The Haunted Tennessee State Capitol | Ghosts of the Capitol

The Haunted Tennessee State Capitol

who is haunting this historic building in Nashville?

In the land of country music and rip-your-face-off hot chicken, it's easy to miss the other attractions Nashville, Tennessee has to offer. Cue the insanely terrifying Tennessee State Capitol, and no, we're not talking about politics. Visitors agree this is definitely a weird place - energetically, of course. Bad juju aside, people have been buried within its walls, so it's no surprise that things go bump in the night.

Did you know?

  • The Tennessee State Capitol - the only Capitol to double as a mausoleum - is home to the remains of two sworn enemies who argue even in the afterlife.
  • A ghost is said to haunt the cupola that tops the building. He has been guarding the flag pole and protecting the grounds since the American Civil War.
  • A combination of prisoner and slave labor was used to construct the Capitol. While enslaved men served as stonemasons, prisoners were responsible for installing the wrought iron foundations.
  • Capitol premises have several memorials, commemorating different events in history, as well as three United States Presidents - one of which is actually buried in the garden.
The Haunted Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville

Tennessee State Capitol Hauntings

The Eternal Strickland-Morgan Feud

Architect William Strickland - who designed and oversaw the construction of the Greek- revival structure, was the first person to be buried within the Capitol. Strickland passed in 1854, before the building's dedication, but made sure everyone knew where he wanted to be buried. True to his request, his final resting place can be found in the northeast corner of the Capitol.

Samuel D. Morgan - the second interment - joined the southeast corner of the Capitol in 1880. While the building was under construction, Morgan was chairman of the Capitol Commission, working with Strickland to manage the project. The two couldn't agree on anything and would always fight over expenses and building costs. Legend has it, their feud continued even in the afterlife, especially after being buried at the same location.

One of the best-known ghost stories of the Capitol is the clearly-audible quarrel between the two, usually starting at 9 p.m. Some say the two scream at each other so loudly, you can hear them fighting from outside the building. Think about it, how annoying must it be to have to put up with your enemy even in death.

Is Rachel Jackson Haunting the Capitol?

State Capitol employees have reported seeing a woman dressed in fancy, antebellum-era garb, leisurely strolling by. She is believed to be the wife of the 7th president of the United States, Andrew Jackson. But why would Rachel Jackson be haunting the premises? After all, she passed away at The Hermitage, where she lived and where she is currently buried. Most likely, she is haunting the large plantation.

Whoever this finely-dressed woman is, one thing is for sure, it's not Rachel Jackson.

The Ghost of James K. Polk

The 11th president of the United States is said to also haunt Capitol grounds. According to several accounts, a man dressed in a dark suit has been seen kneeling in front of James and Sarah Polk's tomb. Apparently, as passers-by get closer, the man seems to slowly dissipate, until he disappears completely.

Those who have witnessed the occurrence swear it's James Polk staring at his own gravesite. Curiously, he and his wife's remains have been moved three times - with another possible move in the works. Could this incessant disturbance of a final resting place be to blame for the paranormal sighting?

The Ghost of the Capitol Cupola

Christopher Coleman, in a blogpost titled Tennessee's Haunted Capitol: The Cupola Ghost, talks about the Confederate soldier said to haunt both the inside and outside of the historic building.

The Ghosts of a Confederate Soldier which is seen in the State Capitol in Nashville.

Sitting on top of the Capitol is a large glass cupola over which the United States flag flies. Back in 1862, however, a different flag fluttered - the Confederate flag.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), after the forts that protected the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers fell, Union troops managed to zone-in and occupy Nashville. As soon as they stepped foot in the city, they headed to the Capitol to yank the Confederate flag off its pole and replace it with "Old Glory." Their plan was slightly delayed when, in the cupola, at the very top of a spiral staircase, they found an armed Rebel guarding the flag. Before he could speak, however, he was shot, and his lifeless body went tumbling down the stairs.

Fast forward to the 21st century when a construction crew hired to renovate the structure swore they saw a dark misty figure standing near the top of the staircase in the cupola. Despite not knowing who this specter is, the workers said they felt threatened and that - whatever it was - didn't want them there. They also reported being pushed and violently told: "Don't touch the furniture!" The same furniture that has then inexplicably moved back to its original location. Fortunately, we know this is not a dark entity, just a soldier living in an eternal Civil War.

But ghosts are not the only thing the Capitol has to offer. The details about its construction and history are just as interesting.

Tennessee State Capitol History

The Tennessee State Capitol is the seat of government for the state, home to the Tennessee General Assembly, and the governor's office. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1971, the site was once occupied by the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the city.

The Capitol's construction began in 1845 and was completed fourteen years later in 1859. Notable architect William Strickland designed the building, now considered one of the best examples of Greek Revival architecture in Nashville.

It is also one of the earliest instances in which wrought iron was used to fortify a structure. The interior and exterior walls were built from limestone collected about one mile away from the site, expertly carved by enslaved men. In fact, both slaves and prisoners were brought on to assist in the project. While the slaves worked as stonemasons, prisoners installed the wrought iron columns.

The grounds of the Capitol are home to several Memorials, such as those dedicated to United States Presidents: Andrew Jackson and Andrew Johnson. Other notable monuments are the Memorial to Africans - commemorating the millions of people who were transported to the New World as part of the slave trade - and the Tennessee Holocaust Commission Memorial, honoring the victims of the World War II genocide.

Visit the Tennessee State Capitol to look into the city's turbulent yet captivating past, and the ghosts that have come to life because of it.

Know Before you go

The Tennessee State Capitol offers general guided tours and guided Women's Suffrage tours, free of charge. Visitors may enter through the west entrance, where there will be a security check. Tours begin at the Information Desk on the first floor. Please note there is no private parking available. Visitors must park at paid lots or street parking meters.


600 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Nashville, TN 37243

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