By Austin Leonard
Rotherwood Mansion, located in Kingsport, TN, was built in 1818, and through its history has accumulated an interesting and supernatural history. The tales of the mansion are riddled with heartbreaking accounts of slavery, a legend of a hound from hell, and many lost souls wandering the grounds even in the afterlife.
Originally built and owned by Frederick Ross, the mansion, and its grounds, as many wealthy southern families did, had many slaves living on its land. However, Ross was not considered a cruel man, never punishing without having a need. His daughter, Rowena, who everyone on the grounds liked, married a man, she claimed was her true love. But he drowned in the Holston river just before their wedding.
Rowena was thrown into a bought of depression for a long time before remarrying. After several years happily married, with a daughter of her own, Rowena visited Rotherwood. She saw and heard the ghost of her first love waving to her from the waters of the river. That night she slipped into her wedding gown and walked into the river until she disappeared beneath the water.
To save the plantation, following his daughter’s death, Ross sold the mansion to a man by the name of Phipps, who happened to also have been his bookkeeper. Phipps was the mirror opposite of Ross; he was known for his cruelty, malice, and irritability. He was the owner that made the dark history of Rotherwood come to life, and who would be the dark entity that is said to haunt the grounds today.
Jumping forward in time, when the house was being renovated in the mid-to-late 1940’s, a worker was the first to experience a ghostly sighting. The crew said he looked up and went pale, screamed, ran to their van, and sped away. Later he returned and told the story as to why. He explained that he felt like someone was staring at him. When he looked up, the worker saw a man materialize from a wall dressed in a dark suit accompanied by a large black dog with glowing red eyes, baring his teeth and growling. He said the man looked at him, smiled sadistically, and pointed directly at him. The black hound jumped towards the worker and chased him through the house and out to the work van.
Many believe this to be Phipps’ spirit still roaming the land, waiting to prey on more people. However, Phipps is not the only spirit seen wandering the mansion’s grounds. People report seeing a beautiful woman wearing a white wedding dress, believed to be Rowena, as well as many of the slaves wandering the grounds still in the afterlife. Most of them are harmless, save for Phipps and his hound from hell.
What do you think? Would you be willing to confront Phipps and his hound from hell?
Read further into Rotherwood’s turbulent history here, or check out Haints, Witches, and Boogers: Tales from Upper East Tennessee by Charles Edwin Price for a more general look at the legends of East Tennessee.