A sneak peek at Murder on Music Row by Stuart Dill

We’ve already teased you with photos of celebrities with the book (like this one of Billy Ray Cyrus) and rave reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, so today, we’re going to keep it simple. Enjoy this sneak peek at a chapter of Murder on Music Row, by Stuart Dill.

(And don’t forget to enter to win your free copy of Murder on Music Row! Check out this post to learn how to enter. Hurry, only one week left!)

Meet Christopher K. Coleman, author of Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee

Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee by Christopher K. Coleman

February might not be the scariest month, but Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee, by Christopher K. Coleman, is sure to leave you spooked. Released today, you can get your fix of Tennessee’s famous (and not-so-famous) spirits and spooks with this collection of 28 stories, spanning from the mysterious mountains of Appalachia to the haunted banks of the Mississippi River. (You might remember this book from the sneak peek and excerpt we shared with you in October.)

Those familiar with Tennessee’s most famous apparitions will find new thrills in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Readers may have heard of the Bell Witch, but what of her sister, a vengeful spirit known to the folks on the eastern part of the Highland Rim as the Buckner Witch?

What about the phantoms of the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, a restless troupe of ghosts who perform for unwitting audiences?

And what about Hampton, the well-dressed butler of Oakslea Place in Jackson? He often greets visitors, but he’s been dead for years.

Of course, this collection wouldn’t be complete without a look at the spirits of legends like Elvis Presley and the ghosts of famous music sites like Opryland and Music Row.

Want to get your copy of the book and meet the author himself? Then you’re invited to his book launch in Franklin, Tenn., next Thursday, February 10, at 7 p.m. Chris will be signing copies of his book at Landmark Booksellers, Franklin’s haunted bookstore. We hope to see you there!

A sneak peek for ghost-story lovers

Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee by Christopher K. ColemanWe saved something special for our Halloween blog series today: a new book of ghost stories that we’re publishing in February of next year.

Christopher K. Coleman’s Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee is a new collection of 28 tales of the supernatural. This compilation explores never-before-published legends that span the entire state of Tennessee, from the mysterious mountains of Appalachia to the haunted banks of the Mississippi River.

Those familiar with the state’s most famous apparitions will find new thrills in Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee. Readers may have heard of the Bell Witch, but what of her sister, a vengeful spirit known to the folks on the eastern part of the Highland Rim as the Buckner Witch?

What about the phantoms of the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, a restless troupe of ghosts who perform for unwitting audiences?

And what about Hampton, the well-dressed butler of Oakslea Place in Jackson? He often greets visitors, but he’s been dead for years.

Of course, this collection wouldn’t be complete without a look at the spirits of legends like Elvis Presley and the ghosts of famous music sites like Opryland and Music Row.

And lucky you–you don’t have to wait until February to read a story from this book. Enjoy a sneak preview right now, just in time for Halloween.

From all the Blair staff, have a happy, safe, and spooky Halloween!

The legendary balds of the Appalachian Trail

Yesterday we posted about Carolyn’s trips to the balds of Roan Mountain. This following is an excerpt from her book Touring the East Tennessee Backroads, second edition published in 2007. It explains some of the theories and legends behind what caused the “balds” in the Roan Mountain area. Big Hump and Hump mountains are peaks along the Appalachian Trail, near Roan Mountain, that feature balds.

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For centuries, the 6,285-foot “bald” peak called Roan Mountain has been an area landmark not only because of its height, but also because of the distinctive appearance of its treeless summit. Generations of scientists have tried to explain why certain mountaintops in the 2,000- to 6,000-foot range in this part of the Appalachians will not support trees. Altitude and timberline are obviously not the answer, since nearby Mount Mitchell, at almost 7,000 feet, supports tree growth all the way to the top.

In 1938, a professor from Louisiana State University advanced the theory that wasp eggs laid in the trees were responsible for killing them off. Unfortunately, his theory failed to explain why the infestation did not spread and why eradication of the wasps did not result in reforestation. A botanist from North Carolina State University suggested that Indians had created the balds by continually burning off the mountaintops for their settlements. But evidence from archaeologists and anthropologists showed that Indians pre­ferred valleys near streams and never chose the tops of ridges for their villages.

