Haunted Kentucky, Briefly Noted

N.B. This is a repost of parts of the original “Haunted Kentucky” and “Haunted Old Louisville” articles published in 2011. These entries have been revised.

Conrad-Caldwell House
1402 St. James Court
Louisville

On the south side of Louisville’s Central Park is the St. James-Belgravia Historic District which consists some of the grandest houses in the Old Louisville neighborhood. This area was the site of the Southern Exposition held between 1883 and 1887. Once the exposition ended, the acres that it occupied were auctioned off and laid out in a British style.

haunted ghosts Conrad-Caldwell House Louisville Kentucky
Conrad-Caldwell House, 2016, by Kenneth C. Zirkel, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Conrad-Caldwell House, now a house museum, was perhaps the grandest house in this most grand of settings when it was constructed in 1893. Built of limestone, a stone associated with paranormal activity, the interior utilizes seven different types of hardwood to great effect. The house was constructed for Theophile Conrad, a French immigrant who built a number of successful businesses and who wished to build a home similar to the opulent house of his childhood. Conrad passed away in the home in 1905 and his wife later sold the house to another successful businessman, William Caldwell.

After the Caldwell’s residence, the home was used as a boarding house and later sold to the Presbyterian Church as a retirement home.

Employees in the home are accustomed to greeting the spectral residents when they come in the morning. “I think all of us have gotten into the habit of saying hello when we come in morning because we know we’re not alone.” The director told local news station WDRB in 2013. It is also believed that Theophile Conrad continues to run his home in a strict manner, occasionally appearing to visitors, wagging his finger in disapproval. The Caldwells may also be around, as the odors of perfume and cigar smoke have been smelled within the museum as well.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Ghosts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2005.
  • History.” The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum. Accessed 10 December 2019.
  • “Mingling with spirits at the Conrad-Caldwell House.” WDRB. 26 October 2013.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
7351 KY-90
Corbin

At 68-feet high, Cumberland Falls is known as the “Niagara of the South,” and it’s also the only place in the Western Hemisphere where one can witness a moonbow, a rainbow caused by moonlight filtering through the falls’ mist. Considered a sacred place by local Native Americans, the site was developed for tourists at the end of the 19th century. The state park was developed in 1930.

The legend surrounding the park involves a bride who either slipped and fell or jumped to her death from one of the overlooking cliffs. One version of the legend holds that this happened in the 1950s, when the bride and her groom were exploring the park on their honeymoon. The couple had not had time to change clothes and the groom had decided to photograph his bride on one of the cliffs. As she posed, she slipped and fell to her death.

ghosts haunted Cumberland Falls State Resort Park Corbin Kentucky
Cumberland Falls, 2009, by J654567, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Another version of the legend speaks of a young couple marrying at the park’s lodge. The bride had become worried when the groom did not show up and was crushed when word arrived that he had been killed in a car accident. In despair, she rushed to the precipice in her wedding dress and flung herself off.

A woman in a white gown has been seen throughout the park, both in and around the falls as well as on the main road. Some have seen her form drifting up through the waters on nights that the moonbow appears. A 2008 blog entry reveals that she may also be active at the park’s lodge.

Sources

  • Cumberland Falls. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 January 2010.
  • Lamkin, Virginia. “Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls.” Seeks Ghosts. 15 December 2015.
  • Specter, Jason. “The Bride of Cumberland Falls.” The Scary States of America Blog. 23 February 2008.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Filson Historical Society (Ferguson Mansion)
1310 South Third Street
Louisville

In a city filled with extravagant Gilded Age homes, the Ferguson Mansion is perhaps the finest. Constructed in 1901 for the Walter Hite Ferguson who built a business selling cottonseed oil, the home was initially built to house him, his wife, their daughter, and a retinue to six servants. Little expense was spared on this Beaux-Arts style manse which included light fixtures by Louis Comfort Tiffany and other works by the leading designers and decorators of the day. The Ferguson family occupied the home until 1924, when it was sold to the Pearson family who operated a funeral home here until 1978. The house was renovated as a home for the Filson Historical Society, which concentrates on the history of Kentucky, the upper South and the Ohio River Valley.

ghosts haunted Filson Historical Society Ferguson Mansion Louisville Kentucky
The Filson Historical Society by W.marsh, 2007, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The house is believed to be the residence of a spirit named Sally who gleefully tosses books from the shelves in front of shocked visitors and staff members. She is known to produce disembodied footsteps, strange odors, and slam doors, as well as pulling volumes from the shelves which sometimes end up in piles on floors or tables. While there is nothing in the home’s history to attest to Sally’s identity, David Dominé posits that the spirit may stem from the home’s use as a funeral home.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Haunts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2009.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park
2135 Natural Bridge Road
Slade
 

Adjacent to the Red River Gorge, a place noted for its wild landscape and mysterious encounters, Natural Bridge State Resort Park has its own paranormal activity. According to investigator and writer Patti Starr, the park is home to the Purple Lady, a female apparition wearing a purple evening gown who has been frequently spotted throughout the park. Staff members and visitors alike have seen the spirit in and around the park’s lodge, roads, and campgrounds. Her identity is unknown, though one park employee suggested that she may be the spirit of a woman who was murdered in a cabin on the property many years ago.

ghosts haunted Natural Bridge State Park Slade Kentucky
The Natural Bridge in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, 2009, by Ken Thomas. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Nina Lautner published the experience of a park visitor in her 2014 Ghosts of America: Southern Appalachia. The visitor stayed in the park’s lodge in 2008 and she experienced an overwhelming sense of dread from the moment she stepped into the room. Unable to sleep, she turned on the lights and they flickered a bit, but she wasn’t able to shake the negative feeling. When she reported her experience to the front desk, the clerk asked if she had seen the spirit.

