Sipping with Spirits—Louisville, Kentucky

This article is the first in a series highlighting haunted bars throughout the South. 

META
425 West Chestnut Street
Louisville, Kentucky

The clump of three commercial structures on West Chestnut Street in downtown Louisville could not be more disparate; a delicate Beaux-Arts commercial building stands with an English Tudor structure with an unremarkable and squat building separating the two. The English Tudor building, which seems to be a transplanted British pub, is now occupied by META, one of Louisville’s best-known “upscale dive bars.” The unremarkable building in the middle appears to be occupied by a tattoo parlor, while the tallest building in the group is a strip club.

Opening on December 5 (Prohibition Repeal Day), 2013, META specializes in unique takes on classic cocktails in an atmosphere that hearkens towards sophistication and seediness. META’s location, two doors down from a strip club, and a former strip club, the Show-n-Tell Lounge, adds to the bar’s sense of seediness. According to Thrillist, the spirit of a former dancer remains in the building, perhaps reminding staff and patrons of the building’s darker past. The apparition of this young woman has been seen gliding through the back hallway and some staying late in the bar have reported an uneasy feeling permeating the air. The identity of this young woman is unknown.

In 1912, the Courier-Journal reported on a dinner held at Kerner’s restaurant at this address: “Two dozen adherents of the Prohibition party, half of them women,” met to organize the county’s first Prohibition organization. So, if you encounter a wraith at META, she may be down for a dance or upset at your imbibing.

Louisville Courier-Journal, 17 March 1934.

While I haven’t been able to determine when the building was constructed, there are many clues scattered in the pages of the local paper. A camera shop, Schuhmann’s Click Clinic, occupied the building in the last three decades of the 20th century; while an exterminating business operated here in the latter part of the 1930s. In 1934, a tailor’s shop at this site was the scene of a suicide when a man shot himself in the head in a wash room. Perhaps this poor gentleman’s spirit remains here?

Sources

Haunted North Carolina, Briefly Noted

North Carolina has a plethora of haunted, mystic, and legendary places. Some of these locations were covered in the early days of my blog, though they have been updated and rewritten when necessary.

Biltmore Greensboro Hotel
111 West Washington Street
Greensboro

Built in 1903, the building that now houses the Biltmore was constructed as an “up-to-date and well appointed” office building for a textile manufacturer. When that company moved its offices to larger quarters, the building hosted other businesses and a post office before becoming an apartment building. According to a local ghost tour, during this time the apartments were used by ladies of the evening. After a disastrous fire, new owners in the late 1960s sought to turn the building into an upscale hotel. They hired noted local interior designer, Otto Zenke (who may be the spirit inhabiting the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department), to create an elegant and sumptuous boutique hotel that was opened under the name The Greenwich Inn. After renovations in 1992, the hotel reopened as the Biltmore Greensboro.

Two deaths within the building have left spiritual impressions on the Biltmore. During the building’s initial incarnation as offices for the Cone Export and Commission Company, which operated a number of a local textile mills, a young accountant, named as Philip in local legend, was discovered dead one morning in an alley outside. The reason for his death never came to light and speculation purports that he may have discovered inconsistencies in the company’s books. In fact, questions remain as to if Philip was murdered or died by his own hand.

Room 332 is believed to have once served as Philip’s office and his restless spirit has been blamed for activity in and around that room. Guests have been disturbed by the sounds of footsteps in the corridor that sound like someone walking on a bare wooden floor, despite carpeting. Others have seen the spirit standing at the foot of their beds or at the window.

The spirit of Lydia, a former resident and perhaps, a lady of the evening, also makes her presence known. Room 223 is her former room and guests have complained that the light in the room’s bathroom often turns itself on along with the faucet. The door to the room has problems staying closed while housekeepers continue to find long strands of red hair next to the sink in the bathroom, as well. A mother staying in the room several years ago reported that her son encountered a “pretty red-headed lady” in the bathroom. That room has been decorated in pink and gifts of lipstick have been left in the closet in order to appease the feminine specter.

