Ghostly stories: Get to know Memphis’ supernatural side – Commercial Appeal


There are the ghost stories most Memphians know: A little girl, Mary, haunts the Orpheum. Mollie Woodruff, who died in 1917, still roams the halls of the Woodruff-Fontaine House. Earnestine & Hazel’s is home to a haunted jukebox — and that’s just the beginning of the lore there.

But what about other, lesser-known paranormal activity in the Bluff City?

We talked to some Memphians about their experiences with things of a supernatural sort. 

‘Paranormal researchers’ 

Stephen Guenther and his wife, Emily, are two people whose livelihoods are steeped in the supernatural:  They co-own Historical Haunts and The Broom Closet

In 2014, they opened The Broom Closet, which sells myriad metaphysical supplies — from Tarot decks to sage for cleansing to incense. The shop also offers workshops as well as personal services like Tarot readings.

Stephen Guenther at the front counter at The Broom Closet in Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday, October 24, 2020.

“We founded Historical Haunts Memphis in 2016 as self-professed paranormal researchers,” Stephen said. “A variety of tours are offered, but all of them are focused on telling ghost stories and reaching beyond the veil in an effort to make spirit contact.”

While the Guenthers deal with the paranormal year-round, this time of year normally brings an uptick in interest from the public.

“There’s a theory that the veil between the mortal and the paranormal worlds is thinner in the fall,” Stephen said. “More people are coming into the shop this time of year, and with the holidays approaching, more people want to hear from a loved one or someone significant to them.”

Among the Downtown spirits Stephen cited is Claude Pugh. According to the story, the 10-year-old boy drowned in the Hebe fountain in Court Square in 1884. Back then, the fountain was about 6 feet deep, with a sloped bottom covered in algae, and was stocked with catfish and turtles. Claude was playing with a toy boat in the fountain and fell into the water. Although the park was reportedly packed with people, no one stepped up to rescue the boy.

To this day, Stephen said Claude still interacts with people. Using instruments that measure electromagnetic fields, spirits such as Claude are said to be able to manipulate the devices to give responses to questions. 

“Energy is neither created nor destroyed, but it can change forms,” Stephen said. “Spirits are energy. So, in other words, they never really go away. Interestingly enough, we’ve found that Claude is more active when there are other children about. He seems to be most comfortable interacting with them.”