Every town has their tales of haunted places. And, we in Kingsport, have ours.
As the leaves begin to change and the weather slightly chill, listen carefully and you may hear Kingsport residents whisper about a haunted house or road where the strange and unexplainable happens. Tales of truly haunted places like these four:
Rotherwood Mansion is a grand, stately home surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Most recently purchased in 1991, the mansion is a private residence that has been beautifully restored by its current owner. It is also the site of a classic ghost tale – a woman in white haunting.
Built in 1818 by the Reverend Fred Ross, Rotherwood is said to be haunted by his daughter, Rowena, who lost her first love in a tragic boating accident on the Holston River. But, Rowena found love again and married two years later. Unfortunately, her husband died from yellow fever shortly after the marriage. Ten years later Rowena married again and had a beautiful daughter who lived only a few years. Her daughter’s death was the last straw for poor Rowena. A despondent Rowena took her own life by throwing herself into the Holston River. Since her death, residents have seen Rowena walking the grounds of the Rotherwood estate, after sundown, in a flowing white gown and along the riverbanks of the Holston.
Rowena isn’t the only ghost that haunts the grounds of Rotherwood Mansion. Some residents say they’ve heard eerie, disembodied laughter and howling at night. The laughter is believed to be the ghost of Joshua Phipps, the second owner of Rotherwood Mansion. The home sits on the site of what was once a plantation. Phipps bought the plantation from Rowena’s father. Phipps is said to have been a mean, cruel man to everyone: the town folk of Kingsport and especially toward his slaves. Because of his cruelty, residents say Phipps slaves put a curse on him that caused him to fall ill and die. It is Phipps’ laughter that residents hear today.
There have been other ghostly apparitions sighted at Rotherwood Mansion. Some residents report seeing a pair of mysterious eyes in one of the mansion’s windows. Could that be Rowena or Phipps? Still others have seen a black ghost dog (another classic ghost legend) roaming the property after dark.
NETHERLAND INN ROAD
If you find yourself driving down Netherland Inn Road on a foggy night, you may encounter the ghost of Hugh Hamblen. In 1922, Albert “Hugh” Hamblen was visiting his son, Charles, at Kingsport Hospital near the Netherland Inn. Charles was the only survivor of a tragic car accident on Rotherwood Bridge. Hugh sat by the bedside of his unconscious son for hours until he was encouraged to go home to get some rest.
Fog from the Holston River wafted across Netherland Inn Road, obscuring visibility. Hugh was halfway across the road when a car came careening toward him. Hugh waved his arms frantically trying to get the drivers attention, but the car did not stop. Poor Hugh was hit and killed.
Now on foggy nights, residents driving on Netherland Inn Road claim to see a man wearing a hat and old-fashioned trench coat in the middle of Netherland Road waving his arms to get their attention; warning them to stop. Some folks have braked their cars only to have the man disappear. Is it the ghost of Hugh Hamblen trapped for eternity?
Netherland Road is the site of another haunting.
If you don’t encounter the ghost of Hugh Hamblen, you may happen upon a ghostly carriage traveling down the road toward one of the railroad crossings. Don’t be alarmed when the carriage suddenly disappears at the crossing. Legend has it that the carriage was hit by a train many years ago.
THE HOLSTON RIVER
During the Civil War, the Battle of Kingsport was fought along the banks of the Holston River. Many residents walking along the banks on an evening stroll have reported seeing the ghosts of Civil War soldiers near the river. If you happen to be walking along the banks of the Holston River in the evening sometime, perhaps you’ll meet up with the ghost of one of the Civil War soldiers that fought there.
Across the road from the Netherland Inn is the famous Sensabaugh Tunnel. Known as one of the most haunted tunnels in the country, paranormal investigators have visited Sensabaugh tunnel to determine if it’s truly haunted.
There are many stories surrounding the haunting of the tunnel, and the family of Ed Sensabaugh is central to them all. In one particularly gruesome story, the Sensabaugh baby was kidnapped during the course of a robbery and found dead in the tunnel.
The dark, graffiti-marked tunnel is on an isolated part of a road that seemingly goes nowhere. The tunnel is large enough to drive a car through. . . if you get through the tunnel at all. You see, residents say that your car will stall for no apparent reason halfway through the tunnel and, if you look in your rearview mirror when that happens, you will see the ghost of Ed Sensabaugh coming toward you. Other people have heard the cries of a baby in the tunnel.
That is the legend. Is there truth behind it?
A magazine reporter did a bit of investigating and found that Ed Sensabaugh was an actual person and did live in the family home near his namesake tunnel. His family said that during his lifetime, teens liked to park near the tunnel and party inside. Ed was gifted at making realistic sounds with his voice, much like the comic Michael Winslow. The partying teens disturbed the sleep of the Sensabaugh family, so Ed would scare them off. He’d perch himself near one end of the tunnel and make animal sounds or imitate a baby’s cries. The sounds would echo through the tunnel and frighten the teens away. Because of Ed’s noises, the teens believed the tunnel was haunted.
What about the folks that hear the noises today?
Well, residents say, it is the ghost of Ed Sensabaugh who haunts the tunnel. It is Ed you’ll see in your rearview mirror when your car stalls and it is his footsteps you’ll hear. Ed is still making those eerie sounds, they say, to scare people away from his tunnel. So, stay away!
There you have it. Four truly creepy and scary places in Kingsport. Visit if you dare. Or listen to some music to calm your nerves instead.