Encounters of the Unknown—Alternate Perceptions Magazine, May 2016
by: Michael Williams
This early photo depicts Knoxville in the early days. While the people pictured here are long deceased, as Haunted Knoxville investigator J-Adam Smith discovered, some are still present in a ghostly form.
The picturesque view of a city park from J-Adam Smith's front porch appeared placid but as he soon discovered looks could be deceiving. The peaceful setting belied a dark, sinister history of his home.
"I had a friend’s dog that would growl at nothing; there was no one there and he would growl at this unseen presence," said Smith. "There were cold spots in the house. Lights would be turned on and off and I would lock doors and go back and find them unlocked. Sometimes I would find faucets turned on when I had not used them. One of the most terrifying experiences in the house was when I was testing out an air mattress for a camping trip in my living room and was awakened to a male voice moaning. I high tailed it to my parents’ house at 4 a.m. that morning."
Smith was intrigued and decided to do a little research and discovered his home was at one time a nursing home. There had been numerous people who died in the nursing home and many of the patients, facing their own mortality, were obviously unhappy. Smith was forced to make a decision, run for the hills or combat these threats. He began researching paranormal investigations and later sold the home. Through courses he took on the internet and through distance education programs he became a certified paranormal investigator. His purpose was to get a foundation for proper investigation techniques. Smith started Cold Spots Paranormal in Florida, a paranormal research investigation team.
Smith moved to Knoxville (TN) where he began another paranormal research organization. With his love for history and storytelling he started Haunted Knoxville, a company that offers adventure tours through the haunted areas of Knoxville and paranormal investigations.
Smith could not have made a better choice in the location for his enterprise. As it turned out Knoxville is one of the most haunted cities in the south. Through much research and discovery, Smith found out that the city had a very dark undertone--one that would leave any other city haunted. This scruffy town has reason to be one of the most haunted cities based on its history that has been long forgotten by the passing of time or lost in the pages of history. Smith found 37 haunted sites in the city but through his research he has documented numerous other sites where hauntings have occurred.
The city is rife with numerous stories of the paranormal and ghostly activity. Among them is the bizarre story of a local doctor who reanimated the body of a murderer that had been hanged. The doctor was inspired by the work of one of his favorite writers, Mary Shelley, author of the classic horror tale "Frankenstein."
The doctor was successful at getting the reanimated corpse to take several breaths and shook several times before expiring once again. Another haunted location is the Bijou Theater which has had a colorful and storied past. The theater has served as a hospital, a brothel, a headquarters for both Confederate officers and Union officers and finally a theater. William Sanders, a commanding officer during the Civil War, died on the fourth floor of the building and was originally buried nearby. Knoxville is also the scene of fighting during the Civil War, particularly at Fort Sanders where many restless spirits are said to remain.
Smith uses scientific techniques to determine if ghostly activity exists. Smith uses electronic devices that can detect even the slightest of sounds to detect electronic voice phenomenon, also known as EVPs. Other meters detect cold spots and energy. Using these techniques he has collected and catalogued an impressive collection of audio recordings of ghostly voices, photos of ghostly forms and video of paranormal activity.
"The first thing I do is attempt to debunk the haunting," said Smith. "Sometimes I find evidence of natural phenomenon to explain the haunting. Other times I find actual evidence of paranormal activity."
During his haunted adventures Smith escorts groups through the haunted areas of the city where he regales his audience with the dark and ghostly history of the city and explains the scientific methodology of his investigations. Occasionally, some of his tour members have sighted or photographed some unexplained phenomenon that appears to be other worldly.
Smith has helped raise money for the Knox Heritage Foundation to be used for the preservation of historic sites. Smith offered a ghost investigation for a silent auction which was auctioned off for $2,000. The winner received a private investigation of Westwood Manor. During the investigation Smith recorded several EVPs and noted other paranormal activity. The winner of the auction was so impressed with the investigation that she gave a five star review on Facebook. Smith is using scientific methods to bring history alive in a city where spirits never sleep. His work has been the basis of an award winning documentary "Historic Hauntings: A Paranormal Study of the Ramsey House," which aired on East Tennessee PBS.
"There are some that ask if ghosts really exist," said Smith. "I explain that spirits are energy and we are energy. Dr. Albert Einstein said that energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed. It can be changed but never destroyed. When we die our energy can interact with the living."
Haunted Knoxville offers tours through the haunted regions of the city. For more information about the tours visit the website www.hauntedknoxville.net. At the site visitors can see photos of ethereal activity and learn more about the dark and haunted history of the city.