The Union Station Hotel in Nashville is a non-smoking hotel, and the lady needed a smoke before bed. She stepped out on the old platform, saw the bellhops and valets busy at their station and lit up. At the end of the platform she notices a woman, looking anxiously about, and pays little attention. The woman appears to be wearing clothes more popular in the 1940’s than today, but that’s not so unusual on a Saturday night in Nashville. The mysterious woman turns the corner and starts down the platform at the back of the hotel, and curious, the lady follows her. Only to find that she’s disappeared. Curious, she goes to the valet and asks if he saw the woman. He replies no, makes some pleasantries about the weather, and the lady goes back onto the platform to finish her cigarette. As she approaches the woman again appears from around the corner, goes to the rail, climbs over and jumps. The lady, watching, runs to the rail and looks around, but there’s no sign of the woman. The valet, hearing her call for help comes running, and does his best to calm the woman down. The lady regains her composure, but by now needs another smoke, lights up and begins to ponder what just happened. Then out of the corner of her eye, at the end of the platform behind the station, she sees a man. He’s wearing a World War II uniform and appears to be looking for someone. As she begins to scream he becomes misty and disappears.
Little does she know that she’s witnessed a reoccuring spectacle at Nashville’s Union Station. A nameless womans says her goodbye to her soldier there on the platform, before he ships off to France in World War II. When she arrives at that same spot to greet him on his return, she’s instead met with word that he was killed in action. Distraught, she throws herself in front of a passing locomotive far below. The spirit of her departed love returns, looking for her in the last place he saw her. Two ghosts, still separated after all these years.
Is Union Station in Nashville, Tennessee haunted?
If you look on the internet, at first glance the answer would have to be yes. The above story, as well as a handful of others appear with some frequency in one form or another. But if you look closely, you’ll find that many if not most of the sources appear to be either the Nashville Ghost Tours, or the book Haunted Nashville, written to accompany the ghost tour. And friends, if there is a commercial incentive for a ghost story, you have to be skeptical.
If you ask the staff of the hotel, technically called Union Station Hotel Nashville, Autograph Collection, chances are you’ll be told they’ve heard nothing about the building being haunted. Ask a bit more and you might be told that the management strongly discourages talk of ghosts or hauntings by the staff. How strongly does the Union Station management discourage such talk? Well, the Nashville Ghost Tour isn’t even allowed to stop on the sidewalk on their circuit, instead having to tell their tales from across the street. One employee went as far as to state that the stories were made up by the ghost tour to sell tickets. It’s worth noting however, when asked about the ghost in Room 711, he was able to say definitively that despite working there several years, he’d only delivered baggage to that room once. That’s a pretty good memory for how many times he’s been to a room which isn’t haunted.
Consider this as well, though it could be entirely coincidental … When I made my reservation for Room 711, I was told that they didn’t reserve specific rooms, but they were instead issued upon arrival. However, they checked and sure enough, it was available that evening, and that I requested the room was noted on the information for the room itself for that date, as well as on my reservation. The nice lady went on to ask if I had been there before, a honeymoon in that room, an anniversary? I made a novice mistake at this point, and mentioned the ghost. And upon arrival, I was told that my request didn’t work out. A coincidence? Maybe.
But it certainly seems like the Union Station Hotel Nashville management certainly doesn’t want us to believe it’s haunted.
So is the Union Station in Nashville haunted? Absolutely. But probably not by any ghosts you’d have ever heard of. One reason for its haunting is lain on the great train wreck of 1918. The Number 4 leaving Union Station slammed head on into the Number 1 from Memphis on the morning of July 9 at Dutchman’s Curve, killing 101 passengers and injuring another 171. According to legend, the injured were brought back to Union Station where triage was set up, and a temporary morgue for the dead. In reality thought, the wounded were treated on the scene and driven by car to the hospital, and the dead were delivered directly to the funeral homes and morgue, where they were stacked like cordwood, when there was enough left of them to stack.
Places which are haunted are often places where great emotional strain took place. Many of those 101 poor souls said their final goodbye to their loved ones on the platform outside Union Station. Tens of thousands of soldiers in World War II did the same, and a lot of those never came back either. When it comes to human experiences, I would imagine you’d find the full range having happened among the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who passed through those doors. So if there are ghosts, it’s inevitable that they haunt Union Station.
When you walk through the door your jaw drops as you step back in time, though not necessarily to a time which ever existed. Perhaps Union Station was this clean when it opened, but it’s hard to imagine a public building remaining as immaculate as it is now. Built in 1900, the lobby boasts a soaring 65 foot barrel vaulted ceiling with 128 stained glass panels running nearly the full length. With turrets, stone arches and a soaring clock tower, all built of stone from Bowling Green, Kentucky and Beford, Indiana, trimmed with Tennessee marble, the hotel is a perfect fairy tale castle. The type that rarely existed outside of the imagination. Even our room boasted a ten foot ceiling, and an excellent view out the arched roof of the platform where according to the story, the lady jumped to her grisly death. Creepy enough for my eleven year old to come tapping on my shoulder in the middle of the night, still awake, wanting the safety of daddy’s bed.
What of the reported ghosts of Nashville’s Union Station? Of course you have the requisite loud bangs, lights and tv sets turning on and off. There’s also the phantom train which rolls into the station on full moons, and the occasional sound of a steam locomotive. Though only a hotel since the 1980’s, perhaps the most gruesome story involves a young woman who used to meet her married lover there. When he didn’t arrive for a scheduled tryst, she turned a revolver on herself in Room 711. She’s made her presence known both in that room, as well as adjacent rooms and the hall outside. But one has to wonder, just exactly why did she bring a revolver to an illicit rendezvous to start with?