As usual, when science fails, legend enters. In 1898, James Mooney recorded in his report to the Bureau of American Ethnology that the Cherokees had a mythological explanation for the origin of the balds. A Cherokee village was terrorized by a giant yellow jacket called Ulagu that swooped down, snatched up children, and quickly flew off into the distance. The ever-resourceful Cherokees posted sentinels on the tops of the mountains in order to track Ulagu to its lair, located in an inaccessible cavern. The Cherokees prayed to the Great Spirit for aid. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning split off the side of the mountain where Ulagu hid. The Indians then quickly fell on the monstrous insect and destroyed it.

According to Mooney, the Great Spirit was so pleased with the Cherokees’ “initiative in uncovering [Ulagu’s] hiding place, their piety in appealing for Divine aid in their extremity, and their bravery in the final combat, that it was His decree that in the future the tops of the highest mountains be bare of timber, to better serve as stations for sentries should another visitation occur.”

The Catawba Indians, who also frequented the area, had a different explanation. In 1849, Charles Lanman recorded in Letters from the Alleghany Mountains,

There once was a time when all the nations of the earth were at war with the Catawbas, and had proclaimed their determination to conquer and possess their country. On hearing this intelligence the Catawbas became greatly enraged, and sent a challenge to all their enemies, and dared them to a fight on the summit of the Roan. The challenge was accepted, and three famous battles were fought. The streams of the entire land were red with blood, a number of tribes became extinct, and the Catawbas carried the day. Whereupon it was that the Great Spirit caused the forests to wither from the three peaks of the Roan Mountain where the battles were fought, and wherefore it is that the flowers which grow upon this mountain are chiefly of a crimson hue, for they are nourished by the blood of the slain.

The Catawba legend is particularly accommodating because it accounts for another characteristic that helps to draw thousands of visitors to Roan Mountain each year. On the top of the Roan, there are six hundred acres of natural rhododendron gardens that put on a brilliant display of color each June.

In 1799, Scotsman John Fraser, under the patronage of the Russian govern­ment, made his third trip to the North Carolina-Tennessee mountains. It was during his journey up the Roan that he discovered a new plant, which he designated Rhododendron catawbiense. It is this plant, with its crimson-colored blooms, that attracts so many sightseers.

Roan Mountain also boasts an 850-acre forest of Fraser fir and spruce. The Fraser fir, named after the same John Fraser who christened the Catawba rhododendron, has become the rage in the domestic Christmas-tree industry, spawning a whole new source of income for local landowners.

Escape from the heat of summer on the Appalachian Trail

With the start of the school year just around the corner, we thought we’d share with you one last vacation spot. Blair president Carolyn takes us on a trip to mountains on the North Carolina/Tennessee border–with, of course, her golden retriever Carmen.

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My husband Alton and I love to hike the grassy balds that straddle the border between Tennessee and North Carolina near Roan Mountain. This summer, we introduced our one-year-old golden retriever, Carmen, to the Appalachian Trail (AT).

We began our journey at the end of Roaring Creek Road in Avery County, where we followed the Overmountain Victory Trail to Yellow Mountain Gap. From the gap,  near a barn-like Overmountain shelter frequented by hikers, we headed up Yellow Mountain on the AT. Our destination was the summit of Little Hump Mountain.

Over the years, we’ve discovered a little-known side trail that allows us to loop back to Roaring Creek, but this trip we had to do some serious bushwhacking to get around trees that fell across the trail during this past winter’s serious ice storms. Despite these obstacles, it was a perfect day for a hike. And Carmen adapted readily to maintaining trail formation between the leader, Alpha Dog Alton, and me, bringing up the rear.

We also went to another spot on the AT called “the Hump” or Hump Mountain. Hump Mountain is the northern end of what is called the Roan Highlands. From here, you can see Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock & Hawksbill, Grayson Highlands, and over into Tennessee. On this second trip, we hiked up from the Tennessee side along Shell Creek, heading toward Doll’s Flats. Although this nice trail traveled alongside the cascading creek for much of the route, it eventually climbed straight up for elevation gain of about 2,000 feet. Whew! Although it was 90 degrees in the valleys below, we had to don our jackets because of the strong winds on top of the Hump.

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If you’d like to read more about the balds and Roan Mountain, check back in with us tomorrow for an excerpt from Touring the East Tennessee Backroads. You can find directions to these hiking spots and more in the book as well.