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The Pontotoc Hotel

The Pontotoc Hotel

The Pontotoc Hotel is one of the most interesting haunted locations in downtown Memphis. This former bordello was built in 1906 and has seen an exclusive cast of colorful characters, including an alleged visit by Elvis Presley. 


Placing the King of Rock and Roll aside, the Pontotoc Hotel has welcomed many Vaudeville stars and later playwrights such as Tennessee Williams. 


It was a den of sin and vice for many years, with the assistance of many “ladies of the night.” Violence tends to happen in institutions like this, and the Pontotoc Hotel is no exception. 


Now, many spirits haunt the old building and are determined to keep any owner of the degrading institution from renovating the second floor. 


The stories are almost endless when it comes to this forsaken establishment. The horrific story of a man burned to death in the boiler room, the basement, is one of many waiting inside the haunted bordello of Memphis. 


Hear this saga and more for yourself on a ghost tour with US Ghost Adventures, the #1-rated ghost tour in Memphis


Memphis’s Best Brothel 


This building, located at 69 East Pontotoc, was built in 1906 to cater to the lowly river workers of Memphis. They would come along the Mississippi River, looking for cheap rent and even cheaper thrills. The Pontotoc Hotel offered Turkish Baths, which came complete with aid from the eager and helpful female staff.


Legally listed as a boarding house, it was all too clear by the clientele that the Pontotoc was much more than that. It became even more evident when Leigh and Terry Davis purchased the abandoned building in 1980. 


The two slowly revealed more of the buildings’s secrets as they allowed others to tour their home and the surrounding main street area. They purchased the building when downtown Memphis was unlivable due to blight and abandonment, becoming the area’s first residential occupants. 


This wretched state of affairs was a far cry from the old days of the bustling bordello and boarding house. 


A Bordello and a Boarding House


Dionysos “Dan” Touliatos, a leader in the Greek community of Memphis, purchased the hotel in 1929, and the former brothel became the center of social life for Greeks in Bluff City. Ouzo, a Greek aperitif made from grape must, was consumed in large late into the night. 


This fun and electric atmosphere attracted the Vaudeville stars from the newly built Orpheum Theatre. Touliatos’s eldest son, George, was an actor and director who founded the Front Theatre in 1958, further attracting actors, entertainers, and playwrights to the Pontotoc. 


According to a Dan Rather exposition on the CBS Evening News, Elvis lost his virginity here. It is also said that famous playwright Tennessee Williams jumped out of a window here after some of the bordello’s more salacious activities began to go south for him.  


The Davis Family and Modern Times


During the 1960s and 70s, Memphis fell into a state of unrest. The assassination of Martin Luther King, the downfall of Sun Records, and the general “White flight” into more suburban areas left the downtown area an urban wasteland. 


Leigh and local musician Terry Davis bought the old Pontotoc in 1980. The remnants of an abandoned nightclub called “The Cellar Club” littered the basement, which they had turned into a recording studio. Soon after, they had their first child, Jamie, and lived in it for the next forty years. 


Leigh and Terry Davis were among the first non-commercial residents of the downtown Memphis area during its revival in the early 1980s. In 2022, their building was bought out and will be utilized as a hotel once more, with a restaurant on the first floor. 


The odd thing is the Davis family never renovated the second or third floor, only residing in the basement and first floor. Although part of the second floor was torn away to create a garden room, many say the spirits co-inhabiting this house with them prevented them from doing so.


The Spirits of the Pontotoc Hotel


One can only imagine the atrocities that took place here during the sixty years it operated as a brothel, bordello, and boarding house. Rumors run about with otherworldly enthusiasts and tour guides in Memphis, despite Leigh’s protests, that the second floor is haunted


There are stories of a little girl crying in the windows of the upper floor. It’s said that orbs appear in front of the home, and some have even been captured on camera. 


According to Leigh Davis, there is some truth to all this. She admits to seeing shadow figures along the walls when the family moved in but is fully convinced the spirits are friendly and protective. 


While this may be the case, it doesn’t make the story of the Pontotoc’s most well-known ghost any less sad. 


Sidney, The Caretaker


The story goes that a man named Sidney lived next door, bringing coal into the hotel to keep the building warm.


He was often drunk and made a rather loud racket while shoveling coal into the boiler, sometimes late at night or early in the morning. 


One morning, the hotel awoke to the smell of burning hair and flesh. Sidney’s body was found in the boiler, charred to a crisp. His spirit remained behind after the brutal death, making contact with various guests throughout the years.


Some even say that the smell of burning flesh can still be smelt early in the morning. 


Haunted Memphis


The Pontotoc Hotel, the haunted brothel of Memphis, is a spooky building with a charming, albeit sinful, history. Its story is unique, but the aftermath is all too common in this spectral city. Memphis is full of haunted locations waiting to be discovered. 


Find them with the help of our trained tour guides on the #1-rated ghost tour in Memphis


For more haunted locations and stories, read our blog and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to keep up with all things spooky



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