Dial 911 for 311 Hauntings
While visiting Chattanooga, Tennessee for Zip’s annual gun show, we stayed at the Sheraton Read House. The National Register of Historic Places recognized the hotel for its Georgian architecture. The hotel brags about its Drexel Furniture and Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, and I am here to tell you, the sleeping situation is outstanding. There is a rumor about the hotel being haunted and seeing as how I love a good mystery, I had to check it out. The hauntings are so well known, the locals believe them full-heartedly and even use the room to their advantage. As a joke, they put Al Capone in room 311 on the night he was taken into custody before being tried and convicted for his unlawful gangster related tax evasion.
The hotel site has had several names beginning in the 1847 when the Western and Atlantic Union train station was built across the street. During Civil War days when it was referred to as the Crutchfield House, the location thrived with politics, social events and boomed economically, acting as the Union occupied headquarters and hospital during the war. In 1861, Jefferson Davis and William Crutchfield argued vehemently about whether or not Jefferson was a traitor and military despot, drawing guns and firing into the crowd. After a fire, the hotel was reinvented as the Read House in 1872, with Georgian Revival additions in 1926. The impressive guest list includes, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, William McKinley, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Truman, Charles Laughton, Tallulah Bankhead, Eddie Rickenbacker, and along with the many other famous folks, of course, Al Capone.
During the Civil War in 1863, a prostitute was taken to room 311 and heartlessly murdered by a soldier. Coincidentally, in the late 1920s, after the Crutchfield House burned to the ground and was rebuilt as the Read House, a woman named Analise Netterly died in the new room 311. There are several versions of her story. 1) She was a kept woman and once she realized her male suitor was dishonorable, she unexpectedly died, some believe due to a broken heart, others say suicide and still more claim murder. 2) She was a wife who cheated on her husband and was cast off at the hotel. Determined to get even with him, she intended to live a lavish lifestyle on his dime, but days before the divorce was final, she was found in the bathtub with a slashed throat.
Regardless of which woman remains attached to the property, men who smoke cigars or cigarettes have reported being harassed by a female spirit. For many years, the third floor of the hotel was the smoking floor but with so many guests checking out during the middle of the night, demanding a refund because they woke with a woman sitting on their chest, or slamming the bathroom door, or staring at them inches from their faces, the hotel came up with some strategies. 1) The hotel switched the room number with 313, thinking people fabricated the sensations, but the hauntings never left the original 311. 2) After switching the rooms back, all guests were responsible for the hotel fee regardless of what time they checked out. 3) When hauntings continued after the smoking floor was removed, room 311 was removed from the guest room list. It is no longer available for lodging and has been converted into a broom closet.
Chattanooga was once referred to as the Dynamo of Dixie because the town relied on manufacturing for its revenues and with that, was a strong supporter of unions. Al Capone was incarcerated nearby and spent his last night as a free man in room 311 during the early 1930s. The guards stayed with their ears against the door, laughing amongst themselves, expecting to hear Capone cry out in fear any minute. Instead, all they heard was loud, rattled snoring. A new legend was born. The discontented spirit in room 311 recognized Capone as being more evil than she was, and hid from him that night.
Al Capone in Chattanooga
My photos suggested to me that an evil spirit looms in room 311 as opposed to a woman with a broken heart. Could it possibly be the intense personality of Al Capone? I wondered if the gangster leader would have close enough ties to the hotel for him to remain there in his afterlife.
He owned property on top of a mountain forty-five minutes west of town. Today, it is called High Point, a restaurant voted as having the Best Gourmet Meal in Tennessee. Capone financed the stone house for John Dillenger as a hideout for booze transported across the country during the prohibition years. The building has underground tunnels and escape hatches and sand under the floorboards to stop bullets, plus numerous bullet holes in the walls. On December 30, 1941, his son, Albert Francis “Sonny” Capone, married his sweetheart Diane Ruth Casey who was from Chattanooga. Apparently, Capone spent quite a bit of time in the area.
Once I heard the stories about the 311 hauntings, I rallied my children to investigate the third floor with me. My husband, Zip, who doesn’t believe in such rubbish, couldn’t resist joining us, just in case something interesting happened. The hallway was empty and just as the story said, all the rooms on the floor were numbered except for 311.
I took photos from different angles, at first finding an orb beside the door, which grew smaller. As we stood outside the room discussing whether or not the hotel brochure would mention the story of Ms. Netterly being afraid of Al Capone, I noticed a black image, a reddish smokey figure shaped like splattered blood, move across the door. I asked everyone to step back and took another shot. We ordered the ghost to return to its home, i.e., not follow us back to our place. The figure slipped under the door frame and was gone.
I’d never photographed a sinister image before and all of us were a little spooked. Even skeptical Zip flinched when he saw the figure move around us. In unison, we all said it must’ve been Al Capone, maybe attached to his last great night of sleep. He might’ve been curious what we had to say about him, or wanted to protect his property. This haunting resembles the ghostly characters in my sailing mystery by interacting with others on the material plane.