By: Ryan Baker
October has always been my favorite of months. Football is getting into full swing while baseball playoffs are beginning. “Go VOLS!” can regularly be heard on most Saturdays around our house. The best part of October is that when everyone is tired of the heat and humidity, cooler temps slide in from the north making it enjoyable to be outdoors again. And with those coolers temps come bonfires, s’mores and good times with friends and family.
As a child, one of my favorite things to do around a bonfire was to tell or listen to ghost stories. I can remember my dad telling me about stories he had heard from his brothers and friends. Three of them that stick out in my mind were stories of events and happenings right here in Sumner County.
My father, Wayne Baker, lived next to the city cemetery in Gallatin. In 1963 or 1964 two of his brothers, Billy and Frankie, were out playing near the cemetery. It was a dark, warm, summer evening, and an oval shaped, translucent object came out from behind some tall hedges. It floated about two feet above the ground for about twenty yards. Then it went behind a nearby tree and landed. His brothers were both terrified and ran home scared.
Around 1950, my father’s step-grandfather, Winford Wilson, and some friends were out coon hunting on a farm in Sumner County near Gallatin. It was late in the night and a bad thunderstorm was approaching. They decided to take shelter in an old corn crib till the storm passed. During one flash of lightning they saw the figure of a man who had passed away years before. He was standing right there in the doorway of the crib. When the lightning flashed again, he had vanished into thin air.
Driven to Fear
Sam Walker and his father-in-law, Billy Scruggs, were traveling through Bugg Hollow one night. From the side of the road, a man stepped out in front of their truck. They didn’t have time to stop and they ran right over him with a thud. Knowing the man would certainly be seriously injured or dead they quickly got out of the truck to check on him. They looked around and no one was there. He too, had disappeared.
There are several historic properties in Sumner County that have a history of being haunted, but for now let’s focus on The Palace Theater. It is located right in the heart of Gallatin’s downtown square. The theater is managed by Greater Gallatin’s director, Donna Belote, who shared some of the Palace’s spooky stories with me and the “friendly haunting.”
Audience of one?
Years ago, Rodney Martin ran the projector at the Palace. One evening he was alone on the theater side. When the projector was ready, he headed down for a test run and sat in the back row of the theater. As the movie was playing he said that he heard what sounded like gobstoppers (a popular candy) hit the floor and rolled all the way down to the front of the theater, yet there was no one else with him.
Around year 2000, Charlie Belote was adjusting the focus on the projector when he felt someone’s presence. He looked up and saw the figure of a man smoking a cigar. Not only could he see the man, he could also smell the cigar smoke. A few moments later, he disappeared. Now it is known that the man who built and owned the theater was Mr. Roth, who by chance also smoked cigars. Mr. Roth was the owner of the Palace from 1913 until 1993, so to Donna Belote it makes sense that he would still have a presence in the theater. She also stated that Mr. Roth’s daughter had died before the theater was finished in 1913.
This is the funniest story of the bunch. An employee from a company that came and regularly cleaned the Palace was there one day cleaning the restrooms. While he was doing so, the water in the sinks in the ladies’ room began running. He went over to ask Donna who else was in the building and she assured him that no one was. He went back to finish cleaning and the toilet flushed on its own. Donna says that the man left and no one from that company has returned since.
“There is one man who would disagree with the haunting being friendly,” Donna says. Roy Dycuss was going up the spiral staircase on day when he says that someone or something tried to push him off of that staircase. He also stated that a clipboard was thrown at him while sitting in one of the rows and that there was no one behind him. Needless to say, Roy will not return to the theater side of the Palace.
These stories caught the attention of local ghost hunters, the Tennessee Wraith Chasers, who came out and spent a night inside the Palace. While they were there, several odd things happened. There is a garage door that is located at the rear of the theater. There are metal handles and locks that can only be accessed from inside the Palace. Both handles began shaking and sprung open with no one around. A large stack of chairs came crashing down on the floor and a roll of tape mysteriously rolled down an aisle.
So the next time you are at the Palace, keep your eyes, ears and nose open. There are plenty of other stories about other historic properties around Sumner County, but we will have to save those for another time. To learn more stories about Gallatin’s haunted square, check out the Gallatin Ghost Walk Facebook page. Tours are select weekends in October.