It’s no surprise a historic town like Franklin has an ample supply of supernatural stories, and you can learn all about them on Franklin on Foot’s popular Ghost Tour.
The family-friendly walking tour covers Civil War spies, failed businessmen, soldiers, and socialites, all of whom frequent downtown Franklin’s homes and businesses — but tour operator Margie Thessin says some of the spookiest occurrences have happened on the tours themselves!
We sat down with her to learn about her favorite ghost tour moments and get a closer look at one truly terrifying photo captured by one of her customers.
The Perkins-Howarth House
Built in 1820, the Perkins-Howarth House has served as a private home, a Civil War shelter, a girls’ school, and a nursing home. Today, its rooms house both private businesses and a surprising amount of ghostly activity. In fact, some say this is the most haunted house in all of Franklin.
Margie told us about a teenaged tour member who became noticeably agitated when the group stopped in front of the home. When Margie asked the girl what was wrong, “She said ‘I don’t like this house,’” Margie remembers. “She said, ‘There’s something really wrong with this house. Something terrible happened here.”
The girl asked if there had been a fire at the home and Margie said no. “She thought for a minute,” Margie said, “and she said, ‘Wait a minute. I know. Was this ever a girls’ school?’”
That’s when Margie remembered reading that a girls’ school a few blocks away had burned down in the late 1800s, and the Perkins-Howarth House served as a temporary school for the girls until the academy could be rebuilt.
“And she said, ‘That’s what it was. The girl who started the fire hurt a lot of people and she’s still here.”
A few years after this incident, Margie received an email from a mother who had taken her own teen daughter on the ghost tour. She wanted to share a picture her daughter had taken of the Perkins-Howarth House’s upstairs window.
Is this photographic proof that a ghostly teenage girl is still wreaking havoc here? That’s up to you to decide!
CJ’s Off the Square
A kinder and more obedient spirit is said to roam the halls of this historic home on 3rd Avenue. Soon after the present owners bought the house and began transforming it into an event space, they noticed a dog running down the hallway.
When they went to find it, the dog disappeared. The couple asked around town and learned the previous owner had brought his dog named Freeway to work with him every day at the house. When Freeway died, the man buried him in the backyard.
Apparently, Freeway didn’t get the memo, because plenty of people say they’ve seen him running around on the property.
“They do valet parking for their events,” says Margie, “and it’s one of those situations where the door’s opening and closing a lot, and they see the dog coming and going.”
Apparently, even ghost dogs need regular bathroom breaks.
One couple brought their dog, Lucy, on a Ghost Tour. When the group stopped at the house, Lucy uncharacteristically began bristling and growling at the front door.
The house’s owner came out on the front porch to say hello and as soon as the door opened, Lucy began whimpering and then jumped into her owner’s lap. The couple was mystified, but Margie had an explanation.
“Freeway doesn’t know he’s dead,” she told them. “And what’s Freeway going to do when he’s let out? He’s going to run right across the street to his kindred spirit. And when he starts coming for her, she’s going to whimper and jump into your lap, because there’s Freeway right there in her business.
The man said, ‘That’s exactly what it felt like, except none of us could see Freeway,’ and I said, ‘Well no, but apparently Lucy could.’”
This popular music store is home to Opry-worthy guitars and one of downtown’s Franklin’s most beloved ghosts — a socialite turned Civil War spy named Sally Carter. Sally’s presence is still regularly seen and felt by employees and customers and according to Margie, she’s not the only ghost who calls Shuff’s home.
A mother on one of the tours told Margie she’d taken her three-year-old with her on a visit to Shuff’s. The child obediently followed his mom through the store until she went in the empty back room. Once there, he refused to cross the threshold. When she asked him what was wrong, he’d only say one thing: “Man had blood.” Disturbed, she took her son outside for a talk.
‘She said, ‘Honey, I just want to know why you wouldn’t go in that room,’” Margie recounts. “And all he would say was, “Man had blood.’ She said, ‘But there was no man in that room.’ ‘Man had blood,’ he said again.”
One possible explanation is that Shuff’s was one of many Franklin homes and businesses used as makeshift hospitals after the bloody Battle of Franklin. Did the three-year-old see a ghostly soldier who’d been wounded in battle? Only he knows for sure.
Want to hear more tales of Franklin’s haunting history? Book your own Ghost Tour with Franklin on Foot. And be sure to bring a camera — You might take home your own ghostly souvenir.