Get Spooked by History and Haunts at the Hermitage
I love a good historical site, and that love is magnified when it’s a Presidential historical site. Throw in some haunted stuff and man I’m basically head over heels. All three of these loves magnificently merged at the Ghost Tours at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage near Nashville, Tennessee. My 90-ish minutes on this tour were some of the most fun, informative, and spooky moments in quite some time. The tour is a must visit for anyone in the area, but more on that in a bit! First, some history and stories!
Special thanks to The Hermitage for hosting us and for Cameron Hesson Photography for the images used in this post!
Andrew Jackson and the Hermitage
Andrew Jackson called the Hermitage home from around 1820 until his death in 1845. The original house was built between 1819 and 1821 and was brick with 8 rooms. A major renovation happened during Jackson’s Presidency and the home was expanded to 13 rooms and a kitchen and smokehouse were added out back.
Unfortunately, the home was heavily damaged during a large fire in the fall of 1834. The home was rebuilt in the Greek-revival style with 6 large columns on the front of the home. The inside of the home was also updated, with the coolest (in my opinion) change being the addition of an elliptical staircase inside the main entrance. At the time, it was likely the most fashionable home in the entire state of Tennessee!
Rachel Jackson died in 1828, shortly after her husband was elected President and before his inauguration, and was buried on the property. When Andrew Jackson died, he was buried alongside his wife in the beautiful Hermitage gardens.
The Hermitage was converted to a museum in 1889. The home displays original furniture, wallpaper, and family possessions from all those who lived at the property. It truly allows tremendous insight into the life of a past President, the institution of slavery, and the evolution of southern culture.
Haunts in these Hallowed Halls
Since the Hermitage is an old, grand, important building, there is tons of lore associated with the property. I’d heard that the Hermitage was “haunted” for most of my young life, but did not expect it to have as many spooky stories attached as it does. Y’all. The Hermitage DELIVERS! Every nook and cranny of this amazing place is full of something special. I’m going to go into a bit of detail of some of my favorite stories below, so warning: there are some spoilers for if you plan on joining a Ghost Tour!
After leaving the visitor center, our guide walked us through this gorgeous grove of perfectly planted trees. It turns out, the planting was strategic, as each tree was taken from one of the sites where Jackson fought and replanted on the Hermitage property. This fact itself is super cool!
The trees have a spooky side, though. It’s a common belief in ghostly lore that the dead attach themselves to a something earthly when they die. Since these trees were brought from battle sites, it’s likely that some soldier’s souls may have attached to the trees when they died. Our guide told us how some previous visitors have said that they’ve felt chills, cold spots, and even seen ghostly men in uniform while wandering through these groves.
While I didn’t experience anything paranormal while strolling through the trees, it was a very special moment, just knowing that there are so many events attached to these strong beings.
After strolling through the grove of gorgeous trees, we came to the mansion’s driveway. Unlike most modern driveways, the Hermitage’s had a bit of a guitar shape to it – which I found fitting given the proximity to Music City. Our guide explained that the curved driveway allowed visitors to fully take in the views of the mansion on their approach to the house. It was basically a great way of showing off the home (and the wealth of the family who lived there).
Jackson was obviously proud of his home and would often host visitors. He was an avid patron of the arts and loved commissioning paintings. One of Jackson’s artist friends, Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl, even ended up living with the family at the Hermitage after his wife’s death. Earl painted so many portraits for Jackson that he earned the nickname of “the Court Painter.” Earl painted all things Jackson, including the Hermitage itself. One late summer day, Earl was sitting on the lawn painting the grand home and was overcome with heat. He died on the property’s lawn, admiring the home he had come to love. Our guide says that Earl still haunts the grounds. With views like this, can you really blame him?
Guests and guides have also reported hearing horses and carriages coming up the drive. I guess the Hermitage is as popular with ghosts as it was with guests in its heyday.
The Bell Witch
At the porch, our guide had us take a moment to sit down while he talked about Andrew Jackson’s experience with the Bell Witch. Now, the Bell Witch is probably one of the most famous hauntings of all time. I love the Bell Witch story, so I was incredibly excited to hear the Hermitage’s take on the tale!
For those who aren’t familiar, the Bell Witch was an invisible entity that haunted the Bell family farm near Nashville. This spirit tortured the family, but especially Betsy, the daughter. The Bell Witch would constantly make noises, cause items to move, cause harm to the family, and even claimed to have killed John (the father of the family) with poison!
Needless to say, stories about the haunting spread around the area, eventually making their way to Andrew Jackson. The tale intrigued Jackson and he gathered a group of men to pay the Bell family a visit. On their way to the farm, their wagon stopped out of nowhere and would not move. Jackson uttered his favorite curse, “By the eternal!”, and urged the wagon to move. A voice came out of nowhere and basically said, “Okay, but I’ll see you tonight.”
