The Ghosts of Polk’s Tomb

600 Dr. M.L.K. Jr Blvd, Nashville, TN 37243

The stone canopy that marks James and Sarah Polk’s final resting place has been the site of unexplained apparitions and ghostly phenomena since its construction in 1893.

Annually, tourists flock to the Tennessee State Capitol grounds to catch a glimpse of the former president’s burial site. From glowing orbs to shadows that emerge from behind the headstone, this eerie tomb is sure to make your skin crawl.

The tomb of President Polk, which is said to be haunted by the former President.

Did you know?

  • James and Sarah Polk's remains have been exhumed and relocated three times, with a fourth possible move in the future. This constant unrest is said to have sparked paranormal activity in the area.
  • Polk died from cholera he allegedly contracted while in New Orleans. To keep his corpse from spreading the disease, he was buried in a mass grave dug for victims of the cholera epidemic of 1849.
  • By defeating Mexico during the Mexican-American War, the U.S., under Polk's command, was able to acquire over 500,000 square miles of territory, from Texas to Oregon.

Never Rest in Peace

When walking the Tennessee State Capitol grounds, you might be surprised to find a man in a dark suit, kneeling in front of Polk's tomb. You might begin to question your sanity as you get closer to him, but he appears to be slowly turning to mist. By the time you reach the tomb, no one is there.

This is the account many describe when visiting the grounds. Who is this mysterious man?

James K. Polk was 11th president of the United States. According to legend, Polk likes to stare at the gravesite where he and his wife Sarah are buried. Likely because he misses Sarah whose spirit surprisingly seems to have transcended.

Aside from Polk’s restless spirit, visitors touring the area swear they've seen orbs floating over the tomb. On remarkably dark nights, some have seen human-shaped shadows darting across the pathway, before disappearing behind the trees.

But why is Polk’s ghost lingering?

As it turns out, the couple's remains have been moved three times, and there are rumors that a fourth (and hopefully final) move might happen. Some believe that this incessant disturbance of their last resting place has awakened a resentful Polk and stirred up some unexpected paranormal activity around the burial site. As far as why President Polk haunts the place without his beloved Sarah remains a mystery.

James and Sarah Polk’s Burial

Polk died at home in 1849, shortly after his term.

The former president had succumbed to cholera he allegedly contracted in New Orleans during one of the many epidemics to hit the U.S. To prevent the disease from spreading to the living, he was buried within a mass grave in the Nashville City Cemetery. But this was only the beginning of the exhumation and reinterment of his remains, an issue that is still ongoing even a century and a half later.

After only a year, his body was exhumed and buried near his home (known as Polk Place), to honor the wishes described in his will. After the Polk Place land was sold, Mr. and Mrs. Polk were moved to the Tennessee State Capitol grounds and buried under an enclosed stone monument. The two will possibly be relocated again, this time near his childhood home, the James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia, Tennessee.

Who was James K. Polk?

Although James K. Polk (1795-1849) was born in North Carolina, he was a Tennessean at heart.

As president of the United States, he stood out for achieving the majority of the goals he established on his agenda. Among these were reducing import tariffs, expanding the U.S. territory from east to west coasts, and establishing a U.S. treasury. The commander in chief acquired the land that constituted Texas, Oregon, and New Mexico after the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).

The original "dark horse," Polk was Andrew Jackson's protégé and a member of the Democratic Party. Despite his accomplishments, his reputation has come under fire for unnecessarily starting a war with Mexico and for his long years of slave ownership.

Know Before You Go

James K. Polk's Tomb is located in the Tennessee State Capitol building grounds and can be toured during service hours. The Capitol is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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