KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dr. Lenita Thibault had a dream as a young girl to own a big, old house.
“I’ve always loved old houses,” she said. “They’ve always been a fascination to me. We visited them a lot when I was a child.”
Thirty years ago, while visiting the area, she caught a glimpse of Rotherwood Mansion.
“I saw it briefly on a real estate tour as I was driving by,” she said.
Soon after, Thibault accepted a position as a physician in Kingsport. When she did, she knew Rotherwood had to be hers. Over the last three decades, she has not only made the house her home but studied the property’s rich history.
“We know this house was built in three parts: the north third of the house was built about 1818, the south third of the house – parallel – was built about 1820, and they were joined about 1845,” she said.
Along with that history comes a few haunting tales.
“There were stories of ghosts, of course, that they had to tell me about before I bought the house,” she said. “That was required by law. I think I would have been disappointed if there hadn’t been ghost stories associated with the house.”
There are many stories that tell of hellhounds, wailing voices and evil laughter, but Thibault says those stories are just that – stories.
“I’ve not had anything that definitely says to me that this is a ghost,” she said.
One of the more popular stories is that of a lady in white who walks the grounds at night. The legend states the ghostly figure is the daughter of the original owner of the house, Rowena. The oldest child of Reverend F.A. Ross did have a troubled life, but Thibault says the woman never lived in the house.
“I don’t think Rowena is the ghost, but whether there is another Lady in White – that’s a possibility,” she said.
But, Thibault’s favorite spooky story includes Rowena’s first fiancée, who drowned in the Holston River before they could be married, and wet footprints that lead up the outside steps to the front door.
“To me, yes, that seems more historically accurate – it could be the fiancée that actually drowned in the river come looking for his lost love,” she said.
“Frankly, if I’m going to have a ghost, I kind of want a male one,” she laughed. “I think it would be neat.”
Thibault said she has never seen any footprints or figures in or around the house. In fact, she considers herself a bit of a ghost skeptic.
“There are things that happen that I think are explainable, and if someone is inclined to think that’s a ghost – they may say so,” she said. “To me, it’s just the creaks and groanings and noises of an old house that are there.”
“But, I do admit that the first night I stayed in this house, I did announce rather loudly that if there were any ghosts they were welcome to stay – as long as they left me alone, I would leave them alone,” she said.
It is a pact that, perhaps, has lasted for three decades.
“Maybe that’s why they have let me live here in peace for 30 years, so far,” she said with a smile.