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Ghost Sightings In The Ryman Auditorium In Nashville
Go There For A Tour... If You Dare...
With Halloween being almost upon us, it reminded me of some of the ghost stories I have heard over the years about the ghosts and spirits that haunt the Ryman Auditorium, in downtown Nashville, Tennessee.
Now anyone that knows me, knows that I love country music and have for years, and my favorite artist to see in person is Alan Jackson. With Nashville Tennessee being called "Music City, USA" and since it is the country music capital, I've made many trips there over the years.
One of my favorite "haunts" (pun intended) there is the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. It is an old building, from the early 1900s that was originally built to be a "church" of sorts. A religious gathering place.
Captain Thomas Ryman was a riverboat captain back in the late 1800's, and he was quite a hell-raiser. He and a friend went to listen to a church revival... mostly to make fun of the preacher and heckle him. It turned out that Mr. Ryman was converted to the church, and decided that they needed a building to worship in, rather than holding services in tents in the outdoor elements. So, the idea to build Ryman Auditorium was born.
It was originally called the "Union Gospel Tabernacle." After Captain Ryman died, his name was given to the auditorium. To this day, it is still sometimes referred to as the "Mother Church Of Country Music." And also to this day, it is used as an active concert hall, with television specials also being filmed there. The acoustics in the Ryman are second in the nation, only behind the Morman Tabernacle in Salt Lake City for sound quality. And you really can tell that the acoustics are fantastic just by going there and watching either a segment of the Grand Ole Opry, or by watching an artist perform there. The Ryman Auditorium was also declared a National Historic Landmark in 2001.
All of this aside, it has also been known as one of the most haunted places in Nashville. It is said that there are at least three ghosts that regularly make their presence known, with a fourth ghost only having shown up one time.
The first of these is the Riverboat Captain, Thomas Ryman himself. He is said to watch over the Ryman to be sure that the hall is used for religious activities and other performances that would meet his approval. It is said that he first made himself known back in the early 1900s when a pretty "risque" performance was done there, a musical called "Carmen." It caused so much distress for Captain Ryman that he reportedly "thrashed around" causing so much noise and commotion that patrons in the audience complained that they could not hear the performance!
A lesser known and quieter ghost is said to be the "gray man." Back when the Ryman was built, it only had around 1,250 seats in it, but then a Confederate Army Veterans event was going to be held there, so they added on the upper balcony area, allowing it to seat over 3,750 people. It is said that the "gray man" is actually a Confederate soldier, and he is usually seen after the Ryman is closed to the public, usually during artist rehearsals. He is dressed all in gray clothing. He has never been found, and when someone goes up into the balcony to try to approach him after he has been seen, this apparition is not there, and no one dressed in gray is found in the entire building.
The most famous ghost of the Ryman Auditorium is Hank Williams Sr. Most of the time he is seen as a white apparition, few claimed to have actually seen the ghost of Hank Williams Jr., but there are sightings of his apparition. One employee claimed to have seen a "white mist" on the stage and thought it was Hank Williams singing. One visitor claimed to have seen his ghost in the alley between the Ryman and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, another place that Williams frequented. And still others claim to have seen his ghost backstage.
One time, a film crew from New York was in the Ryman, and they were talking with a local crew after the show was done. The New Yorkers ridiculed the locals and laughed about them having seen "the ghost of Captain Ryman," and the other ghosts. They wanted to see if by hanging around that evening whether anything would happen while they were there. Later that evening, around midnight, they heard the sound of footsteps, and the crew could see "dust" floating down from the balcony where they had heard the footsteps, and every time they'd hear another footstep, more dust. It is said that the film crew made a hasty retreat from the building and returned to New York!
Another person who claimed to have had an encounter with the ghost of Hank Williams Sr. was a country singer who goes by the name of "Whispering Bill Anderson." One Saturday afternoon, Bill Anderson was rehearsing for an Opry show that night, and was checking sound levels of his equipment. He started strumming a tune on his guitar that was a favorite of Hank Williams Sr.. - as he strummed and sang, in the middle of the song, everything in the house went dead...lights, sound, exit lights, even emergency exit lights! No explanation was ever found for this occurrence, and Anderson described the experience as "eerie." He felt as if it was related to him performing that song.
One time in the early 1990s the Ryman was closed temporarily for renovation. During that construction, a worker was accidentally locked in the building overnight, and he claimed to have come face to face with Williams himself.
Now the most recent "spirit" encounter is one that has never been explained either. Lisa Marie Presley had just finished her successful performance on the stage where her famous father, Elvis Presley had once performed. She headed back to her dressing room after the show, along with an entourage, many of whom had worked for her father... and found the door to be "locked." Or so it seemed. Bodyguards believed it was locked so they got a key, it didn't work. They tried moving the door by pushing, turning the doorknob, pushing some more, Then they heard an "eerie" laughter, and it became silent. They were all convinced without a doubt that it was the unmistakeable laughter of Elvis Presley... that he had been there to welcome his daughter to the Ryman.
Now you can see why the Ryman Auditorium is considered to be one of the most haunted places in Nashville. They do allow tours, so take a tour if you ever get the chance, or go there to listen to a musical event... you'll be glad you did!