RUGBY, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s been called the most haunted town in America. The tiny town of Rugby in Northeast Tennessee.
It was founded in 1880 by author Thomas Hughes, who wrote the first children’s book “Tom Brown’s School Days” and used the money he made from it to buy land on the Cumberland Plateau.
Hughes wanted to establish a Utopian village. That idea didn’t work; then, typhoid fever took the lives of many.
Today, Rugby has a population of 75, maybe more, if you included the dearly departed who have decided to stay.
Nestled in the shadow of Big South Fork River and Recreation Area, the tiny Victorian village in historic Rugby hasn’t changed much in the last 120 years.
Perhaps that’s why some of the spirits of those long departed have apparently decided to stay.
“I think when you walk through these historic buildings up here, you definitely get the sense that you are not by yourself,” says Rugby resident Howard Haffner.
Haffner recalls the day he and a friend were in the kitchen of the Historic Newbury House, the only ones there, or, so they thought.
“We heard children laughing in the front of the house ,and both of us heard it,” he explained. “So there was no explanation for these children laughing and then I asked around in the village and other people had experienced that same thing at Newbury.”
Jordan Hughett with Historic Rugby Visitor’s Center took us on a tour of Newbury House, saying “you kinda get an eerie feeling once you go in there.”
Hughett led us upstairs to learn more about another ghostly encounter many visitors have experienced.
London businessman Charles Oldfield died in one of the rooms more than a century ago while waiting for his wife to arrive.
When we walked in, we noticed a chill in the room that now bears his name.
Some say Mr. Oldfield is still there.
“When females stay in this room, ” Hughett told us, “if they feel a nudge or a touch it’s because he’s checking to see if it’s his wife (who has) come back to see him.”
So many visitors have experienced his presence, they make time to visit Laurel Dale cemetery where many of the town’s early citizens are buried. Charles Oldfield’s grave is there, too. You’ll find pennies on his marker, placed by those paying their respects.
Other ghostly encounters closer to town on an overgrown road, there have been sounds of a phantom horsedrawn carriage.
There’s a story to tell in just about all of the oldest buildings in Rugby – 17 of the original Victorian structures remain, housing the Thomas Hughes Free Library, where every book was published in 1900 or before.
But Rugby isn’t just a village steeped in the past.
There’s plenty of land for development, and dozens have chosen to build homes here, but, they must follow Rugby’s strict rules.
Rugby is on the National Register of Historic Places, so even in a new development, every home must be constructed in the Victorian style.
After all, you wouldn’t want to upset the spirits, would you?
MORE ONLINE | Click here for information on Historic Rugby