This month on TCKP, Jenni and I look at tales of ghosts in Tennessee. Today, I’ll explore the tiny, historic town of Rugby. Click the link to our podcast (right sidebar) to hear Jenni’s account of haunted Wheatlands Plantation and more paranormal happenings.
Why have I never heard of Rugby, Tennessee? Not only is it haunted and historical, it has a great back story. This is a town in Tennessee that was supposed to be a utopian community. The town was founded in 1880 by English author, Thomas Hughes. He named the town after the school he attended in England. You thought it was the game, right? As I said, it was a utopian colony and, as all utopian colonies do, it failed.
Thomas started the town because he felt sorry for ‘second sons’ in England. ‘First sons’ inherited everything in most families. Primogeniture is the word. Second born sons usually got a token inheritance but nothing like their older brothers. Girls, of course, got nothing. Hughes wanted ‘second sons’ to have a chance to own property and to leave the restraints of late 19th century England.
In 1880, the first building constructed in Rugby was called the Asylum. Seems that the ‘second sons’ could be a little trouble. The title of the house was earned. Later, the name was changed to Pioneer Cottage.
The village opened on October 5, 1880. By 1884, along with 400 residents, the town had 65 framed buildings and houses, a tennis team, a social club, and a literary and drama club. A university was established in 1885.
Remember how I said utopian societies never work? Three things worked against Rugby. The first problem was the typhoid epidemic. People died. The second setback had to do with questionable land title which brought lawsuits. And the third problem? Well, it was those wacky ‘second sons’. They weren’t too excited about doing the work required to start a new community. The colony started a tomato cannery and, I believe, this is when many of the boys decided to head on back to the UK.
The village, as a utopia, ended in 1887. Most of the original colonist died or left. Over the years, enough people stayed to keep a small, continuous population. Today, around 75 people live in Rugby.
In the 1960s, a group, including residents, descendants of residents, and friends of the community, came together for the preservation of the town. In 1966, the group formed Historic Rugby, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring and maintaining the community. And by all accounts, the saviors of the colony have done a great job. The town is a popular tourist attraction. New homes are being built. The only stipulation is the style of the homes must be Victorian to keep the vibe of the town.
Are you ready for some crazy Victorian ‘second son’ hauntings?
You might be a little disappointed.
The ghosts may not be who you expect, but the stories are still interesting.
To learn about the hauntings in Rugby, you have to learn about the buildings. The Kingston Lisle was built for Thomas Hughes, but he honestly never lived there full-time. He visited Rugby after his mother moved into the house. It’s thought he liked the home because he does haunt the place. People hear snores in an empty room and they think the deep sleeping ghost is Thomas. Blankets are pulled off beds in the house. Thomas, again, is suspected.
Hughes also haunts the library. Rugby has a beautiful library with 7000 books. Another popular ghost in the stacks is a K-9. The puppy dog scratches the library door, as if he needs to be put out.
The Tabard Inn, located in Rugby, is named after the inn in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The building burned down on Halloween in 1884 and then again in 1899 (not on Halloween). After the building burned down the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Davis moved to Rugby from Buffalo, New York. Mr. Davis was to manage the reconstructed inn. The building became the social center of town. Mrs. Davis was quite popular at social functions held at the inn, because there weren’t a lot of women to share conversation and dances with the young men. After a lively grand ball, Mr. Davis became jealous and he brooded for about three weeks. And then, he slit his wife’s neck and shot himself.
The murder-suicide took place in room 13. Because of the superstition associated to this number and, um, the murder-suicide, the room was impossible to rent out. Again, the building burned to the ground. Items that weren’t destroyed were moved to other locations in Rugby. Mr. Davis’ ghost follows these items around town. He is seen all over the colony.
Mrs. Richard Tyson named her house Roslyn, after her ancestral home in Scotland. Mrs. Tyson’s son, Jesse, loved to race his horse drawn carriage down the main street of Rugby. He still enjoys doing this today. His apparition is seen and heard racing down the street and turning in where the driveway of Roslyn was located. A recent archeological study in the area reported that the main street of the town and the driveway of Roslyn were located where the ghost races his carriage in town.
Mrs. Tyson also had a daughter named Sophia. A ghost is heard sobbing in the house of Roslyn. After a little research, witnesses to the hauntings found a picture of Sophia and confirmed she is the apparition.
The last haunting I’ll write about is the Newbury House. It was built in the 1880s, by Otis Brown, as a boarding house. Oh, and this house is thought to be the most haunted location in Rugby.
The story that accompanies the house is about a man named Charles Oldfield. He came to Rugby to assess the progress of the utopian colony. He fell in love with the place and he contacted his wife and son to come to Tennessee. It’s impossible to guess what they thought, but the son started the trip to American, as the wife prepared for the move. Sadly, Charles died of heart failure before his son arrived.
The hauntings are varied in this building. Children are heard laughing in the home. The room named after Mr. Oldfield is always cold. And, women who stay in this room say that sometimes they get a nudge or a poke. It seems Charles is checking to see if his wife has arrived at the Newbury House.
These are just some of the ghosts at Rugby. The whole village is said to have an eerie feeling. Listen to our podcast to hear much more about Rugby and to hear other stories from Jenni and Karen.
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Here’s a picture of the Wheatlands Plantation. Jenni describes it as one of the most haunted locations in Tennessee.
Turn the crooked key and join us.