Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From the Archives—Kentucky Briefs


Since just before starting this blog, I’ve been collecting articles on Southern ghosts. This is an effort to utilize just a few of the articles I've collected.

Old Richardsville Road Bridge
Richardsville Road at the Barren River
Near Bowling Green, Warren County

Bridges are the centerpieces of numerous ghost stories. They can be symbols of the transition between life and death across the chasm of death. Perhaps that’s what also attracts ghosts. In a distant memory, I recall something about folklore stating that ghosts cannot cross water; that would certainly cause problems for many bridge-dwelling spirits.

The Old Richardsville Road Bridge is certainly something out of a different time. In proper bridge parlance it is a “three span bowstring arch truss bridge.” The span is a segment of the bridge supported on both sides by piers. Bowstring arch truss refers to the graceful curved iron arches, resembling a bow primed to shoot an arrow, that support each span. Located on both sides of the road, these graceful arches are also supported by another, squarish truss on each span. The deck is wooden and a single lane, which does present some issues for modern automobiles. Aesthetically, the bridge is an elegant marriage of form and function.

While the bridge may be somewhat unusual in its architecture, its legend is far more common. At some point in the bridge’s early history a young, unmarried woman found herself pregnant. Unable to face the shame and scorn that society heaped upon innocents gone astray like herself, she leapt from the bridge to drown in the waters below. Other versions of the story include the woman jumping as she fled an attack or driving off the bridge accidently or purposefully. The legend continues that if one drives onto the bridge, puts the car in neutral and turns it off, the car will be pushed towards the opposite end.

A 2011 article in the Bowling Green Daily News by Jack Montgomery recounts his informal investigation of the bridge legend. He and his companions tried to get their car pushed across the bridge, but to no avail. He then walked the bridge with a pair of dowsing rods. The rods did respond in three specific areas of the bridge. Other than that, he left with no other evidence of a haunting. Though, Montgomery did note that the wires on the bridge may produce high EMFs which may affect some who are sensitive. In addition, he noticed the creaks and groans of the old bridge which may give the impression of human cries or screams.

A more formal investigation of the bridge was conducted by Kindred Realm Investigations on three days in September of the same year. The first investigation produced no odd results. The second evening produced a single photograph with a possible orb. The third evening produced a few interesting results. The group finally had their vehicle, a large SUV, pulled along the bridge. A short time later, one of the group’s recorders picked up the sounds of singing or humming, as well as conversation and laughter from a female.

The bridge, built in 1889 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, has held up well for more than a century. Though in recent decades, the bridge has shown its age. While the iron has remained in excellent condition, the stone piers and the stone entrances to the bridge as well as the wooden decking have deteriorated. However, the bridge has found a savior in the form of local resident David Garvin. Having been born and raised nearby, Garvin has “adopted” the bridge and financed repairs and restorative work with his own money. If only every endangered historic site could find such a savior!

Sources
Bernson, Barry. “Bernson’s Corner: The Caretaker of the Old Richardsville Bridge.”
     Fox41 News. 10 May 2010.
Bridgehunter.com. “Old Richardsville Road Bridge.” Accessed 13 May 2013.
Kindred Realm Investigations. “Old Richardsville Road Bridge Bowling Green,
     KY.” Accessed 13 May 2013.
Montgomery, Jack. “The Old Richardsville Road Bridge: investigating a ghostly
     legend.” Bowling Green Daily News. 10 October 2011.

Fire Station #4, “Vogt Reel House”
246 Jefferson Street
Lexington

The firemen working out of Fire Station #4 have adopted a ghost as their mascot. Painted on the side of the station’s fire truck is a skull wearing a fire helmet and the words, “The Phantom.” Indeed, the station staff does not shy away from their resident spirit and even the Lexington City Government webpage detailing the fire department’s facilities mentions the spirit.

The oldest fire house in the city, the building recalls an era when government buildings were elegantly ornamented and sometimes extravagantly designed. The 1904 building utilizes Jacobean Revival style and retains some of its interior elements including a cast iron spiral staircase fire pole. A truck now occupies the space where horse stalls once stood. The station’s façade now bears the building’s nickname, the “Vogt Reel House,” name for a former city commissioner who donated the land the station sits upon.

