Name one religion or type of spiritual system that doesn't incorporate music into its worship services in some way.
It's not easy, is it?
From singing hymns to beating drums, and from the rhythmic chanting of prayers to the soaring organ fugues of Bach, music is a spiritual tool that connects mind and body to the divine spirit.
While country music, one of America's longest lasting forms of popular music, is considered secular, its roots are steeped in the rhythms and melodies of gospel music and centuries-old folk hymns. Fans may tap their feet and sway their partners to the soothing rhythms and they may sing along to the lush harmonies, but, all the while that they dance and sing, the spirit of this music fills their souls.
It's not just the fans that understand this. The musicians who wrote, performed, and catapulted this simple and rural music into the bright lights of big city theaters and stadiums sensed the power of their art to bridge hearts, minds, and souls.
Some experts on the supernatural say there is another way we can measure the powerful spiritual effect of country music: the number of stories about ghosts and spirits that are told by country musicians and—maybe more importantly—the number of country music stars who are said to still live on even after they have left the mortal stage.
Explore this list of five country music celebrities who hit the charts of an entirely different sort—Country Music's Most Supernatural Superstars.
- The Haints of Butcher Hollow: Loretta Lynn
Some celebrities make it to Country Music's Haunted Hall of Fame because they are ghosts; others are inducted there because they seem to have an unmatched affinity with paranormal activity and supernatural forces. Loretta Lynn, also referred to as the Queen of Country Music and the Coal Miner's Daughter, certainly belongs in the latter category.
Since she was a child, Lynn has experienced a range of paranormal phenomena, or haints, as ghosts are called in the Appalachian hills that she called home. One tale that has circulated about Loretta's early encounters with the paranormal happened when she visited a neighbor's home for a little session of trick or treating as a kid. (The emphasis should be on the tricking part, as you'll read.) She and a friend crept up on a neighbor's porch ready to soap the window. The would-be tricksters looked in the house and saw the target of their prank, an older lady, quietly sitting in the living room. A few seconds later, though, Loretta looked behind her she saw the same woman walking in the garden.
Obviously freaked out, the two girls ran as fast as they could. That's one way to foil a Halloween prank.
She might have been able to outrun the spirit world in this incident, but they caught up with her again—in a big way. Paranormal researchers regard the country legend's mansion, Hurricane Mills, as one of the most haunted properties in Tennessee, maybe even the country. Loretta claims she's had numerous paranormal encounters there, from poltergeist-like movement of objects to actual apparition sightings.
- Of King and Country: Elvis Presley
He's known as the King of Rock and Roll, but Elvis Presley embraced country music throughout his lifetime. One of his first hits, "Blue Moon of Kentucky," after all, was just his hip-gyrating version of a Bill Monroe classic.
He even auditioned at one of country music's most haunted hot spots: The Ryman Auditorium. It didn't go so well there.
Despite a sometime rocky relationship with country music, the connection between the King and country did not die after Elvis passed on, according to some. Presley's spirit is still reaching out to country fans and can be found in a few places near and dear to the country fan's heart. One of those places is, ironically, the Ryman. According to one account, Elvis's daughter was performing at the Ryman and went to her dressing room. When she tried repeatedly to open the door—and even her burly bodyguard gave it a shot—she finally yelled that she was calling for security. That's when she and her entourage heard a laugh that sounded like Elvis's and the door easily popped open.
Elvis apparently did not—you know what’s coming—leave the building.
- Haunting After Midnight: Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline, owner of one of country's, if not pop music's, most original voices, and the aforementioned Loretta Lynn were soul sisters in more ways than one. They had complementary personalities, as well as complementary philosophies about careers, relationships, and life that helped them sculpt one of the tightest friendships in the highly competitive country music industry.
They must have shared stories about the paranormal. When Cline died tragically in a plane crash, Lynn wrote "This Haunted House" about her friend's death.
While there's no indication—that I could find—that Lynn saw Cline's ghost, others have claimed to have encountered the singer's spirit. In fact, there are many witnesses who say the First Lady of Country Music hasn't quite left the stage. One owner of Cline's former Nashville area dream house says he's experienced paranormal activity that is attributed to the singer. He has even heard the distinctive click of high heels—just like the ones Patsy would have worn—walking across the floor.
The spirit of Patsy, it seems, may be still walking after midnight.
In addition to this house, Cline's spirit is still active in the bar circuit around Nashville. She's been spotted in several, including country music's most famous watering hole, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.
- Grand Ole Ghostie: Roy Acuff
Roy Acuff loved country music and he loved the Grand Ole Opry, the radio show that he owed so much to.
When Acuff passed away in 1992, a lot of the folks who worked at Opryland at the time, the country music-themed entertainment complex where Acuff's house rested, believed Roy would be sticking around. They were right.
People who worked in his house—which was repurposed as a museum —began to notice weird activity. Objects began to disappear in certain places and reappear in others. They believe it's just Roy saying, "I'm still here, I still love the place, and I'm not going anywhere."
- Not So Long Gone: Hank Williams
Arguably the most influential country artist and—excuse me while I go out on this limb—possibly American popular music, is the long, lanky, and lonesome Hank Williams. Williams, in a lot of ways, gave birth to what we now consider country music. His songwriting stitched together threads of folk, blues, and gospel to create a unique style that is as unmistakable today as it was in the mid-20th century when his songs began to fill the airwaves and his haunted presence began to fill concert halls and auditoriums.
When Williams died in 1953, those haunting performances became haunted performances, as people all around the country began to have encounters with the post-mortal remains of the Hillbilly Shakespeare.
Williams is connected with several haunted country hot spots that we've already discussed. He's been seen in the Ryman, for instance, and drifting along the alley to his favorite old—and perhaps current—haunt, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.
Say hello to Patsy when you're there, Hank.
Looking for more haunted country music artists, venues, recording studios, and more? Check out my book, Ghosts of Country Music.