Sources

  • Biltmore Greensboro Hotel. “History.” Accessed 4 May 2018.
  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Ford, Hope. “Haunted Biltmore: the Ghost Stories of Greensboro’s Hotel.” 4 July 2016.

Harper House
Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site
5466 Harper House Road
Four Oaks

With the exception of the coast, North Carolina was spared much of the fighting during the Civil War. It’s hard to imagine what John Harper and his family endured when they found their farm embroiled in battle in 1865. The family’s home was commandeered as a field hospital and their inner sanctum was disturbed by the screams and cries of the wounded, blood staining the floor, and piles of amputated limbs stacking up outside. The Harper family abandoned their home not long after the battle; perhaps due to the phantom screams and cries that were still heard in the house at night. The Harper House and the Bentonville battlefield have been preserved as a state park and visitors and staff continue to encounter paranormal phenomena.

Harper House on the Bentonville Battlefield, 2009, by Straitgate. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

One of the most interesting encounters was experienced in 1990 by a family who visited the Harper House. The family was guided by a woman through what they believed was a living history reenactment with wounded soldiers being brought into the house and treated as well as a civilian man who appeared as John Harper. When the family described what they saw to the staff at the visitor’s center, they were told that there was no such living history exhibition at the house.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • Toney, B. Keith. Battlefield Ghosts. Berryville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing, 1997.

High Hampton Inn
1525 Highway 107, South
Cashiers

Set amid some 1400 acres in the Appalachians, the High Hampton Inn looks over a sheer mountainside that rises above a 55-acre lake. When I visited a few years ago, I was struck by the serenity and beauty but also the old-fashioned charm that seemed to envelop the resort. That same beauty and charm have given rise to a legend concerning a white owl.

High Hampton began as a hunting lodge for the wealthy Hampton family of South Carolina and in 1922, an inn was constructed on the property and the grounds opened to the public. Prior to the ownership of E.L. McKee, who built the inn, the property was owned by noted surgeon, Dr. William Halstead. Halstead did much to expand the property, purchasing nearby land and farms, among them the property of Louisa Emmeline Zachary.

The High Hampton Inn, 2006, by RichardKenni. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Upon her marriage, Zachary’s property passed to her husband, Hannibal Heaton, who sold it to Halstead despite his wife’s threats to kill herself if he did. Shortly after the sale, Heaton discovered his wife’s body hanging in a barn with a large barn owl flying about. According to legend, a large white owl continues to haunt the grounds of the High Hampton Inn.

Sources

  • High Hampton Inn Historic District. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 8 February 2011.
  • Williams, Stephanie Burt. Haunted Hills, Ghosts and Legends of Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2007.

Horace Williams House
610 East Rosemary Street
Chapel Hill

The Horace Williams House, 2007, by Jerrye and Roy Klotz, MD. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

An interest in phrenology, the study of how the shape of the head affects intelligence and character, led to the interesting octagon design of the Horace Williams House. Construction on the home was begun in the mid-1850s by University of North Carolina chemistry professor Benjamin Hedrick, whose designs were based on the book, A Home for All or the Gravel Wall and Octagon Mode of Building, by phrenologist Orson Fowler. Fowler posited that the design of the home affected and influenced harmony between those living in the home. Subsequently, this book was important in the building of many octagon homes throughout the nation.

The home passed through a few hands until it ended up with Professor Horace Williams, a beloved and noted professor of philosophy. Upon Williams’ death in 1940, the home and contents were left to the university and the house has been preserved as a museum. Native American and Civil War artifacts discovered around the house indicate that some spiritual activity may be caused by a range of people who have inhabited the property in the past. Activity in the home includes the appearance of a professorial apparition of a gentleman, most likely that of Williams.

Sources

  • Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.

Körner’s Folly
413 South Main Street
Kernersville

After a paranormal investigation of Körner’s Folly revealed evidence that the house may be haunted, the 85-year old granddaughter of the home’s builder Jule Körner, stated that, “he would be thrilled to death to know this was haunted. He always liked things that were out of the ordinary.” Indeed, Körner’s legacy is unique. The house was begun in 1878 and “completed” in 1880, though Körner continued to remodel the house until his death in 1924. Jule Körner made his name as an advertising painter for Bull Durham Tobacco but was also talented as a designer and he put his talents on display throughout the house.

