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7 Haunted Landmarks in Memphis That Will Give You Chills

Lana is an aspiring travel writer with a serious case of shutterbug and an insatiable curiosity about the world.

Memphis is fascinating at night, especially if you are not afraid of the dark.

Memphis is fascinating at night, especially if you are not afraid of the dark.

Why Haunted Walks Are Fun

A haunted walkabout is not your typical sightseeing tour. It's an adventure, an experience, and a great way to explore a new city.

Here are more reasons why ghost tours are fun:

  • For one, these walkabouts are usually done at night, and everything looks different at night.
  • Two, if you, like me, love history and the paranormal, you'll be fascinated by the ghost legends you'll hear, and you'll relate them to the character of the place you're visiting.
  • Three, you might actually experience something . . . unusual.

I've explored "haunted" Rome, San Francisco, San Diego, Mexico . . . I've seen sites of murders, executions, mass burials, brothels, ancients prisons, and other dark trivia.

A Haunted Tour of Memphis, Tennessee

My latest walking excursion took place in Memphis, Tennessee. It included the following sites:

  1. Orpheum Theater
  2. Grawmeyer's
  3. The Pontotoc Hotel
  4. Ernestine & Hazel's
  5. Lorraine Motel
  6. Graceland
  7. Voodoo Village (I skipped this one for reasons explained below.)
A dog ghost in front of the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. Or maybe just a dog.

A dog ghost in front of the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. Or maybe just a dog.

1. The Orpheum Theatre

Memphis is like a John Grisham novel: It's dark, moody, and rainy. And it has a notoriously dark history. Walking the city at night, you can almost sense the spirits crowding the oldest areas of Memphis. Is it their chilling breath on your face?

My first stop was the Orpheum Theater—home of Mary, a little girl with pigtails who was hit by a trolley in front of the theater in 1921. The local lore has it that since then, she has haunted performances, especially children's shows. She makes her presence known by slamming doors and flickering lights.

Curious fact: The Orpheum never sells the C5 seat—it's always reserved for Mary.

A pianist plays a haunted piano at Grawmeyer's.

A pianist plays a haunted piano at Grawmeyer's.

2. Grawmeyer's Piano Bar

Grawmeyer's is a classy atmospheric piano bar with a paranormal twist. I've interviewed a few people working there, and they said they often witness unexplained phenomena like glasses falling off the table by themselves or, even more strikingly, the piano playing when the bar is closed, which is confirmed by many local residents.

The original owner of the piano was killed in a home invasion (in fact, you can still see the blood stains inside the piano if you ask nicely), and it is believed that her spirit still haunts it, playing her favorite instrument when no one is around. If you're ever in Memphis, don't miss Grawmeyer's—it's a great place to have a glass of wine and to hear some ghost stories.

The Pontotoc Hotel used to be a well-known bordello in the 1920s.

The Pontotoc Hotel used to be a well-known bordello in the 1920s.

3. The Pontotoc Hotel

The Pontotoc Hotel is one of the 1920s better-known bordellos. It looks boarded up (and really spooky), but someone actually lives there. The Davis family has been living at the hotel for 30 years, but only on the first floor. The second floor remains uninhabited because (allegedly) all attempts to renovate it are stalled by the spirits who don't want the hotel to change.

The residents deny this rumor. "There may be spirits here, but they're all very kind," says Leigh Davis. "The energy is positive. But the spirits just don't find any way to give me any money," she jokes.

The Red Room at Earnestine & Hazel's, Memphis.

The Red Room at Earnestine & Hazel's, Memphis.

4. Ernestine & Hazel's

Ernestine & Hazel's is recognized as one of the most haunted buildings in America. This former brothel allegedly houses several ghosts and even a haunted jukebox!

I've talked to a local who said that the place gave him the creeps and that one time when he was using the bathroom, he felt someone's hand on his shoulder. Oooooooh . . .

This place felt "ghostly" to me. I don't know if it was the shabby interior resembling an insane asylum circa the 1900s, or the glaring red light bulbs or the walls painted black as if to induce feelings of dread and depression, or the actual energy of the place, but I just wanted to get the hell out of there.

The Lorraine Motel, a site of Martin Luther King's assassination.

The Lorraine Motel, a site of Martin Luther King's assassination.

5. The Lorraine Motel

The Lorraine Motel is the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination and the National Civil Rights Museum. This is the one site that made my heart race like crazy.

The white and red wreath marks the exact place where Dr. King stood when he was killed. Standing there, looking over the balcony of room 306, I couldn't stop the goosebumps. I felt deep sadness thinking about how this great man's life was cut short and what could have been if he lived.

