On a Sunday afternoon Jay Farrell, Evan Allen and myself had just finished up shooting at a derelict Powered Coating factory in Maryville, TN. Evan asked if we wanted to see Greenback Castle? We had no idea what Greenback Castle was but what the Hell, let’s go! Back on the highway we’e all shooting the breeze over abandos and having fun. The Area we’re in is a mix of pretty nice homes and businesses and places that if they aren’t abandoned they should be.
Swinging a left off the highway we find ourselves on winding road made up of sudden dips and rises. Eventually we start seeing signs for Greenback Chapel, and Greenback House. Evan tells us we’re getting close. As we approach a dirt and rock road tot he right we slow down and carefully begin to travel down one rutted and rough road that the County has forgotten to up. To our right we see unbroken woods, the tree limbs slightly barren from the Winter. On our right? Well, let me tell ya, those houses were as rough, and washed out as the road we were traveling upon. The wood siding of the houses were more grey and brown (stains) than white, and more than a few boards were canted to one side. We’d gone about a hundred yards or more when we came out of the drive and found ourselves upon a green grassy area for us to park. Directly ahead of us was what looked to be an actual castle with turrets, walls, and ramparts. My jaw may have fallen a bit. This is Greenback Castle.
Lucky for us we’d shown up at the beginning of sunset so I got a few quick, wonderful shots of the castle backlit. I was however worried how long the light would last. So, with the initial awe over with we spread out. Evan immediately located the man who built Greenback Castle Floyd “Junior” Brown. As Evan went over to press the flesh Jay and myself wandered around the front of the castle wall to shoot the oddities that were everywhere. In the lawn there were monuments to God. Toy Soldiers stood at one corner and a space ship, and a canon at other points on the lawn.
We hadn’t even entered the castle and I was in photo heaven. I walked up to the wall and spied numerous leavings by visitors, as well as knick knacks put there by Junior himself. After 30 some years there was quite a collection.
“Wait, a sec are there figurines and such hurried in the wall”? Yes, there were. I was fascinated all over again. This was a sensation I’d be hit with numerous times as I shot the castle.
Having introduced us to Junior, Junior began telling us about the Castle and himself. I’d like to say I hung on every word, but I was too entranced by the castle and got lost in shooting. While my companions walked and talked with Junior, I went and lost myself in shooting. Stepping through the main entrance to Castle Greenback was like stepping into a mini Twilight Zone. Each room, each nook, every surface had its own tale. The story told by each was in my opinion open to interpretation by the viewer.
Once inside I got a better idea of the scope of the Castle’s size. Like any true castle it’s walls were the first to be completed, thus far only one wall was up. Hey, I was still impressed, the one wall, turrets, and rooms were all done by Junior, one guy. Honestly I can’t imagine the cost or the amount of commitment that was needed to do this much. Sea shells, plastic toys, colored glass and more were physically embedded in the walls here inside in a dazzling array. Was this madness? Whimsy? Religious fervor? Junior claimed that the images of Saints were in the walls, demons had been trapped in the walls as well. Was this artistic genius. I really don’t know.
In an inner courtyard a cross is adorned with a rich, vibrant robe. It sits amongst a Pet Cemetery. Buried there are over a dozen rescue dogs that Junior had taken in over several decades, it looked peaceful, not creepy. This surprised me because I really have found most pet cemeteries to be very creepy. I don’t know if I should blame my imagination, or Stephen King.
I stepped away from the cemetery and returned to the path to begin my exploration of the inner chambers of Greenback Castle. I made my way towards the voices of my companions, and our host Junior who was telling them about the time the FBI had come to see the images of Saints and Devils trapped in the Castle wall. Stepping into one small hall just off the path led me to a small courtyard where a Devil was held prisoner. I don’t know if there actually was one or not, but there was a mini castle tower in one corner, and what looked like the back of a fireplace with a coat of arms too. I found the doll at the bottom to be a bit offsetting.
I stood there a bit, then shook off the feeling of the place and went on to shoot more a little further down from this haunted feeling space. Through an arch and back on to the path I made my way to the tower. The tower’s small courtyard was quite a bit different from much of what I’d seen so far. The walls of the tower were bright, almost festive and drew my eyes further up to the tower’s roof. I stood there for a bit and noticed that the roof wasn’t finished and with that I stepped inside. In the middle of the rounded base stood a small column, and atop it a small house, whilst to the left a darkened passageway beckoned. But I held off going into the passageway. Instead I went up the stairs after passing a few words with Ethan. On up the curved stairwell I went once again taking note of the strong and vibrant colors on the wall. At the top of the stairs I could see where the floor was still being worked on and the roof itself needed to be finished. The evening light poured over it all.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs I decided I had to check out the dark passageway leading into the Wall’s interior. “Gloomy” is the best word that can describe the room I found myself in, but it wasn’t creepy. I decided I’d found myself in some sort of root cellar. Jars, roots and such hung down from the ceiling, dust motes danced in the waning light, which in turn weakly outlined more jars.
End of Part One.