By Catherine Corcoran
CHATTANOOGA (mocsnews.com)- The city of Chattanooga is a popular tourist destination due to the beautiful scenery that surrounds the area. Commonly referred to as the “Scenic City”, Chattanooga is well known for its mountains, river and valleys. Other than the picturesque landscape, Chattanooga has a dark side to offer its patrons as well. The “Scenic City” is a hotspot for paranormal activity.
From battles to industrial accidents, Chattanooga has a tragic history that leads many to believe the city is left haunted. The Read House, a hotel in the heart of downtown is said to be one of the most actively haunted locations within Chattanooga. Built in 1847, the then Crutchfield Hotel endured floods, the Civil War and the industrialization of the city. The property later developed into the Read House and opened its doors in 1872.
John Spawdling, a bell hop and tour guide at the hotel describes the property as a “spiritual place with lots of paranormal activity.” “There’s lots of ghosts here in the Read House,” Spawlding said. He explained that some entities are that of Civil War soldiers but the hotel’s most prominent ghost is named Annalisa Netherly. “Ms. Netherly was a San Franciscan whose story begins with us in 1927,” Spawlding explained.
Annalisa Netherly occupied room 311 while her husband was away on business, Spawlding said. Lonely in the hotel, Annalisa began intimate relationships with other men, he said. Spawlding continued to describe how Netherly’s husband became aware of the infidelity and traveled to Chattanooga. Netherly was then brutally murdered by her husband using a razor in the bathtub within the walls of room 311.
Spawlding said the staff is not surprised the spirit of Annalisa Netherly inhibits the hotel due to the graphic nature of her death. Guests report lots of paranormal activity relating to Netherly’s ghost, especially on the third floor, Spawlding said.These reports included the presence of another person in the room, the feeling of being watched and objects unexplainably moving. Other guests have reported seeing Netherly, she will appear as a dark shadowy figure or a woman in an old fashioned white dress, said Spawlding. The Read House website includes a page dedicated to the infamous ghost legend and elements of her story displayed throughout the interior of the hotel.
Regardless of the ghostly activity, Spawlding said room 311 is highly sought after by people craving a paranormal experience. According to Spawlding, the room is occasionally available for guests to stay in during October. Last year, The fee was $666 with a price increase to $999 on Halloween night, he said. According to Spawlding, many visitors are unable to stay in room 311 for the duration of the night.
Spawdling explained an incident that occurred between a couple during their stay in room 311 on Halloween night of 2020. “They didn’t make it past midnight, the woman came down to the front desk worried about her husband,” said Spawlding”. Apparently the man was found laying on the floor shaking, while cursing everyone in a dark voice, Spawlding said. Another staff member who witnessed this episode described it as a “possession” Spawlding explained.
Other than Annalisa Netherly, the spirits of Civil War soldiers linger in the hotel. Spawlding said guest and staff members have reported the soldiers appearing in photos and mirrors throughout the property. Spawlding said this may be due to the hotel’s past of operating as a hospital in 1857. “We accommodated 500 wounded soldiers on that day alone. Those soldiers came from the Battle of Chickamauga, probably one of the bloodiest battles nearby, in other words a lot of people have died on the property, not just the guest of room 311.”
Amy Petulla, owner and founder of Chattanooga Ghost Tours also said the Battle of Chickamauga contributes to the hauntings around Chattanooga. “The two most well known haunted spots here are The Read House and Chickamauga Battlefield,” she said. The fighting that took place on the battlefield is described as a very bloody war, said Petulla. “Lots of people died from infections and complications from their wounds. The area ran red with blood and bodies were stacked up. That accounts for a lot of the hauntings that occur,” said Petulla. She explained other locations active with spirits are the Chattanooga Choo Choo and Underground Chattanooga.
Despite the brutal battle, Petulla said many of the ghosts she deals with are not a result of the Civil War. “Chattanooga has had plenty of murders and things like that, its where a lot of the ghost come from. That stirs up emotion which makes something more likely to hang around,” she said. Petulla explained Chattanooga’s morbid past includes wars and massacres as well as deaths from floods and other disasters. “Some of the hauntings have to do with industrial accidents that commonly occurred in the past too,” she said.
Petulla’s company, Chattanooga Ghost Tours, offers walking tours as well as investigations with professional ghost hunting equipment at particularly active locations. Kalia Lightoot, a four year resident of Chattanooga, attended one of the company’s walking tours in 2018. “I do think Chattanooga is haunted, I didn’t think so before the tour but after it definitely,” Lightfoot said.
Chattanooga’s paranormal activity may be a surprise to some of its visitors and residents. But, many may be able to imagine the presence of something odd due to Chattanooga’s death ridden past. The hauntings of the city are nestled within the ridges and mountains surrounding the area. This city offers a variety of experiences, from the great outdoors to hauntings. Chattanooga is full of unforgettable moments. Are you brave enough to explore the paranormal side of Chattanooga?