Before, I said that I grew up in the state of Indiana…which is still true. But I grew up on the border of both Indiana and Kentucky, or as locals say, ‘Kentuckiana’. This will be a post that hits close to home…literally. Below are hauntings of Kentucky, a sweet-spot for my spooky, southern soul.
Kentucky State Penitentiary
Also known as the “Castle on the Cumberland,” the Kentucky State Penitentiary is a maximum-security prison, housing 856 prisoners and has an annual operating budget of 20 million dollars, as of 2015. It was built in 1886, making it the oldest prison in the state. It’s located in Eddyville, Kentucky and is managed by the Kentucky Department of Corrections. The prison holds those sentenced to death row in Kentucky and houses the commonwealth’s execution facility. In most cases, inmates are not sent directly to the penitentiary after sentencing but are sent there if they’ve displayed disruptive and/or violent behavior.
The prison became overcrowded in 1889 and the General Assembly allowed prisoners to work outside of the prison walls, leading to the escape of a couple dozen inmates. Inmates were being physically abused by the guards with a lack of supervision of how the prisoners were handled and it was this time that the abuse rates were at its highest.
Those prisoned and employed in the penitentiary today hear phantom footsteps, voices, and screams throughout the prison. With so much abuse and dark history embedded in its walls, it’s no wonder as to why Kentucky State Penitentiary made the list.
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
If you’re a paranormal enthusiast or involved with the paranormal in any way, you’ve surely heard of Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s known as one of the most haunted places, not only in the state or the country but in the world with over 60,000 known deaths (which introduced the Death Tunnel, where bodies were disposed). It opened in 1910, making way for those affected by the tuberculosis epidemic that swept through Jefferson County at the time. Later, due to the demand in more space, as it was originally only built for forty to fifty TB patients, the sanatorium expanded. When streptomycin (used to treat a number of bacterial infections) started being utilized, the need for such a large hospital gradually decreased. Waverly Hills closed in 1961 and the remaining patients were sent to Hazelwood Sanatorium in Louisville.
Today, Waverly is a popular ghost hunting destination and is home to multiple spirits that wander the halls, one being the spirit of a boy who people refer to as Timmy. There’s a ball that visitors play with as they claim this is a commonly used method of communicating with Timmy. Room 502 is probably the most infamous room in the sanatorium, as a young nurse was said to have hung herself when she discovered she was pregnant (some say the child belonged to a doctor and others say it belonged to one of the patients). A famous photo exists of the ghostly apparition of the spirit of Mary Lee stepping out from a doorway in the building. There’s supposedly something darker and even demonic that lurks at Waverly as well, scratching visitors and causing physical harm. More on Waverly in the future as there’s so much more history and hauntings to uncover!
Bobby Mackey’s Music World
Located in Wilder, Kentucky, Bobby Mackey’s (owned by country singer, Bobby Mackey) is known to be the most paranormally active night club in the country. Bobby claims that the location was originally used as a slaughterhouse in the 1850s. Some believe Satanic cults moved in after its closing to take advantage of the pit in the basement where numerous animal parts were dumped in, as many currently believe this provided a gateway to hell. It was later torn down to welcome the construction of a roadhouse that went by various names until he bought the building in 1978. Science writer Sharon A. Hill says that while the nightclub is associated with murders, curses, and hauntings, she states that there is no evidence to back any of it up and that claims of supernatural activity are completely unsubstantiated. But others disagree as many strongly believe that Bobby Mackey’s is shrouded with negativity from a dark past, including the bloody battles that Native Americans fought in to defend the land.
One of the many legends involves Pearl Bryan, who was found dead and decapitated in a field two and a half miles from the club. Some say her murderers were Satanists who put a curse on the location and vowed to haunt and torment those who were involved in the prosecution of her case. Another legend tells of a dancer, Johanna, who was pregnant and committed suicide by poisoning after her father killed the man she loved named Robert Randall, who sang at the club, by hanging him in the dressing room. Those who come to investigate in search of the truth can’t find anything backed up by fact in any records or newspapers, leaving the history of the location to be a real mystery. Many experience what they believe to be paranormal phenomena while others simply don’t. Not to say it’s not haunted but it’s definitely a location that is filled with mysterious intrigue. Many claimed to have heard strange noises while others get pushed, shoved, or scratched. Whatever is here… it doesn’t sound friendly.
Cave Hill Cemetery
Located in Louisville, I can personally attest to the beauty of this cemetery as I walked its grounds years ago, almost getting lost. It’s HUGE, stretching 296 acres and is lined with stunning headstones, monuments, and mausoleums. It’s been around since the mid-1800s and was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1979. Notable figures buried here include George Rogers Clark (1752-1818), the founder of Louisville and an American Revolutionary War officer. Another being Colonel Sanders (1890-1980), a Kentucky businessman, who is best known for founding the popular Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) food franchise, being the brand’s public figure.
