N. B. This article has been expanded and revised 16 December 2019.
6040 Bowling Green Road
As the birthplace of both Abraham Lincoln and his Confederate counterpart Jefferson Davis, Kentucky could be considered the birthplace of the American Civil War. Though, when its Southern neighbors began to secede from the Union, the state attempted to remain neutral. When the Confederate army invaded the state and occupied Columbus, Kentucky on the Mississippi River, all hell began to break loose. A Confederate shadow government was created to oppose the Unionist state government already in place and the state joined the Confederacy in December of 1861. The provisional capital at Bowling Green had to be evacuated the following year and some eight to ten thousand fleeing soldiers camped on the grounds of Andrew Caldwell’s estate with its unique eight-sided home outside of Franklin. The soldiers only camped on the estate overnight before heading into Tennessee.
Two days later, pursuing Union troops swept through the plantation and continued to frequently search the grounds for hidden Confederates while they held the area. Wounded soldiers, knowing of the Caldwell’s pro-Confederate leanings, sought out the house as a hiding place. A story told by the Caldwell family involves soldiers being hidden in the cupola that once topped the house. Mr. Caldwell kept bees in the cupola and Confederates would be dressed in bee suits and hidden there. When Union troops would search the house, the bees prevented them from searching the cupola
Andrew Jackson Caldwell began construction on this unique plantation home in 1847 completing it in 1859. The home’s location: on the Nashville & Louisville Turnpike (now U. S. Route 31W) and the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (about a mile east of the road) made this home a landmark for travelers and locals alike. Throughout the home’s history it remained a private residence until 2001, when the Octagon Hall Foundation took over the house transforming it into a house museum.
A host of spirits remain at Octagon Hall. Some investigators have suggested that the building’s unusual shape and limestone bricks may exacerbate the hauntings. Keith Fournier, a paranormal investigator who investigated the house many times, told the Bowling Green Daily Times that the house is “probably one of the most haunted sites in the country. For its size…there’s more evidence caught in that location than for any other location oi its size in the country.”
One of the primary spectral residents is the spirit of Mary Elizabeth Caldwell, daughter of Octagon Hall’s builder. Young Mary was around seven years of age when she died in 1854. Legend purports that the child was playing in the kitchen when her dress caught fire. During some of his investigations, Fournier has heard the child weeping in the house accompanied by the deep male voice speaking in a Southern drawl.
The museum’s executive director had an experience with the child’s spirit only three or four weeks after his arrival. “We were doing renovations in the basement and I saw a little girl. I thought she was a tourist and I said, ‘can I help you?’’ When the child vanished, he stood there with his mouth agape. Many others have seen other spirits roaming the grounds including Confederate soldiers and shadow figures.
- Episode 2. “Octagon Hall.” Most Terrifying Places in America, Season 7. Travel Channel. Originally aired 22 October 2010.
- French, Jackson. “SyFy’s ‘Ghost Hunters’ to lead ghost hunt at Octagon Hall.” Bowling Green Daily News. 13 April 2018.
- “History.” Octagon Hall Museum. Accessed 16 December 2019.
- Kentucky in the American Civil War. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
- Swietek, Wes. “Sites throughout the region full of ghostly lore.” Bowling Green Daily News. 10 October 2015.
- Westmoreland-Doherty, Lisa. Kentucky Spirits Undistilled. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.