Do you ever need a really nice, somewhat isolated, get-away-from-it-all place to read a good book about some archaeological or historical subject? I do. About twice per year, I take a day off from work, grab a really good book, throw a lawn chair into the back of my van, and drive to the Tenase Memorial. This is a patio-like granite monument that has been erected to commemorate the site of Tenase, which was an Overhill Cherokee town that is supposed to be the namesake for Tennessee. The Tenase Memorial is open to the public, and it sits right next to a somewhat lonely country road in the middle of nowhere. If you would ever like to visit this place and read the engravings on the memorial, go to Vonore, Tennessee (check your road map), make a turn onto County Highway 360, drive to The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, and then proceed by following the road signs on down Highway 360 until you finally arrive at the memorial. This is a beautiful place, but it is also an eerie place.
Part of the eeriness may be the mystique of walking on ancient ground that was and still is considered to be sacred. Sometimes a sixth sense within me detects a pervasive voice from the land and air saying, “Okay. I’ll let you sit here and read for a while, but I don’t have to like it.” For most, that alone would be eerie enough, but other factors are at play there. One of these is the quietness, and another is the sense of geographical isolation. It would be a really unfortunate place to have a medical emergency. Sometimes, while reading, my senses detect an occasional car coming up the road, and I get an uneasy feeling that says: “I wonder if Ted Bundy ever brought a date here? This place looks right.”
The signs do not help. They are everywhere, and they make the place feel even more eerie. Here is precisely what they say:
All artifact hunting prohibited in this area. No digging or surface collecting permitted. This archaeological area protected by Federal and State law. Violators will be prosecuted.
US – TVA
One senses immediately that they are standing in the middle of a past, present, or future crime scene. Personal comfort comes only in thirds:
“The past is in the past. Whew!!! The future is merely hypothetical. Whew!!! Wait a minute? This is the present, and I am right here in the middle of this place. What are the chances I might accidentally stumble upon an artifact looter and acquire a shovel-busted head?”
I know that sounds like unnecessary paranoia, but some of the signs suggest otherwise. I counted 25 bullet holes in one of these signs. While I make no claims to being a forensic firearms specialist, they did not appear to be the nice, neat, round little holes made by deer hunters who needed a little impromptu rifle practice with jacketed ammunition.. They looked like large, round holes made by a high-caliber handgun. Clearly, someone was unhappy with the government policy initiative and felt a need to express their opinion in unmistakable terms.
The last eeriness factor at the Tenase Memorial is the human behavior factor that can be observed. One of my close friends of many years claims that I am one of the best people he has ever seen at accurately reading human body language and movements. Everyone is good at something, and this is an area where I really do excel.
Visitors to the Tenase Memorial throughout any given day are few in number. However, in about 20 percent of the people who visit, I sense a sneaking around factor. It is as if they are casing the joint, or they are functioning as a lookout for someone else who is up to no good—or hopes to be. It really creeps me out. For example, the last time I visited the Tenase Memorial, a woman who was visiting sighted my vehicle coming up the road and scrambled to get to her car. I could tell she was really frightened of something, but I could also tell it was not fear that I might be Ted Bundy. It was something else. She quickly hopped into her car and drove rapidly up towards the Chota Memorial parking lot. This behavior was so utterly weird that I decided to drive on up the road to see where she was going. When I got there, she was gone. The Chota parking lot was totally empty. This is a cul-de-sac road, except for one dirt road on the right that farmers occasionally use to access a couple of large agricultural fields. I drove down that road a good ways too and saw no sign of her. It was as if she had disappeared into thin air. It was one of the oddest things I had ever seen—but not for this place.
Why do I keep going to this place to read? Well, I love ancient settings, and Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays.