"I had never heard any ghost stories about the church until a few years ago. That spot near the church used to be where you'd park after a date because it was surrounded by brush and trees. Sometimes, the cops would come by and shine lights into everyone's windows, just making sure nobody had any beer."
Located on the outskirts of Shelbyville, Tennessee, USA, the New Hope Church lies near the end of New Hope Road on a scenic hilltop overlooking the city. The rustic surroundings and vantage point over Shelbyville made the spot a popular lovers' lane in the 1960's and '70's, before the stories surrounding the church began circulating. While the city's annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration might be known around the world, the New Hope Church and its adjacent graveyard have garnered a local reputation for strange happenings.
As a body of worshipers, the New Hope Church was founded sometime in the mid-1800's. Although the date of the original church's construction is unclear, it's architecture indicated that it may have predated the Civil War. The building that now bears the New Hope name was constructed in 1994 after the original structure caught fire and burned to the ground in late 1993.
"Did you ever hear about that guy that stole the New Hope Bible and put it on the back of his motorcycle? It got so heavy after a while that it flipped his bike...true story, I heard."
The centerpiece of the supernatural lore surrounding the church is the New Hope Bible
, a large bible dating from the early 1800's that sat on the pulpit
of the original New Hope Church. Every few months, word would circulate that somebody's cousin, brother, or friend had tried to swipe the New Hope Bible from its podium. However, the would-be thieves never got very far with the bible. After grabbing the book from the podium, one of several things would happen. In most tales, the thieves run back to their car and toss the bible
into the trunk or back seat. After driving a safe distance from the church, the burglars stop to take a look at their loot, only to find that the bible has disappeared completely. Other yarns say that as the person holding the volume moves towards the door of the church, the bible gets heavier and heavier, until it becomes too heavy to carry and must be dropped on the floor. Regardless of what happens to the bible, all stories surrounding its attempted theft agree on one thing: when the perpetrators return to the church, the bible is back on the pulpit, open to the same page as before.
Although the legends and rumors still surround it, no one seems to have made a run on the New Hope Bible in quite some time; it can be assumed that it burned when the church was torched.
"I was deer hunting in those woods behind the church one morning and I could hear a boy screaming for help. It sounded like it was coming from around the church. I listened long enough to make sure it wasn't a bird or something, then I started walking down the hill to look for the kid. There wasn't anybody around the church or graveyard, and I even knocked on the door of the closest house. I explained that I was an EMT and asked if any child of their's was hurt. They didn't have any kids."
On December 31st, 1993
, a car with four teenagers inside careened off a desolate stretch of road several miles from Shelbyville. The car skidded off the wet, slippery road and came to rest in a pond. Hearing the crash, a nearby resident ran outside and helplessly listened to the teenagers' cries for help as their car sank into the pond's murky
waters. Sadly, the driver and all three passengers drowned in the frigid water before help could arrive. If the rumors whispered at the time of their horrible deaths are to be believed, these teens were responsible for setting fire to the church. Anyone with mischievous intentions now thought twice about going up to New Hope to "look around"; the church seemed to have claimed four victims in one fell swoop
"When we got to New Hope, it looked like someone had just had a bonfire in a semi-circle of large stones in the cemetery. The rocks were still warm, that's how recently it had been. We were walking through the graveyard, when all of a sudden two separate flashes of light appeared in front of me. I screamed and turned to run back to my truck, and just then it felt like someone's hand slid down the side of my face...there wasn't anyone there, all the other girls were in a different part of the cemetery."
For reasons that are still not understood, satan worship
was a widespread phenomenon among Middle Tennessee teenagers in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Satanic rites were frequently performed in isolated locations such as caves, abandoned buildings, and rock quarries. Owing to its location and history of strange events, the New Hope Church was no exception. The remains of bonfire
s are still commonly seen around the church and graveyard, and the church itself has been the target of satanic graffiti
. Often, sites that have been used for satanic rituals retain whatever evil the worshipers were able to conjure up. Many who venture near the church report sensing a malevolent
presence, and a mysterious, non-human shadow was seen inside the old church on at least one occasion. A skeptic may scoff at the shadows and feelings of dread, but a paranormal researcher will tell you that this is a sure sign of an evil presence
"Did I ever tell you about that Ku Klux Klan guy we saw up there once? Yeah, man, we were riding down New Hope Road one night and passed this guy walking along the side of the road. He was wearing a Klan robe without the hood and carrying a torch. We stopped further down the road, picked up a rock, and turned around. He fell over after that rock nailed him in the back."
In earlier years, the Ku Klux Klan
was active on this remote stretch of road. A long time ago, a barn near the New Hope Church property was allegedly used by some of these Klansmen to lynch an unfortunate black man. The grisly murder
gave rise to another tale: parking in front of the barn after dark, turning the car's headlights off, then turning them on again would illuminate the poor soul's spectral
corpse, still hanging from one of the rafters in the barn's main hall. This became a common dare
, one frequently undertaken by those too squeamish to approach the church. (My friend Jesse tried this once. According to him, nothing happened.) This ancient barn has also recently burned down, but the cause of this fire is unknown.
Aside from any supernatural happenings around the church, it is locally suspected that the KKK still has a fringe element operating in the area. Cross burnings have been reported near the church, and many of those who travel down this forsaken stretch of road at night report being followed by another vehicle that seems to appear out of nowhere. It's conceivable that, if they're around, the Klan uses the stories surrounding New Hope to insure their privacy.
"I don't know if I believe all those stories, but then I've never been there personally. I might go up that road someday just to see things for myself...in the daylight, armed, and with someone else. Will you go with me?"
Like any isolated locale with a local history of eerie
occurrences, the full truth about exactly what goes on at New Hope Church will never be known. What exactly resides down New Hope Road? If the cynics are to be believed, a few KKK members, a creepy
church, its equally creepy graveyard, and a generation of weird stories
; according to anyone that has had a harrowing brush with the supernatural on the grounds, it is something completely different. One thing is certain about New Hope Church: be it spooks or stories, something
Despite being created for the 2004 Halloween quest, this "story" is true. New Hope Church is a real place and the italicized quotes come from several of my friends who have either experienced "something" there or told me yarns about the church I hadn't heard. If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.