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Ghosts of Oliver Springs, TN

Haunted Harvey's Furniture

For over 70 years, this former coalmining town has been faced with haunting memories of the murder of two sisters who were supposedly shot and killed by their 16-year-old errand boy.

On February 5, 1940, Mary Richards, a teacher at Oliver Springs High School, had written a note to her two sisters with whom she lived.  Two third grade boys were sent to the Richards' home to deliver the letter.  Both boys returned to the school after being unable to get anyone to answer the door.  They also reported hearing strange noises inside the house and a man with a light moving around in the basement.  Later on that day, two more boys were sent out again to deliver the letter.  The boys also returned unable to deliver the note. 

After school when Mary Richards had learned that her two sisters had not attended a scheduled meeting and the attempts at delivering the note had failed, she became worried.  Upon entering her home, she found her two sisters, Margaret Richards, 46, Ann Richards, 48, and Brown, the errand boy, brutally slain.

Brown was discovered near a second-floor banister with a .38 pistol in his hand, the victim of an apparent suicide.  Brown's face had powder burns indicating that the shot had been fired at close range.  Margaret was found lying on the stairway with bullet wounds in her head and in her throat.  Ann was found in the kitchen lying in a pool of blood.  She had been shot once with a bullet entering her right forehead and exiting the left rear of her head. 

A small drawer was found open where Ann was found. It appeared as if she may have been seeking a weapon with which to defend herself.  Hairpins and blood were found on the banisters indicating Margaret had waged an unsuccessful battle against her assailant.  The .38 pistol that Brown was holding had no fingerprints on it.  The gun belonged to G.G. Hannah, which was kept in his room, always in sight, on a small table.  Brown had carried coal up to Mr. Hannah's room the day of the murders. 

Some other theories had surfaced that the sisters had given Brown and another person a suit.  It was said that Brown became angry that his was not a nice as the other.  It was told that Brown liked to talk to ex-convicts that were turned loose and trying to catch the train and was always asking them what they had done to get into prison.  His parents had gone insane before they died and his father had killed someone.  Brown was an orphan, raised by his aunt and uncle.  He had not been working up to the expectations of the sisters and was told that if he did not improve they would have to dismiss him and he may have to be taken back to the orphanage. 

Early on, Sheriff Bob Smith had declared the incident a "double murder-suicide."  The Town of Oliver Springs was divided.  Half agreed with Smith and the other half believed a fourth had committed the crime.  On February 13, 1940, a jury was held in the Richards home with Joe Richards, the only brother of the sisters, in attendance of his sister Mary.  The five-hour investigation came to the verdict that the victims were killed at the hands of parties unknown.  No further evidence ever surfaced about the murders. 

The case was reopened on November of 2000. After an unidentified witness told Knoxville radio station, WNOX, that he had new information about the case.  The witness claimed to have seen two men spying on the house the day before the murder took place.  He said they later threatened him to not inform anyone of the incident.  On January 17, 2001, Sheriff Massengill of Oliver Springs, declared Brown innocent.  Massengill started working on a theory that the sisters were killed over a land dispute.  He said authorities would continue trying to build a case, conceding that the killer or killers are probably dead.

Mary Richards, the surviving sister, continued living in Oliver Springs for a short period of time until she moved to Atlanta, Georgia.  She died in 2004 and was brought to Oliver Springs Cemetery for burial.  All three sisters are buried in Oliver Springs. 

Today, Harvey's Furniture is located where the mansion used to sit. Past employees as well as some customers claimed to have seen apparitions of a woman in a 40s styled dress as well as disembodied voices. Could these apparitions be of the Richards sisters?

Written By Amanda Gibbs, Investigator at HGC

To read more stories by Amanda check out her BLOG!