Körner’s Folly, photo by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

It is believed that a number of spirits may dwell within this unparalleled edifice. Visitors and staff have spotted a woman as well as a child in Victorian clothing, but much of the activity is aural. During some recent paranormal investigations digital recorders have picked up a number of voices. One voice responded with curiosity to an investigator asking about setting up for EVPs, “What is EVP?” Another recorder picked up a voice saying. “Hauuuuunted.” According to the house museum’s paranormal advisor the spirits in the home are curious and happy to remain in this unique place. Strange stuff, indeed.

Sources

  • Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
  • History of Körner’s Folly. Körner’s Folly Website. Accessed 6 February 2011.
  • “Paranormal News: Korner’s Folly Certified Haunted.” Ghost Eyes: Most Haunted Places in America Blog. Accessed 6 February 2011.
  • Renegar, Michael and Amy Spease. Ghosts of The Triad: Tales from the Haunted Heart of the Piedmont. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2011.

Old Burying Ground
Ann Street
Beaufort

Among the oldest cemeteries in the state, Beaufort’s Old Burying Ground lies in a verdant peace under ancient oaks. Established in the early 18th century, this burying ground holds victims of the Tuscarora War which was fought in the area from 1711-1715. Other conflicts are also well-represented including the War of 1812, and the American Civil War which provides a member of the Union Army’s Colored Infantry.

Old Burying Ground, 2012, by Carl Griffith. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Perhaps the most poignant grave here is that of a little girl. Bearing the inscription, “Little girl buried in rum keg,” this small plot is the origin of many stories, including a ghost legend. The girl was the progeny of a local family who longed to see Britain. Despite her mother’s worries, the girl’s father took her abroad with a promise that he would return the child to her mother. When the child passed during the journey home, the father preserved the frail corpse in a keg of rum. Instead of placing the small body in a coffin for burial, the parents decided to bury the child in the keg of rum.

The small grave is marked with trinkets and toys visitors have left as offerings to the little girl’s spirit and she is said to stroll the burying ground after dark. A member of the local historical society noted that the legend is bunk, but ghost tours continue to tell the story.

Sources

  • Ambrose, Kala. Ghosthunting North Carolina. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2011.
  • Bordsen, John. “Find the most haunted place in these Carolina towns.” Dispatch-Argus. 31 October 2010.
  • Brown, Nic. “North Carolina’s Old Burying Ground.” Garden & Gun. April/May 2015.
  • Shaffer, Josh. “Tale of Beaufort girl buried in rum keg lures visitors.” Charlotte Observer. 7 October 2012.

Haunted Virginia, Briefly Noted

Virginia possesses a vast history; subsequently, it could be described as one of the most paranormally active states in the country. This is a selection of some of the more interesting hauntings throughout the Old Dominion.

Aquia Church
2938 Jefferson Davis Highway
Stafford

Aquia Church , photograph taken for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

As with many of Virginia’s great landmarks, Aquia Church has a ghost story attached. The legend tells of a young woman murdered in this National Historic Landmark church at some time in the eighteenth century and her body hidden in belfry. Accordingly, her spirit descends from the belfry at night and has been witnessed by many over the centuries. One caretaker also spoke of seeing shadowy figures among the tombstones in the graveyard. The current Aquia Church building was built in 1751 and destroyed by fire just before the construction was complete. Using the remaining brick walls, the church was rebuilt in 1757.

Sources

  • Driggs, Sarah S., John S. Salmon and Calder C. Loth. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Aquia Church. Listed 12 November 1969.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1993.

Assateague Lighthouse
Assateague Island

In terms of books documenting the spiritual residents of the state, Virginia has an embarrassment of riches. Marguerite DuPont Lee can be noted as one of the first authors to document many of Virginia’s ghosts in her 1930 book, Virginia Ghosts. More recently, L.B. Taylor, Jr. has published some 22 volumes covering the state. Most recently, Michael J. Varhola published his marvelous Ghosthunting Virginia and it is that book that documents the haunting surrounding the Assateague Island and its lighthouse.

