A Haunting History

October 26, 2017

The Jack Daniel Distillery is located in Tennessee, but there are far more interesting spirits to be found.


In southwest Tennessee, the small town of Bolivar boasts three distinct historical districts. Two districts are filled with magnificent antebellum homes, and many of those homes have stories to tell. History haunts the historic dwellings in more ways than one.


John Houston Bills owned the historic home known as The Pillars. The Wren’s Nest, or Wedding Cake, was built by Bills in 1870 as a wedding gift for his youngest daughter, Lucy, when she married Wilbur Armistead, editor of The Bolivar Bulletin newspaper. It was designed by Fletcher Sloan, an architect known for his Swiss chalet cottages. It was named The Wren’s Nest after a nesting wren delayed the final painting of the home.


The Armistead family sold the home to the Parran family. Dave Parran was a local undertaker. He often sat on the front porch in his rocking chair and greeted everyone who passed. ‘Uncle Dave’ died in 1936 at the age of 86. His neighbors spoke of how they would miss visiting with him on his front porch. A rocking chair still sits on the front porch of this lovely home and is often seen rocking back and forth, despite the absence of a breeze. Some claim to have seen Mr. Parran’s apparition sitting in the rocking chair. Others say they have heard him rummaging through the house in the middle of the night. All agree this is a benevolent spirit. These claims are documented in the History section of the local library. If you happen to pass by this home, you might get a ghostly welcome.



The McNeal Place is a striking home built with materials imported from Europe and lumber barged in from Cincinnati. The Spanish ironwork adorning the front porch is sure to catch the eye. This home was built by Ezekiel K. Polk, grandfather of former President James K. Polk. Ezekiel’s only daughter Priscilla, died in her teens in 1854. Her mother was inconsolable. Ezekiel built the home on the west side of his property to face the historic Polk Cemetery where his daughter was buried. It was completed after the Civil War began, and it was occupied by Union forces for some time. Mrs. Polk was given a special pass to cross the Union lines in order to visit her daughter’s grave each day. The architect who designed and built the home returned to Bolivar as a Union colonel. He is credited with saving the home from being burned.


Local legends say Mrs. Polk was not allowed to visit the cemetery every day. On days she was not allowed to cross the lines, she would stand in the bedroom window on the second floor and stare at her daughter’s grave. Many have claimed to catch a glimpse of Ann Polk’s ghost standing in the window. It appears she is still watching over her beloved Priscilla’s grave.



The rich history of Magnolia Manor has attracted the attention of several groups of paranormal investigators in recent years. Many have flocked to the home in hopes of encountering one of the many spirits in this home. The home was used as a headquarters for the Union Army, and it is believed that Generals Grant, Logan, McPherson, and Sherman planned the Battle of Shiloh at this home.


The gorgeous wood banister is often a topic of conversation. The home was built by Judge Miller. The Miller family passed down stories told through the generations. Mrs. Miller was seated at the dinner table with Generals Grant and Sherman. Sherman remarked he believed “all Southern men, women, and children should be exterminated.” Grant did not hear his comment, but he followed Mrs. Miller when she abruptly left the table. When he learned what happened, Grant ordered Sherman to apologize to their hostess. He apologized, but the humiliated general stormed from the room. He removed his sword from its scabbard and slashed the banister, permanently making his mark on this historic home.


The bed and breakfast offered several options for guests - The C.A. Miller Master Suite, Annie’s Room, The 1849 Room, and The Cottage. The 1849 Room is well-known for its paranormal activity. In fact, some guests have left the room because of ghostly incidents, with one couple dragging their luggage out of the home in the middle of the night.


Guests report footsteps in the hall, bed sheets being tugged in the middle of the night, hair being pulled while they slept, opening and closing doors, full-body apparitions, and antique dolls moving. One of the apparitions is frequently seen walking through the downstairs hallways. One guest reported two ghostly women sitting on the couch beside her in The 1849 Room.


There have been many unexplained phenomena captured on film and voice recordings in this home, and it has several framed certificates to back up its claims of being haunted.



If you’re passing through Tennessee and hoping to see a ghost, stop in the small town of Bolivar and ask a local where to look. Odds are favorable that you won’t be disappointed.

Amy Pilkington is a mother of four who lives in Bolivar, Tennessee, with her husband, children, and two dogs. She enjoys camping, photography, reading, and spoiling her adorable granddaughter. Pilkington aspires to be a beach bum when she grows up.


Check out her novel, Takaani!



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