The titular feature of Natural Bridge State Resort Park is a sandstone archway formed by millions of years of weathering. The park opened in 1896 as a private attraction and trains brought visitors from Louisville, Lexington, and other large cities. The park and Hemlock Lodge are now under the auspices of the state of Kentucky as a state park.

Sources

  • Lautner, Nina, ed. Ghosts of America: Southern Appalachia: True Accounts of Ghosts. Stratus-Pikpuk, 2014.
  • Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 6 January 2010.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Pink Palace (private)
1473 St. James Court
Louisville

In the late 19th century, St. James Court was developed as one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Louisville. The dramatic French-styled house at number 1473 was constructed in 1891 originally as a gentlemen’s club for the wealthy homeowners. Rumors allude to the fact that this staid institution may have provided female companionship to club members after dark. Interestingly, after a brief stint as a private family home, the house was acquired by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a group that crusaded against the consumption of alcohol and other vices. After the WCTU discovered the home’s sordid past, the decision was made to paint the home pink to counteract the negative memories of the building.

Pink Palace Old Louisville Kentucky ghosts haunted
The Pink Palace in 2007. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Over the years, residents of the palatial home have had various encounters with an aristocratic gentleman. David Dominé included the story of one young lady who lived in a basement apartment some decades ago. One particular night, she had two visits from the spectral gentleman. She saw him first standing in her kitchen; then a short time later he appeared in her bathroom doorway while she took a bath. She quickly got out of the bath and left the room. Hearing the crash of breaking glass and splashing water, she returned to the bathroom to find the window broken. She summoned the police who discovered that the window had been broken by a cement block during a robbery attempt. The cement block landed in the bath where she had been lying just moments before.

The apparition, believed to be the image of one of the home’s former owners, has also appeared to other residents of the home as a warning. The house remains a private residence.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.

Presentation Academy
861 South Fourth Street
Louisville

The oldest school in continuous operation in the city, the Presentation Academy is a private college-preparatory high school for girls founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in 1831. The school’s current building was opened in 1893 and designed by D. X. Murphy, one of the city’s leading architects of the time.

Legendary spirits at the school include a nun who died after falling down a staircase and Mary White a student who was killed in a car accident while en route to her coming out party. While documentation does not back up either story, that does not discount the numerous encounters that have occurred here.

ghosts haunted Presentation Academy Louisville Kentucky
Presentation Academy, 2012, by Nyttend. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

David Dominé includes the frightening account of one student’s encounter. As she walked down the hall towards a class, the student noted that another student was walking next to her. After seeing that she was dressed in an old-fashioned uniform, she then noticed that the young lady did not have legs. The student stopped in the middle of the hall to gawk as the spirit continued down the corridor and faded from view.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Phantoms of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2006.
  • Hedgepeth, Mary Poynter. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Presentation Academy. 15 August 1978.
  • Presentation Academy. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 December 2019.

L. B. Speed Art Museum
2035 South Third Street
Louisville

Founded as a memorial to her husband, the Speed Art Museum opened in 1927. Hattie Speed’s devotion to her husband’s memorial and her own perfectionism may be what is keeping her spirit within the walls of the museum. A rose-type perfume has been smelled, motion sensors set off, elevators operate mysteriously by themselves and misty, white shapes have been seen on security monitors; all believed to be Mrs. Speed checking up on “her” museum. Some particularly notable occurrences have been connected with the portrait of J. B. Speed’s first wife, Cora Coffin, which has had issues with its label mysteriously peeling from the wall. One museum staff member was shocked to discover the portrait removed and left propped with its face turned to the wall.

ghosts haunted Speed Art Museum Louisville Kentucky
A view of the galleries inside the Speed Art Museum, 2016, by Sailko. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Several visitors and staff members have reported odd encounters with a Native American man in the museum’s Native American gallery. While the man’s identity is unknown, he has been seen and his presence felt in the space.

Sources

  • Dominé, David. Ghosts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2005
  • Speed Art Museum. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 18 December 2019.

Walnut Street Baptist Church
1101 South Third Street
Louisville

Demon Leaper Walnut Street Baptist Church Louisville Kentucky
Early 20th Century postcard of Walnut Street Baptist Church.

Erected just at the outset of the 20th century, the grand Gothic Revival Walnut Street Baptist Church has provided spiritual sustenance for over a century to the citizens of Old Louisville and beyond. But it also harbors a legend. Over the century, people have reported a large, winged creature around the church. Reports of this creature, dubbed the “Demon Leaper” even come from as recent as 2005.

Sources

Dominé, David. Haunts of Old Louisville. Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing, 2009.

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