These paranormal hot spots are said to reverberate with the restless spirits of past tragedies.
During the Halloween season, we often hear stories of unexplained lights, orbs, footsteps and cold spots in places where tragedy, disease and death have struck. It seems every town has a tale of lingering woe to tell, and some have more than others. Here are the stories behind eight Kentucky locales that are infamous for unexplained activity and ghostly sightings.
Liberty Hall, Frankfort
John Brown was one of Kentucky's first senators and, in 1796, he built a family home in Frankfort. Many people have lived and died in the home, from slaves to relatives. Today there are said to be three primary spirits that exist in a state of unrest. The first and most famous is Ms. Margaret Varick, aka the Gray Lady. She is said to have traveled around 800 miles to attend the funeral of a family member, only to succumb to a heart attack after her journey. Initially buried in the garden, rumors say her body was later moved. Now her restless spirit is said to wander the grounds, opening doors, closing doors, and always wearing gray. A Spanish opera performer visited and disappeared mysteriously from the mansion in 1805. His spirit is also said to roam the property, along with a figure wearing a soldier's uniform. The young lad is reported to gaze into a ground-level window with a forlorn, love-struck expression.
Kentucky State Penitentiary, Eddyville
Most of us never want to see the inside of the Kentucky State Penitentiary at 266 Water Street, but the structure itself is phenomenal. It is the oldest prison in the state, built in 1886, and the architecture is not only solid, but also a work of art. The intricately designed building was made to hold prisoners, but many a spirit has also made their home here. Due to its age, one can only imagine the horrific conditions, treatment and executions that took place within these walls. Modern inmates and guards alike tell tales of strange orbs, footsteps when no one is there, voices, disembodied screams and other hair-rising experiences. Just because a prisoner's body dies here, doesn't mean the soul rests.
Camp Taylor, Louisville
Camp Taylor might just be the second most haunted neighborhood in the United States. This small community was once a military camp named after General Zachary Taylor. The streets are named after other generals like Sherman and Lee. During the Camp's time as a military site, the Tuberculosis epidemic struck Louisville. Camp Taylor was devastated by the disease, and bodies were said to be stacked from floor to ceiling in some of the buildings. Ghostly soldiers and even a few women from a bygone bordello are said to wander the neighborhood. Many residents have reported seeing soldiers walking in formations across the fields and streets, and a blond woman in a blue Victorian-era dress is also known to wander the area. A young girl also roams Taylor Blvd., along with the soldiers, but her origin is unknown.
Photo courtesy Jeremy Brooks
Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown
This might be the oldest tavern in Kentucky, built in 1779 at 107 Stephen Foster Avenue. Now known as the city of Bardstown, the community had no name when the tavern was constructed. It was a well-known stagecoach stop that has seen many travelers, including Jesse James and a banished king. There are several rooms that hold scars from visits by Jesse James, including one where he was attacked, and another where James thought he saw someone in his room and fired his weapon repeatedly, leaving bullet holes in the wall. It is rumored that specter was the very first ghost reported in the Old Talbott Tavern. Visitors today report hearing strange footsteps and disembodied voices, seeing the apparitions of a man and a woman, and doors opening on their own.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Louisville
Even those unfamiliar with Waverly Hills' twisted past can agree that the ominous structure looks creepy, even from a distance. The Gothic structure was built in the early 1900s as a Tuberculosis Hospital, and later a mental hospital and geriatric center. The death count here was so high that patients were delivered for burial and disposal through a tunnel system, deemed the Death Tunnel. This was done to prevent panic among the residents. And it wasn't just the ill who lost their lives at Waverly. A nurse is known to have hung herself in the bell tower, and her spirit is said to wander the halls of Waverly along with many patients. People who take footage or photos at Waverly often later find floating orbs and distortions in the images. The sanatorium has been featured in a barrage of television specials, including ABC and FOX's Scariest Places on Earth, Zone Reality's Creepy, Most Haunted, Paranormal Challenge, Ghost Hunters, and VH1's Celebrity Paranormal Project.
Bobby Mackey's Music World, Wilder
"Come for the ghosts, stay for the music!" proclaims the website for Bobby Mackey's Music World, which stakes its claim as "the most haunted nightclub in America." This historic roadhouse gained its paranormal reputation after two Satanists murdered and beheaded a woman named Pearl Bryan in 1897. Her body was found in a field not far from the building. Another legend holds that a pregnant dancer named Johanna poisoned herself here in the 1950s after her father murdered her lover, a singer at the club, by hanging him in a dressing room. Visitors today can book private ghost tours that include Johann's dressing room, The Wall of Faces Room, Hell's Gate and other areas where the dead are said to make themselves known.
Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville
Cave Hill Cemetery is the resting place of many famed Kentuckians, including the Frito Lay magician, Colonel Harland Sanders and most recently, Muhammad Ali. It is located at 701 Baxter Avenue in Louisville and was built back in the 1800s. The grounds were designed in the peak of the Victorian era to be a garden-style resting place for the deceased upper class and soldiers. It is not uncommon in modern times to hear unexplained sounds and footsteps in the cemetery. There are also a variety of orbs and unexplained lights that appear at night and on film. Ornate tombstones and statues stand guard over the bones, but the spirits are still said to wander. Those who have entered the cemetery at night deem it a hub of paranormal activity.
Old Louisville, Louisville
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Old Louisville neighborhood was the premier community in Kentucky. The area featured beautiful French, Revival and Georgian architectural designs, many with castle-like turrets and stained-glass windows. Some residents loved it so much they chose to hang around after death. And death has visited this neighborhood often over the year, including a tuberculosis epidemic that wiped out much of the population and many unexplained tragedies, including fires, mysterious deaths and suicides. A high concentration of spirits are said to roam the area today, including women, men and children who perished during the tuberculosis epidemic. In particular, many people report seeing an old woman who turns into a black cat, a man with a cloak and hat who lingers near 6th and Hill, and a dark-haired woman in a Victorian dress. Old Louisville has appeared on the Travel Channel and several paranormal television shows, and is regarded as one of the country's most-haunted neighborhoods.
Written by Jenn Shockley
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