E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park
3000 Freys Hill Road
On a cool Sunday morning in Fall, like today, it’s not hard to imagine that E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park is teeming with life. Joggers, bikers, walkers, and families with children throng the paths, playgrounds and Activities Center in the park unknowing of the patient souls that still roam these grounds. Some of these souls may still suffer the effects of the mental illnesses that afflicted them in life. There is some indication that death may not end the mania, though I would prefer to believe that these poor patient’s souls have passed on leaving only the confused energy that they exuded in life.
The grounds of this modest state park were home to Native Americans for centuries before the intrusion of white men into the utopian “Kaintuck” territory. The land was later settled by the Hite family. According to an article from Louisville TV station, WDRB, Isaac Hite died from injuries sustained in a Native American attack here.
In 1869 the state of Kentucky acquired the land and began construction on the State House of Reform for Juvenile Delinquents at Lakeland. This facility evidently went through a series of name and purpose changes with adults being moved to the facility. Around 1900, the facility became Central Kentucky Asylum for the Insane.
Throughout the 20th century, the hospital was investigated a number of times after allegations of corruption and abuse surfaced. The old hospital was closed in 1986 with patients being moved into a newer facility nearby. After sitting abandoned for a decade, the deteriorating hospital buildings were demolished by the state. The land near the old hospital that had once served as a farm was converted into a state park in 1974. The park was named for E. P. “Tom” Sawyer, distinguished local judge and county executive who was the father of journalist Diane Sawyer.
While the park grounds were not actually the site of the hospital, they are still possibly occupied by the spirits of some of the patients who died there. Many of the graves of former patients are unknown and may be scattered throughout the park’s property. Paranormal investigators within the park have captured numerous EVPs, especially around the Sauerkraut Cave. Legend holds that patients who became pregnant were brought to the cave and some of those infants were possibly disposed of here. Others mention that the cave was also used by patients trying to escape the facility. For someone escaping through the cave without flashlights or other equipment, it is likely that the escapees got lost and died within the labyrinth.
Of the cave, an article on Louisville.com quotes the park’s naturalist as saying, “They say it’s kind of a sad place. There’s people trapped there, spirits trapped there. There’s a man who’s angry and they say he’s not letting any of the other spirits go.” Indeed, one recent paranormal investigation captured the image of a large burly man within the cave. Should you take some time to visit the park, be mindful of the patient and not so patient spirits of patients who still reside here.
- Central State Hospital. Asylum Projects. Accessed 25 October 2015.
- Central State Hospital (Kentucky). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 25 October 2015.
- P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 25 October 2015.
- P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park History. Accessed 25 October 2015.
- Jones, Elizabeth F. Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory form for Central Kentucky Lunatic Asylum. 17 October 1979.
- Myers, Elizabeth. “Louisville Underground: Sauerkraut Cave and the Legacy of Lakeland Asylum.” com. 10 October 2014.
- Sutter, Chris. “Exploring paranormal activity at E. P. Tom Sawyer Park. WDRB. 24 October 2015.