The Haunted Tootsie's Orchid Lounge

422 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37203

In the heart of downtown Nashville, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge stands in all its vibrantly- colored glory. This famous honkey-tonk was established by Tootsie Bess in the '60s and quickly became a haven for struggling country music artists. With customers like Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson, it's no surprise this quirky bar turned into a Music City favorite.

But it's not all bluegrass and western swing at Tootsie's. Ghost sightings have been reported practically since it opened, with one particular spirit making regular appearances. From unexplained blackouts to hovering misty figures, see why Tootsie's is considered one of the most haunted bars in Nashvegas.

Did you know?

  • Tootsie's Orchid Lounge is said to be haunted by two spirits, Hank Williams and former owner Tootsie Bess herself.
  • Located just around the corner from Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie's became a "green room" of sorts, where country singers would stop to grab a quick bite before and after their shows at Ryman.
  • Tootsie Bess was known for hiring down-and-out musicians and slipping an extra $5 or $10 when they weren't looking.

The Ghost of Hank Williams

Tootsie's is haunted by famed singer-songwriter Hank Williams, who is usually to blame for any unexplained mishaps.

The country singer died several years before Tootsie's opened. Since his passing, however, his spirit has been haunting the adjacent Ryman Auditorium, where he used to play. Some believe that Hank Williams’ ghost likes to bounce back and forth between the two buildings, performing at Ryman before walking over to Tootsie's to get some booze.

A Country Boy Can Survive

Hank Williams was born with undiagnosed Spina Bifida. This spinal disorder caused maddening back pain and eventually led him to abuse alcohol and other substances. It was this self-medication habit that unfortunately cost him his life in 1953.

Although he died in West Virginia, his ghost returned home and has been haunting Downtown Nashville ever since.

According to legend, a white mist resembling the late country music singer has been spotted by the bar at Tootsie's and even photographed on several occasions. The occurrence has led people to believe it's the musician attempting to order a drink.

Surely, Hank is no longer drinking to soothe his pain, but old habits die hard.

Move It On Over

Perhaps the most famous ghost sighting of Hank Williams happened in the alley between Tootsie's and Ryman Auditorium.

In 2002, a customer that had just left the Orchid Lounge claimed he was walking behind the establishment when he saw a man heading in the opposite direction. He didn't think much of it until the figure walked by.

Much to his surprise, it was the long-deceased Williams dressed slacks, a long-sleeved shirt, and cowboy boots. The shocked man turned around to confirm what he'd just seen, but when he did, the apparition vanished.

We can't help but wonder, was this really the ghost of Hank Williams or some drunken hallucination?

I Saw the Light

Another well-known Tootsie’s ghost story has to do with country music singer Whispering Bill Anderson.

One evening, while the musician rehearsed for his show, he began playing one of Hank Williams' songs. The people watching the rehearsal claim that as soon as Whispering Bill started playing, everything shut down. The sound was dead, the lights went out, and even the emergency exit lights shut off.

The power was quickly restored, but the event left everyone feeling as if they'd just seen a ghost. Did Hank not like the cover?

Tootsie Approves

Another common occurrence at the lounge is Tootsie Bess’ tapping. Tootsie passed away in 1978, after eighteen successful years operating the lounge.

Her business was more than a means to make money, it was her home, and the place she chose to walk in the afterlife.

Tootsie's ghost seems to come alive whenever there's a performer in the room. If she likes the show, she won't make a sound, if she doesn't, she'll impatiently tap her fingers against the bar, as if to say, "hurry it up."

In life, Tootsie was a beloved local who gave struggling artists a chance to shine at the Orchid Lounge. She soon became as integral to Nashville as country music itself.

About Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge

Tootsie Bess, a local singer and comedian, was the Orchid Lounge's first owner. When she opened her establishment in 1960, it was initially called "Mom's," but an amusing event soon showed Mom's true colors.

Tootsie had hired a handyman to paint the building before her grand opening. Wanting to check on the progress, she stopped by and found the whole place had been painted a bright orchid shade. That day, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge was born.

With its central location and close proximity to Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie's became the go-to spot, where acts such as Kris Kristofferson, Faron Young, and Willie Nelson stopped by before their shows.

Tootsie's features a Wall of Fame, brimming with memorabilia from local music legends and even inspired singer-songwriter, Roger Miller, to write about his late-night escapades at the honkey-tonk.

A feisty business owner, Tootsie used a jeweled hatpin gifted to her by Charlie Pride to poke disorderly customers with. But Tootsie wasn't all bite. She was known for her fun-loving personality and admirable generosity, often hiring struggling artists and handing them extra money for their troubles.

It's said that Tootsie kept a cigar box filled with IOUs under the bar. At the end of the year, the now-thriving music artists would come together to pay off the debt and help her stay in business.

After her death, Tootsie Bess was buried in an orchid dress, in an orchid casket, with an orchid in her hand.

Fortunately, despite her departure, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and playful spirit continue to live on.

Know Before You Go

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is a full service, three-story bar and restaurant. The establishment is open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. daily.

Location

422 Broadway Nashville, TN 37203

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