Assateague Lighthouse, 2007, by DCwom, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Assateague Island is a barrier island along the coast of Maryland and Virginia. Much of the island is now Assateague Island National Seashore with parts of Assateague State Park and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The island is famous for its feral horses, descendants of the horses aboard the Spanish ship, La Galga, which wrecked just off the island in 1720. It is said the spirits of the humans who died in the wreck still comb the beach near the Assateague Lighthouse. The lighthouse, constructed in 1866 and first lit the following year to replace an earlier lighthouse from 1831, may also have some spiritual activity related to it. Varhola cites a National Park Service employee who tells of the door to the lighthouse being found mysteriously unlocked.

Sources

  • Assateague Island. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Assateague Lighthouse. December 1972.

Bacon’s Castle
465 Bacon’s Castle Trail
Surry

Bacon’s Castle, 2006, by Yellowute, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Bacon’s castle ranks highly on a number of lists. It’s described as the only Jacobean house in America and one of three in the Western Hemisphere; one of the oldest buildings in the state of Virginia and the oldest brick home in the United States. Indeed, it may be one of the oldest haunted houses in the US as well. Researchers in 1999 dated tree rings on some of the home’s beams and determined the house was constructed around 1665. Originally called Allen’s Brick House, the house acquired its current name during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 when some of Nathaniel Bacon’s supporters took over the house. The house, which has survived and witnessed centuries of American history, is now a house museum.

As for the ghosts, this house may possess many. The final private owner of the house, Mrs. Charles Walker Warren, told many tales of the house involving doors opening and closing by themselves and footsteps that were heard. Certainly, the most well-known phenomena regarding Bacon’s Castle is the red fireball that has been seen rising from the house and disappearing in the churchyard of Old Lawne’s Creek Church nearby.

Sources

  • Barisic, Sonja. “Houses’ ‘Bones’ Yield Secrets of Its History.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch. 19 December 1999.
  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Melvin, Frank S. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Bacon’s Castle. Listed 15 October 1966.
  • Taylor, L. B., Jr. The Ghosts of Virginia. Progress Printing, 1983.
  • Tucker, George. “Ghosts Long A Part of the Lore of Bacon’s Castle.” The (Norfolk, VA) Virginian-Pilot. 9 November 1998.

Belle Isle
Richmond

Originally called Broad Rock Island, Belle Isle was used for mostly industrial purposes in the nineteenth century. Mills, quarries and a nail factory appeared on the tranquil island in the James River. Notoriety came to the island in 1862 with the opening of a Confederate prisoner of war camp that was as notorious as Georgia’s dreaded Andersonville and with a huge influx of prisoners, the camp quickly descended into squalor. Prisoners lived in tents that provide little insulation from the bitter cold of Virginia winters or the heat of the summer sun and were offered little in the way of food. By 1865, most of the prisoners had been shipped to prison camps throughout the South and the island was returned to its more tranquil use as the site of a nail factory. The Old Dominion Iron and Nail works operated on the island until it closed in 1972 and many of its buildings demolished. The island became a park around that same time and has been a popular spot for hiking and jogging.

Belle Isle, 2012, by Morgan Riley, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Still, remnants of the island’s past linger: the site of the prison camp is marked but little else remains while there are ruins of some of the old industrial buildings. Indeed, spirits from the islands past may also linger. There are reports from island visitors of shadow people, hearing footsteps on the trail behind them, lights in the woods at night and photographic anomalies. Author and investigator Beth Brown in her Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts conducted an investigation and picked up an EVP of a male voice clearly saying, “Where are we?”

Sources

  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Battlefields: Virginia’s Civil War Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Dutton, David and John Salmon. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Belle Isle. Listed 17 March 1995.

