This article first appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 12, 2007 edition of The Murfreesboro Post.
The happy sounds of children laughing and playing sometimes can be heard in the hallways but no one is there. Knickknacks are unexplainably moved out of their place on office desks. These kinds of tales are being told by some of those who work or have worked in the former Rutherford County Health Department building at 303 N. Church St. for the past 10 months or so. They say spirits of some sort, most of which seem to be children, are causing some minor disturbances in the building. "It is not scary," said Linda Wilson, who works on the first floor of the building in the Rutherford County Drug Court offices. "Apparently they are good spirits. They have not hurt us or done anything." The Rutherford County Health Department is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the development of health care and public medicine in Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. Until the building opened to the public in 1931, Rutherford County had no permanent public health care. The facility played an important role in the promotion of public health care programs and training of health care professionals in the South. The health department was one of four Commonwealth Fund of New York health projects that sought to bring modern health care to rural communities. It's unknown who if anyone could be haunting the 76-year-old building. Some suspect the impressions of children, thousands of which must have come through the doors of the building over the years to receive some form of medical treatment, remain in the building. The building recently underwent a massive renovation now houses the Rutherford County drug court, human resources and archives. Wilson said she hasn't felt the presence of spirits, but she has seen some things that can't otherwise be explained. She mentioned a rag doll that sits on a shelf in a co-workers office. Several times since she and her co-workers moved into the building in mid-June, she and others have seen the doll's left arm up in the air pointing towards the wall. A former co-worker who had small toys around her computer would often come into her office in the morning and find that they had be knocked over or rearranged. The presence of spirits was perhaps felt most by members of the construction crew. Charles Gilmore, a member of the crew, doesn't know if he really believes in ghosts or spirits, but he had some encounters that he also couldn't explain any other way. One day he was on a ladder on the second floor of the building when he heard a young girl exclaim, "No mama no, no mama no." Gilmore immediately went to the nearest windows see where the noise was coming from. No one was outside. "I didn't believe anything could manifest like that," he said. While alone in the building one evening, another member of the crew apparently saw shadowy figures walking through the building and heard heavy footsteps on the slate stairs. Most of all the spirits seemed to make the process of renovating the building much more difficult. "It was just a nightmare job," Gilmore said. "Nothing would work." He said it almost seemed like the building didn't want to have its face lifted. One thing after another would go wrong. "I call it the ghosts in the machine," Gilmore said. "Nothing went right the whole time." If there was a list of a 1,000 things to do, then only three of them would work out properly. Everything went wrong from materials not being delivered to the site or having materials mixed improperly and machinery failing to work. He said for the massive amount of hours the crew spent working on the renovation two new facilities of similar size could have been built with less headaches. Despite the problems, Gilmore said he never felt uncomfortable working in the building or being there by himself. Gilmore would often work in the basement in the pitch dark. "I never felt uncomfortable being in the building," he said. "It is not a bad energy. Things are not being destroyed. It just didn't want to be bothered." But even now as Gilmore has moved on to other projects, he is having dreams about the renovation. He said it has weighed on his minds like no other project. Erin Edgemon can be reached at 869-0812 and at firstname.lastname@example.org.