Chapel Hill Lights
Chapel Hill Tennessee
Chapel Hill is a very small town in Marshall County Tennessee with a population of barely over one thousand people. It's a quiet village with friendly people and quiet a history. At one point in time Chapel Hill was a major through fare for the trains from the South. Locals claim it was a real rail town. When in Chapel Hill I spoke with many people about their local legends or local ghost stories so to speak. As with any town one certain ghost story always stands out. In Chapel Hill it is the Brake Man who lost his head in a freak accident in the late 1800’s or the early 1900’s. As with a lot of stories passed down from generation to generation people forget names and dates, so our ghost in this story has no name. The story goes back when, when our trains still ran from coal engines, a Brake Man was doing is rounds one night in the train yard. He had his lantern walking around checking under the trains from hobos and people looking to hop the trains. The older fellow who was telling me his version, He told that of a train that came into the yard and the Brake Man switched a track for the conductor. So the train could be pulled up to a warehouse to be loaded the next day. So it seemed the man was walking beside the train and tripped and fell, but to his dismay his head bounced off the track right under the caboose. The train ran over his neck and be headed him. The rest of the story goes is that the brakeman’s head possibly was stuck under the train and was not found, or an animal ran off with it. His body was not found until the next day, minus his head. People in Chapel Hill to this day claim he walks the tracks with his lantern looking for his head. Ghost lights have been seen and some even claim to have seen the old Brake Man looking for his head. Everyone has their own ideas of what they have seen and what happened to the man. Several locals I did talk to claim that area of track is extremely bad luck, that trains have hit people. Also some cars have been hit and people died. The older gentleman I spoke to also say that his father told him there were several de-railments over the past 100 years that have killed many people.
Our first trip to Chapel Hill we became lost. When we finally made it to the town we stopped at a local convience store and spoke with the people inside to see if we could get directions to Winn’s Crossing. That is where I met the old gentleman who told me the stories that he remembered about the Brake Man and his ghost. The local Police Officer was also the one who gave us directions. He told us about a few people what were run over by trains there. The Officer advised us to be careful and also told us spend all the time we wanted there as long as the people in the area did not complain. When we investigate an area we will visit it more than once. We do not go by first impressions; our group likes to make return visits to get more photos and more sound clips. The first visits we all stick together because it’s a new territory we do not know. Jayson, Troy and I walked about five miles of the track taking a break to jump off when a train passed by. We saw nothing out of the ordinary nor heard anything out of the ordinary. Six rolls of film were used that night along with two mini cassettes. We began thinking the whole trip was a waste of a 300 mile trip. We packed up our tools and headed back to Kentucky. It was after we developed the photographs that we decided to return to Chapel Hill. In two of the photos was vortex, as you could not imagine. They were both on the negatives so chemical drip is definitely not an option. They were not lights, due to the fact we carried no flashlights and there are no streetlights in that area either. The sky was clear and no moon on a mild night. We played with the photographs every way we could to see if we could find a way to explain them, we could not. Jayson, Troy and I returned to Chapel Hill a few weeks later during a rainy night. All the way there Jayson was saying he felt bad about this trip he did not know what it was but something was not right. We were supposed to meet Pat Fitzhugh there (the author of The Bell Witch books and many articles) that night also. Yet again we ended up becoming lost and we missed Pat, so we thought. It seemed an uneventful night nonetheless and we were getting wetter and tired so we decided to leave. The three of us were standing around Troy’s SUV when we heard a low growling sound. Jay flashed around his flashlight but we saw nothing, but the sound grew louder and louder. It sounded like whatever it was stood in front of us; we jumped into the truck and took off. Funny thing was the growling never showed up on the recorder. I talked to Pat the next day and he told me that he was there, he stayed until 2:30 that morning but yet we never crossed paths. Our 3rd trip seemed the most eventful, besides the regular 3 hunters, 2 more people joined us that evening. One was my brother Vic and a friend of my spouses from work. My brother Vic is a serious skeptic about anything supernatural and will try anyway he can to explain it. We made my brother a believer that night. It was during September, extremely hot and humid. We began walking down the left side of the track's first when we happened upon the skeletal remain of one of the largest bats I have ever seen. I honestly did not realize they had gotten that big. We were all bent over
looking at it when a rock was thrown at us and hits the rail so hard it sparked. Now I know that its possible maybe locals came out and did it, BUT there is no way they could get that close to us without us hearing. We all looked around us but never heard anything stir in the woods, the moon was so bright that night I believe we could have seen them. We continued up the tracks a small distance when there were three more we began walking up the other side of the tracks. We stuck together as a group for the reason of the new people with us. As we started up that side we kept walking into cold spots, and we mean spots so cold two of the group was complaining their hands were burning they were so cold. I remember seeing my breath a few times. The further we had gotten the steeper the sides had become. We stopped after what seemed miles and sat down to rest, it had gotten extremely humid again and everyone was sweating badly. What seemed like seconds we were being pelted with rocks, I mean a lot of rocks. There would have had to been 60 people there throwing them. We jumped up and began moving when Christian was hit again with a rock the size of an orange. It had bounced off the tracks and sparked before it hit him. I have this rock sitting in front of me as I type this story. That is when we decided to return to the truck. Christian had enough. After developing the film from this trip we had several photos with unexplainable anomalies in them. Two in particular look like giant blue orbs. We have returned there another time with nothing too extreme happening, except a dead dog on the track, a few rocks thrown, nothing serious. We did get a scare the last time, as we walked back to the truck ready to leave we were on the side with the steep drop. A train surprised us. It was maybe 200 feet behind us before we realized it. How the train snuck up on us that quickly without us realizing it we will never know.
Is this area Haunted? Yes, we believe Chapel Hill Tracks are haunted. By who or what we are not sure all we know is there are spirits there that either likes you or they do not. I would not suggest exploring Chapel alone. You may find the Brake Man waiting for you with no one to help. Have we ever seen the Brake Man, no? Christian believes he had that night sneaking around Troy’s truck. Who knows, but I am sure the Brake Man knows.