GUILD, Tenn. (WATE) — A small town near South Pittsburg and Jasper is home to a historic dam, which the Tennessee Valley Authority says ranks among the top haunted dams in the United States.
The Hales Bar Dam was built between 1905-1913 by the Chattanooga and Tennessee River Power Company to develop hydroelectric power, according to the Missouri University of Science and Technology.
A PowerPoint presentation by J. David Rogers Ph.D., P.E., P.G., shares the mechanical history of the dam. Rogers explains not only did the TVA purchase the dam in August of 1939, one of the major issues with the dam was the construction appeared to be topographically advantageous, but under the surface, caverns extended up to 200 feet below the river level.
The story of the dam shared by the TVA says the reasons why Hales Bar is haunted are many, ranging from a Native American curse to a tunnel collapse that resulted in the death of children. What TVA says can be confirmed by historical records is that a Native American warrior told European settlers in 1775, the area now known as Kentucky and Tennessee, would be “dark and bloody.”
One of the dangers of building the dam was that it was built in the section of the upper Tennessee River known as “The Narrows,” which features whirlpools and shoals that have colorful names like the Suck, the Skillet and the Boiling Pot, according to TWRA.
Thousands of men worked on the dam. As families lived on either side of the dam, a 2.5-feet by 6.5-feet tunnel was built underneath to allow easy access across.
TVA added there was no surprise that there were fatalities and injuries, as there were men working around the clock in wet, muddy conditions without strong safety regulations.
They also include information from an expert on Hales Bar, Nonie Webb, who said the total number cannot be documented, but some violent accidents occurred during construction including:
- A boiler explosion took the life of one man.
- A falling derrick crushed out the lives of two others.
- One poor soul had his foot entangled in a rope and was pulled underwater and drowned before he could be saved.
Other notable stories included the TVA murders at the camps and an incident where a man was struck across the neck with a heavy bench, killing him instantly.
One source compiled more alleged injuries and deaths, including:
- A man fell from a rock crusher and was left with multiple injuries.
- Two African American men were killed by two white men.
- The project engineer died from an ear infection.
- The body of one of the Hales was found on the railroad tracks, run over.
- Three workers fell into concrete that was being poured and was left there.
Another estimate of the deaths ranges up to several hundred workers and possibly 11 children.
Because of issues that could not be repaired, including persistent leaks and poor foundation rock, the TVA said that the decision was made in the 1960s that the dam needed to be replaced. around six and a half miles downstream, the Nickajack dam was built, and Hales Bar Dam was demolished, TVA said. While the dam was demolished, the powerhouse still stands, no longer a part of the TVA, described as the TVA as ghost itself, whether any inhabit it now or not.
To read the detailed history of Hales Bar Dam, visit the TVA’s website.