Having an avid interest in conspiracy theories, I asked the guide if he believed the official story that King was shot by James Earl Ray. I was curious what the locals thought about it. "No," the guide said without hesitation. "The FBI took him out. Ray was just a scapegoat who was framed for it."

Figures. I always wondered why the shooter was smart enough to pull off the assassination of the greatest American civil rights leader but too dumb to wipe his fingerprints off the rifle.

6. Graceland

If Memphis had any ghosts, Elvis Presley would be the one. The man is everywhere: in diners, cafes, malls, souvenir shops, the airport, and, of course, in Graceland, the mansion he bought when he was just 22 years old.

Visited each year by over half a million people from all over the world, Graceland is essentially a time capsule meant to preserve not only the memory but the spirit of its owner. And that's not all.

His presence is so palpable that you suddenly understand why so many of his fans believe him to be alive. Several visitors in the past swore to have seen Elvis at Graceland, looking through the window at the herds of admirers coming to worship at his shrine/house. There were even some blurry photos to that effect.

While that may be just another conspiracy theory to chuckle at, and Elvis is probably long dead by any account, his mansion is alive and prospering. As for the ghost of the King of Rock-n-Roll . . . he is available for your Ouija board seances, I'm sure.

7. Voodoo Village

The Voodoo Village is the center of the Voodoo culture in Memphis. It's a notoriously secluded community of locals who practice a mixture of African Voodoo, Native American beliefs, and Freemasonic practices.

Rumors of animal sacrifice, chanting, black magic, and other bizarre rituals abound, and although most of this "voodoo" nonsense is prejudice and hearsay, there are many accounts of strange experiences in or around the Voodoo Village. No photographs are allowed inside the Village or even from the outside, supposedly because photographs can reveal the ghosts of those who died there, perhaps, before their time.

Is any of it true? You be the judge. But I'm staying the hell away from this spooky village.

© 2015 Lana Adler


Lana Adler (author) from California on January 05, 2018:

Haven't had the pleasure the last time I was in Memphis. The ghost tour was fairly brief, no refreshments either :) Must come back soon!

Bruce Pettengill on January 05, 2018:

Been to a lot on this list. Ernestine & Hazel's got some of the BEST bar grilled burgers on the planet.

Lana Adler (author) from California on November 02, 2017:

Honestly, I didn't look into it in depth. I just heard that it wasn't accessible to tourists anymore, and that even if it was, you don't want to go in there. So my gut said to stay away.

Maurice Glaude from Mobile on October 31, 2017:

Hey you never said exactly which reason made you not want to visit the Voodoo village?

Lana Adler (author) from California on January 12, 2016:

Gettysburg? Another cool historical place. Would love to go sometime! But Memphis was a surprise. Struggling economically, but so much history and spirit! You should def go :)

Jill Spencer from United States on January 12, 2016:

We did a ghost walk in Gettysburg. Would love to do one in Memphis!

Lana Adler (author) from California on April 20, 2015:

Thank you Torrilynn! I love 'haunted' lore but I probably wouldn't want to actually encounter a ghost :)

Lana Adler (author) from California on April 20, 2015:

Thank you Mel, you are too kind my friend. I've visited the MLK assassination site several times, as if something was pulling me back there. Or maybe it's just Memphis geography - all roads lead to the Lorraine motel?

torrilynn on April 18, 2015:

i love anything that has to deal with a place being haunted. thanks for the great read.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on April 17, 2015:

This, was superbly interesting both as a supernatural primer and history lesson. You have done an excellent job of reporting. I found the part about MLK especially captivating. Great hub!

Lana Adler (author) from California on March 30, 2015:

Thank you!! They fascinate me too, although I've never captured anything tangible on any of my ghost excursions.

Mackenzie Sage Wright on March 28, 2015:

Really interesting! Ghost experiences really fascinate me.

Lana Adler (author) from California on March 27, 2015:

Thanks Heidi! I am totally divided between screaming bloody murder and ruining my pants lol. Despite my avid interest in ghost tours, I'm not sure my fragile psyche could have handled an actual ghost...

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 27, 2015:

These do seem like paranormal hot sites! Loved the poll. I was totally divided as to whether I would try to get some tangible evidence or ask questions. :) Voted up and interesting!

Lana Adler (author) from California on March 27, 2015:

Awesome! If you ask, they will even open the top of the piano and show you the blood stains ;-)

Molly Layton from Alberta on March 26, 2015:

This is so cool! If I ever go to Memphis, I am checking those places out. I think the haunted piano would be the most interesting to see.