I moved to Lewisburg, Tennessee when I was 13. There’s not much to do there other than drive down old country roads and ponder old tales. One such story is about the Bethbirei Presbyterian Church.
First, let me say this: I would think that most churches, especially those with a cemetery, are going to be haunted to some extent. There are dead people everywhere, so why wouldn’t it be?! But it’s still fun to hear the stories and feel the eerie spirits when you explore the area.
The Bethbirei Church is a mile or two down Bethbirei Road, just out of sight of most of the houses in the area. The church and newer (less old) cemetery is on one side of the street, and immediately across the street is a really old cemetery that you might not even notice due to overgrown weeds and the fact that most of the tombstones just look like rocks. I don’t think I ever did notice it when I would go by there as a teenager, but volunteers keep it up much better now. I also never realized that the church was still active, but sure enough, it is. I almost wanted to attend one Sunday just to see the inside, but I didn’t. I don’t think they’d like my taking pictures during their preaching stuff.
Anyway, the story I heard the most about this church is that if you went into the church and tried to steal the bible, it would get heavier and heavier as you tried to leave with it, and you’d never make it out the door. When I was a teenager, I wanted to test that theory, but I never did go inside. If I recall correctly, the door was locked the one time I tried, and I didn’t want to vandalize the place to break in. This past May when I went, it didn’t seem so exciting knowing that people actually attend church there. Here’s the thing about this story, though… It’s the same story you’ll hear about most other haunted churches. It’s kind of a generic tale. Another version of this story involes a group of teenagers who did steal the bible, and as they were driving away, they were hit by a truck and all killed. The bible was never found in their car, but was mysteriously back in it’s place at the church.
Another popular story about Bethbirei is that there is a large animal/man creature that roams the cemetery at night. HA!! Seriously? I have to laugh at this one. It’s back woods country, so you’re definitely going to hear a lot of animal noises and rustling of leaves and such, but I’m pretty sure the area is populated enough to make it a little too small for Big Foot to live comfortably. Sorry. You might see a deer or a stray cat, but I’ve never seen anything more creepy than that.
Some claim to have seen figures and strange lights in the windows. That’s cool. I haven’t seen them at this church (totally did at a church in East Tennessee, and it freaked me out!), but I’m not going to argue the claims.
Oh, here’s another one that cracks me up… People claim to experience emotions of terror and sadness when they visit this church. Well, yeah!! It’s called being scared, people! Are you kidding me? At night, especially, the area is really dark. They’ve put up flood lights for security at night, but other than that, the area is pitch black. The cemetery across the street is pretty well covered with trees, so it’s especially dark over there. If that doesn’t creep you out and make your skin crawl, there’s something wrong with you.
One story that I do believe to be true is about a little girl that died there. I don’t remember when they said it happened, but once upon a time, there was a little girl (3 years old, maybe?) who was at church with her family, and at some point before or after church, she was playing too close to a memorial statue of an angel. The angel statue fell on the girl and killed her. The only thing more messed up that irony is that, apparently, angel statues have a tendancy to do this. As much as I believe this story to be from reliable sources, it has happened in other towns, too. Ask Google.
Check out this site for some heated comments about the church, including people with more stories and sensitive folks with complaints to leave the church alone. For the record, I don’t think it’s wise nor appropriate to break into the church, steal anything, or vandalize the church or its cemeteries in any way, but I don’t see any harm in driving by, stopping to take a couple photos, and appreciating the site for what it is or what you make of it.
I have heard from some of the older locals that the old graves across the street from the church are those of slaves or poor people, and their tombstones are unmarked or unreadable now. Like I mentioned earlier, some are just big rocks instead of normal grave markers, and I’m sure there are more people buried there than accounted for. My guess is that there’s plenty of truth to the slave church theory and the road being build after the cemetery was in place, which can kind of disrupt the peace. The witch coven story is new to me, but I think witches are cool enough to investigate that claim the next time I’m in Lewisburg.
When I visited in May, I took some photos during the day and at night. I couldn’t pass up the full moon photo opportunities. I didn’t have my DSLR with me, but I did the best I could with minimal light and a pocket camera. One thing I noticed was that all my pictures have a green glow on the ground around the tombstones. One of the “ghost story” claims is that the tombstones have a green glow. Yes. They do! But I didn’t really think anything of it beyond, “wow, that light makes the graves look really cool.” I didn’t know at the time that people believe the green glow to be part of the haunt. I’m pretty sure it has a lot to do with the color temperature of the light source, as well as the reflection of really green grass. When I edited my photos, I took the green glow out of a lot of them, mostly because I was getting bored with it after a while. But here’s a completely unedited shot. Forgive my blur, a fence isn’t the best tripod.
This was taken with a Canon S90, ISO100, f4.9, 15 seconds, resized jpeg for this blog, but otherwise no editing. The two blurry lines at the bottom right and left are the chain linked fence. FYI, as much as I wanted to jump the fence to explore and take other photos, I’m really not interested in death by local farmer shotgun. Getting busted by angry southern Christians is scarier than the ghosts who might haunt the place.
Here are some of the photos I took in late May 2010. I’m including day and night shots. In the night shots, I did not use a flash. The light source was a flood light/street light for most of the tombstone photos, and we used the car headlights to see more of the church in the night shots that include the church.