Friday, January 7, 2011

Haunted Kentucky

A selection of 10 haunted places from around Kentucky.

Belle of Louisville
Docked at the 4th Street Wharf
Belle of Louisville, 2006. Photo by Bo, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Built in 1914 in Philadelphia as the Idlewild, the Belle of Louisville has served nearly a century as a ferry and excursion boat. But while many of the ship’s passengers received pleasure from their journeys onboard, some of the crew may not have had as swell of a time. According to legend, one of the ships early captains had a heart attack while authorities were raiding the ship in search of illegal alcohol and gambling machines. Another crewman was killed while working on the paddle-wheel and yet another killed in a knife fight with a fellow crewman. Robert Parker in his Haunted Louisville documents stories from crew members as well as experiences he had during a late-night tour of the ship in 2003.

Blue Licks Battlefield State Park
Highway 68
Mount Olivet
One of the old buffalo traces on the Blue Licks Battlefield, 2009.
Photo by Mason Brock, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Located on the Licking River, the Lower Blue Licks were a mineral spring and salt lick where immense herds of buffalo gathered before they were driven from the area. In 1782, one of the final battles of the American Revolution was fought here with a number of prominent Kentuckians leading the patriot troops including John Todd (an ancestor of first lady, Mary Todd Lincoln) and Daniel Boone. The Americans were defeated, but resulting battles removed the British threat from the area. The area became popular in the nineteenth century for its mineral springs which had all run dry by 1896. According to Patti Starr’s Ghosthunting Kentucky, spirits of Native American, soldiers and early settlers have been reported in the park.

Buffalo Trace Distillery
113 Great Buffalo Trace
Stony Point Mansion at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, 2007.
Photo by Kaplansa, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Like Blue Licks State Park, Buffalo Trace Distillery is located along a path, or trace, once used by the massive herds of Buffalo that once roamed the area. The site is quite possibly the oldest distillery site in the United States and the buildings on the site are a collection of buildings include the oldest building in the county. Investigations by Patti Starr have revealed an interesting collection of spirits and activity in Stony Point Mansion which now houses offices and the Riverside House, the oldest building in Franklin County, which is used in operations, and the Buffalo Trace Gift Shop. In the storage space above the gift shop a psychic detected the spirits of four men who continue to work in the hot, confined space.

Cumberland Falls State Park
7351 Highway 90
Cumberland Falls at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, 2009.
Photo by J654567, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Preserving the 68-foot high Cumberland Falls, this state resort park is home to a legendary ghostly bride. According to legend, a couple was preparing to marry at the park’s lodge. The groom did not show up and when word came that he had been killed in a car accident, the bride, in full wedding attire, threw herself off of the top of the falls. Her spirit has been seen around the falls.

Liberty Hall
218 Wilkinson Street
Liberty Hall, 1986. Photo by William Gus Johnson for the Historic
American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

After an elderly aunt, Mrs. Margaret Varick, died after making the arduous trip to Frankfort to console her niece, her spirit has remained in this National Historic Landmark 1796 home. Built by James Wilkinson, founder of the city of Frankfort, the home remained in the family and is now open as a house museum. Mrs. Varick’s spirit is said to help out in maintaining the house and her spirit may have been joined in her ethereal romps by a Spanish opera star who also died in the house during a visit in 1805.

Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave
The Rotunda Room, Mammoth Cave. Photo by the Department
of the Interior.

The largest cave system in the world at nearly 400 miles, the name does not refer to its linear size but rather the huge rooms and passages that form the cave’s labyrinth. Since its discovery by Native Americans, the cave has been a source of medicine and saltpeter, shelter for various people including tuberculosis patients, a tourist attraction and a burial chamber. It’s little surprise that numerous odd experiences have been reported, though, it should be noted that the cave’s unusual environment may alter one’s senses. Nevertheless, reports from the cave include apparitions in old fashioned clothing including possibly the spirit of Stephen Bishop, a slave who was one of the earliest guides and explorers of the cave.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Highway 11
The Natural Bridge, 2009. Photo by Ken Thomas, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The titular feature of Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a sandstone archway formed by millions of years of weathering. Adjacent to the bridge are a number of odd sandstone formations created by the same weathering. The park opened in 1896 as a private attraction and trains brought visitors from Louisville, Lexington and other large cities to the park and Hemlock Lodge. The park and lodge, now under the auspices of the state of Kentucky, still attract visitors as well as a mysterious “Purple Lady” who has been spotted throughout the park. Wearing a long purple evening gown, this unidentified spirit has been seen in and around the lodge, along park roads and in park campgrounds.

