TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN) – Just off Highway 55 in Coffee County lies the grave of an alleged witch who haunts the area, or so legend says.
Inside Concord Cemetery, one headstone is the site of reported hauntings and ghostly apparitions. It bears only one thing: a name – Sadie Baker.
According to local historian and podcaster Lyle Russell, the legend of Sadie Baker is a tale of witchcraft and envy.
Long ago, the legend says, the Shelton family had the fairest and most eligible young ladies in Coffee County. The youngest Shelton girl, Olivia, was said to be the most beautiful of them all as well as the most kind-hearted.
One day, Olivia encountered a mysterious beggar girl about her age. She had ragged, dirty clothes and tangled dark hair. The girl did not speak – only held out her hand as if asking for money or food.
Olivia took the girl in, cleaned her up and gave her some clothes to wear, discovering the silent girl was also beautiful – perhaps even more beautiful than the Shelton girls.
Upon discovery of the girl’s beauty, all the men in town became infatuated with her – even Olivia’s young sweetheart – which is said to have angered Olivia’s mother.
The men in town were so bewitched by her beauty, it began to affect the marriage prospects of the Shelton girls and other women in the community, so Olivia’s mother took matters into her own hands.
“She’s a witch,” Olivia’s mother said. It was the only way the girl could have possibly enraptured every man in town.
The townsfolk then came together to get rid of the suspected witch, dragging her to an open hole where they sought to bury her alive by covering her with stones – the only way to make sure they would be rid of the witch forever.
But just before she was to be thrown into the pit, the girl spoke: “I am Sadie Baker!” It was the only thing she ever said before meeting her untimely end.
Life returned to normal for the Sheltons and the rest of the town. Olivia and her sweetheart married and had children of their own.
One day, however, either from a guilty conscience or something otherworldly, Olivia went mad, according to legend. She accused her husband of wanting to be with Sadie instead of her, cut off all her hair and tried to become Sadie.
The spot where Sadie was buried was marked by a single headstone engraved with only her name. Over time, locals reported seeing a ghostly figure of a young girl near the grave. Some believed it to be Sadie herself, while others said it was Olivia, keeping watch over the grave.
“There’s some people who believe that Sadie’s ghost still haunts the ground around her grave,” Russell said. “Some people think it’s Olivia’s ghost that haunts the grave for the guilt that she feels for what happened to Sadie. It’s really kind of a strange story.”
Years later, in order to appease the spirit, locals started leaving coins on the grave as tribute for the apparition, hoping it would spare them any future hauntings of their own.
Now, the headstone can routinely be seen with various coins, horseshoes, flowers and other trinkets left for Sadie as gifts.
But the grave does not actually belong to the alleged witch of Coffee County.
Russell said some investigative work into Coffee County property records links the dateless headstone to a woman named Sarah Baker.
“For some reason, Sarah Baker, who went by Sadie, her grave was chosen for this legend,” he said. “It’s a neat legend, but it’s not too hard to disprove.”
Likely, he said, there were some people who may have disliked Sarah Baker who crafted a tale about her grave as a way of mythologizing their feud with her.
Regardless, Russell said the story is really a cautionary tale.
“This is the kind of thing that can happen when you fall prey to one of the seven deadly sins,” he said.