On a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains, I spent a couple of nights in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I’m very familiar with the area as I have vacationed there many times; on this trip, though, I learned a little bit of the town’s obscure and dark history.
The Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg are a Mecca for tourists. Only Las Vegas tops the Gatlinburg area in the number of weddings performed each year. In fact, my wife and I were married in Gatlinburg a little over a decade ago. Walking down the streets, or worse, trying to drive through town, it’s hard to imagine a time when Gatlinburg was a sleepy logging town. However, Gatlinburg was once a quiet little logging community known as White Oak Flats. There are some dark tales—and of course, ghosts—from back in this time, perhaps the most chilling is that of the Gatlinburg Witch.
The ghost of the Gatlinburg Witch has been spotted many times—and is still thought to be seen from time to time—in and around Gatlinburg, particularly near the White Oak Flats Cemetery.
The Gatlinburg Witch is described as a woman in her mid-20s to mid-30s with blonde hair and a light complexion. She wears a black cloak made from feathers with the hood pulled over her head. Some have claimed to see her carrying a stone knife.
The Gatlinburg Witch is said to be a “nesting witch.” A nesting witch cuts their own flesh and a creature then incubates inside the wound. In the case of the Gatlinburg Witch, birds grow inside of her until she cuts herself and they fly out of the wound. Some believe she controls the birds of the area. The following letter was written by Samuel Brown, an area resident, in the early-1800s. Brown was turkey hunting when he encountered the witch:
It seems I owe your father an apology. When he came back from the Smokies muttering those tales about a horrible witch, I calld him mad. Yet here I stand, haunted by that same witch that he spake of all those years ago.
White Oak Flats is a small town my friend, and we all must pich in so it may survive. I was out huntin in the mountains around town when I saw the witch. I was tracking a turkey, biggest I ever seen, when I suddinly stumbled upon a spring where a young maiden was bathein. She didnot seem to notice me, and I quikly hid myself behind a bush.
The maid had fair skin and her hair was the color of the sun. I am ashamed to admit my reasons for staying ther were lechrous, for she wore no furs or textiles. The turkey I was tracking sat on the edge of the spring, next to a cloak of black fethers that must belong to the girl.
She sat in the spring for some time and then finaly stood, and I beheld her glisening, bautyfull form. It shames me to admit how entransed I was, but I am but a man and before me was a goddess.
The maid waded to the edge where her cloak was and pulled a knife from the folds. Before my terrifide eyes, she traced the blade along her skin, cutting a smooth line across her left brest. The cut widened on it’s own and I could only watch in horrifide silence as a bird climbed out and flew into the sky.
She cut more openings across her body and from each emerjed a bird. When she had completed the grizzly ritual, the woman, who I was sertain must be a witch, lay back in the spring and let her blood pore out and stain the waters red. She began to hum and had a peacefull look on her face.
I could stand it no more and I forgot about the turkey and ran. I ran all the way back to town. I prayed that what I had seen was a falshood or some madness brought by exostion, but alas it was not.
For there she is on the edge of the forest, wrapped in her fetherd cloak and masked in a bird’s skull, keeping silent vijil on me. And evry bird in the sky and on trees looks at me, and I know that soon they shall come for me.
Farewell, my old friend. I fear this may be the last leter I ever write.
When I went to the White Oak Flats Cemetery on my trip to the Smokies, I did not see any sign of the witch, although we did have some ghostly encounters in the creepy cemetery. However, a local tour guide was recently sent a picture of what looked to be the apparition of a woman wearing a black cloak just below the cemetery. There has also been a rash of “scratchings” of ghost hunters in the area. Several people have suffered deep scratches—in a pattern that looked as if it came from a large bird—in the same area that the photograph was taken.