Michie Tavern
683 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

My first introduction to the Michie Tavern came through the eyes of paranormal researcher and writer Hans Holzer. Among some of the first books about ghosts I read were some of Holzer’s books and I still vividly remember reading of some of his investigations. For his books, he traveled the world with a psychic medium in tow investigating haunted and historical locations such as the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City and the famous house at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, the basis for the “Amityville Horror.” On his travels through Virginia he visited the Michie Tavern and nearby Monticello and was able, through his medium Ingrid, to find spirits still partying in the ballroom of this 1784 tavern. Staff members have reported the sounds of a party in that very room late at night.

Sources

  • Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
  • Michie Tavern. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.

Monticello
931 Thomas Jefferson Parkway
Charlottesville

Monticello, 2013, by Martin Falbisoner, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1928, a Charlottesville preservationist purchased the Michie Tavern, an 18th century tavern in nearby Earlysville and moved it near to Thomas Jefferson’s “little mountain,” Monticello. Jefferson, perhaps one of the country’s most brilliant, enigmatic and creative presidents, designed and built his home over many years at the end of the eighteenth century and into the early nineteenth century. Over the years that the house has been open as a museum, there have been a few reports of phantom footsteps and other minor incidents including the occasional sound of someone cheerfully humming.

Sources

  • Holzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. NYC: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997.
  • Monticello. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.

Octagon House (Abijah Thomas House)
631 Octagon House Road
Marion

Octagon House, 2007, by RegionalGirl137, courtesy of Wikipedia.

In a state of magnificently preserved historical homes, it is surprising to find a magnificent architectural gem like the Abijah Thomas House standing forlornly unrestored.  Neglect and vandalism by teenagers out for a “scare” have also taken their toll on this home. The octagon house style found prominence in the middle of the nineteenth century and currently only a few hundred to a few thousand (sources differ) survive. This particular house, described in its National Register of Historic Places nomination form as “the finest example in Virginia of a 19th-century octagonal house,” also has a number of legends about it. According to Michael Varhola, the internet is full of these legends that seem scary but are unlikely to be true. Certainly, this old house is creepy in its deteriorated state, but it really needs a professional investigation.

Sources

  • Octagon houses. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.
  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff. National Register of Historic Place Nomination form for Abijah Thomas House. Listed 28 November 1980.

Old ’97 Crash Site
Route 58 and Riverside Drive
Danville

It’s a mighty rough road from Lynchburg to Danville,
And a line on a three mile grade.
It’s on that grade that he lost his airbrakes.
You see what a jump he made.
— “Wreck of the Old ‘97” first recorded by G.B. Grayson and Henry Whittier

The wreck of the Old ’97, 1903.

On September 27, 1903, the No. 97 “Fast Mail” train jumped its track on the Stillhouse Trestle in Danville and plunged some 75 feet into the ravine. The train’s engineer, who was rushing to get to Spencer, North Carolina on time, tried to slow the train as it approached the trestle, but the train did not slow. Of the 18 souls aboard, 10, including the engineer were killed. Not long after the crash stories emerged of people seeing odd lights in the ravine where the crash occurred. Even after the trestle was removed and the ravine was filled with growth, the lights are still said to appear.

Sources

  • Varhola, Michael J. Ghosthunting Virginia. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2008.
  • Wreck of the Old 97. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 10 March 2011.

Rosewell
5113 Old Rosewell Lane
Gloucester

Rosewell ruins, 2002, by Agadant, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The magnificent main house at Rosewell burned in 1916, but it is hardly a distant memory. The brick wall still stands, and archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of items that were inside the house during the fire. Construction began in 1725 and the house was completed in 1738 for the powerful Page family. The power of the Page family extended into the nineteenth century and included friendships with people such as Thomas Jefferson who legend says drafted the Declaration of Independence within the walls of Rosewell. The ruins have been preserved as a historic site and still attract visitors and spirits. An old legend speaks of a woman in red seen running down the remains of the house’ front stairs with the sound of slaves singing has also been heard.

Sources

  • Brown, Beth. Haunted Plantations of Virginia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.
  • Lee, Marguerite DuPont. Virginia Ghosts, Revised Edition. Berryville, VA: Virginia Book Company, 1966.