“Legends never die, they simply fade away.”
One of my favorite places in Nashville is the Ryman Auditorium. Beloved stars like Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Elvis have all performed on that stage. I’ve always been drawn to it since I was younger, and aside from it being a country music icon, I didn’t know why I was so intrigued by it. Within the past few years, I’ve learned that the Ryman is one of the most haunted places in Tennessee. My family has taken a few trips down there, and I can only remember going in and getting a tour once way back in 2010 so I’m a little fuzzy on any the particular feelings that I had when I was there. But what I do remember is that I had this general feeling that there was more there. You know what I mean? Well, unless you don’t believe in ghosts and spirits than I guess you just assume I’m a little weird – which is fair – but I strongly believe that ghosts are real and that paranormal related things are really interesting. Anyways, what I felt didn’t feel like an evil spirit, but it wanted you to know they were there. Since I’ve learned that one of my favorite places in the world is haunted, I’ve been doing a lot of research on it and I have to talk about it and thus this post has been born.
The Ryman is the mother church of country music and the home of the Grand Ole Opry for almost 31 years. In 1885, the Ryman used to be named the Tabernacle was actually just a regular church that was founded by Thomas Ryman who was a riverboat captain in Nashville. As he was a founder of a church, he was a very religious man. Various events were held at the Tabernacle like political debates, election polls, theatre and opera performances, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan gave a lecture, and President Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft even visited at one point. Then on December 23, 1904, he had passed away, and the auditorium was renamed to the Ryman. Time went on and the Ryman still went on as it always had but in 1915 Thomas Ryman Jr. was murdered while on a ferry he was working on. Even more interestingly, the basement of the auditorium caught on fire that afternoon where the firefighters had to destroy most of the stage to get to the fire. No one was hurt in the fire and a meeting carried on as planned later that night. Finally, on June 15, 1943, the Grand Ole Opry moves in from the War Memorial Auditorium.
Okay, so now it’s time to get to the best part about this post: the ghosts.
So, there’s an alleyway between the side of the Ryman and the back of a couple older bars that line the street of Broadway. The bar closest to the Ryman is Tootsies which is a very small bar that a lot of the older country stars played and hung out in back in the day. But in that alleyway has reportedly been the best place with the most paranormal activity. Many have reported seeing Hank Williams Sr. exiting out of the back of the Ryman. Williams is a legend but at one point he wasn’t allowed back at the Ryman so it’s said that he lingers in the alleyway and backstage. There have also been reports of other past country stars being seen slipping into the backdoors of the bars.
The Grand Ole Opry Curse is something that many that work at the Opry don’t talk about and may even deny it. But when the Ryman reopened in 1993, Opry officials wanted the place to be torn down after the Opry had made its move to Opryland. It’s even been reported that during the renovations, the construction workers have come face to face with Hank Williams Sr. Why did they want to tear such an iconic place down? No one really knows but have made the assumption that it’s because of the Opry Curse. Basically what the curse entails is that in the 1970s more than 35 country stars were murdered, shot, burned to death, drugs/alcohol, killed in car and plane crashes. You could argue that these are just unfortunate coincidences that happened in just a few short years, but is it? For example, Patsy Cline was killed in a plane crash and shortly after that “Texas Ruby” Fox died from smoke in her home that was burned down. Jack Greene just missed his death when he almost had a run in with two semi-trucks on the highway because he believed in something called the “opry jinx”. There were also 14 workers that died at Opryland and they weren’t even singers they just worked there. These are just a few examples, but it’s enough to make you think that maybe the curse isn’t just a coincidence.
Thomas Ryman is also said to have made his presence known in the building like he’s looking over it. One of the most talked about stories that Ryman made himself known was during a production of a show called Carmen in the early 1900s. Keep in mind that the building was originally a religious institution, and the production was rather risque for the time and Ryman would not have approved of it. During the show, patrons said that there were so much noise and disruption. This didn’t just occur during the one production but has reportedly happened for years.
Before Ryman’s death, the auditorium held an event for the Confederate veterans. The event was so large that they had to build a balcony to accommodate all the people they were expecting. The veterans were pleased and even donated money to them to help with the building of the balcony which became known as the Confederate Gallery. There were some rowdy people that sat on that balcony, and one of them never left. Workers and visitors have reported seeing a mysterious man in gray. The man is never there during performances but rather he’s there late at night after the visitors have gone home. He occasionally is there during rehearsals and workers and security guards have said they’ve seen him sitting in the balcony. When people go up to the seat to send him away, he’s no longer there. But when they get back down to the floor and look up, he’s there in the seat that was just empty a few moments ago. No one knows if it’s a Confederate soldier or a faithful patron from many years ago, but either way, he does not want to leave.
Another thing that has been reported such as people have heard Patsy Cline singing echoing in the hallways as people are on stage signing. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I really love her voice and songs, but I want to hear this for myself. Like that would be the coolest and chilling thing to me.
S O U R C E S:
I know this is something very different from what I normally post on here, but it’s something that I want to start writing more about. I love country music of the past and today and I do love a good ghost story so it seems only fitting that I incorporate more of things that I’m passionate about on my blog. So, I hope you liked this because it was something so fun for me to write and I have so many other music-related posts planned. I was even thinking about making this into a series, like talking about all the places that are haunted in Nashville!
Let me know what you think! Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think the Opry Curse is real or all a coincidence?