Highway ghosts are fairly common in Tennessee. The Bristol Highway is said to be haunted by Long Dog, a family pet that was brutally killed by the notorious outlaw John Murrell. People traveling along the old stagecoach road near Blountville claim to have seen a man on horseback riding up to the door of the historic Sturm Cabin. On the stretch of I-40 that crosses the Cumberland Mountains, drivers have seen glowing balls of light buzzing around their cars. The best known haunted road in upper East Tennessee is the Netherland Inn Road near Kingsport, Tennessee.
According to the legend, one foggy night in 1922, five young men were joy-riding in a Model T Ford down Rogersville Pike near Rotherwood Bridge when a dog ran in front of the car. The driver swerved to miss the little animal and inadvertently crashed into the concrete abutment of the bridge. When rescuers arrived on the scene, two of the boys were already dead, and one young man died shortly after being admitted to Riverview Hospital. Hugh Hamblen, the father of one of the boys, Charlie Hamblen, rushed to the hospital as soon as a nurse informed him of the accident. Driving through the fog was difficult, but Hugh still managed to make it to the hospital in less than a half hour. As he parked along the Netherland Inn Road and walked up to the hill to the hospital, Hugh feared the worst. When he rushed to Charlie’s bedside, Hugh was relieved to find that his son was still alive, despite the fact that he had suffered a concussion and internal injuries. Hugh stayed by his son’s bedside the entire night. The next morning, Hugh was relieved to learn that Charlie’s conditions had improved, but he was saddened by news that the other survivor of the accident had passed away during the night. With a prayer of thanksgiving on his lips, Hugh left the hospital and walked down the road to his car. He was surprised that the fog from the night before had become thicker. As he was crossing the road to his vehicle, he saw two large, round headlights driving straight toward him. Before he could react, Hugh was struck and killed by the oncoming car. The driver was a girl who had never driven a car before. Hugh was carried back up to the hospital, where he lingered for two days with a crushed chest and pierced lungs. Legend has it that at the very moment Hugh died, Charlie’s ears began to bleed. Charlie Hamblen recovered physically from his injuries, but the nagging feeling that he was somehow responsible for his father’s death transformed the fun-loving boy into a sullen, morose man.
A few years later, a man was driving down the Netherland Inn Road one foggy night when he saw the figure of a man standing along the roadside. The forty-year-old man was wearing a trench coat, a fedora hat, and a white scarf. Suddenly, he stepped into the middle of the road and started waving his arms. The driver attempted to stop, but his tires slid on the wet pavement, and his car struck the man. Terrified, he pulled off the road and walked back to the spot where the man was standing, but no one was there. Since 1922, over 120 people have reported seeing an apparition standing in the middle of the road, waving his arms. Usually, he appears on stormy, misty nights when visibility is poor. Many of these drivers are workers at the nearby Eastman Kodak plant. Hugh Hamblen’s ghost, it seems, is a watchful spirit who tries to prevent people from becoming victims of the fog, as he was.