This is the twelfth and final entry in my Twelve Days of Southern Spirits Series celebrating traditional ghost story telling over Christmas.
1518 Belmont Street
In his 2011 book, Ghost Stories of Eastern Kentucky: A Pocketful of Poltergeists, Bill Carpenter collects accounts of paranormal experiences from a variety of people. This same format was utilized by Kentucky’s most famous ghost storyteller, Williams Lynwood Montell in his groundbreaking books, starting with his 1987 volume, Ghosts Along the Cumberland. While this format—collecting personal experiences and publishing them raw and unedited—is especially useful in collecting folklore, for researchers like myself that often look at hauntings from the standpoint of location, it can be maddening. Searching through stories that take place in unidentified private residences can be tedious, however, there can be rewards.
Bill Carpenter’s book includes several accounts from people who have had similar experiences in Ashland Cemetery, the main cemetery in the small town of Ashland, of which two are particularly interesting.
The first account, from a 29-year-old Boyd County woman, tells of several teenagers exploring the cemetery at night. The teens were only walking around and reading graves which inevitably led one of them to begin telling ghost stories. As they talked, they began to hear sounds from the darkness around them. After they began to feel a distinct chill in the air, the group began to run for the entrance. As they neared the gate, a cry was heard, that cry turned into a moan causing the frightened teens to run faster.
Another local woman recalled her visit to the cemetery to see the gravestones of the children killed in what was dubbed the “Ashland Tragedy.” On Christmas Eve 1881, the bodies of three teenagers were discovered in a burning home. Robert and Fannie Gibbons and their friend, Emma Carico were beaten to death in the Gibbons family home which was set on fire to conceal the murder. Three local men were arrested, tried, and convicted of the murders. A lynch mob wishing to enact justice executed one of the men, while the other two were moved to nearby Catlettsburg for their safety.
The two convicts were later boarded onto a ship in Catlettsburg along with some two hundred guards. As the ship passed Ashland, a large crowd gathered on the shore demanding that the convicts be turned over. A ferry loaded with local men approached the ship and fired their guns only to be answered with a hail of gunfire from the guards, killing four locals.
After reading about the tragic events, a local woman decided to visit the teenage murder victims’ graves in Ashland Cemetery. The Gibbons siblings are buried side by side with Emma Carico’s grave across the road. As she stood at the graves of the Gibbons siblings, the woman bent down to brush grass from the stones. Touching the grave of Fannie Gibbons, she heard the scream and cry of a young girl. Looking around, no one was nearby. Again, she bent down to touch the stone and heard sobbing and a scream.
A look at the Ghosts of America page for Ashland, Kentucky reveals several more oddly similar accounts. An account from Ray notes that he was visiting the cemetery to put flowers on the grave of a relative. During his visit, Ray heard an odd buzzing from his hearing aid and when he adjusted it a voice came through the device asking, “What do you want from us?”
Martin recalled that he would sometimes walk past the cemetery at night when he visited his grandmother who lived nearby. “We would hear screams come out of the cemetery that would put cold chills up our spine.”
If you decide to walk past the old cemetery at night, listen out for the screams of the dead.
- Ashland, Kentucky Ghost Sightings. GhostsofAmerica.com. Accessed 4 January 2020.
- Carpenter, Bill. Ghost Stories of Eastern Kentucky: A Pocketful of Poltergeists. Baltimore, MD: Publish America, 2011.
- Kleber, John E. ed. The Kentucky Encyclopedia. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1992.