Many who roam around this wonderous cemetery experience unexplained footsteps behind them and strange sounds. Others capture strange lights and orbs on film and camera, especially at night, when it seems to be the most active. My great aunt shared a story with me from when she and her daughter roamed Cave Hill. They stumbled upon an interesting mausoleum and attempted to take a photo but in doing so, the camera began to smoke when she approached it and tried to snap a photo. I’m not saying that it’s paranormal necessarily but for her camera to smoke at the exact moment she tried to take a photo of inside the tomb is very strange and remains unexplained.
Old Louisville District
Old Louisville is a historic district in Louisville, Kentucky, though it isn’t technically the oldest part of the city, as the suburb wasn’t built until nearly a century after the founding of Louisville, originally being referred to as the Southern Extension as Old Louisville came up in the 1960s. Although it’s not the oldest, it is the third-largest district in the country and is the largest preservation district that’s made up almost entirely of Victorian-style buildings, along with 20th-century buildings and homes that contain 15-20 stories. The district contains about 48 city blocks, located south of Broadway, in the central area of the modern city.
Today, Old Louisville is a beloved part of the city by many young professionals and students but the deceased still hang around as well. Due to the tuberculosis epidemic, most of the population was wiped out along with other tragedies, such as suicide, fires, and mysterious deaths. Many say spirits roam the city blocks, including those of men, women, and young children who died from TB. People report seeing a woman that mysteriously turns into a black cat and a man with a black cloak that looms around 6th and Hill. The ghostly apparition of a dark-haired woman in a Victorian dress is also spotted. Old Louisville is a popular attraction for curious paranormal investigators and has been featured on the Travel Channel on many paranormal television shows.
Old Talbott Tavern
Located in Bardstown is the historic Old Talbott Tavern. It was built in 1779, possibly making it the oldest tavern in Kentucky. The lot was originally bought by a man named Hynes as he named it the Hynes Hotel, according to an old map of Bardstown. During the American Civil War, it was used by George Rogers Clark as a resource base. Many notable figures visited the tavern in the 19th century, such as (future) presidents Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, and Abraham Lincoln. Abe’s parents later stayed at the tavern when they were forced to move to Indiana. Henry Clay, steamboat inventor John Fitch, songwriter Stephen Foster, and Jesse James also stayed here at some point, surely leaving his mark on the tavern…
In 1886, George Talbott purchased the tavern and within two years, six of his children died there and do to its haunting atmosphere and supposed paranormal activity, it’s been deemed as the 13th most haunted tavern in the United States. One of the most prominent ghosts is that of Jesse James, who was to blame for bullet holes on a wall and in the murals (that were almost completely destroyed later on in 1998 in a fire, though the tavern reopened the following year) because he was drunk and shooting at imaginary butterflies. What an outlaw…
Also said to haunt the tavern is a mysterious woman as many have reported seeing her ghost. Others witness doors opening and closing on their own and hear disembodied voices and strange footsteps.
The Nada Tunnel
Located in Powell County, Kentucky is the Nada Tunnel, a historic 900-foot long stretch of creepiness. It was once a railway tunnel but has been paved down into a roadway for horse travel and pedestrians and the height of the tunnel was raised due to trains (that transported mostly lumber) becoming stuck and once the railway was paved, the timber companies left the area. Nada Tunnel got its name from two Native American, prehistoric rock art sites.
During construction of the tunnel, one man was known to have gotten killed when he placed a frozen stick of dynamite next to a fire, attempting to thaw it, but only to have it blow up. His ghost is said to reside here. Some also say that a man fell to his death when he attempted to scale the cliffs directly above the entrance and his spirit haunts the tunnels as a green orb is often spotted floating near the entrance at night.
The Louisville Palace
Our final stop is once again, in the city of Louisville – The Louisville Palace Theater, a music venue downtown between Broadway and Chestnut Street. It’s able to seat 2,800 people and is owned and operated by Live Nation. It’s a historical landmark that opened on September 1, 1928, and was designed by John Eberson. The Palace offers arcades, balconies, turrets, with a Spanish Baroque design. It is two stories of beauty and history as it attracted many famous music performers over the years (such as Frank Sinatra in 1941, Ray Charles in 1959, Billy Ray Cyrus in 1993, and the Backstreet Boys in 1998 (though there are many more).
You can enjoy what the Palace still has to offer and take a tour but be aware that the dead may just be standing beside you. Many visitors have captured photographic evidence of entities and ghostly figures. Crew members refer to one of these entities as Bernie, as they claim he is a past crew member keeping an eye on modern-day workers, however they say he sometimes, ‘gets a little too close’. Female employees have felt taps on their shoulders and something playing with their hair in the projection room, all believed to be Bernie. Some have had personal experiences with a female apparition they call the ‘Grey Lady’ as she is transparent and after a few steps, she disappears. More on the hauntings discussed by WHAS11 HERE.
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