Once they got to the home, Jackson and his men spent time with the family. One of Jackson’s men decided to speak up (I blame the whiskey), saying he was a witch hunter with one silver bullet with which to kill a witch. The Bell Witch did not like this. She beat the man and threw him out of the house.
Not much else is known about Jackson’s night at the Bell family farm. We only know that something caused the brave Jackson and his men to pack up and flee during the night. Crazy cool.
Since we were at Andrew Jackson’s home, we were eager to hear about Andrew Jackson’s ghost! The first tale of Jackson’s ghost came while we were downstairs in the mansion. Jackson died at the Hermitage from lead poisoning from the bullets left in his body from his dueling days.
The red reclining chair in this room was one of Jackson’s favorite spots, so it’s not surprising that some guests have said that they’ve seen the chair sway or even seen a man resembling Jackson sitting in the chair.
Louisa and the Kids
After saying hey to Andrew Jackson, we headed upstairs to check out the creepiest part of any home: the kids rooms. The kids rooms are right across from one another at the top of the back stairs – one room for the girls and one for the boys. A slave named Louisa was tasked with raising Andrew Jackson Jr’s children. Louisa would often sleep on a cot in the hallway between the two rooms.
Apparently, some visitors have seen Louisa sitting on the bed in the little girls room. One guest got very upset and told a tour guide, “That isn’t funny! You all shouldn’t do that!”, after seeing Louisa in the room, thinking she was a guide placed there in period clothes to scare the guests.
To me, the creepiest part of the tour was the old dolls in the girls room. Dolls freak me out to begin with. Super old dolls in a historic building that is said to be haunted creep me out even more. Shout out to Cameron for snapping pics since I basically ran through the hall in attempt to avoid the dolls.
Some of the children even haunt the Hermitage. Guides and guests have heard footsteps running around downstairs when no one else is in the home. One security tape even caught shadows of children roaming the upstairs landing!
When we started our tour, our guide, Patrick, told us that he hadn’t bought into the lore that the Hermitage was haunted until he had an experience at the home. As we stood on the upstairs landing, he shared his story and y’all it actually gave me chills.
Anytime the home is unlocked, a staff member has to be inside it. One night during an event, Patrick was the person in charge of watching the home. He said he’d done this many times, but this time felt an overwhelming urge to whistle. As he was walking around the house whistling, he heard another person start whistling. He looked everywhere, but couldn’t find anyone! The whistling continued. He ended up calling his boss to meet him at the house because he was so shaken up.
At this point of the tour, Cameron suggested we whistle and I noped the heck down the stairs. What can I say, I’m a chicken.
We left the house and headed to the gardens to Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s tombs. Rachel died quite a while before Andrew, and he never remarried. Jackson had a great love for his wife and would visit her grave every afternoon. He would stroll out to the garden, smoke a cigar, and talk with Rachel.
Jackson’s ghost is more frequently felt in the garden than any other part of the property. Guides and guests have reported hearing footsteps, seeing the garden gate swing open, and smelling tobacco by the tomb. Andrew and Rachel’s love lasted longer than a lifetime. Talk about relationship goals.
Need to Know Info
Hermitage Ghost Tours started September 18th and run through November 9th, so you still have plenty of time to hear these haunted tales! Tours run Wednesday through Saturday nights at both 7 and 9 PM and are $35 per person. Trust me, you do not want to miss this! There are several historical guides, so every journey through the mansion is sure to be a unique one.
The best part? Tour sizes are limited to 25 people, so you’re sure to get an intimate story-sharing experience. The Ghost Tours are also a great way to see another side of the Hermitage, as all other tours take place before the sun goes down. In case you can’t tell, I’m only incredibly obsessed!
The Ghost Tour was my first visit to the Hermitage in quite some time and it quickly made me remember why I love the property so much. The beauty of the property, grandeur of the mansion, and depth of the history at this site are unmatchable in this area, which truly makes me believe that the Hermitage is a can’t miss attraction in Tennessee (and tbh the rest of the USA). I can’t wait to visit again during all the different seasons!
Are you a sucker for a good ghost tour like I am? Good news! Keep an eye on the blog in the coming days for more spooky stories from historic sites. If you have a good ghost story, feel free to share it in the comments!
PS: Looking for more Presidential posts? Read about my trip to Mount Vernon! Looking for something spooky? Check out my posts on Louisville’s Seelbach Hotel and Paducah’s River City Ghost Tour!
October 1, 2019 at 8:32 pm
Ooh that little girls room with the painting and the dolls is super creepy! I love a good haunted site and ghost stories. I’ll need to add this to my list!
October 2, 2019 at 7:26 am
Yes! The Hermitage is seriously crazy cool