NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WRKN) — What happens when the shows are over and the stage lights go dim? That’s what the haunted history tours of Ryman Auditorium seek to find out.
According to Museum Curator Joshua Bronnenberg, guests and employees alike have reported mysterious encounters that couldn’t be explained throughout the venue’s history.
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“There’s been a lot of them,” he told News 2. “The staff that works here have claimed to have various experiences being touched and hearing things, stuff like that, and seeing things, shadowy figures.”
Bronnenberg said the Ryman’s most famous ghostly friend is a man who sits up in the balcony of the auditorium.
“For whatever reason, people have reportedly seen a figure, a shadowy figure, over here in Section 11,” he said. “It’s a shadowy figure or an old man.”
The balcony of the Ryman was constructed about five years after the Mother Church first opened to accommodate a Confederate Veterans reunion, so Bronnenberg said over the years people have conflated the original purpose for the balcony and the general shadowy figure, calling him “the old gray soldier.”
Most of the ghostly encounters happen at night when overnight guards are watching the grounds, Bronnenberg said. Ushers have also reported strange sounds coming from the auditorium when no one is in the building.
None of the encounters have given anyone cause for concern, according to Bronnenberg.
“If there are spirits here, all of them are friendly. Nothing nefarious,” he said. “I’ve been here 14 years, and I’ve never once been hurt.”
One of the more recent sightings of the Old Gray Soldier came from Ian Munsick, who wrote about it in the Ryman’s guestbook.
“11 years in Nashville + I finally made it. Saw a ghost during soundcheck,” he put in the book.
According to Bronnenberg, there is also a newer unexplained phenomenon happening on the grounds.
“For whatever reason over in the front vestibule, people have claimed to hear children laughing in the middle of the night, which is bizarre,” he said. “It’s downtown Nashville at night time. You don’t have a lot of children. It could be a little off-putting.”
One possible explanation for the children’s laughter involves the daughter of the Ryman’s first-ever general manager, Bronnenberg said.
“Our first general manager, her adopted daughter, Lillian, grew up here, and then her son, Tom, spent a lot of time in the building, and her office was in the front of the building, so you never know,” he told News 2.
For the last few years, Ryman Auditorium has leaned into the spooky history, curating special haunted tours in the fall.
Each Halloween season, the Ryman takes fans of the Mother Church of Country Music behind the scenes and tells the tales of the untold history behind unexplained sightings and occurrences reported in its 131-year history through special haunted history tours, including that of the Old Gray Soldier and other spooky sightings in the venue.
This year, the Ryman added an extra show on Nov. 3 for one last chance to not only step onto the stage of the Ryman but go under it, as well. The guided tours last around 45 minutes for a tour group of 25 and happen every 15 minutes from 6 – 9 p.m. For tickets, click HERE.