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Tales of the Haunted South

Scattered across the South and Mid Atlantic region are reminders of a bloody part of our history, the American Civil War. Battlefields stretch from Pennsylvania to Georgia, and from Virginia to Arkansas. Names like Gettysburg, Bull Run and Shiloh are just a few of the well known battle grounds. At the southeast corner of Tennessee, where it joins with Alabama and Georgia, lie the twin sites of Chattanooga and Chickamauga.

In 1863 the Confederate army defeated the Union forces at the battle of Chickamauga which lasted for two days and claimed 35,000 causalities ( dead, wounded and captured) from both sides. It was second only to Gettysburg in total losses during the war. Later that year the Union forces won the battle of Chattanooga, effectively capturing all Tennessee for the North. Over 46,000 men were killed, wounded or missing in the two battles. It is believed that most of the dead died not during the battle but afterwards from wounds received. It’s no wonder battlefields are considered some of America’s most haunted places. Chickamauga is one of those places. Chickamuaga’s haunted heritage doesn’t start with the Civil War though, it traces its origins back farther.

The Cherokee Indians named the creek running near the battlefield Chickamauga, which means “River of Death.” One can presume that the site even then had a bloody history. While there are many hauntings and reports of strange activity, such as eerie lights and music, and ghostly apparitions of soldiers, one haunting presence seems much older. Old Green Eyes has been spotted many times over the years by visitors and park rangers alike. There are two very different legends that attempt to explain Old Green Eyes. The first story is that he is the spirit of a Confederate soldier whose head was blown off and his body destroyed. Now his ghostly head roams the park at night looking for its lost body.

This could explain some of the sightings of Green Eyes, but most of them and the most reliable paint a very different picture of the spirit. They describe Old Green Eyes as vaguely human but with glowing green eyes, large misshapen jaws with protruding fangs, long shaggy hair and being much larger than a human. Some claim that Old Green Eyes has haunted the area long before the battles in 1863. There are even reports that he was seen moving among the dead after a particularly bloody part of the battle. One of the most reliable encounters come from Edward Tinney a former park ranger. He was walking in the park one night in 1976 when he was suddenly struck by a strange otherworldly chill. It was a feeling like he had never felt before. Then suddenly Old Green Eyes appeared out of the darkness. He described it as having long hair, flashing greenish-orange eyes, and long pointed teeth.

The creature appeared to be at least six feet tall and was wearing what looked like a long duster. Thinking at first it might be a mugger or criminal, he crossed to the other side of the road. As Green Eyes passed him he turned and glared at him showing his fangs in a snarl. He stood frozen with fear, until an oncoming cars headlights cut through the fog and the creature vanished. He said he has seen Old green Eyes several times over the years and can feel it watching him at times. There were two unexplained car crashes in that same vicinity that have been linked to Old Green Eyes and in 1980 he was seen by a local woman on her way home from work. She saw a huge object in the road with glowing green eyes and as she got close it disappeared. She had never believed in Old green Eyes before, but she won’t enter the park after dark anymore.

Sightings of Old Green Eyes are still common around dusk in the park. Many paranormal researchers have been to the park, some have had sightings, some have reported nothing. Maybe Old Green Eyes exists and maybe he does not. Maybe Chickamauga is not haunted at all. I have not seen Old Green Eyes myself and I am not sure if I want to see him, and have no clue if he exists or is maybe just a ploy to lure more visitors to the park. All I do know is that if anyplace could be haunted, Chickamauga must surely be one of them. A place with so much death in so little time just seems like a place where negative energy could run wild. No one really knows why the Cherokee gave it such a dark name, but it certainly fits. Maybe they knew Old Green Eyes way back then. Whether you believe or not keep your eyes open if you happen to find yourself inside the park after dark.