Ghosts may or may not be real.
But what is undeniable is that there is widespread interest in the supernatural. It’s an interest that skyrockets during the Halloween season when, according to folklore, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is the thinnest.
And when it comes to suspected ghosts and hauntings, south-central Kentucky is rich in spooky stories.
Steve Miller takes interest to another level. Founder of Bowling Green’s Evermore Paranormal Research, he developed a passion for the paranormal from an early age.
âWhen I grew up I decided to dig a little deeper,â he said. Since 2010, he has been actively investigating supposedly haunted places, with a particular focus on one of the most famous local haunted places – Octagon Hall.
Franklin’s Eight-Sided House was built from 1847 to 1859 by Andrew Jackson Caldwell and housed Confederate and Union troops during the Civil War. The house, now a non-profit museum that hosts regular ghost hunts every fall, is said to be haunted by Civil War soldiers and the spirit of Mary, a young girl who was burned alive in the 1800s after her dress caught fire. The house has been featured on several national television ghost hunting shows.
âThe scariest thing that ever happened to me was at Octagon Hall,â Miller said.
He was on a special ghost hunt for a friend and they were the only ones in the building.
âAround 3 am we were trying to wrap upâ¦ as we were sitting there looking at the cameras, all of a sudden I hear this woman talking in the background,â he said. “And it was scary because you couldn’t understand what she was saying, but she was right between me and him … about a minute later this little girl started singing right behind us too … it was pretty terrifying. “
During a recent ghost hunt at the historic L&N depot in Bowling Green, Miller brought out the ghost hunting tools of the trade – audio recorders, devices that measure electric fields, a “mind box” that scans for ghosts. radio waves at very fast intervals and a laser grid camera. .
At the end of the night, observers heard a few unexplained bangs and a motion detector activated in (apparently) empty rooms.
The liquor box produced a few responses that seemed to correspond to the situation – once, when Miller asked what had happened at the depot, a voice seemed to respond “park of trains”; another voice later appeared to say “you are dead”.
Another local person immersed in the ghostly folklore of south-central Kentucky is Debbie Eaton.
By day, Eaton is the Group Sales Coordinator at the National Corvette Museum. But many nights, she trades being surrounded by Corvettes for being surrounded by corpses in local cemeteries. Eaton is a regular tour guide for the Unseen Bowling Green walking tours presented by the Historic RailPark & ââTrain Museum.
Scary and unusual “history has always been something that has always interested me and it’s quite funny to see how people believe and what they thought of ghosts from before the Civil War until modern times”, she declared.
On a recent evening at the (allegedly haunted) Pioneer Cemetery in Bowling Green, Eaton shared some of his favorite local ghost stories.
One involves a woman named Mary, who lived decades ago in an apartment on the second floor above what is now the main 440 restaurant in downtown Bowling Green.
Eaton noted that Mary was not historically documented, but according to legend, was a lover of books. According to one account, she leaned too far from a window to capture the remaining daylight while reading a book and died. Another story goes that Mary committed suicide after being rejected by her fiancÃ©.
âNo one agreed with how she died, but they all agreed with how she behaved after her death,â Eaton said.
Some of Mary’s beloved books were said to have been left in the corner of a closet. When the books were moved, âstrange things started to happen. They would move the items to the edge of the shelf, then fall to the floor. Other times things would cross the room as if they had been thrown, âEaton said.
There would also be other mischief – until the books were put back on the shelf.
Eaton also told one of South Central Kentucky’s best-known ghostly tales involving a young woman in Russellville and her appearance was said to have been etched in glass forever.
According to Eaton’s version of the story, the young woman was the sexton cemetery girl (the keeper of a cemetery) at Maple Grove cemetery. The sexton’s house was in front of the cemetery.
The girl had seen a young man and was expecting a marriage proposal at a picnic on July 4. She and her mother made a white dress for the occasion. But as she waited for the picnic, she looked out of her upstairs bedroom window and saw a thunderstorm come in.
She raised her fist to the sky, said Eaton, and cursed God. At that point, lightning struck and killed the girl. She was buried in the white dress.
Then his family “began to notice that on some nights when the weather conditions were ideal, people would gather in the front yard of the sexton building and gawk at that window,” Eaton said. âIt turns out that some nights they could still see this young woman with her fist in the air cursing God,â Eaton said. âIt drove the parents crazy. They just wanted to forget about it and move on. But people kept coming, so they replaced the glass, but it didn’t work. You could still see her with her fist raised. So they painted the window, but it was still bleeding through … finally they couldn’t take it anymore and they barricaded the window, and they moved. But people kept coming to see the girl at the window.
A 1981 Daily News article stated that the owners of the house had effectively boarded up the dome windows. But it wasn’t because of the young woman’s appearance, it was because they were fed up with the endless stream of onlookers on their lawns.
The owner of the house said the story of the window apparition was just a “story that someone started … there is nothing to that”.
But the legend of the Russellville Ghost Window lives on, as do the many other ghostly legends of south-central Kentucky. Even the Western Kentucky University campus is said to be riddled with haunted places.
Pearce Ford Tower and Van Meter, Potter, Barnes-Campbell and Cherry Halls all have ghost stories associated with them.
In Van Meter, one sighting is variously reported as that of a construction worker or student who died in building accidents, according to the WKU website.
The most colorful version of the Van Meter ghost legend is that there was a hermit living in caves beneath College Heights who “found a secret passage in Van Meter,” according to the website. “When he visits, he carries a blue lantern, which explains the blue light associated with the ghost.”
In Potter Hall, a ghost nicknamed “Penny” supposedly leaves pennies for construction workers.
WKU has an entire section of its website dedicated to alleged hauntings (https://www.wku.edu/ghosts/) and in 2012, the popular TV show “Ghost Hunters” stopped by Bowling Green to investigate stories from an episode called “Higher Dead-ucation”.
Along with stories being repeated from generation to generation of the region’s legendary haunts, some ghost stories are more recent.
Eaton had his own, more modern experiences at the Corvette Museum.
The ashes of Zora Arkus-Duntov, an automotive engineer known as the father of the Corvette who died in 1996, are kept in his beloved Corvette museum, as are those of his wife.
Eaton said museum workers reported inexplicably missing pieces of cars, only to see them later appear as if they were being hidden by a prankster.
One early morning, Eaton said she was alone in a museum bathroom when she heard the sound of someone washing their hands. She looked outside to see the water running, but no one there.
One late night, she and another employee were shutting down the museum. They were on their way back to the offices when they distinctly heard someone clear their throat.
âWe both watched. We called, âEaton said. âWe recognized Zora and heard nothing else. He just wanted us to know he was still there.
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