Alternate Perceptions Magazine, April 2022
Case of the Phantom Church
by: Brent Raynes
Layla Wingate’s artistic rendering of the church she repeatedly saw
Patrician Wingate’s artistic rendering of it
Layla and her mother Patsy visit the memorial site that remains of the church.
Occasionally you hear stories where people describe seeing a building, people, or some scene from a past period of time. A very impressive example of that kind of phenomenon came to my attention back in July 1997 when my wife Joan and I visited the home of Patsy and Larry Wingate and their three children, Cory, Patrick and Layla. They were living in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, just a few miles outside of Knoxville. About five years earlier, after moving to the area from North Carolina, Patsy decided to drive by where she had grown up. Her teenaged daughter Layla accompanied her. "I took the Asbury Cemetery Road," Patsy began. "This was a road where I could see Riverside Drive, which the house where I had lived when I was growing up on a farm was. I hadn't really thought of that church since I lived here. But there it sat, that beautiful old church. And what was funny about it was that when you looked at it it always looked like it was surrounded in mist, like a morning mist."
Patsy and her daughter continued to drive down this road every three or four months for some five years. The church was always there. But then Patsy recalls: "Well, one day, about three or four months ago, we drove by there and the church is gone! I thought, 'Oh God, what happened to the church?'”
Initially, Patsy thought that the church must have burned down, but then she noticed that the hillside there was a healthy grassy green with no signs of a recent fire. Where the church had stood there were now four white columns supporting a small roof and between the columns was a church bell.
"Well, we went home and didn't stop the first time," Patsy said. But then one of Layla's friends suggested that they should. "So we went down there and we got out and we went up there on the spot and there on the ground it says where it burned August of 1981, and we'd been seeing this, and you could see it just as plain as day."
Facing the road there is a stone marker about three feet tall that explains about the church, which was a historic site. Called the Lebanon Presbyterian Church, it was apparently the site of the first church of Knoxville.
The Wingate family was one of those families that seemed to possess active psychic sensitivities. In addition to this remarkable incident, the family also described encounters with spirits, UFOs, aliens, MIB, and a Mothman-type creature.