Old, abandoned houses are the most ideal settings for ghost stories. A close second, however, is bizarre-looking houses with odd inhabitants. Such is the case of the Old Stone House in Alcoa, Tennessee.
The Old Stone House was built by William Andrew Nicolson and his wife, Fair. They began working on the house shortly after moving to Alcoa from Pickens County, Georgia. The sixty-one-year-old carpenter and stone mason started building his house when he had time off from working at the Alcoa plant across the street. Nicholson said he was building a special house that would last forever because he expected to live forever as well. Referring to his fourteen-room, fortress-like house, Nicholson said, “It cannot rust or rot, and if nothing wrecks it, there is no reason why it shouldn’t last a million years. After working an eight-hour shift at the plant, Nicholson worked an additional six to eight hours on the house that came to be known as “The Millennium House.” Nicholson believed that the world would end in 1969 and that only 144,000 righteous people would survive, including himself and his wife. He hauled the 300-pound pink marble stones to the work site in a wheelbarrow. When he completed his project in December 1946, the end result certainly seemed to be the fulfillment of his dreams. Over 4,000 bags of cement were poured over the stacked marble rock. The walls of the two-story house are two to three feet thick. The stones in the ceiling are three to five feet thick. The roof contains 432 tons of rock and is said to be able to support the weight of several tanks. He also dug a six-story deep well that is five feet in diameter.
Nicholson’s labor of love became even more difficult after Fair died of cancer in1950 at age 72. He attributed her death to his belief that “her faith wasn’t strong enough.” Nicholson continued working on his house until 1965, when he took ill and died. The house stood empty until 1871, when it was sold at auction for $3,900. The new owner, Juanita, converted it into apartments. Because the house had such a “weird aura” about it, it was also used by the Jayces as a Haunted House for Halloween. The Old Stone House was saved from the city’s wrecking ball by a firefighter named Dean Fontaine, who purchased the house for $40,000 and spent another $60,000 restoring it.
Many local residents, especially the younger ones, believe that the spirit of William Andrew Nicholson still resides in his unique.home. This is not a totally illogical assumption because Nicholson did, after all, believe that he would live there for a thousand years. The fact that vandals have taken Nicholson’s tombstone from his grave at Clark’s Grove Cemetery could also explain why some people believe he is still in the house. Passersby say they have seen eerie lights in the yard. Supposedly, he still walks around the premises, day and night. The noises people hear at all hours coming from inside the house when no one is there has led them to believe that he is still working on his strange creation. A woman who visited the Old Stone House back when it was used as a Haunted House at Halloween recalled waiting around the entrance for someone to unlock the building. She and her friends had not been standing there for very long when they heard footsteps coming from inside the house. A feeling of dread washed over the girls because they were told that the building was empty. They breathed a sigh of relief when the man with the keys finally arrived. However, just as he stuck his key in the lock, the girls heard what sounded like a door slamming coming inside the house. The man led the girls around the house as he looked for the source of the noise, but he found nothing out of the ordinary. The woman said that she and her friend remained in the house, but they never strayed from each other’s company.
Over the years, the rumor mill has spun yarns that enhanced the mystique of the Old Stone House. People say that Nicholson was a foul-tempered hermit who worked his wife to death and buried her in the basement. The truth is, though, that William and Fair, who married when they were both teenagers, were a very loving couple. Neighbors recall he frequently invited children to play in and around his home. He also gave tours of his home to adults, although he refused to discuss religion with anyone. Actually, the facts in the case of William Nicholson are so bizarre that it seems unnecessary to fabricate fantastic tales about his life and “the house that faith built.”