"I see Memphis as a haunted house," Mike McCarthy says, sitting in his den, in the shadow of an enormous Johnny Cash statue he's been sculpting from gray clay. This month McCarthy, an artist, preservationist, and activist best known for work as an independent filmmaker, is planning a one-of-a-kind spook tour that may appeal to Christmas revelers who appreciate the spirits.
"Memphis is the kind of haunted house where you look through the boards in the window and you see the cobwebs over the empty bottles," he continues. "And you see the old radio, and the dusty record collection. You see that this was once a place where people had a really great time. But then you also see signs of struggle. And maybe a murder or two. And you come to realize why this haunted house has been abandoned. And why people don't really go there anymore. And why it's in danger of being torn down. That's the Memphis I know. It's the Memphis I've shot on film for decades. It's the Memphis I've talked about to friends who've visited. That's the haunted house I know Memphis to be."
- Skeletons in Memphis’ closet
McCarthy has located a purple hearse for his tours, but says it won't be rehabilitated and ready to go in time for holiday ghost stories that will take listeners from "No man's land" to the graves of stolen Georgia Tann babies and beyond.
"If my tour can shine a little light on that haunted house," McCarthy says. "If it can clean out the cobwebs and open up the doors, then the people who come and visit the house will have an understanding of why it's important to save it. To preserve it."
In the spirit of the now-defunct Holly Springs tourist attraction Graceland Too, McCarthy claims to be open 24 hours. "Customers can call, discuss how long they want their tour to be. I customize accordingly," he says.