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Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail
is a review of things to do, places to stay
and honey holes to visit off the
Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The Scary Side of Kentucky Spirits

Off the Trail Rating 

Scary - 
Haunting - 
Neck Tingling - 
Wear your brown pants - 

Kentucky may be best known for bourbon, basketball, and horses but if you’re looking to find the most interesting, and potentially frightful spirits in the Commonwealth, you’ll have to get Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Stories of these spirits, phantoms, and myths are not for the faint of heart, many are rooted in Kentucky’s bloody and tumultuous past.

The Kentucky area has been the home for many over the centuries including Native Americans from the Shawnee, Cherokee, and Chickasaw tribes followed by early settlers in the 1750’s. Over the years, disease, battles, Civil War, and other events have filled hospitals and cemeteries with bodies of the deceased and dying, not to mention, taverns and saloons with tales of shadows and strange creatures in the night. It is no surprise that you do not have to travel far to find stories of paranormal activity and other strange phenomena that will send chills down just about anyone’s neck.

Louisville has experienced a rebirth in whiskey over the past twenty years and Whiskey Row is booming again, yet Louisville is also home to potentially more spirits than bourbon barrels. Combine an old sanatorium and an underground walkway known as the Death Tunnel and you have one of the most haunted places not only in Kentucky, but possibly the United States. Beginning in July 1910, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium housed patients suffering from tuberculosis for fifty years. The death toll over the years is estimated at over 6,000 and the stories of patient abuse and neglect were nearly legendary. Corpses needed to be removed regularly and instead of transporting in front of the patients, workers used an underground passage from the main building to the bottom of the hill. This Death Tunnel is a hot bed of paranormal activity. Ghosts, shadow figures, and the sounds of moans and screaming are regularly heard throughout the building. The spirit of a pregnant nurse who committed suicide is forever connected to room 502. Is it any twist of fate that the area code for Louisville is also 502? If you decide to visit, bring a ball and other toys and play with the ghost of Timmy, the 6-year-old who died at Waverly.

Also in Louisville is the Seelbach Hilton hotel. The Seelbach is on the National Register of Historic Places and is without a doubt, one of the premier hotels throughout Kentucky. If you’re visiting on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Seelbach has a rich history in bourbon but it also has it’s share of creaky noises, creepy shadows, oh and there is the spirit of Ms. Patricia Wilson, otherwise known as the Lady in Blue. In 1936, Ms. Wilson moved to Louisville from Oklahoma where she recently separated from her husband. As the two were working on repairing their relationship, they decided to meet at the Seelbach. Her husband never made it to the hotel, he was killed in an automobile accident on the way to their rendezvous. Devastated and distraught, Ms. Wilson’s body was later discovered at the bottom of one of the hotel’s elevator shafts. Decide for yourself if it was an accident or foul play, either way, you may find her spirit hanging out around the eighth floor or the mezzanine level. She’s the long, dark haired lady dressed in blue floating through the walls.

Just east of Louisville, in the town of Fischerville, is an old and active trestle for the Northern Suffolk Railway. Although picturesque, stay too long in this area and you may begin to feel a tingle down your spine along with the smell of death that proceeds the Pope Lick Monster. Numerous stories tell tale of the horrid history of Louisville’s Goat Man who is known to lure its victims onto the tracks in front of oncoming trains. The stories vary describing him as a hairy, horned monster that is part man and part goat. Many believe he was a local goat farmer who signed his soul to Satan and tortured his goats for the devil. Now he’s bound to serve the dark lord. If you decide to visit, use caution, his powers of hypnosis and ability to mimic the cries of help from children may lure you to your death. 

While visiting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, traveling through Bardstown is a given but if you’re looking for looking for a great bourbon or perhaps catch a glimpse at other spirits including the infamous Jesse James, visit the Old Talbott Tavern. Since it opened its doors in 1770, the Old Talbott Tavern is the oldest stagecoach stop in Kentucky and has never been closed. Over the years, the Tavern has been host to famous guests including Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln, King Louis Philippe of France, and the outlaw Jesse James. Countless reports of unexplained events, items moving and vanishing, furniture jumping and moving, footsteps in empty hallways, shadows moving across rooms, and a mysterious female who occasionally appears to wander the property. One night while visiting, Jesse James shot up a painting while aiming for something strange that startled him. The painting is still at the Tavern today and riddled with bullet holes.

More and more distilleries and bourbon themed attractions are popping up throughout Kentucky including in northern Kentucky. Located in Wilder, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, is one of the most haunted locations in the world. Bobby Mackey’s Music World has been featured on almost every paranormal television and known but all paranormal investigators. Nothing screams having fun in Kentucky like a dive bar, nightclub, mechanical bull, and a gateway to hell. All of this may sound like fun for some but the chills up your spine is a clear warning that nothing good is about to come from your visit. Clearly stated on the sign when you enter, states that management cannot take responsibility for any paranormal attack on the premises. At Bobby Mackey’s Music World paranormal activity is normal, terrifying experiences are frequent, and although some of the spirits may seem friendly, there is a darker side to the building. Through the years, the location has been the site for murder, suicide, and human sacrifice. Patrons are often touched, scratched, and even possessed while inside. Headless specters appear in the parking lot. Furniture moves, howls heard from the walls, and grown men mysteriously tossed across the room.  Live music acts are often enjoyed at the club, and even the spirit of a dancer named Johanna who performed and died at the club makes an encore performance. Located in the basement is a well which is rumored to be a portal to hell. Over a hundred years ago, the property was a slaughter house and the bones and remains tossed into the well. Of course, there was also the decapitated head of a murdered pregnant woman that was also disposed into the well. A former caretaker of the building was exorcised in the bar and after his death, his voice has been heard from time to time. Perhaps the exorcised demon still watches over the building and travels back through the well. If you’re looking to grab a bourbon and listen to local live music, Bobby Mackey’s Music World, may be the place to stop but then again, perhaps not.

Next time you’re in you’re looking for a unique spirit, get Off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and plan a visit to one of the many haunted places through the area. You may not want to call them home but you’ll never forget your experience.

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About Jeremy Schell
Jeremy is a Virginia native transplanted to Louisville, Kentucky in 1990. An entrepreneur and survivor of the dotcom era, he is a 25-yr. veteran of the Internet industry. Over the years, working with notable clients such as Brown-Forman, Hershey, Maker's Mark and others, he developed an affinity for drinking, collecting and talking bourbon…. and chocolate, mostly just eating it. Connect with him on Instagram @jeremyschell or visit his web site

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