Photo and Story by Andrew Wigdor / Assistant News Editor
Sugaree’s is a small boutique in Murfreesboro’s public square, home to internationally designed outfits, jewelry crafted by independent artists and a rowdy group of deceased gamblers who haunt the place.
Stacy Higdon is the proud owner of Sugaree’s, and its “certified haunted” status indicated by multiple signs behind her store counter has not made her any less so. She has owned the store for about 12 years, and she says that multiple paranormal investigations conducted there have helped her learn more about the history of her shop.
Independent ghost-hunting organizations such as Stones River Paranormal and Divergent Path Paranormal have performed multiple investigations in Sugaree’s in search of the ghosts that are supposedly housed in the building.
“When I got this building, it came with ghost stories. The lady who had a business in here, she had her own ghost stories. This was a bookstore for 40 years before it became Sugaree’s,” Higdon says.
The building was built between 1897 and 1900, according to Higdon.
She said that the paranormal investigators originally expressed interest because the building had an established reputation.
“There have been several paranormal groups, and they are kind of like rock bands. They break up and form new groups, and those members go to this or that group. A new group will come and there will be two people who always say, ‘Oh, yeah. I’ve already been here.’”
Higdon stated that Stones River Paranormal was one of the first groups to give Sugaree’s its “certified haunted location” status. At first, Higdon was not interested, but, eventually, her curiosity won her over.
“Now, whenever they contact me, I’m always like, ‘Yeah, come on in.’ It has been such an interesting puzzle, and, every time they come in, there are always new pieces to put in the puzzle.”
Higdon described how the investigations have changed her perspective on ghosts and the unknown.
“The more I’ve learned, I realize, the less I know. I guess maybe you have a preconceived notion about what’s going on and you don’t really question it. But when they come in and do all these investigations, I realize how little I do know,” she says.
One of the people Higdon never expected to meet through the process is Mr. Jackson, a dead gambler who resides in Sugaree’s.
“I call him Mr. Jackson. The very first time I heard his voice was one of the recordings from the investigation,” she says.
She said that they had previously believed the spirit’s name to be George, but Mr. Jackson corrected her during one of the paranormal investigations.
“I say good morning to him in the mornings, and he has actually acknowledged during other investigations that I say good morning to him,” she says.
According to Higdon, the paranormal investigators use energy readers, inferred sensors, thermal imaging and a flashlight that spirits can turn on or off when asked “yes or no” questions. Some groups also use a “ghost box,” which allows them to listen to radio frequencies and hear the ghosts speak.
“They have asked about me saying good morning to [Mr. Jackson], and everything lit up,” she says. “The investigators asked a question one time, and three people answered. Clear as a bell, I heard one of them say, ‘You better not,’” she said.
Another puzzle piece that Higdon discovered through these investigations was the fact that the group of ghosts gamble in the back room of her shop.
“The investigators go in the back and start asking questions, and nothing happens. And I’ll say, ‘Ask them if they are playing cards tonight.’ And then suddenly, all the meters start lighting up, and they get all kinds of responses,” she said.
She stated that the last time a group investigated, they asked how many people were in the card game. The answer was always eight.
“So, there’s eight people back there. Sometimes they get a little rowdy, and things get broken in the storage room,” she says.
According to Higdon, the customer response to the stories and investigations has varied greatly over the years.
“Everyone has a different reaction to it. They see the signs, and some people are curious. Some people are terrified. Some people are sensitive to that kind of thing, and some people are not alright with it. It has been a really interesting mixture to how people respond to it,” she says.
For Higdon, the paranormal is just part of the daily routine of owning a local shop.
“We have cohabited for over nine years now. [Mr. Jackson] obviously respects my space and respects me, so they are good roommates,” she laughs.