The Greenbrier Restaurant is one of Gatlinburg’s most popular eateries. The main log structure of the restaurant was built in 1939. At this time, it was known as the Greenbrier Restaurant. The owner, Mr. Blanche Moffett, served breakfast to the hunters and travelers who were attracted to the lodge’s secluded, woodland setting, its sun deck, and the first concrete swimming pool in Gatlinburg. In 1980, Dean and Barbara Hayden bought the lodge and renamed it “The Greenbrier Restaurant.” The restaurant was leased out before Dean died in 1991. Two years later, Barbara appointed her son David and his wife Becky as managers and re-opened the restaurant. Today, the Greenbrier Restaurant is owned and operated by David, Becky, and their son Jordan. The food and the ambiance still attract customers, much as they did back in 1939. These days, though, the Greenbrier’s ghost story also brings people to the restaurant.
Legend has it that in the 1940s, a young woman named Lydia was staying at the lodge. Her fiancee was a handsome young man who lived in Gatlinburg. On the day of her wedding, she put on her wedding dress in the lodge and drove to the church where she was to be married. After six hours of waiting, she reached the unmistakable conclusion that her lover had jilted her. Despondent, she returned to the lodge. Lydia walked up the stairs to the second floor landing. The poor girl through a rope over the rafters, tied the end around her neck, and hanged herself. A few days later, hunters discovered the mangled corpse of her fiancee. He had apparently been attacked and killed by a mountain lion. It was not long before locals speculated that Lydia’s spirit had taken the shape of a mountain lion and taken revenge on the man who had dishonored her.
Today, Lydia’s ghost is a very active presence at the Greenbrier Restaurant. Lydia usually haunts the second floor landing where she jumped to her death, although customers have reported seeing her wander through the restaurant. In the Web site Ghosts of Tennessee, D. L. Marsh says that a caretaker who worked at the lodge many years ago said that one night, he was asleep when he heard a female voice say, “Mark my grave.” He dismissed the voice as a figment of his imagination and went back to sleep. After several sleepless nights, the caretaker decided to honor Lydia’s request. He walked down to the hill where Lydia was said to have been placed a cross on her grave. Lydia’s ghost never bothered him again.
Becky Hayden said that when her husband’s family bought the restaurant in 1980, several family members lived in the old lodge because they had not found a house yet. “My husband’s brother thought he heard his father downstairs,” Becky said. “He went downstairs to check and found all the chairs were pushed over to the wall and staked up. T hey were big, heavy, wrought-iron chairs. His brother thought his dad had come home, but he looked out the window, and the car wasn’t back. So he straightened everything up and went back upstairs and came down a while later, and everything had been stacked up again, so they left it.”
Once the restaurant was fully operational, customers began have bizarre experiences there. One day, a regular customer was in the ladies’ restroom, and the light went off. A few seconds later, it came back on. A little while later, the lady and her husband were talking to some people in the restaurant when the lady decided to use the restroom. Becky said, “Apparently, something into the restroom with the lady and went into the stall right beside hers and slammed the toilet seat down. ‘Bam! Bam!’ The husband was sitting on the bench outside the door. He heard it too.” Afterwards, the lady’s husband accused Becky of having rigged up a device that would cause the toilet set to slam down on its or that would turn the lights off and on. Becky denied the accusation: “Nobody touched it. I promise you. It must be Lydia.”
When Becky’s son Jordan was little, Becky and her husband had a room upstairs where the office is now. “It had a T.V. and a couch so he could take a nap if he wanted to,” Jordan said. “After school, he’d go up there and o his homework while we were down here in the restaurant. Several times, he said he saw a lady up there, but we knew there was no lady there. Sometimes, we would all be downstairs, and we’d hear footsteps coming from upstairs when there was nobody up there. There were people who would say they saw a lady at the top of the stairs who would walk into that room.”
In November 2003, Jordan saw Lydia’s ghost a second time. Becky said, “We were behind and short-handed, and we closed on Monday to get caught up. Well, I was out here doing a liquor order, and my husband was back in the kitchen prepping food. Jordan was back there watching T.V. He kept yelling for me to come to the back. I told him, ‘I’m busy.’ About the third or fourth time, he hollered really loud. When I went back there, he said, ‘There was a girl standing beside me, and now she’s gone. She was just standing there, and she disappeared.’ I asked, ‘What did she look like?’ He said, ‘I don’t know. She was kind of foggy.”
During the winter of 2004, Becky had an encounter with the same apparition that Jordan saw. “I got here early one morning,” Becky said. “There was nobody else here. It was maybe 10:30, and we propped the restroom doors open. We also propped the doors open to the service area. I know there was no one here but me. All of a sudden, all of the doors popped open. There was nobody here. You could hear the trucks drive by. There are no windows in the front area, so there’s no light unless you turn the light on. I walked across the threshold to turn the light on, and I ran into somebody. It took my breath away. I said, ‘Excuse me,’ but there was nobody here but me. It was very strange, but I felt like I ran into somebody. I turned off the lights and came back in here to pay the beer man. I went ahead and got my check filled out as best I could. It’s not scary. It’s not threatening. It’s like all the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.”
Becky went on to say that on several occasions, she or her husband would get to the bottom of the hill after closing up, only to remember something that they had forgotten at the restaurant. Many times, they would go back up and go into the dark, empty restaurant and hear strange noises or have the hairs on the back of their necks stand straight up. “No one wanted to be the last person to shut off the lights and be the last one in the building,” Becky said.
The staff at the Greenbrier Inn have also had strange experiences in the old restaurant. A hostess named Christine Kauffman said that one night, she was turning out the lights she heard something. “It sounded like a laminated menu,” Christine said. “I turned around, and nothing was behind me. Well, I continued to turn off the lights because right over there, there’s a lot of stuff to turn off. I turned around again, and nothing was there. It was a laminated menu. It sounded just like this [Shakes the menu]. I could also feel the wind from it. I went back to turn off the lights, and as I was coming back around, there was a menu lying on the floor.”
One winter night, Christine and another hostess named Marie heard someone walking around on the second floor. They naturally assumed that it was Jordan because he spent a lot of time up there. The girls mentioned hearing the footsteps to Becky, and she too assumed that Jordan was up there. At that moment, Jordan came walking out of the office. Nobody—at least, no human body–was up on the second floor.
Finding out about the ghosts at the Greenbrier Restaurant is not difficult at all. Simply sit at the bar, order a drink, and talk to the bartender and people sitting nearby. On the day my wife, Marilyn, and her friend Vickie Hatcher were there, an attendant at the Welcome Center in Sevierville told that he was sitting at the bar at the Greenbrier Inn when out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone rush past him. He found this incident to be highly unusual because he and the bartender he was talking to were the only ones there at the time. At the Greenbrier Restaurant, occurrences that would be extraordinary anywhere else are just run-of-the-mill.