Robert Sorrell’s latest book covers the region’s weird, wonderful and obscure

Published 1:15 pm Monday, May 6, 2024

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Some of the region’s most unusual and mesmerizing secrets are revealed in a new book titled Secret Appalachian Highlands: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure by author Robert Sorrell.

Published by the Reedy Press of St. Louis, Missouri, this intriguing guidebook delves deep into the heart of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, unearthing a trove of bizarre attractions, hidden treasures, and forgotten folklore.

Sorrell, a local author and real estate agent, invites readers on a journey through the lesser-known corners of the region, from the hidden depths of the Tri-Cities Airport to the haunting grounds of Highland Cemetery in Elizabethton. With each turn of the page, readers will uncover the peculiarities that make this area so rich in history and mystery.

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Among the book’s highlights are the eerie tale of Granny February, a legendary figure said to haunt the grounds of Highland Cemetery, and the curious origins of Johnson City’s nickname, “Little Chicago.” Sorrell also delves into the tragic demise of Mary the elephant in Erwin, a story steeped in both sorrow and local lore, as well as the fascinating connection between the song “Copperhead Road” and its namesake in Johnson County.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the hidden gems and unusual attractions that can be found in our communities,” Sorrell said. “With this book, I wanted to shine a light on the weird, the wonderful, and the obscure aspects of the Appalachian Highlands that often go overlooked.”

To celebrate the book’s recent release, Sorrell will be hosting a special book signing event at the Elizabethton Public Library on May 10 from 4-6 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to meet the author, and get their own copies of Secret Appalachian Highlands signed.

Secret Appalachian Highlands: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure promises to be an essential companion for both locals and visitors alike, offering a fresh perspective on the rich tapestry of the region.

For more information on Sorrell and his latest book, visit