Perusing the comment sections, regardless of whether or not the experiences are true or false, reveals that many people seem to have had some sort of spiritual experience at the Bijou.
Boggs has experienced the phenomenon herself. She often opens and closes the theatre alone and, quite often, hears a female voice calling her name. When asked how she deals with the paranormal on an almost daily basis, she says, “You just have to sit down and go about your business.” She also shared an encounter that occurred when she was checking the lobby doors one night. “Somebody grabbed the back of my shirt, and it was icy cold,” she relates. "When I turned around there was no one there. I don’t think that encounter can be explained.” However in spite of her many experiences with the paranormal, Boggs has yet to actually see an apparition. “I would like to meet a ghost. I’ve got questions for them,” she quips.
A full history as well as an upcoming list of events at the historic Bijou is posted on its website, www.knoxbijou.com
For additional information about the ghosts of Knoxville, check out Haunted Knoxville Ghost Tours, which the television show Ghost Hunters dubbed the “hidden gem of haunted America.”
Source: Elizabeth Geist, The Daily Beacon, February 23, 2016.