Bobby Hullett has shared his Brentwood ghost stories for a number of years with members of Leadership Brentwood. In our continuing series celebrating Brentwood’s 50th anniversary, we are sharing some of his ghostly adventures with you.
“You have to understand these are the memories of an impressionable fourth-grader,” said Hullett as he began his tales, “but who really knows?”
The Ghost with a Sweet Tooth
“My family moved here in 1980,” said Hullett, “and the weekend before 4th grade started I met Jason McKnight. His family was living in Mooreland Mansion and working on restoring it. It was in horrible condition. There was some kind of grant that was being used to bring the house back to its former state. I remember them having to find windows that matched those made before the Civil War to match originals that had been broken.”
Hullett’s friend, Jason, told him about Ruth, who lived with them in a room up on the second floor. She liked to play chess with Jason’s brother. She was a ghost. The story is that Ruth died in her bedroom the eve before her wedding from a tragic accident.
One time, the brother had a chessboard out on a table on the landing with a chair set on either side of it. The brother sat in one, and the other was empty. Hullett asked his friend what was going on. Jason told him that Ruth liked to play chess with his brother.
“Well,” the brother said with exasperation as they stood there watching, “are you going to make a move, Ruth?”
A moment later a pawn moved by itself across the board.
“He could very well have been messing with me,” said Hullett, “but nine-year-old me saw that chess piece move all by itself.”
Ruth was also known to have a sweet tooth. The family would leave out sugar cubes in the dining room, and with all members of the family accounted for in another room, when they returned to the dining room, the sugar cube would be gone. Hullett began calling her the Sugar Ghost.
After the McKnights moved out, a law firm moved into the space as the house became part of the Koger Office Center in the late 1980s. People who worked there have said they could hear Ruth playing a ghostly piano late at night.
“Ruth is always there,” said Hullett. “When she walks by you can feel a ghostly breeze.”
The Dog Killers
During the Civil War, Union soldiers would kill dogs they found to keep the Rebel army from using them as trackers. When the Dog Killers were taken prisoner, they would be held in chains in the stable that once upon a time stood in a grassy meadow behind Mooreland Mansion, roughly where Tapestry is now located.
“Southerners love their hunting dogs, and took offense at the dogs being killed,” said Hullett. “The Dog Killers would be kept separate from other prisoners because of their offense. It is said that they were perhaps tortured. Of course, that is just hearsay.”
As a child, Hullet believed that the old stable, then still standing, was haunted by malevolent spirits.
“For Jason’s birthday,” said Hullett, “when we were in 5th grade, they had 20 kids over to the mansion. We played in the house, in the trees, and fields. But we were told more than once not to go into the old stable at the back of the property. It was not safe. Of course, being kids, we did just that.”
The family dog, a Great Dane named John, hated the old stable. He would howl and whine when he got near it, then turn and run away. Even that didn’t deter 18 of the 20 children.
“Of that 18,” Hullett added, “not one got out of the stable unharmed. Nothing life-threatening, but harmed none the less. I had a nail go through my knee. Another kid fell out of the hayloft. We were all convinced the stables were haunted.
Mooreland Mansion was not only used as a jail during the Civil War; it was also used as a hospital. The infirmary was in a cellar in the back of the house.
“As kids, we had to explore it all,” said Hullett with a chuckle, “including the cellar. Back then, as I said before, the house was in very poor shape. It had not been repaired in years and years. The basement was lined in the original bricks, which were spattered in blood from those who had been treated in that Civil War infirmary. While basements are dank and dark, this one always felt cold. Even on the hottest summer day. We labeled it haunted, too.
Feeding a Youthful Imagination
The house was great fun for two young boys to explore. There were all kinds of secret passageways and hidden doors leading into dark cobweb filled spaces.
“It is all part of the hotel now,” said Hullett. “All of those dank passageways, hidden rooms, and haunted stables are long gone. All that remains, possibly, is Ruth, awaiting a game of chess or a piece of candy.”