Henry McDonald was nearly 70 years old, but still on duty on Christmas Day, 1945. World War II, the most devastating war in history had ended just a few months previous when Japan surrendered in August. He had lived to see two world wars dominate the headlines of the Lexington Herald and the Lexington Leader (these papers merged in 1983 to become the Lexington Herald-Leader). He drifted off the sleep in the firehouse and would not wake up. He was laid to rest in Winchester Cemetery down the road from Lexington.



At some point after McDonald’s death, things seemed to indicate that while his body was resting in the next county, his spirit still resided in the old firehouse. The sound of heavy boots treading the iron staircase was heard, unexplainable cold breezes were felt and McDonald’s beloved cane-bottom rocking chair was heard rocking by itself in the attic. While the activity sometimes chills firefighters working in the building, the resident spirit has earned their respect and affection. In an article from the local NBC station, it is noted that McDonald’s spirit “is a pretty good ghost. So good he has earned a bump in rank.”

The firehouse’s captain remarked that, “He has been promoted and now they call him The Captain.”

Sources
Edwards, Don. “Lexington, Kentucky Firehouse to Turn 100.” Firehouse.com.
     8 September 2004.
“The Fire Stations of Lexington, Kentucky.” LexingtonKY.gov. Accessed 14
     May 2013.
“Mystery Monday: Haunted Fire Station.” LEX18. 25 March 2013.
Racer, Theresa. “Vogt Reel House—Lexington, KY.” Theresa’s Haunted History
     of the Tri-State. 28 March 2013.

Hayswood Hospital
West Fourth Street at Market Street
Maysville

The large Neo-Classical building crowns a hill above West Fourth Street and turns its face towards the majestic Ohio River beyond the city’s downtown. It’s obvious that the building has been long abandoned. Windows stand open like empty eye sockets while other closed windows hold broken panes that stare jaggedly towards the river. Along the first floor, plywood covers the windows and doors, a thin barrier to intruders, both human and natural.

Hayswood Hospital has endured a long jag of bad luck since its closure in 1983. Just this year, the building was almost sold to collect on a nearly $6,000 unpaid tax bill, but at the last minute, the sale was withdrawn. Nearly a decade after its closure, the building was purchased with the intent of renovating it into apartments, though that has fallen through. In 1999, a condemnation order was placed on the structure requiring the owner to either demolish or renovate the building, but nothing has come of that. The order still stands like a death sentence over a weary prisoner.



Not only is the crumbling building a blight on the city’s face, but asbestos and lead paint within the building are a danger to the health of the community. The blight also attracts vandals and thieves including the two men who were arrested in the building as they tried to steal copper wiring. In addition to the health dangers, the building’s falling ceilings and weak floors are a physical danger to the curious who decide to investigate the building.

With the constant stream of legends flowing forth from abandoned (and even not so abandoned) medical facilities, it’s no surprise to hear that Hayswood has many of its own stories. Nothing about the reports of apparitions and voices provided in the article from the blog Most Haunted Places in America is particularly unusual. The blog reports apparitions throughout the building including that of a woman holding a baby in the old maternity ward.

A video posted on YouTube on Halloween 2006 purportedly shows a spirit in the building. The very grainy video taken of the exterior of the building at night shows a white figure appearing in one of the windows. The videographer focuses in on the figure and it appears to take on the features of a very large face then quickly vanishes. Personally, something doesn’t really look right about the video, but I cannot positively describe it as fake.

The grand hospital was constructed in 1915 and served the community well. The 87 bed hospital was bought by Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) in 1981 and it was closed when a new facility was opened nearby. The building remains in its uneasy slumber awaiting its fate and comforted only by the occasional spirit from its past.

The Hayswood Hospital building is closed to visitors, trespassers will be prosecuted.

Sources
Barker, Danetta. “Out of the hospital and into custody: Police make arrests
     at Hayswood.” The Ledger Independent. 22 September 2005.
“The Haunted Hayswood Hospital.” Most Haunted Places in America. 18 June
     2012.
Maynard, Misty. “Video of ‘ghost’ at Hayswood Hospital getting plenty of
     attention.” The Ledger Independent. 22 October 2007.
Toncray, Marla. “For Sale: Hayswood Hospital.” The Ledger Independent. 22
     March 2013.
Toncray, Marla. “Hayswood sale plan halted.” The Ledger Independent. 26 April
     2013.

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