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Things you may have NEVER cared to know, but are now somehow reading about Memphis, Tennessee

Updated on May 26, 2013
The Great American Pyramid
The Great American Pyramid
The First Piggly Wiggly
The First Piggly Wiggly
Tom Lee Park Obelisk
Tom Lee Park Obelisk
Lorraine Motel
Lorraine Motel

Yes, Memphis, Tennessee gets to lay claim to the Rock and Roll great, Elvis Presley, but there is far more to the Bluff City than mainstream media has yet to reveal.

  • Memphis is named after the ancient metropolis of Egypt. It is located in the same proximity to the Mississippi River as the Memphis of Egypt to the Nile. Also, Memphis, TN features the third largest pyramid in the world. The 32 stories (321 feet) tall structure was constructed in the early 1990s and consists mostly of stainless steel. A large statue of Ramses the Great stands before the pyramid’s entrance.
  • A Native American presence in the Memphis region began with the Mississippians. Many local landmarks are although named after the later Chickasaw Tribe. This sixteenth century populace was responsible for the construction of several mounds that still span the downtown area of the city.
  • A yellow fever epidemic devastated the city in the year 1878. An estimated 25,000 people fled the city. Over 19,000 individuals remained, of whom 5,000 perished. The novel The American Plague by Molly Caldwell Crosby is an excellent read for additional information of this detrimental period.
  • In 1918, Clarence Saunders founded the famous grocery chain, Piggly Wiggly, in the heart of Memphis. It was perhaps the first self-serve grocer that did not allow extended credit for purchases. To encourage shopping, Saunders designed each store in the exact same manner, including the placement of products, to avoid any confusion. A replica of the first Piggly Wiggly is on display at the Pink Palace Museum, a mansion that was once the home of Saunders himself.
  • There are prominent urban tales of the Memphis’ heavy Masonic presence, both in its history and architecture. A few examples include:
  1.   Pyramid with missing capstone
  2.  Obelisk in Tom Lee Park
  3.  Rhodes College founded by masons in 1848, initially named Masonic University of Tennessee
  4.  Number of Masonic plaques and engravings across the University of Memphis campus (with a Masonic lodge located directly next to it)
  5.  The spelling of Memphis’ famous Beale Street is a direct variation of Ba’al’s name (a supposed god prominent in Masonic lore)
  •  Memphis’ National Civil Rights Museum includes the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Marin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.
  • Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Morgan Freeman, Jerry Lee Lewis, Al Green, Cybil Shepherd, Justin Timberlake, and Elvis Presley are but a small selection of famous individuals born in Memphis.

The Orpheum
The Orpheum
Ernestine & Hazel''s
Ernestine & Hazel''s

Haunted History

Memphis has a vast haunted history, so much that the city has its own team of Ghost Hunters. These are some of the more well-known locations of documented paranormal activity:

  • The Orpheum Theatre is supposedly haunted by a young girl who was trampled by a horse and carriage immediately outside of the building. She, along with a number of other entities, are known to cause technical malfunctions and frighten both staff and customers.
  • In the 1960s, a young woman was stabbed to death at Overton Park. A number of accounts have attested to the presence of a wandering spirit that rises out of the park’s lake, in which her body was found.
  • The Memphis Metal Museum rests on the grounds of an old army hospital that was used to house those afflicted of the yellow fever epidemic in the 1800s. Untold numbers are said to have died here, and continue to haunt the area.
  • Ernestine & Hazel’s, a local bar, was once a dry goods store and brothel and is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Memphis. The Memphis Paranormal Investigators have captured a number of supernatural instances involving various entities. Also, the juke box is said to be well attuned to the atmosphere of the bar, playing songs accordingly on its own.

The Pink Palace
The Pink Palace
The Memphis Zoo
The Memphis Zoo

Cultural Attractions

There are quite a few cultural attractions that are worth seeing as well, including:

  • The Center of Southern Folklore: a great source of folk art and local music talent.
  • The Brooks Museum of Art: the oldest art museum in Tennessee
  • The Pink Palace Museum: exhibits range from dinosaurs to civil rights activism
  • The Memphis Zoo: 76-acres including over 3,500 kinds of animals
  • Hattiloo Theatre: an African American repertory theatre
  • National Civil Rights Museum: paying homage to the civil rights activism of the 20th century

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    • Lilith Eden profile imageAUTHOR

      Lilith Eden 

      6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Wow tsmog!

      I'm quite impressed that you know something of the First Battle of Memphis. The civil war no longer tickles the fancies of the city's inhabitants, so ignorance towards the subject prevails.

      And yes, it sounds like you ate exactly what you should have coming to Memphis. Great choices! :)

      -Lilith

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      6 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Great hub. I was remembering the great naval battle that took place at Memphis during the Civil War. Significant for being one of two naval battles for that war. There were ship to ship engagements, but this was a full on battle with iron clad ships to boot.

      I was there for a short business trip once. Enjoyed the food - homemade biscuits w/gravy & sausage and the bar-b-que, M'm - M'm

    • Lilith Eden profile imageAUTHOR

      Lilith Eden 

      6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      Craig:

      Why yes sir, the Lorraine Motel is right here, and it is actually quite heartbreaking to go see. Venturing to the Civil Rights Museum is basically asking for a dose of manic depression, so if you ever get the chance to visit, be prepared.

      And do you know that most EVERYONE who was born and raised in Memphis has NEVER once set foot in Graceland? As an immigrant, I went when I first came to America. Then, never again. (P.S. Elvis once offered my grandmother a ride home and she blew him off. Lol)

      Don't forget the great talents of B.B. King, Otis Redding, and Al Green as well. They are all products of this city!

      -Lilith

      And I'm flattered by the faith you place in my potential notoriety.

    • Craig Suits profile image

      Craig Suits 

      6 years ago from Florida

      Interesting tour Lilith. Wouldn't it be cool if we could press a button and experience a choosen part of the past in real time?.

      I never associated "The Lorraine Motel" with Memphis, interesting. A most profound incident in my lifetime. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man where I come from.

      But, if Elvis and Jerry Lee came from Memphis, you got my vote any time...And before long, the phrase will read, "Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Lilith" and you know why. :>).

    • Lilith Eden profile imageAUTHOR

      Lilith Eden 

      6 years ago from Memphis, TN

      @bizzymom:

      If you do intend on visiting Tennessee, coming to Memphis will certainly be worth your time. Don't forget to also check out Graceland (naturally, for the sake of Elvis), The Children's Museum of Memphis (a huge complex for kids to have fun and learn), and Chucalissa (a replicated Native American village/museum). And of course, eat plenty of Memphis BBQ (my personal preference is Central BBQ).

      @travel_man:

      Memphis certainly isn't portrayed in the best light when mentioned in media and referenced in films, so I am glad I was able to offer more positive aspects of the city.

      Thank you both for reading.

    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      My father used to play Tennessee waltz when he was still alive.

      Thanks for expanding my views regarding Memphis, too.

    • bizzymom profile image

      bizzymom 

      6 years ago from New York

      A nicely written and well organized hub! It certainly gives me a few things to look for when I visit Tennessee.

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