Teens allegedly vandalize Civil War cemetery

8:49 PM, Aug 3, 2011   |    comments
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Hamblen County, TN (CNN) - Two teens have been arrested for vandalizing an old Tennessee church steeped in Civil War history. They appear to have been ghost hunters, but the damage they've allegedly done is irreplaceable.

Built in 1835, the Bethesda Presbyterian Church is weaved into Civil War history. At one point the building even served as a hospital for General James Longstreet's wounded troops.

"This is one of the true time capsules we're sitting in, here in East Tennessee," said Mike Beck, President of the Tennessee Sons of Confederate Veterans, which is a group that helps preserve the site, which is on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks.

The floor is now covered with melted wax, the windows are shattered, and the cemetery that houses the soldier's graves, spray painted.

"This is the worst that we've seen," said Beck.

In one section of the cemetery, about six headstones were targeted, and workers say because the vandals used silver and gold spray paint, it'll take two to three hours to scrub down each one of them. With words like "Pacman" and some paranormal terms, it is believed the culprits were probably ghost hunting.

"Pacman is a video game where the guys are chasing the ghosts. So essentially these are ghost hunters doing the damage," said worker Joshua Hayes.

The possible ghost hunters also knocked down more than two dozen of the century-old headstones. While CNN was at the cemetery, work was actively going on to put them back up again.

"They like chasing ghosts which is fine, but when you go desecrating monuments, it takes it to a whole new level," said Hayes.

Luckily investigators have been able to track down the two teenage boys they believe were behind the crimes because one of them left behind a bicycle.

"They did it because they was bored and thought it would be cute to desecrate the cemetery," said Sheriff Esco Jarnagin.

The list of charges against them will include arson because of the candles left dangerously burning around the old church.

"They've taken away a piece of our history here in east Tennessee. Some of this is irreplaceable," added Beck.

While the teens are prosecuted, a lot will have to be done to get this piece of our Civil War heritage fixed up again.


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