Photograph of Rotherwood from 1915.



[This “folklore” has been gathered from many sources across the internet over a number of years.]

The Rotherwood Mansion, located beside the Netherland Inn Road, is believed to be home to many spirits. Witnesses have reported seeing a ghostly woman in white on the surrounding property. The ghost of Rowena Ross still searches for her beloved, still in the wedding dress she had on when she committed suicide. She’s known as the “white lady” who appears suddenly, occasionally in front of moving cars on the nearby bridge. A massive black dog roams the property, believed to be the spirit of wicked Joshua Phipps. The phantom hound is said to be the “Hound of Hell.”

Reverend F.A. Ross constructed the home several decades before the Civil War. Ross had a beautiful daughter named Rowena who was destined to endure a tragic life. At 17, Rowena was secretly engaged to a dashing young man, but her family didn’t approve. She snuck out of her room one night to meet him by the river below.

Unfortunately, her brother also followed and a struggle ensued between them. The two fell into the Holston River, which was raging from recent rains. Both drowned. Rowena fell into a deep depression. Even after a year, as her family celebrated her new engagement, she wasn’t any happier.

When her new suitor abruptly died from a virulent strain of yellow fever, she believed she would never see happiness. She flung herself into the same river that killed her first love and her brother. Now, her ghost walks the property. Some say she’s doomed to repeat her life leading up to her suicide for eternity.

Rev. Ross’s life, also marred by tragedy, took a turn for the worse years after the loss of his daughter. He lost his business and ended up losing Rotherwood altogether. He sold it to Joshua Phipps and so began another reign of terror.

Phipps was a brutal slave master who kept his slaves chained in his basement. His mistress was a former slave who was as cruel as he was. Rumor suggests she was a devout practitioner of voodoo and used her craft against any slave or white who gave her trouble.

Phipps died in the 1860s. It is said he suffered from an incurable fever. While he was being fanned on his bed, a countless number of flies swarmed into his nostrils and mouth. He was suffocated. His coffin grew so heavy during its procession to the burial that the horses couldn’t pull it. The lid came open and a massive black dog sprang out. It became known as the “hound of hell.”

The slaves rebelled against his mistress for her cruelty towards them while Joshua lived and they murdered her. She, too, became a vengeful spirit that roams the property. Today, you can hear Phipp’s wicked laugher through the halls. Many visitors have reported seeing and hearing a number of voices and noises, some have been physically attacked.



These legends associated with Rotherwood tend to fall into the realm of what is known as “fakelore.” Wikipedia states:

“Fakelore or pseudo-folklore is inauthentic, manufactured folklore presented as if it were genuinely traditional.”

Other examples of this classic are Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan, which were marketing gimmicks developed in the middle of the Twentieth Century.


Series Navigation<< Fact vs. Folklore: The Rotherwood MansionRotherwood Begins with Ross >>
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Laura Wright is a writer and researcher of several decades. She is a multi-published author and writer. She has worked as a consultant for various media outlets, including the New York Times. Further information about Wright can be found under the "About Us," section.

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