Photos Courtesy of Chattanooga Public Library, The Read House
With Halloween just around the corner, I was wondering if you knew of any spooky ghost stories that I can share with my friends when they come to town. I’d love to show them around the city and impart a tantalizing tale or two.
(Above) Crutchfield House, circa 1861; Silver Ballroom, circa 1926; The Read House, 1974
Dear Ghost Getter,
Any chance your friends are staying at The Read House during their visit to Chattanooga? It just so happens that the historic hotel is also home to one of the city’s most haunted locales.
To paint the full picture of what is today The Read House, we’ll need to rewind to 1847. It was in that year that Thomas Crutchfield, Sr. began constructing the Griffin House. Renamed the Crutchfield House several years after its construction, the hotel sat just across the street from a train station and constantly catered to the hustle and bustle of travelers.
Crutchfield’s son took over ownership of the hotel in 1853 and operated the building until he ultimately sold it in 1861, fearing that the Civil War would result in the building’s demise. While the hotel did survive the Civil War (during which it served as a hospital), in 1867 a fire broke out in the oil room, and the building burned to the ground.
Four years later, Dr. John Read, alongside his wife Caroline, opened another hotel on the former Crutchfield House site. This three-story structure had rooms starting at $1 per day, and it featured a restaurant, café, grill, and Turkish bath. It even had a ticket office for the railroad located within the building for added convenience. The Reads’ son, Samuel, took over the hotel in 1879 at the young age of 19. Seven years later, Samuel Read ordered a renovation of the hotel, and in 1925, the majority of the structure was demolished to make way for the present 10-story building.
Not long after the rebuild, a crime allegedly took place in room 311 of the hotel, leading many to deem the unit as one of the most haunted hotel rooms in the Southeast – and perhaps even the nation.
It is rumored that in the late 1920s, Annalisa Netherly was beheaded in the bathtub by a jealous lover. In the years following the incident, visitors and employees alike have reported flickering lights, running water, shadowy figures, and unexplained noises among other paranormal experiences in room 311.
And there’s more! The same room housed Al Capone in the early 1930s when he was en route to Atlanta for a federal trial. At the time, rebar was secured to the room’s windows to prevent Capone from escaping. Recently, the hotel reinstalled rebar to allow visitors a glimpse into the past.
In 2018, The Read House underwent a renovation, and during the process, restored room 311 to the style that would have been reflected when Annalisa Netherly was a guest herself. Today, you will notice that modern amenities, such as a TV or hairdryer, are nowhere to be found. Instead, ornate Victorian furniture, a clawfoot tub, and even a pull chain toilet can be found in the room.
The 2018 renovation also had its share of strange occurrences surrounding room 311. In addition to experiencing several busted pipes, the hotel’s ownership group had issues accessing the room on demolition day. When keys, and later brute force, didn’t work, construction crews had to saw the door open to get into the room.
With a flurry of reported activity, paranormal enthusiasts from across the nation flock to The Read House for their chance to have a unique experience, and while an overnight stay in room 311 is possible, it’s not for the faint of heart.