Old Willow Springs House -- once social hub of Hampton -- now a Halloween haunted house

By Rozella Hardin
star staff
rhardin@starhq.com

  The ancient Celts believed that every year on the last day of October, the souls of the dead visited the earth. Perhaps they do, perhaps they don't, but one thing is a certainty: Halloween is a great opportunity to have a frightfully good time.
  The Hampton-Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Department has turned the old Willow Springs House (formerly the Hampton Hotel) into an asylum haunted house as a fund-raising project. The haunted house is open each Thursday, Friday and Saturday through October 30.
  With its dark, dank rooms, the old hotel certainly serves up lots of macabre surprises, including a variety of seasonal props, spider webs, and sound and lighting effects. The tour itself involves walking through dark rooms, where people are greeted by any number of terrifying characters played by community volunteers. There are also a lot of eerie sounds.
  One fire department member suggested that most children should be around 8-years-old before venturing into the maze. "It depends on the child. However, we do not recommend it for young children," he said.
  The occasion has grown in popularity over the past couple of years, as a number of people have already taken the haunted house tour. The cost is $6, and the tours begin at 7 p.m. The Willow Springs Haunted House is located at the corner of Church and Spring Streets in Hampton off Highway 19E.
  Formerly the Hampton Hotel, the old house has seen better days. It was once the hub of social life in Hampton. There was a post office, drug store, a medical clinic and another store or two in Hampton at that time. According to old-timers in the community, townspeople would gather at the depot to wait for the train, then wait for the mail to be put in the boxes and conclude the social get-together with an ice cream cone, amounting to a pleasant Sunday afternoon in former days.
  Records show the property belonged to J.C. Campbell in 1889, and was later sold to Lou C. Easterly in 1919. Mrs. Easterly kept a boarding house, which was patronized by teachers and traveling salesmen.
  Other owners have included Mary E. Simerly, Ernest E. Fletcher, J.W. Horton, Harmon Gouge, W.H. Miller and Ruth and Albert Brown.
  The old house has 12 rooms, an upstairs, and two porches which provide a lot of nooks and crannies for haunts and ghosts to hide out.
  Old Willow Stream House is an appropriate name for the house since the stream, an overflow from the main Hampton spring (which is one source of Elizabethton's water supply) actually runs under one corner of the house.
  Things can become quite scary when the sun goes down and ghosts come out at the old Willow Springs House during the days leading up to Halloween.
  The Hampton fireman said the volunteers have as much fun as the people who attend. "It's a fun event and one of our largest special event fund-raisers," he said.
  The haunted house is open late, until the last customer is served (or scared).