(Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex)

9182 TN-116, Petros, TN

(423) 324-8687

Status: Former Maximum Security State Penitentiary; Heritage Property

Paranormal Tours

Open for Historical and Paranormal Tours including Overnight Investigations


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By <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="">Michael Hodge</a> from Wartburg, Tennessee, USA - <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="">Brushy Mountain State Prison</a>, CC BY 2.0Link


This prison was built in response to the 1891 Coal Creek War. Coal miners were locked out of the mines for protesting the use of unpaid prison labor to do the mining. In the end the miners won and Brushy Mountain Mine and Prison were built.

The prisoners worked the mine and the coke ovens as well as building the first prison; which was made of wood. In 1920 the castle structure that now dominates the former prison was opened. It was built by stone that prisoners removed from the quarry on site.

The were few escape attempts; but of those, few most were successful. The most famous escape attempt – and ultimately unsuccessful one – was by James Earl Ray who assassinated Martin Luther King Jr. He jumped a fence with six other inmates but was captured 58 hours later in the forest surrounding the prison.

 In 1972 the guards went on strike protesting unsafe working conditions. This shut the prison down until 1976 when it was reopened as the only unionized prison in the State. There were many attempts to break the union before the prison closed down but none succeeded – including multiple attempts to just shut the prison down.

Up until the 1980’s the prison was classified as maximum security and the worst of the worst were sent here. The prison is called “The End of the Line” because once you went in you didn’t come out. Although there were no State executions on site there were plenty of unofficial executions. It is said in the old days guards would just shoot a prisoner and leave his body to rot in the yard.

In the 1980’s the prison changed to a reception/classification prison meaning it held all types of convicts until they were taken to another prison to serve their sentence. The penitentiary did retain its maximum-security classification though due to a 96-bed facility on site that housed the worst prisoners in Tennessee custody.

On June 11, 2009 the prison closed its doors – just one year after becoming the oldest operational prison in the State – and the remaining inmates were transferred to Morgan County Correctional Complex.

In 2018 the prison opened for tours and to host events.

There is now a distillery and restaurant on site as well as both historical and paranormal tours.


Paranormal Activity

It is estimated about 10,000 people met their deaths in this prison.

Once again, despite being listed as one of the most haunted locations in the State and the Country, there is very few documented encounters with the paranormal. Of course, that may be because the Ghost Tour keeps its secrets very close.

There are apparently a few hot spots within the site including the hospital, the auditorium, the ‘Hole’ and near the cell of James Earl Ray.

Many prisoners gasped their last breath after accidents, injuries or illness in the hospital. The auditorium was where movies were shown giving prisoners darkness and proximity to take care of any grudges; personal or otherwise. As for the Hole, that was were those who got caught breaking the rules were kept in solitary confinement; back in the good old days it is rumored prisoners were hung by their thumbs here.

The following activity has been documented here: apparitions of former guards and prisoners; shadow figures; possession; attacks by unseen entities resulting in scratches and bruises; touches, pokes and prods by unseen entities; doors opening and closing on their own; time slips; disembodied voices including those that respond or react to the living; all manner of unexplained sounds including loud bangs, screams, moaning, laughter etc.

Empathic feelings of intense evil, hatred, sadness, depression and loneliness; cold and warm spots; unexplained winds and breezes; phantom footsteps often heard approaching or following you; unending feelings of not being alone, not being wanted and being followed; electrical disturbances, light anomalies and unexplained mists.

The energy in this location is said to be so disturbing it has led to physical illness in some visitors.