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Old Talbott Tavern, 1940. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott.
Courtesy of the Library of
Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.

Paramount Arts Center
1300 Winchester Avenue
Paramount Arts Center, 2007. Photo by Youngamerican, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Just seven months after the Ashland Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1931, the Paramount Theatre opened as a movie palace for the citizens of the city. When the Art Moderne style theatre closed its doors in 1971, locals purchased the building as a performing arts center. In 1992, local musician Billy Ray Cyrus (father of Miley Cyrus) chose the theatre for the filming of the video of his hit song, “Achy Breaky Heart.” While there, he was told the story of “Paramount Joe,” the theatre’s spiritual guardian, the legendary spirit of a construction worker who died in the theatre in the 1940s. Cyrus claimed that he spoke with the spirit during a break and signed a poster for Paramount Joe. Some years later when an executive removed the poster from its place in the box office the staff returned the next day to find all the pictures had fallen from the walls some having their glass and frames broken. After Paramount Joe’s signed poster was restored, all has returned to normal in terms of the pictures.

Waverly Hills Sanatorium
4400 Paralee Lane
Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Photo by Kris Arnold, courtesy of Wikipedia.

With the rise of ghosthunting shows on television, Waverly Hills Sanatorium has established itself as one of America’s preeminent ghost-trekking locales. With construction beginning in 1911, this massive facility was constructed to care for tuberculosis patients in a time before adequate treatments were available. The facility expanded and grew until streptomycin was introduced as a treatment and the number of TB patients began to decline. The facility closed in 1962 to reopen as a nursing home later that year. The nursing home closed in 1981 and the building has sat empty. Vandalism and the elements have caused some deterioration of the building since that time. Legends have been attached to the massive building to explain the large amounts of activity ranging from sounds to apparitions that are experienced throughout the facility.

Ball, Linda Larimore. National Register of Historic
     Places Nomination Form for the Paramount Theatre.
     Listed 30 June 1975.
Battle of Blue Licks. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 6 January 2010.
Blue Licks State Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 6 January 2010.
Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA:
     Stackpole Books, 2009.
Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS:
     University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
Buffalo Trace Distillery. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 6 January 2010.
     Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 January 2010.
Foster, Kevin J. Nomination Form for the National Register of
     Historic Places for Belle of Louisville. Listed 10 April 1972.
Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 6 January 2010.
Olson, Colleen O’Connor and Charles Hanion. Scary Stories
     Of Mammoth Cave, Dayton, OH: Cave Books, 2002.
Paramount Arts Center. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 6 January 2010.
Parker, Robert. Haunted Louisville. Alton, IL: Whitechapel
     Press, 2007.
Specter, Jason. “The Bride of Cumberland Falls.” The Scary
     States of America Blog. 23 February 2008.
Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy
     Press, 2010.
Taylor, Troy. Down in the Darkness: The Shadowy History of
     America’s Haunted Mines, Tunnels and Caverns. Alton, IL:
     Whitechapel Press, 2003.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
     Accessed 6 January 2010.



  2. Where did you find your info. about the Bride & Groom at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park? From what I have found,the Bride & Groom were already married & were staying at Du Pont Lodge for their honeymoon. While there,the married couple went down by the falls to take pictures with the waterfall in the background. So the Bride was standing on a piler for her husband to take a picture,when she lost her balance & fell about 75 to 80 feet to her death. I found that info. on

    1. The source for this information came from Patti Starr's Ghosthunting Kentucky, which is credited in the source list. Shadowlands is a terribly untrustworthy source as all of its submissions are publicly submitted and unchecked or researched.

      Also, with many legends of this nature, there are many different versions floating about.

  3. Sorry that website is

  4. Very Interesting. We Must Admit That All Things Can Not Be Explained By Science

  5. Regardless of fact it is what one's mind manifests as the truth. We call people crazy that hear voices or see illusions, but we have all done it tired, scared, and bored. That is the great part of the mind when it comes to ghost sightings, all you have to do is plant the seed. So rock on and keep the stories rolling!

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