Growing up in East Tennessee, especially back in the 80’s and 90’s was quite a bit of fun. We were one of the first families to move into the area where we lived which made me the only kid around. Within a year, maybe two, other families started showing up and I was thrilled to have a neighborhood of kids around. We did what most kids did back then. We rode our bikes, we explored the woods, we built club houses, and we shot a lot of basketball. It was during this time, I had the first experience I couldn’t explain. My little gang, as we’ll call it, was out and about exploring. We came across an old, abandoned house. I can still picture the place in my head. Weeds were growing through broken floorboards on the porch, the front door was gone and laying off to the side of the house, every window in the place was broken, and the wood had that look of being ready to give way at any minute. So, of course, we had to go inside.
In the beginning, we didn’t tell anyone about this place. Why would we? Surely, our parents would tell us to stay away. We were too intrigued to let that happen. Our first prowling of the old house was simple and basic enough. Lots of laughing while we peeped into rooms. We rifled through old clothes and leftover junk on the floor. One of the boys with us even hid in a closet just to jump out and scare us girls. It was fun. It was cool. Most importantly though, it all happened in the daylight. In our minds, nothing bad happened in the daytime. It wasn’t until we were a bit older that we ventured back up that old dirt road to the abandoned place at night.
Things take on a different vibe in the darkness. When I saw the place lit up by the beams of our flashlights, I felt different about being there. I wasn’t what you’d call afraid. It was more like I’d been awakened to the idea of something not being normal about it. Our exploration of the house didn’t send all of us running. It didn’t give us nightmares for weeks on end. No, we heard things. Several times we’d stop moving or talking among ourselves and whispers could be heard from the other rooms. The floorboards creaked as if someone was walking in the other room while we were all together. I never saw anything. If I had, at that age, I have no clue how I would react. What I did experience though was that feeling. You know the one. I knew something was there besides my little gang of five. The others knew it too, which is why one of them decided to tell the parents about our hidden gem. This in turn resulted in all of us being told no more visiting the old house.
Life moved on and honestly, I forgot about the old place. After high school, I took a job at a hotel in Gatlinburg. Of course, being a tourist town, Gatlinburg had dozens of hotels, but I ended up at one where a few people I knew already worked. Like with most places, stories of strange things circulated among the workers. I listened to each one, but didn’t let them bother me. I’ve always been one of those people who needed to see things for myself. Within my first year at the place, I realized maybe the stories were true.
The favorite among the workers was the tale of the Piano Man. He was just a normal guy who played piano when the restaurant attached to the property had been open. Several of the current employees had been there during his tenure. They claimed he was a sweet guy who loved music. His death wasn’t something brutal. He passed away one night, in the hall as we called it, doing what he loved. A bad heart claimed him and his passing ignited the stories of his ghost remaining there. I wasn’t sold on any of it being true. Our General Manager had to show me pictures of the hall from back in the day, with the Piano Man in them. She had been employed there for almost six months when he passed that night in the restaurant. Within three months of his death, the restaurant closed.
We used the old restaurant as a convention hall. Groups could schedule parties and certain ones of us would work them as bartenders and servers. It was great extra cash flow. We even set the hall up and decorated. I was quite good at dealing with the hall. This meant a lot of my time was spent there. Especially after events when I would be handling most of the cleanup. That was when my first experience with the Piano Man took place. I still remember it quite vividly. The hall was empty. It was around two in the morning, and I was making my way through to the front door to lock up and head home. I heard a crash in the kitchen. It sounded as if an entire tray of glasses had fallen and shattered everywhere. I immediately rushed back that way. I couldn’t find anything. I searched the place from one end to the other, and nothing was broken or out of place, yet the sound had echoed through the building. Giving up, I turn back out the lights and make my way back through the vast main hall. I’m nearly to the front door again when I hear the piano playing. The tune is soft, but enough to stop me in my tracks. When I look back, no one is there, but the music is still playing. I decide not to investigate further. Yes, my bravado left at that point. Instead, I took off, trying to put a little distance between me and that piano.
Over the years, strange things kept happening at the hotel. I’ll share more of those at some point. The one I really want to share is the reason I wrote the book, The Piano Man. My daughter Amber was around three or maybe four. She was talking, had a good vocabulary and liked going to the hotel with me. We were in the process of breaking the hall down after an event the night before. She was playing with the leftover balloons on the stage, near the piano. I noticed her chatting away with someone. I walked closer. No one was there. She reached her hand out, trying to give this invisible entity her balloon, then she laughed out loud. I asked her who she was talking to. Her answer left me a bit shaken. “I’m talking to the man, mommy. The man who sits at the piano.”
Every time we visited the hall, Amber would talk to him. Several times while she was there, the music would play. She talked and acted as if the ghost of the piano man was her friend. In other parts of the hotel, she saw other things, we all did, but none of those stayed with her, or me, like how she acted with the Piano Man. When I decided to write the book, I played with the name of the place where I worked so it could be somewhat included. Of course, I also made the Piano Man have a bigger backstory. His murderous history may not be true, but the connection between Amber and the ghost in the convention hall is. I also decided to let Amber’s character in the book world continue on. I figured a teenager so taken by the paranormal would want to investigate more. Graveyard Girls became her next adventure. If you would like to make a visit to The Reagan Inn and meet Amber, the resident ghost girl, I’ll leave you the links below. Piano Man is on sale now for only .99 cents, while Graveyard Girls is on pre-order. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy the story, and this little behind the scenes look at how I became a believer in ghosts.
Piano Man – http://mybook.to/PianoManCI
Graveyard Girls – http://mybook.to/GraveyardGirlsCI
Have a great day!
Lots of Love!