Surprisingly, there aren’t reports of some of the more famous people who came through Union Station reappearing for a second run. Both William McKinley and Franklin Roosevelt stopped in, Mae West passed through and even Al Capone made a brief visit, on his way to prison.
The 11 story clock tower has a brace of ghosts. The first is the fellow who kept the clock running for over a decade. The second is a woman who went to Union Station to meet her husband to be upon his return from the war, only to be told that he had died in the conflict. Unconsolable, she climbed the clock tower steps to the top, and flung herself down the stairwell. Which must have been easier then than now, as after searching for quite some time we could never find the entrance to the tower, and the nice ladies at the desk weren’t telling.
I did dredge this up on the internet, though I can’t vouch for the reliability of the source, Cathy Oâ€™Brien, co-author of TRANCE-Formation of America. O’Brien, a Michigan native claims to have escaped from Project MKUltra, an illegal CIA mind control program which was halted in 1973. For those not initiated into the mysteries of the CIA, LSD was a relatively new discovery, and it was given to volunteers as part of Project MKUltra, including Ken Kesey, author of One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest and immediately afterwards, founder of the Merry Pranksters, who hired an unknown band then called the Warlocks, later the Grateful Dead for his acid-fueled experimental happenings, and thus began the sixties. Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead lyricist was another volunteer. In addition, LSD and other mind altering drugs were given to “non-volunteer subjects in normal life settings by undercover officers of the Bureau of Narcotics acting for the CIA.” Needless to say, this led to some bad trips, and since the CIA destroyed most of the records related to the program, anything is possible.
In an interview, “Cathy says she was forced to marry a mind controlled Satanist called Wayne Cox, a member of the Jack Greene country music band. O’Brien claims Greene, a CIA operative, was also a Satanist. “Coxâ€™s job was to further traumatise her to create more compartments which could be used to program new â€˜personalitiesâ€™, Cathy writes. One night, she says Cox took her with him to the ruins of the Union Railway Station in Nashville and, using a flashlight, found a homeless man asleep. He ordered Cathy to â€œKiss the railroad bum goodbyeâ€ and proceeded to shoot him in the head.
That was horrific enough, but then he produced a machete and chopped off the manâ€™s hands before putting them into a zipper bag. As Cathy has stated at public meetings many times, Wayne Cox is a serial killer who invariably chops off the hands of his prey. This is a Satanic signature.”
“Cox led Cathy to another spot on the Union Station site, the tower at the old railway depot, and waiting in the room for them, she says, were Jack Greene, members of his band and others, dressed in black robes. They were standing around a black leather altar, she claims. She describes the room as being draped in red velvet and lit by candles. Cathy was laid on the altar and subjected to rape and torture while the Satanists performed a black magic ritual that involved sex, blood, and cannibalism.” (Source: http://trappedinamasonicworld.wordpress.com )
Like I said, I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but after its days as a train station was over and before its new life as a hotel begun, Union Station lay largely abandoned.
Today, you’re not going to confuse a stay at the Union Station Hotel Nashville with a night at the Motel 6. It’s probably worth throwing down thirty bucks for the valet parking, as available spaces in downtown Nashville seems to be scarce. And there’s something old style about driving up, handing your keys to the attendant and getting an offer to help with the bags. Though the surroundings and service screams luxury, the price is actually fairly reasonable, starting off in the low two hundred range. Not bad for a four star Historic Hotels of America joint. Instead, the idea seems to be to add on to the bill with services. There’s the aforementioned valet parking, internet access runs $14 a session, and then there’s the Prime 108 restaurant, which Southern Living magazine descibed as, appropriately enough, “dining to die for.” You may be eating in a stone-dressed room with marble fireplaces, murals, high ceilings, chandeliers and stained glass windows, but it’s comfortable. I was perfectly acceptable in basic black and khakis, and my kid was styling in his Laura Flook T-shirt (from Oddities fame). I gorged myself with the Cowboy bone-in ribeye, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, prosciutto wrapped asparagus & maitre dâ€™ butter. The kid did quite a bit of damage to the lobster ravioli, whipped together with Maine lobster, Shiitake mushrooms, asparagus & tomato brunoise. I was originally concerned that it bore no resemblance to the Chef Boy Ar Dee ravioli which we’re all accustomed to, but he wasn’t the least bit intimidated, though he did pick out the lobster bits first.
The hotel is built around the gorgeous lobby, and the rooms are never more than a few steps from a view, each unique and allowing you to focus on details you likely missed before. And it’s in the lobby where I believe you’re most likely to encounter the ghosts of Union Station. Have a seat on one of the couches late in the evening, when you have the place to yourself and wait. It’s liable to be quick, and you might just catch it out of the corner of your eye, but if you can find the tear in the fabric of time, anything is possible.
The Union Station Hotel Nashville isn’t one of those places where you’re going to get a room with a story, one you can really sink your teeth into and believe. It doesn’t have the claustrophobic feel of a room in a haunted inn or bed and breakfast. Instead it’s got more of a vibe like you’d get in the Overlook Hotel from Stephen King’sÂ The Shining. If you’re looking for a sure-fire, easy scare, Union Station isn’t the place. But if you put forth the effort, and use your imagination, then one can find the creepy in even the most luxurious setting.
Real ghost stories and the places that inspired them