Firehouse phantom—Lexington, Kentucky

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

N.B. This article was originally published 14 May 2013 as part of “From the Archives—Kentucky Briefs.”

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 firehouse 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, though 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.

Fire Station #4 Lexington Kentucky Vogt Reel House
Vogt Reel House, 2015, by Todd F. Niemand, published under a Creative Commons License, courtesy of Flickr.

Firefighter Henry McDonald was nearly 70 years old, but still on duty on Christmas Day in 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 would merge in 1983 to become the Lexington Herald-Leader).

That Christmas Day, he peacefully drifted off the sleep in the firehouse and would not wake. 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 his spirit had taken up residence in the old firehouse. Some heard the sound of heavy boots treading the iron staircase while unexplainable cold breezes were felt. McDonald’s beloved cane-bottom rocking chair was even heard rocking by itself in the attic. While the activity sometimes chills firefighters working in the building, the spirit has earned their respect and affection. An article from the local NBC station, notes that McDonald’s spirit “is a pretty good ghost. So good he has earned a bump in rank.”

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

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