Don’t believe in ghosts?
These spooky Louisville legends might change your mind…
We all know Louisville’s official history: Young upstart river town founded by George Rogers Clark goes on to achieve Derby/Ali fame. But did you know there’s a darker past tucked away in the shadows of the city? It’s made up of ghosts who still lurk in their favorite haunts. Tour guides will fill your imagination with stories of the specters of yesteryear. Here are five of those stories:
First Church of Christ, Scientist
- The Lady of the Stairs is an apparition witnessed on the steps of this colonnaded church at 1305 S. Third St. – a lovely young woman attired in a white gown and grey silk shawl. She is always pacing nervously, crying and distraught. The source of her misery is her fiancé who contracted the flu in the epidemic of 1918-19. They had planned to elope that fateful night he fell ill and word never reached his betrothed as to why he did not show up. She waited and waited in the cold evening and, with an ironic twist of fate, also contracted the flu. Within three days, the lovers were both dead and buried, neither knowing what happened to the other. Ever since, her ghost haunts the church waiting for her fiancé to arrive.
The Brennan House
- Built in 1868, the three-story Victorian home located at 631 S. Fifth St. was home to Thomas and Anna Brennan and their eight children. The family cared deeply for this grand home in both life and death. Apparitions have made their presence known to visitors to the home. Daughters Beulah and Mae, both concert performers, serenade visitors with their elegant piano and violin music. Son Dr. John's cigar smoke wafts through the air. Ghost walkers have seen and photographed an orb, which appears to be the face of Thomas Brennan, in front of the house. Take your cameras. You never know what image you might capture!
The Brown Hotel
- J. Graham Brown built the 293-room, 16-story hotel at 335 W. Broadway in 1923 and lived there in a penthouse apartment until his death in 1969. He believed in providing supreme customer service. His ghost often makes an appearance especially during busy times—Derby time, receptions and conventions. Brown surveys the lobby from his favorite spot, under an arch on the mezzanine grasping the railing. It’s as if in death he is still keeping a watchful eye on things – just to make sure patrons have all of their needs met. Employees have reported locking eyes with Brown before he vanishes from sight. Upon seeing the hotelier’s fleeting image, employees dash up the stairs to smell the fragrant scent of Brown’s cigar smoke.
Seelbach Hilton Hotel
- The Seelbach has attracted authors (F. Scott Fitzgerald), gangsters (Al Capone), presidents (nine in fact), entertainers and filmmakers as guests. What many people may not know is that the hotel has a permanent guest, a ghost called The Lady in Blue. Although there are several versions to the story (one being that she became overwrought upon learning that her estranged husband had died in an auto accident on his way to a reconciliation with her at the hotel), the two facts that are agreed upon are her name, Patricia Wilson, and that she fell to her death in the elevator shaft. With long dark hair and wearing a long blue dress, she has been seen near the mezzanine elevators and as well on the eighth floor.
The Belle of Louisville
- One of our community’s crowning jewels is the renowned steamboat that is laden with many ghost stories. During World War II, Capt. Ben Winters installed gaming tables and slot machines onboard the Belle, then known as the Idlewild. During a raid by the authorities, the captain suffered a heart attack in his cabin and died. Since then, many shadowy occurrences have spooked the crew. One was the main wheel in the pilot house that appeared to move on its own – even as the bridge was locked down tight. Late one night, a crewman filing a report claims to have seen Winters in full dress uniform, his face gaunt and weathered. Another ghost may be keeping the captain company – Floyd the deckhand – who was tragically killed when crushed by a pitman arm that controls the paddle wheel. The crew swears they’ve heard Floyd whistling a ghostly tune very distinctly.
Explore the city’s supernatural side on these ghostly tours.
Louisville Ghost Walks
- Haunted Louisville author Robert Parker, AKA Mr. Ghost Walker, leads public tours of six haunted downtown sites through November; also available for private parties. Cost: Ages 12+, $15; ages 8-12, $15. Reservations required. www.louisvilleghostwalks.com, (502) 689-5117
The Old Louisville Ghost Walk
- David Domine’s Ghosts of Old Louisville and Phantoms of Old Louisville form the basis for year-round bus and walking tours of this highly acclaimed historic preservation district. Bus tours cost $26.50. Walking tours cost $13.25 to $21.20 (children 6 and under are free). Reservations required. Winter hours may vary, so be sure to call ahead. www.ghostsofoldlouisville.com, (502) 637-2922
Louisville Ghost Tours
- Lantern-bearing tour guides dressed in historic period costumes take groups on a half-mile walk nightly March through November in the downtown district. Cost: Ages 12+, $15; ages 7-11, $8; children 6 and under are free. Call for winter hours. Reservations required. www.louisvilleghosttours.com, (502) 339-5445
Waverly Hills Sanatorium
- For still more ghosts, head on out to the former tuberculosis hospital (4400 Paralee Lane; 40272) that operated from 1926-61. Reservations are required for the paranormal ghost tours held March through October; cost $22. The Haunted House is open weekends, starting the last weekend in September until Halloween; cost: $20. www.therealwaverlyhills.com, (502) 933-2142