COFFEE COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee may be known for the Bell Witch in Adams, but she isn’t the only spirit said to haunt the Volunteer State. Just off Highway 55 in Coffee County lies the grave of an alleged witch, according to local legend.
Inside Concord Cemetery, one headstone is the site of reported hauntings and ghostly apparitions. It bears only a name—Sadie Baker.
According to local historian and podcaster Lyle Russell, the legend of Sadie Baker is one of witchcraft and envy.
As legend tells, the Shelton family had the most beautiful and eligible young ladies in Coffee County. The youngest Shelton girl, Olivia, was said to be the most beautiful and kind-hearted of them all.
The story says Olivia encountered a mysterious beggar girl about her age one day. She had ragged, dirty clothes and tangled dark hair. The girl did not speak – only held out her hand as if asking for money or food. Being the kind soul she was, Olivia took the girl in, cleaning her and giving her clothes to wear. Upon receiving a proper bath, the mystery girl was revealed to be another beautiful girl – even more beautiful than the Shelton daughters, legend says.
Upon discovery of the girl’s beauty, all the men in town became infatuated with her – even Olivia’s young sweetheart – which angered Olivia’s mother. The anger only grew when the mystery girl’s beauty began to affect her other daughters’ marriage prospects. It also led Olivia’s mother to take matters into her own hands.
“She’s a witch,” Olivia’s mother said. It was the only way the girl could have possibly enraptured every man in town. She and the townsfolk conspired to rid themselves of the evil enchantress by burying her alive with stones.
But just before she was to be thrown into the pit and covered, the girl spoke: “I am Sadie Baker!” It was the only thing she ever said before meeting her untimely end, the story goes.
Life returned to normal for the Sheltons and the rest of the town. Olivia and her sweetheart married and had children of their own. But after several years, Olivia is said to have gone mad – possibly out of guilt for what happened to Sadie or something inexplicable.
She accused her husband of wanting to be with Sadie instead of her, cut off all her hair, and tried to become Sadie.
The spot where Sadie is said to be buried was marked by a single headstone engraved with her name. Reports started emerging of ghostly girl sightings by the grave. Some believed it to be Sadie herself, while others said it was Olivia, keeping watch over the grave.
“There’s some people who believe that Sadie’s ghost still haunts the ground around her grave,” Russell told News 2. “Some people think it’s Olivia’s ghost that haunts the grave for the guilt that she feels for what happened to Sadie. It’s really kind of a strange story.”
Now, the headstone can routinely be seen with various coins, horseshoes, flowers and other trinkets left for Sadie as gifts. Through the years, people started leaving tributes to the ghost in order to keep her from haunting their homes.
But the grave does not actually belong to the alleged witch of Coffee County. Russell said some investigative work into Coffee County property records links the dateless headstone to a woman named Sarah Baker.
“For some reason, Sarah Baker, who went by Sadie, her grave was chosen for this legend,” he said. “It’s a neat legend, but it’s not too hard to disprove.”
Likely, he said, there were some people who may have disliked Sarah Baker who crafted a tale about her grave as a way of mythologizing their feud with her.
Regardless, Russell said the story is really a cautionary tale.
“This is the kind of thing that can happen when you fall prey to one of the seven deadly sins,” he said.