The following is an excerpt from an interview with a local man by the name of Mr. Sam Homer. It is dated August 15,2006. The purpose of this interview was to gain historical information about the town of Murrayville, TN for a non-fiction manuscript. Mr. Homer passed away shortly after this interview at 76 years old. In this part of the interview I had asked him about the old hotel that stands on the outskirts of town. What he told me is as follows.
“Back when I was a boy, still in high school, maybe I was 15 or so, there was this new fellow that came into town, a Mr. Donovan. He just drove in one day in a fancy new car. Had a lot of money, this one did, and didn’t mind to show it. I remember him walking into the soda shop wearing a pressed suit, not the kind you could get at JCPenney’s either. That’s the way he always dressed and his hair was always slicked back. He had long fingernails too. I remember that because I had never seen a man’s hands look like that before. He walked right up to the soda bar and told old Syd to go ahead and let all of us kids have a soda on him. Most of us were too happy to be getting a free drink to think on it much, but I knew there was something strange about that fella. He scared me, you see, with his showing up one day like he did and no one knowing anything about him. I couldn’t tell you where he was from. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t talk much at all. About the time he got here he started working on that old hotel. Now he did hire a couple of local guys, but he did most of the work himself. You wouldn’t think a man like that would ever get his hands dirty. No sir. There were lots of strange things about that one, though, I tell you. Sometimes us kids would walk down to see how much he had built and how much he had left on it. Every time he would be out there, still in a button-up shirt, sleeves rolled up past his elbows, sweat stains and all, just hammering away. He wouldn’t even notice we were there. It was like he was driven to build it, but by what I wouldn’t like to speculate.
A funny business to open up around these parts, a big, fancy hotel like that one. Why, there weren’t enough people coming in around here back then to need that place. We all thought he would grow tired of it and go back to where he came from, wherever that was, but he didn’t. He finished up that place and stayed there. The sign was always lit. Rooms were always open. Everything went on just like that until the next summer. A couple of counties away a couple went missing. No one made much of a fuss about it for long. They figured they had went and eloped. Their family stepped in and tried to do some investigating on their own when they didn’t come back. They found out that the man and woman had stayed at Donovan’s place. It didn’t really have a name, just that big sign over it that said Hotel. We all called it Donovan’s place.
Nobody could ever prove he killed those people, but that’s what was being said. If you thought he was strange before, heh, well now he was plumb crazy. He stayed in there all the time, even hired a woman to come clean it up regularly and she would bring him some groceries.
Later that fall another person went missing. A man. This is when it got interesting, you see. He had also stayed at Donovan’s place, but hadn’t been seen after. Then the cops got pretty suspicious. They searched the hotel once and then it was like they were satisfied. Never went back. I think he paid them cops off. People talked about it all low for awhile, just figuring he done it, he killed them somehow and covered it up.
Us kids were curious and got to talking about sneaking in that place, trying to find the bodies or something. You know how kids are – too dumb to know when to be scared. We all got together one night, must have been about 7 or 8 of us boys, and walked out there. It was a pretty good piece to get there, but we weren’t tired. Thought we were going to catch him red-handed. Be heroes and all.
We walked around the side of the building and saw a light coming out a window in the back. A couple of the boys climbed on each other’s shoulders to look in. It was him, Donovan. They said he was sitting in a room all by himself in his shorts and socks. He wasn’t watching tv, he was just sitting there with his head in his hands. I didn’t see him, but the boys said he didn’t look the same at all. His hair was messed up, and he hadn’t shaved. They said he looked filthy. We messed around and all the doors were locked. Somebody noticed a pair of shoes sitting out by a door in the back. They had mud caked all over them. There wasn’t anybody staying at that place then. No cars, no lights. People were avoiding that place since the story hit the newspaper last time.
The moon was so bright that night, I can remember. It was almost full. You could see real good with no help. One of the boys found some footprints going to a wooded area behind the place. Well, we all followed them. Crazy thing to do looking back on it. Never knew what we were gonna find.
The prints went back a good ways in. It looked like it had been traveled quite a bit, all stamped down. We were all getting real tired and were about to turn around since we had a long walk home when we saw something shiny. We went to see what it was and couldn’t believe what we found. Cars, not too many, but cars just sitting back in there. They weren’t all messed up, either, they were in good condition. Not too old, either. When we came up on them we could see there was something inside them. Looked like scarecrows all stuffed up real big, sitting up in the seats. They were dressed real nice in new clothes, and had been fixed to look like they were driving with their arms on the wheels and all. Like they were on a nice Sunday drive, is what they looked like. Some of the boys wanted to open up the doors and get a better look. All the windows was rolled up, you see. A couple of them were about to do just that when we saw a light coming towards us. We went back into the trees a little to hide real quick like. It was old Donovan. Same clothes on, and in those muddy shoes we saw. He looked like a crazy man back there with no shirt and his hair all this way and that, standing there in his underwear. Then I tell you he did the strangest thing. He walked right up to one of them cars, right up to the driver window and bent down to look in. He looked like he was smelling it or something. Then he jumped bolt upright and bent his head back, like he was looking for something up in the sky, and he howled. He howled like a dog, I tell you! Except it didn’t really sound like a dog, and it sure didn’t sound like no man, more like a wolf baying at the moon, like in one of them late night movies. I’ll never forget that. A couple of the boys got real spooked and took off. I tell you when they ran, old Donovan snapped his head around to look right where we were at. The rest of us didn’t dare make a move. You know it could’ve been the moonlight or plain old fear playing with my head, but I swear when he looked at us, his eyes were different. They looked all big and yellow. I can remember how they were shining. Now I'm not one to believe in ghost stories and all of that nonsense, but that night made me believe in something.
Quick as a flash that man ran off in the direction he came from. I mean he was flying! The rest of us took off then. I know I didn’t stop running until I got home. It was right after this that old Donovan up and left town. One day he was here, the next he was gone. He left that place just as you see it today. They’ve never been able to sell that property. It’s cursed, is what I say.
Me and the boys would talk about what happened that night on occasion. As time went by the story got all blown up, like they tend to do. I can tell you I remember what happened, and I know what I saw, can’t forget it, but I’m not going to tell you what I think was ailing that man. You probably have some idea. My grandmother used to say, if you speak it's name, you give it power. All I know is he left, and I don’t want him showing back up. One of the boys said they went back to the woods a few years later and there weren’t no cars back there then. Eh, maybe they went, maybe they didn’t. One thing’s for sure, I’m not going back there. I think we got lucky we got out of there alive.
Now that old hotel still stands. They oughta knock it down. Ain’t nothing but bad blood in that place.”